Friday, November 23, 2007

Arizona treasures are worth the journey

[Source: J.C. Martin, Daily Star] -- Some of the stunning beauty of Arizona is visible from major highways and national park drives — but many of the state's grandest scenic treasures are off the beaten track. A book called "The Back Roads" (Arizona Highways, $19.95), by Sam Negri, is a guide to some of the best slow-lane routes to splendid scenery. It features a rich array of photographs by some of the top contributors to Arizona Highways magazine. Some years ago, longtime Arizona journalist Negri, who is now an Arizona Daily Star editorial writer, put together a book for Arizona Highways called "Arizona: the Beauty of It All." "I drew on my personal experiences knocking around in obscure places," Negri says of that book, which divided the state into regions and described the natural and social characteristics of each of them.

"Back Roads," Negri says, goes a step farther. It's a guide to 40 trips covering the whole state. If you didn't know the Bureau of Land Management is in the hot tub business, Drive 2 in the "Southeastern Arizona" section — covering a route from Safford to Fort Bowie National Historic Site — offers a look. If you would like to explore the Navajo Reservation, Drives 1, 2 and 3 in the "East of Flagstaff" section will guide you. Working with Arizona Highways editor Bob Albano, Negri has written text and combined short pieces by a handful of veteran Highways writers — including Tucson freelancer Leo Banks — to provide useful and informative copy for this compilation of back-road journeys. Each of the 40 drives comes with a reassuring "Route Finder." The Route Finder gets you to your destination and home again. That, says Negri, was a part of Albano's job. In an e-mail, Albano notes that he "drove each route and prepared the Route Finders with field-gathered information and maps. . . . Veteran back-road drivers know that there is no map that is 100 percent accurate for all roads and sites, and maps vary on the details for any given road or site. "But I'm confident," Albano adds jokingly, "that nine out of 10 travelers will find their way home with these directions." A suggestion: Travelers may want to take their cameras along to record specific experiences because the photographs, while gorgeous, are somewhat generic. [Photo source: Daily Star.]