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18 of 18 found the following review helpful:
cruisin' the fossil freewayNov 09, 2007
By W. Leonard Taylor
Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll have teamed together in producing a real block buster. No young person or old can possibly resist being drawn immediately into this well written personal fossil adventure. For most of us who have only a superficial knowledge of such things, to be suddently presented with such a painless comprehensive overview, is truly a treat. This was vividly demonstrated when I took a copy to work and suddenly realized a least eight copies were being ordered by individuals of diverse interests. Looking for a great gift for friends, children and grandchildren? -- look no more! To bad we're limited to just five stars.
9 of 9 found the following review helpful:
A 5,000 mile and 500,000,000 year tripOct 28, 2007
By M. Celeskey
In Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway, Kirk Johnson and Ray Troll recount their rollicking road-trips through the Rocky Mountain region, and their writing and artwork tell the tale of the fossils, food, and friends they meet along the way. Paging through the book is like being chauffeured by a pair of paleontological prestidigitators across America's prime fossil real estate.
Kirk's writing conjures up multiple layers of history from the landscapes they pass through: the ancient environments where sediments accumulated and hardened into rock, the processes that brought these rocks to the surface and shaped the current scenery, and, most of all, the ongoing stories of discoveries made by scientists, collectors, and fossil fanatics throughout this geologic wonderland. Ray's artwork brings each of these histories to life and mixes them together in a sort of deep-time gumbo: dinosaurs rise from the dead and amble alongside pickup trucks and gas stations, prehistoric mammals pose for portraits, and wide-eyed ichthyosaurs and half-coiled ammonites dreamily float alongside monster movies and cheeseburgers.
Ultimately, Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway is like getting several books in one: geology primer, road-trip travelogue, collection of scientific-surrealist art, and exposé of the "paleonerd" subculture in the American West. If you've ever driven down an open highway, looked out at the rocks around you and briefly wondered if there might be dinosaur bones buried there, then you'll definitely want a copy for your bookshelf.
13 of 15 found the following review helpful:
An excellent tour of paleontology's past and presentDec 31, 2007
By Brian Switek
You know you've got a unique book on your hands when the cover spots a eurypterid snagging a jackalope from under the cab of a Ford pickup carrying a disgruntled ammonite while dinosaurs stomp towards a "last chance" food & gas stop in the background. If you're a fan of artist Ray Troll, however, such a vibrant and motley assemblage probably will pique your interest rather than shock you. His artwork graces the pages of Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway, a collaborative work with paleobotanist Kirk Johnson, a wonderfully nerdy "Epoch Tale" of paleontology. While it may at first seem unusual, Ray's uncanny ability to meld together the past and present is a perfect compliment to Johnson's easy-to-approach writing style, the pair weaving a tale that (just as the cover might suggest) joins together the unique present and ancient past of the American West.
From a backstage meeting with Ziggy Marley about a potentially new species of ancient marijuana to tracking down the ever-elusive fossilized tooth whorls of Helicoprion, the book places the reader in the cab with the authors as they carve their way through the western landscape, searching for fossils, footprints, and a good country-fried steak. Like any good paleontologist knows, there's much more to the science than bones collecting dust in museum drawers; paleontology has an incredibly rich and adventurous history, and there's no better way to pay homage to the great bone sharps of the past but to hop in the truck and kick up dust on the way to find the perfect ammonite or Triceratops skull. During the course of their trek, the authors stop in to see local rock hounds, professional paleontologists, amateur fossil freaks, and others, illuminating the ever-changing landscape between searches for a decent hotel and a hot meal. Indeed, what makes this book truly enjoyable is the realization of the authors that a fossil has many to tell, one being the story of the actual organism exhumed from the rock, but also a more human tales of discovery (and in the case of some like the Tyrannosaurus "Sue," even controversy) that still go on years after the close of the infamous "Bone Wars."
Given this constant mix of past and present, the authors make a formidable team. The illustrations are lavishly spread across bright pages, Johnson's prose making what might feel like inaccessible geologic concepts seem as familiar as a stack of pancakes (or was that baklava...). This isn't a journey of know-it-alls dryly relating their travels in a stuffy leather-bound book; Cruisin'... is wonderfully dynamic and the authors are just as enthralled with the fossils they're after as anyone they meet along the way, their joy being magnified by the fact that it seems that they can barely go 10 miles without coming across a major fossil locality. This impression is further driven home by a companion map produced for release with this book, and while I don't as yet have one snippets of it are present in the book to give the reader some idea of what each state can claim as far as prehistory. Dinosaurs, ammonites, sabercats, trilobites, scientists fleeing the jaws of Arctodus and strategically-placed cheeseburgers (marking notable greasy-spoons of in each state) dot the beautifully-designed piece, a true "treasure map" to the spoils of western paleontology.
I read a lot of books over the course of a year, often hoping to cram the information inside the volumes into my head so I can start incorporating it into my understanding of nature and prehistory, but Cruisin'... isn't the kind of book I'd want to do that with. Much like the journey the authors undertook, the book represents a meandering car ride where there's always more to see than there is time and there's always someone with a good story to tell just up the road. Dinosaurs cross freeways and bizarre extinct mammals stare down artists in the glossy pages, but such images never seem strange; they are what those who appreciate the history of life on earth are often daydreaming about anyway. Beautifully illustrated and engagingly written, Cruisin' the Fossil Freeway is the kind of book that makes me want to pack up the car and head out West to cross the ground once tread by noted paleontologists and bizarre beasts alike, but if the book spurs you to similar action please watch your step. As the book illustrates, "fossils really are everywhere."
3 of 3 found the following review helpful:
Caution! Paleo Fever is CatchingJan 07, 2008
By Linda K. Osburn
Caution! Paleo fever is catching. I already had a light dose of it before reading the book. Not many people carry around a small chunk of dinosaur rib in their purse just for the heck of it. (It makes a hilarious conversation piece at security check points. Most screeners don't want anything more to do with the purse after finding the bone.)
Now, after reading the book, I have a full blown case, and am itching to get back on the road. This book strikes just the right balance between hard information and just plain fun.
We went to Montana last summer and met several people who were at least as interesting as the bones - with strange tales of discovery and survival. Guess what! after reading the book, I now know that there is a whole world of fossils and people just waiting to be discovered.
This book answers a lot of questions that I had - i.e. what on earth is a concretion? Before reading the book, I could recognize one, but couldn't define what it was. Now I know more about what they are and how they form.
The book delivers a steady drip of valid scientific information that you almost don't realize that you are getting. (The author is a curator at the Denver Museum.)
The book will also tell you how to recognize and find dinosaur tracks at 65 miles an hour. - I won't give away the secret,but, I'll give you a hint: it involves birthday cake and ants.
Be warned! If you read this book, you will be left screaming for a ROAD TRIP in the great old American tradition.
1 of 1 found the following review helpful:
The Great American Fossil Road TripDec 11, 2007
By I. Wood
This is a great book for people who long to find triceratops in their backyards. The book takes you on a vicarious romp through the American West, picking up fossils, strange characters, and surreal visions of long-dead animals along the way. Dr. Johnson's writing is both a joy to read and a great primer on the history of the Earth. Troll's artwork makes you laugh and see life a little differently. On a serious note, his paintings accurately show what all these fossils looked like when alive. I want a pet uintathere.
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