Ensiform's Reviews > Cross Country: Fifteen Years and Ninety Thousand Miles on the Roads and Interstates of America Lewis and Clark, a Lot of Bad Motels, a Moving Van, Emily Post, Jack Kerouac, My Wife, My Mother-In-Law, Two Kids and Enough Coffee to Kill an Elephant

Cross Country by Robert Sullivan
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's review
Mar 16, 2012

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bookshelves: non-fiction, travel
Read in December, 2007

A 380-page rumination on the author’s experiences driving across the continental United States, several times over many years. Interspersed with his own experiences, Sullivan talks about history: Lewis and Clark; Carl G. Fisher and the Lincoln Highway; the See America First campaign and the rise of motor tourism; Kemmons Wilson and the Holiday Inn; the rise of the interstate system; the use of Jersey barriers; Jack Kerouac’s beginnings; even a brief look at the history of the to-go coffee cup lid.

The factual information is fascinating, and told very well. That’s good, because the personal information is banal in the extreme. I don’t know whether Sullivan believes there’s value in acting as anthropologist of the quotidian (remarks on motel stays and breakfasts, sketches of parking lots), or if he truly thinks his experiences are interesting (he spends quite a long time detailing “the worst cross country trip ever,” in which nothing especially bad happens), but in either case, this book would have been an exceptional history of travel in America without them. It’s too bad. Sullivan’s a terrific historian, but he put way too much of himself in this book.
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