Richard Longstreth and the Iconic Road Trip

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To some, the dying iconography of roadside Americana is merely kitsch. To the architecturally-minded with a wunderlust for small wonders, it’s a relevant reminder of the “character” and local color that once was the “Open Road.”

We’re grateful for historic preservationist and photographer Richard Longstreth’s new book, Road Trip: Roadside America, From Custard’s Last Stand to the Wigwam Restaurant, which brings home to armchair travelers more than 200 images of blinking-and-buzzing commercial strips, drive-ins, filling stations, motels, pancake houses, root beer stands, amusement parks, not to mention all that spectacular ticker-tape and arrow-pointing neon signs and those Paul Bunyan-sized plaster mascots rendered as eye-catching destination marks from the ‘60s (the golden age of it all) and ‘70s.

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It’s a time capsule of a book, in oversized trade paperback size (perfect for the glove compartment), exhibiting the imagination of bygone eras. Today if you’re hitting the road, you’ll have to chart out in advance where some of the decrepit last vestiges of it all remain. Consider them photo-ops that won’t stand ’round much longer.

Note: If you’re visiting Miami this summer, consider driving to Key West, as the Florida Keys’ Overseas Highway is one of those last holdouts of character, particularly in the nautical-themed vein.

Road Trip includes nearly all previously unpublished full-color photographs, each captioned and prefaced with trivia-happy text. Most cleverly named spots: The Lettuce Inn and the Frank ‘n’ Stein hot dog stand. It’s $30 from Rizzoli.

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Steve Garbarino

Steve Garbarino

Steve Garbarino is a contributing editor at Vanity Fair and a culture reporter for The Wall Street Journal. He is also the author of "A Fitzgerald Companion."