Barbara Barnes has taken on the daunting task of highlighting interesting facts, stories, and attractions along the entirety of Interstate 95 in “What’s Great About I-95“, the first guide of her planned “Interesting Interstates” series. The guide starts in Maine at the US border with Canada and works its way down to Miami, using state mile post markers at the top of each page to locate points of interest. Maps of each state are provided throughout, and a Visitors Information section at the end of the book provides contact information for towns and attractions mentioned in the guide.
The variety of information that she has researched and collected is impressive – she highlights events and facts about presidents, nature, celebrities, festivals, baked beans, and Mr. Potato Head. A good deal of effort clearly went into researching the facts and stories related to areas along I-95. And that is why it is so unfortunate that the execution of the book itself is so dismal. The writing is poor and rife with typos and improper punctuation usage. The layout and presentation of the information itself is confusing, leaving the reader often wondering if the content corresponds at all with the mile marker number on the page. Facts and stories pertaining to states as a whole are included, and while informative and interesting, are not distinguished either by text or by layout from facts and stories specific to a locality (and therefore identifiable by mile marker), adding to the general confusion. The general layout of the book is awkward and exhibits no uniformity with constantly changing fonts, colors, and page styles. The primitive graphics and fuzzy, low-quality pictures that have been used give the book the look of a high school project. This guide has been essentially self-published, and it could greatly benefit from an overhaul by both an independent editor and layout designer.
Despite the poor presentation of information, families with children that plan on taking a long road trip along I-95 and don’t want to rely solely on DVDs to keep the entire family sane might consider purchasing this book as-is. The information is there, and much of the tidbits and stories are engaging and entertaining. The concept is great, and there is a lot of potential to create something truly interesting and useful. But it needs a lot of TLC from both an editor and a layout designer before it realizes that potential. Hopefully, there will be a heavily revised second edition that can meet travelers’ expectations and provide a feasible template for future interstate guides.