Erwin's Reviews > The Lost Continent: Travels in Small Town America

The Lost Continent by Bill Bryson
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Oct 11, 12

Read in October, 2012

Bill Bryson's road trip in the Autumn of 1987 and then Spring of 1988 around the inland part of America. The journey was made just after Bryson's father passed away, much like the last part of Jim Rogers' Adventure Capitalist: The Ultimate Road Trip as the author comes to terms with this moment of life transition.

For most readers, this book is too close to home. They will be offended. Many reviewers on Amazon call Bryson an "cynical, arrogant, snob". For readers living outside America, the book will ring true and be more enjoyable. Bryson actually attacks this "America is Forever the Greatest" notion toward the end.

Back in 1987, I recall a similar road trip that my parents arranged from Seattle to Florida and back, passing through some of the same locations that Bryson documents. Turns out that the Interstate project, though started with the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, was mostly completed by the mid-80's, easing nationwide travel by road, and inspiring many road trips.

I've driven the Seattle to San Diego portion of America several times, and it's surely much more exciting than the inland portion of America that Bryson chose to document. I planned to do Seattle to San Diego to South Texas to Florida to Maine via car last year, but ended up cancelling. After considering all that Bryson wrote, I still don't have much interest to see the inland portion of the country. Bryson just confirmed it for me. Population density is too low, regions and attractions are too far apart. Perhaps if you are a private pilot.

On a side note, in Early 2011, the Chinese Expressway system (85,000 km) surpassed the length of the US Interstate Highway System (76,000 km) though the US total jumps to 92,000 km if you include State Highways. Of course, the Chinese will surpass this in another year or two.

Back in the late 80's, Bryson's "Small Town America Tour" points out that:
* American Small Town's are either: Expensive Tourist Traps, Abandoned Ghost Towns, or FSG (Fast food, Strip malls and Gas stations)
* Small town Americans are Stupid. Provides lots of examples.
* America is a violent country. Guns are everywhere.
* American Television is Stupid. Provides lots of examples.
* Even in the 80's, America was already full of fat fat people (5 x worse now - see

Here's Bryson on the women of his native state: "I will say this, however--and it's a strange, strange thing--the teenaged daughters of these fat women are always utterly delectable ... I don't know what it is that happens to them, but it must be awful to marry one of those nubile cuties knowing that there is a time bomb ticking away in her that will at some unknown date make her bloat out into something huge and grotesque, presumably all of a sudden and without much notice, like a self-inflating raft from which the pin has been yanked."

Publishers Weekly wrote: "Some of Bryson's comments are hilarious--if you enjoy the nonstop whining wisecracks of a 36-year-old kid".
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