A Wonderful Guide and Companion
When you think about the right kind of traveling companion, it's somebody who knows when to offer and opinion and suggestions, and when it's best to be quiet and just let you figure it out on your own. With this book, author Bob Robinson provides just this type of help. The Bicycling Guide to the Mississippi River Trail takes you along the designated route of the Mississippi River Trail, turn by turn, with route directions and maps, plus information on bike shops and other services that you need to get you along the way. That's truly the specific facts and information that you need.
However, Robinson offers terrific additional narrative in each section of the guide book, including information on points of interest and the history of the area. These aren't the directives that one often finds in guidebooks, the types of commands that one feels that they must obey to get the "authentic" experience. Rather, Robinson's snippets and suggestions about local color to check out allow a person to pursue side treasures, to explore and learn and discover, and to make the trip one's own. And that's exactly the type of thing that often leads to the magic of a bike tour: encountering an unexpected view or monument or person, the memory of which will stay with you long after the trip.
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Organization of the Book
In addition to the helpful narrative that contains a general overview of the area, plus a look at most prominent attractions and features, Robinson includes a very helpful array of specific data on each section, including mileage for that segment for both north-south travel and vice-versa; information on traffic volume and shoulder width, plus specific direction on services and sites of interest.
Related article: Bike Tours of Battlefields and Historic Sites
Challenges in a Guidebook
Of course, one of the main challenges inherent in a guidebook like this is in keeping it current. Gas stations, restaurants, bike shops, camp grounds and motels can all close or change names over time. New ones open. Sometimes there are changes in route. The book was published in 2008, so it's still fairly current, and Robinson notes updates and changes in a section of his website specifically used for these things. However, it would be nice for the long-term reliability of this book for there to be a mechanism (website, email address, etc.) that riders on the trail can use for reporting updates or conflicting information. Such details could go to either Robinson or Mississippi River Trail, Inc., whose executive director wrote the forward to this book and which has a natural interest in these the information out there on the trail being as current and accurate as possible.
Additionally, the photos in this book are nicely paired with the text, showing points of interest along the way. Maps and other graphics are good, too, and do a nice job of visually presenting route segments being discussed in each section.