The Bad Girl's Guide to the Open Road

by Cameron Tuttle

Published by Chronicle Books

1999, 192 pages






Thoughts on Peeing Uphill

Reviewed by Linda L. Richards


I really didn't want to like The Bad Girl's Guide to the Open Road. The are a lot of things about it to encourage this attitude. First of all, it's pink. And not just any pink, mind you. But the lovely deep-almost-magenta-pink that a lot of us were forced to wear in the 1980s. It's a grrrl color. In fact, the whole book screams, "Grrrlz!" in the clear-throated way that's become somewhat repetitive of late.

So, okay: I wanted to hate it on contact. Then I read it. And -- despite my best intentions -- the charm pulled me in.

Yes, there are lots of annoying grrl books kicking around, but this isn't one of them. This is the type of book that the annoying ones pattern themselves after because, in the hands of a less skillful author and with less talented design people backing her up, The Bad Girl's Guide to the Open Road could well have been a big mess. It's not.

Beyond the magenta color and the cloyingly hip art and set-up, The Bad Girl's Guide to the Open Road is filled with raw charm and happy grrl humor. Cameron Tuttle has done a good job of combining some real life experience with a well-developed sense of the ridiculous. Less guidebook and more atlas of possibilities, Tuttle explains her mission thus:

Road tripping is you in a car with an open throttle and an open mind. It's the ultimate brain douche that clears your head and leaves you feeling fresh. It's freedom on fast-forward, a movable feast, and a ticket to ride. Road tripping gives you the chance to recreate yourself at every stop, break the rules, and escape the trappings of your dreary, everyday existence. And it's an open invitation to be bad -- whatever that means to you -- cop a bad attitude, use bad judgement, have a bad hair day, all week long.

There are actually some things in The Bad Girl's Guide to the Open Road that might be of use to the motorist on a mission. For instance, there is solid advice for peeing out-of-doors (avoid pavement and face uphill), how to open a beer bottle with your car (14 useful tips), and how to make hot road snacks under the hood while you drive (cinnamon rolls require 20 minutes at 60 mph).

There are even tips for shopping, stopping, things to do in a strange town and -- of course -- what self-respecting guidebook could avoid the topic of eating? This one doesn't, and Tuttle's no-nonsense and no-care-for-offense style makes you chortle while you nod:

To know a man intimately, you have to eat his favorite foods. America is the same. If you travel through a new region without sampling local cuisine, you're missing out and you're just plain stupid.

So there. Obviously, this isn't a book for everyone. Were it homogenized to the point where anyone could read it without offense, it would -- I think -- likely mean that everyone would also read it without humor. And The Bad Girl's Guide to the Open Road is entirely about humor. Especially if you already know to point your shoes uphill while peeing. | April 1999


Linda L. Richards is the editor of January Magazine. Her fourth novel will be published early in 2008 by St. Martin's Minotaur.