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Your Location: Timeshare Users Group Advice: Book Review - The Great Towns of America   |updated: 1/29/08

Book Review of "The Great Towns of America"

Bob Kohn is an editor/writer for a Sacramento newspaper and a timeshare owner since 1991. He has been a frequent contributor to TimeSharing Today magazine. The only "compensation " for this review, exclusive to TUG members, is a free copy of the book, which is not enough to slant his criticism toward a predisposed view toward the author’s book. The reviewer is delighted, however, to share one of his travel/vacation resources with fellow timesharers.

By Bob Kohn

As a timesharing enthusiast, I consider David Vokac’s guidebooks to resort destinations in the West an integral part of my reference material in planning vacations.

His books avoid the colorless AAA listings format of lodgings, restaurants and attractions; instead, we find his personal impressions of homey accommodations in historic inns, dining establishments serving distinctive local specialties, and attractions that provide some uniqueness to that particular locale. Plus, his copyrighted weather graphs indicate on a monthly basis the probability of pleasant weather (peak ski season also is noted).

Now comes his latest book, The Great Towns of America (West Press, $18.95, 576 pages), the outgrowth of his 60,000-mile odyssey in quest of the 100 towns that he considers can’t-miss spots for those wishing to escape urban pressures.

How does this book enhance the timeshare experience? In analyzing the 100 choice destinations, we find 46 are graced with timeshares. There are 23 others within 25 miles of one, making them ideal for timesharing day-trippers.

Vokac’s book is not written with timesharers in mind. There are no descriptions of timeshares; no glossy, scenic, mood-setting pictures . However, one might want to consult his book to extend a vacation: finding that special bed and breakfast in a restored Victorian or an inviting motel overlooking perhaps a tranquil stream.

But Vokac offers almost anecdotal accounts of his visits to various lodging options (moderate to very expensive) that run the gamut from a quaint, cheery inn to an all-inclusive luxury resort for the pampered; restaurants that locals might frequent for scrumptious croissants to sophisticated Continental cuisine; and attractions geared for outdoors rigors or just sedentary pleasures.

Essentially he blankets a town and its nearby environs to ferret out everything unique about it. Which means there are few listings for many chain operations, like Ramada Inns, Marie Callender’s, U-A theaters. His definition of a "great town" … "natural setting, leisure appeal, distance from major cities, population under 50,000 "… has eliminated some resort areas he included in his previous guidebooks (Destinations of Southern California, Destinations of the Southwest). That’s a shame, for his guidelines mean artsy
Santa Fe, N.M., is too big for inclusion, and the beach town escapes of Coronado, Carlsbad and Del Mar in Southern California are guilty of being too close to a major city (San Diego) that an independent identity is suspect.

Vokac has ideal credentials for this project. He has had a love for the outdoors since he was an airborne fire-spotter near
Yellowstone National Park. He later taught land economics while completing a master’s degree in geography and has done neighborhood and renewal planning in major cities before drawing on his myriad experiences to evolve into a full-time travel writer.

Vokac said he is not surprised that timeshare developers tapped many of the towns that survived the final cut from the 217 he first considered. He wonders if his book might inspire timeshare developers also to consider building timeshares in towns included in his book lacking such facilities.

The Great Towns of America is a Horace Greeley expansion in reverse direction of his 1981 publication, Great Towns of the West. In fact, all 46 towns in the United States included in that book made the list, except for Santa Fe and Palm Springs (neighbor Palm Desert qualified). Also a casualty of his updated book are his listings of particular room units (noting bed configurations and noteworthy amenities) that might have those drop-dead, gorgeous hotel views as Conde Nast depicts on its inside back page.

However, The Great Towns of America features a chapter he didn’t attempt in his previous books but one that certainly fits in with his background. With much research and calculation, he has added a livability chart for those considering retirement or just relocation. He rates factors such as weather, safety, education, health, income, housing costs and political orientation. Bigfork, MT, is the place for a low crime rate and Republican leanings.

Vokac’s list is sure to stir discussion about why Podunk Place favored by Aunt Myrtle didn’t make it. Or if some developer thought a town was a worthy timeshare site, why didn’t Vokac include it in his list. But the author quickly realized that readers must have been wondering about the 117 towns that didn’t make the elite list. So he is including some of those in sub-regional editions he’ll be launching later this year starting with The Great Towns of

But at least Vokac’s earnest and exhaustive effort gives us as close to a local insider’s look into America’s treasured towns without sounding like a board member for the local Chamber of Commerce.

Besides the folksy but descriptive and insightful dialogue, Vokac seems to take a special interest in the common traveler. Though there are listings for lodging and restaurants that will fry your credit cards, his inclusion of several no-frills cafes / food-to-go stops known mostly by just residents gives readers options not provided by AAA guides.

Here is a sample of his listings, all from Sedona, Ariz.:

ATTRACTION : Chapel of the Holy Cross …" Uniquely perched between two massive red sandstone pinnacles is a remarkable ‘sculpture church.’ Completed in 1956 through the inspiration of Marguerite Staude, it is an incomparable synthesis of civilization and nature. The sanctuary is open daily free to visitors."

Tlaquepaque … "is a master-planned five-acre showplace of Spanish-Colonial-inspired architecture. It should not be missed. An exemplary collection of unique shops, galleries, and restaurants is surrounded by flower gardens, courtyards, fountains, and sculptures at every turn."

RESTAURANT: The Heartline Cafe …"is one of Arizona’s best sources for innovative southwestern cuisine. Every dish is fresh and flavorful, from entrees like pecan-crusted local trout to fine housemade desserts …the white chocolate mousse with fresh berries is a knockout. Guests have a choice of country-charming dining areas or a heated garden patio. Expensive."

RESTAURANT: Sedona Memories Bakery Café … "Delicious Continental-style pastries and breads made here, plus gourmet sandwiches and salads, have won a loyal following for this casual little bakery/café/takeout with a view deck."

LODGING: L’Auberge de Sedona Resort … "Nestled among gardens along the sycamore-shaded banks of Oak Creek is one of the Southwest’s most renowned inns. The complex includes a delightful country French restaurant (separate listing), lounge, and boutique. Guests have use of a large pool and whirlpool on a red rock view patio accessed by a funicular. Each cabin is luxuriously appointed with French antiques and reproductions, and has a fireplace. Some are next to the stream. Very expensive."

LODGING: Cedars Resort … "On a slope by
Oak Creek, the modern motel has a pool, whirlpool, and creek access. Recently rehabilitated and newer creekside rooms are large and well furnished. Most offer memorable views and the sound of the creek from big private balconies."

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