A listless memoir recounting hohum journeys into places hot, dry, and deep.
Checchio sets out from his San Francisco home to catch a few of the desert's good vibes, listen to the coyotes howl, and ``observe the moon rising over the Joshua trees.'' Crisscrossing the Four Corners region, with stops at the Grand Canyon and Arches National Park, he resolutely avoids back roads and their promise of adventure, complaining all the while at how crowded the national parks have gotten, how spiritually empty Las Vegas is, and how bad road food is—especially on Indian reservations. The narrative comes alive only toward the end of the book, when Checchio, a frequent contributor to hook and bullet magazines, writes spiritedly of fly-fishing in the mountain streams of New Mexico, comparing notes with such locally eminent fishers as the novelist John Nichols. For the most part, however, Checchio contents himself with offering unsurprising sketches of the Southwest's betterknown places, paraphrasing liberally (with attribution) from histories of the region and biographies of some of its colorful characters, and committing more than a few errors of fact large and small along the way. Ultimately he turns in a travelogue of the sort you'd put on a postcard to a relative in Weehawken or Akron: of the Grand Canyon, for instance, he writes, unimaginatively, ``I stared dumbfounded into it. And although I looked and gaped, I could not fully take it all in or even begin to comprehend it.''
That may be true, but it is the writer's job to comprehend his or her subject. Checchio's book will add nothing to any real or wouldbe desert rat's store of knowledge. It's likely instead to leave readers dumbfounded too.