New travel books to guide wanderers

The notion of paying $4 for a gallon of gas gives me heartburn, but it won’t keep me at home. I simply need to choose wisely when plotting my next getaway, and you likely will do the same.

Here are new resources to simplify the job, make it interesting and introduce new vacation possibilities. Even armchair travelers should find good reading material in the mix, and your local bookstore can order titles that are not already on the shelves.

“Journeys of a Lifetime: 500 of the World’s Greatest Trips” (National Geographic, $40, 400 pages) is a richly crafted, coffeetable book whose multiple writers and photographers tantalize as they take you around the globe.

Concise descriptions of attractive destinations are accompanied by terrific photography and highlights of what to see, plus advice about how long to visit and during which time of year. Website addresses are included, in case a taste of place is not enough.

Not all locations are exotic. Under “By Road,” we were pleased to see the loop around Lake Michigan’s shoreline. “A clockwise drive around Lake Michigan is a sampling of the best of America,” the book asserts. “The lake feels like an inland sea …”

“Strange Wisconsin: More Badger State Weirdness” by Linda S. Godfrey (Big Earth Publishing, $22, 192 pages) entertains with wild and one-of-a-kind tales of odd museums, loner artists, life-changing transformations – you name it. Some stories are about attractions. Others are myth/history with no tangible draw for tourists.

Where can you find the Earth Mysteries Museum? It’s at 532 N. Pine St., Burlington. The UFO and Paranormal Research Center also houses the Sci-Fi Café and Gift Shop.

Who made a mountain of yard art out of plastic pop containers? Paul Hefti, but his funky sculptures in La Crosse vanished after the retired factory worker moved because of declining health.

“There is simply too much going on in the Dairy State that would otherwise slip by the day-to-day consciousness of the ordinary citizen,” writes Godfrey, to explain why her book “had to be written.” Her nine content categories include Freaky Fauna, Haunted Habitats.

“The Joy of Pilgrimage” by Lori Erickson (Resurrection Press, $7, 112 pages) acknowledges the satisfaction that a voyage to sacred space can bring. What you need to feel enriched spiritually will depend upon your own definition of what is holy.

“While those on ordinary journeys typically seek comfort and convenience, pilgrims often endure hardship willingly, for the difficulties can become a way of tempering and strengthening their soul,” writes Lori, who lives in Iowa.

Her wanderings lead to Lourdes in France, Santiago de Compostela in Spain, the beaches of Normandy, Celtic Christian paths in Ireland and a Buddhist monastery in South Korea. (We made that last trip together and each have a bracelet of wooden beads as our reminder.)

This slim volume is easy to slip into a backpack. Use it during any pilgrimage as a reminder of what helps turn a trip into a retreat, or attractions into inspirations. The destination need not be foreign to be meaningful.

“Going Dutch in Beijing: How to Behave Properly When Far Away From Home” by Mark McCrum (Henry Holt, $22, 208 pages) is a fascinating attempt to prevent us from turning into Ugly Americans while traveling.

Ready to visit China and eager to bring a gift? Don’t wrap it in yellow, unless it’s going to honor a dead person. Served orange juice at the end of a dinner party in France? That means it’s time to leave.

The author lives in London, has traveled to six continents and gallantly covers etiquette for first encounters to last rites. When in doubt of what to do, “a friendly manner and a smile will work wonders anywhere in the world,” he believes.

“Along Florida’s Expressways” by Dave Hunter (Mile Oak Publishing, $25, 202 pages) comes in a spiral-bound format, which makes it easy to use while driving. OK, let somebody else read it while you drive.

You likely know how to occupy your time in Orlando and Tampa, but this guidebook points out noteworthy spots all along the Sunshine State’s expressway system.

Lesser-known stops and historical tidbits are mentioned in order of their appearance during interstate drives. You’ll know which exit to take, and full-color maps make the navigation painless.

Sprinkled throughout are inside tips. Example: When on I-75, get gas before entering the Alligator Alley Tollway (at mile 98). There is only one gas stop in 90 miles, Dave says, who predicts it will be significantly more expensive there than, say, Miami.

“Brewed Awakenings: An Illustrated Journey to Coffeehouses in Wisconsin (and Beyond)” by Jeff Hagen (Itchy Cat Press, $13, 112 pages) makes a cute gift for jumpin’ java lovers who are ready to hit the road.

More than three dozen independently owned businesses in and near Wisconsin get an opportunity to percolate. Jeff’s descriptions are fine and helpful, but it’s his gentle and colorful artwork that makes the book a real keeper.

Full disclosure: Itchy Cat also gleefully published our “Sidetracked in Wisconsin” book and later this year will release “Hungry for Wisconsin: A Tasty Guide for Travelers.”

We’ve learned to lose the modesty, because books need to be sold, so stay tuned for details. First we have to finish the manuscript … almost there.