For a close-up of passing scenery, here are five guides to put you on track: "America by Train" by Ira Fistell (Burt Franklin: $7.95), Ferguson's "Britain by Britrail" ($7.95), "Europe by Rail" (Michael Muller: $12.95), Bill Coo's "Scenic Rail Guides" to "Western Canada" ($8.95) and to "Central and Atlantic Canada" ($7.95). The latter three are distributed by Bradt Enterprises.
"Places to Go With Children in Southern California" by Stephanie Kegan opens the door to a bundle of places to see and things to do, even for those without children. Each entry (and there are many) lists prices, recommended age group, directions and phone numbers. Surprisingly, many are free or low cost (Chronicle: $7.95).
Rand McNalley's "Vacation Places Rated--Finding the Best Places to Stay in America" by Sylvia McNair ($14.95) rates 107 vacation places based on natural beauty, outdoor recreation, accommodations and restaurants. History, culture and entertainment are also judged. Seattle is first and Los Angeles is second, beating out Hawaii, Chicago and the Big Apple. The guide is a unique travel planner that could put you a step ahead of a tourist agency.
An exciting combination of text and color photos can be found in Prentice Hall's "Insight Guides" for "Kenya," "India," "The Rockies," "New York State" and "Texas" at $15.95 each and "Italy" for $16.95. They feature a variety of maps, diagrams, historical artifacts that capture the flavor and culture of each area. As preparatory reading or a library addition, the guides are worth the investment.
Twenty-nine of the many rivers in California are commercially rafted. It should be easy to select one, from "Whitewater Rafting Tours" by Rena K. Margulis, that will fit your experience and pocketbook. It's described as a complete guide with information on schedules, short or long trips, and gear required. Some lodge and motel accommodations also are mentioned if sleeping out is not your bag. It's $11.95 at the bookstore or add $1.55 for handling and send to Aquatic Adventure Publications, P.O. Box 60494, Palo Alto, Calif. 94306.
In the pocket-size book, "Legal Guide for American Travelers to Europe--a Practical Guide to 13 Countries," Jack D. Novick offers solutions to medical, legal, financial, customs, duties, consulate and tourist services problems plus much more. Don't leave home without it (World Almanac: $6.95).
Rich illustrations and fascinating detail places the Phaidon Cultural Guides among the leaders. Two new titles are "Provence and the Cote d'Azure" and "The Loire Valley." Discover paintings, buildings, panoramas, wonders of the region, medieval towns and breathtaking landscapes (Prentice Hall: $14.95 each).
Pat Dickerman's sourcebooks always open to a world of excitement for active vacations, and "Adventure Travel--North America" and "Travel Abroad" are not exceptions. Getaways from urban living to river expeditions, horseback treks, caravans or sailing, including the costs, contacts, itineraries, could put you on the path of worldwide discovery (Adventure Guides: $12.95).
"Cruising the Columbia and Snake Rivers" by Sharlene and Ted Wilson and Joan LeMiex describes the way to travel 465 miles on water from Idaho to the Pacific Coast. If you don't want to do the entire length, 11 shorter cruises are outlined for the different areas. If you don't own a boat, there are undoubtedly some available to rent, or you can contact the cruise ships listed in the guide (Pacific Search: $11.95).
The following furnish good basic information: "French Farm and Village Holiday Guide" ($12.95) edited by Peter Clark, "The Visitor's Guide to the French Coast" ($9.95) by Martin Collins and "Small Museums of the French Riviera" ($9.95) by Eloise Danto, which is 50% cluttered with illustrations better left out. The guides are a bit overpriced and I would challenge the distributor's (Bradt Enterprises) comment that "imported books are expensive."