On the Road with info from the Nelson library

The Nelson Public Library can take you places before you even go. - Bob Hall photo
The Nelson Public Library can take you places before you even go.
— image credit: Bob Hall photo

There’s a trend this time of year that makes me want to head to my closest watering hole and order something colourful to drink, preferably with a paper umbrella. I’ll find a corner by the heater, take off three or four layers, close my eyes and pretend it’s really, really hot.

What’s the trend that sends me into wistful dreamland? It’s the sudden proliferation of library patrons turning up at the circulation desk either suspiciously tanned, or with a stack of books and a request for an extension on their loan “until we get back.” Usually, it’s from someplace involving heat and colourful drinks.

From the window above my desk I can see cold-looking bundled people hurrying by. Sometimes, a dog is tied up outside my window and we look at each other. He’d rather be in here, but I’d rather be in Mexico. Warm is relative, I guess.

I won’t get to Mexico or anywhere else warm this year, but I did manage a short trip to a balmy (by my standards) San Francisco recently. I’d never been, but I’ve always wanted to visit the hangout of the beat poets — and where Jack Kerouac’s On the Road begins. While I knew that our man Jack would never have hoisted a colourful umbrella drink, I wanted to have what he was having, wherever he had had it at the time. It would be good enough for a cold Canadian in January.

I started with our database A to Z World Travel, where I learned about San Francisco and more importantly, about Vesuvio — a favourite  hangout of Jack Kerouac and his cohort. According to the database it’s right across from City Lights Bookstore — a spot on the bucket list of any bibliophile. Be still, my beating heart.

Besides letting me in on the nightlife spots, A to Z told me everything I need to know about Fog City. Unlike hard copy travel guides, this database is always up to date, right down to news feeds on everything San Fran. It doesn’t get more current than that.

Next, I searched Global Road Warrior, which is a travel database best suited to understanding what makes a country tick — although a search in “United States” for “San Francisco” did turn up some useful information. A tour through available topics — food, festivals, and more — tells me that Global Road Warrior will be my first stop when I decide to find sun in, say, Mauritius. There, people order their drinks in a number of languages including Hindi, Arabic, Mandarin, and Urdu. For that trip, I’ll also need to spend some time with our Rocket Languages database.

When I got to San Francisco — armed with knowledge, if not flowers in my hair — I found Vesuvio right where it was supposed to be. So I browsed the books at City Lights and then moseyed on over to the bar — essentially unchanged since those heady beat days — and ordered a Jack Kerouac. One hundred per cent umbrella-free, the drink is made with rum, tequila, orange cranberry juice, and lime. Hard to imagine drinking this and getting back On the Road at all.

I didn’t come back with a tan, but I did come back with memories  to keep me warm until my next travel itch sends me back to peruse our databases, maybe learn a language or two, and dream.

Anne DeGrace's library column is featured every second week on

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