FARGO — Combining forces with a dozen other people from surrounding states, Alicia Underlee Nelson covers the North Dakota region for an upcoming book, “Midwest Road Trips: Highways and Byways.”
The anthology combines stories and tips from several contributors for a diverse guide to the area with places to eat, shop and drink, focused on giving travelers reliable ways to take a trip alone or with a carful of family members.
“I think you're going to see home in a different way, and that's exactly the point,” Nelson says.
Available for preorder now, the book comes at a time when many people hesitate at the idea of jumping on a plane and traveling somewhere far away.
But in the comfort of their own cars and in the familiar warmth of the Midwest, the new book offers readers the chance to discover something new in their own backyards.
“We get accustomed to our own routine and then something happens to shake that up; all of a sudden we see everything differently,” Nelson says.
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One of the routes she writes about takes people up from South Dakota through Fargo and north on Interstate 29 to Grand Forks, discovering public art, local beers and good eats along the way.
With experience managing her own blog, Prairie Style File, Nelson has a wealth of information on where to find unexpected public art. She also taps into food and drink spots to hit up, with a particular interest in craft brews. She published her first book, "North Dakota Beer: A Heady History," in 2017.
The book is curated by Dannelle Gay of Wisconsin and includes passages covering North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, as well as Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Missouri, Nebraska and Ohio.
It takes travelers along some of the most storied highways and byways in the nation, including the Great River Road and Route 66. Stops include historic lighthouses along the shores of Lake Erie in Ohio, canyons in Kansas, crystal-clear springs in Michigan, Underground Railroad history in Illinois, Mount Rushmore in South Dakota and authentic fish fries in Wisconsin’s Door County.
Movie fans can visit the ballpark from “A League of Their Own” in Indiana or tour the Iowa covered bridges showcased in “The Bridges of Madison County.”
“This book is a bit unusual. Usually an anthology does not come fully ready to go with the marketing plan and a built-in audience,” Nelson says. “But we're a little different that way. We kind of all recruited each other, because we knew that we would be sort of the dream team to cover these 12 states.”
Nelson says she often goes to her fellow writers for advice and itineraries when she visits their part of the country anyway, so the advice is coming from a local perspective.
“We’re all pros at what we do, either doing this for a living or kind of as a mission in life or both. So it was a really streamlined, interesting and collaborative process, and it's been fun because we're marketing it together,” she says.
Diverging from the typical web articles that only offer a surface level of insight into the place they are ranking, like best restaurants in a particular state or scenic drives, “Midwest Road Trips” comes from people who know the area.
“A lot of times, those articles are not written by somebody that's visited the state, and certainly not by somebody that lives there. So what you get are the top 10 things, and if you live here, some of them might be great, and then the other ones would be like, if you just Google that, you find out that's not actually accurate,” Nelson says.
The book format also freed Nelson up to include a comprehensive list of the region, which a single article couldn’t possibly include for a road trip through North Dakota. The routes through each state are also planned comprehensively, but can be used individually as well.
The travel guide is part of a four-book series from Something or Other Publishing with additional books in the works.
”Our next book will be farm-to-table dining, around 20 of the best and most comprehensive farm-to-table restaurants and cafes and dining experiences in each state," Nelson says.
Something or Other Publishing aims to connect authors and readers, allowing audiences to vote on a particular book concept and offer input before they become available to the general public.
“We had a lot of creative freedom to really highlight the places that we knew were great,” Nelson says about the stops she highlights from the Red River Valley and westward to Bismarck and into Medora.
“I think now more than ever, it's really important to support our neighbors in our endeavors,” she says.
Be sure to verify operating hours and specific COVID-19 regulations along planned routes.
This article is part of a content partnership with The Arts Partnership, a nonprofit organization cultivating the arts in Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo. For more information, visit http://theartspartnership.net.