George Zimmermann, Ohio Off the Beaten Path (East Woods Press, 1985)
Picking up a quarter-century-old travel guide is not a good idea if you’re actually going to be doing any of the travelling therein. (I have gathered from checking the Internet that more up-to-date versions of this book exist, so if you end up wanting to check it out, find one printed during a time when the restaurants Zimmerman is classing as “high-end” were charging more than ten bucks for an entree.) But for the armchair sightseer they can be a lot of fun, and for my money you can’t get any better than the sorts of Roadside America books that get you away from the usual tourist destinations and into the hinterlands. Enter George Zimmerman (no, not that George Zimmerman, at least not that I am aware of), whose Ohio Off the Beaten Path does exactly that.
The book is subdivided into sections (Northeast, Southeast, etc.), and the sub-subdivided by county. Most counties in Ohio came up with at least one out-of-the-ordinary point of interest for Zimmerman to cover. (Amusing side note: the one trip we took last year, for our tenth anniversary, we stayed at a B&B a few miles up the road from anywhere we wanted to be to kind of get away from it all. It was in Morrow County, which is one of the very few counties in Ohio that does not have an entry here. Nor, based on my experience, many paved roads.) Zimmerman’s style in reporting is a little on the laconic side, not completely just-the-facts-ma’am but with a more reserved type of enthusiasm than I am used to in books like this, and that’s just fine with me. Maybe it’s a matter of perception, but it feels more believable when your author sounds more like a journalist and less like a cheerleader, you know?
But like I said, this is not a book (certainly not in its 1985 edition) you necessarily want to read if you’re planning on going to these places, though given their general historical value I would assume most of them still exist. It’s a book for those who don’t have the gas money but still love just knowing that things like this are out there at all. Given that, its value is somewhat limited (though were I reviewing a more recent edition, this book might get an entirely different rating; such is the peril of publishing a book that basically has an expiration date), but that doesn’t make it any less fun. ** ½