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Do you visit the actual town beyond the Interstate Highway?

Do you visit the actual town beyond the Interstate Highway?

Oct 2nd, 2007, 04:52 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Oct 2007
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Do you visit the actual town beyond the Interstate Highway?

recently went on a long 3 week cross country car trip and stayed at countless Hotels and Motels just right off the Interstate Highway off ramp. After a long day of driving, we would usually arrive at our hotel at about 6 pm and then get something to eat at one of the bland chain restaurants next to the chain motel right off the Interstate. After about a week of this we decided it might be interesting to go into the actual town down the road and eat at a local spot frequented by the actual people who live and work in the town.

We would ask the Hotel front desk person for advice and usually they acted like we were crazy for driving into the actual town 3-5 miles from the Interstate. They would tell us there was no where to eat and nothing to see. I got the impression the typical cross country traveler never actually got more than a mile from the Interstate Highway and never ate in a local non chain eating establishment. How about you?
distant_traveler is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 05:40 AM
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We love to go off road to small towns and eat at "mom and pop" restaurants. We actually make an effort not to eat in chain restaurants and stay in B&B's or inns if we can (a bit hard now with two kids).

This is where the true America is, not NYC or LA.

Sometimes we plan ahead, sometimes we don't (we usually find hidden gems when we don't). Now that we bought a GPS it's easier to go "off road" and still get back to your original destination.

Don't even get me started on the people we meet...
zlaor is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 05:45 AM
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I do it all the time. Actually, unless I am in a hurry, I spend a lot of time on US Highways instead of the Interstates.

But I've learned to research the restuarants in advancve of the travel. With rare exceptions, the desk clerk recomendations are poor.

Both at home and on the road, less than 5% of the restaurants I visit are national chains.

Keith is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 06:30 AM
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On our cross country trips we definitely went into the towns. One trip we knew we were stopping in a particular town, and a friend happened to be from there. She told us where to go for dinner. When we arrived and walked in, the place fell silent. They all looked at us with that "you're not from around here" look. It was pretty funny. But my friend was right...it was the best broasted chicken we had ever had!
mms is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 06:43 AM
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"Best broasted chicken"? Do they still do that -- haven't heard of it for years, but I loved the stuff.

Great point, distant traveler. Yes, we indeed do try to get off into the town. Recently, in fact, I've often found the prices of the standard chain motels can be higher right on the interstate than the same chain somewhere in the town.

On the other hand, I have to admit that in many smaller towns across America, the better restaurants are now often out near the interstate and near the big new shopping malls and commercial centers there. Kind of sad in a way, but true.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 06:55 AM
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Neo--Well we had never heard of it, lol! This was in 1999, but that is what the restaurant was famous for. It was a dive, but soooo good! It was somewhere in ND.
mms is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 07:13 AM
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More than you ever wanted to know about Broasted Chicken:

NeoPatrick is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 07:43 AM
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I love to get off the interstate - my mother trained us well (starting on a cross-country driving trip for a month in the summer of 1963, NY to Alabama to California and back by a more northerly route). I don't research that kind of visit. Whatever happens happens. (On the other hand, I research to death the big cities we visit).

Once in the Loire valley (OK, not off the interstate, off the autobahn or something (what is the French equivalent?), we happened upon a street fair in a small town. We watched a barrel maker MAKE a barrel (from strips of wood). We couldn't have planned that!

(Oh, and zlaor, how can you say that NY and LA are not the true America? They may not be "small town just off the interstate" but they're way more than chain restaurants and cheap motels!)
Oct 2nd, 2007, 07:56 AM
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My husband and son drove cross country in 2001, staying at budget hotels and eating at local places. Their favorite place was near Glacier National Park but, of course, they don't remember the exact name. When we've drive in the south and walked around towns (my husband loves to visit hardware stores in old buildings) we've encountered people who are friendly and wanted to chat and insist we look like someone they know. At a small gift shop in SC the lady asked if my husband was a minister because of his gentlemanly demeanor. I like to use Chowhound to find some interesting local spots although we've found some on our own. I try to avoid eating in chain restaurants and was extremely disappointment when I added a two day bus tour to the Grand Canyon when I was attending a convention in Phoenix and we stopped at an Outback restaurant in Flagstaff. Yes, we will eat food from lunch wagons and probably are most memorable local spot was Vi's Snack Shack on St John USVI. We've also stopped at a few church/local suppers when we've been in an area.
dfrostnh is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 08:31 AM
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My favorite quote of late:

Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel from coast to coast without seeing anything. ~ Charles Kuralt

I've been a road tripper all my life. My aunt used to call me Axel Butt because I was always on one trip or another. But it's only been recently that my husband and I have started to enjoy the backroads / highways instead of always being hell-bent on reaching our destination via the Interstate. And I blame it all on our Miata.
xrae is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 08:32 AM
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P.S. If you haven't seen the movie CARS, do it now!!!
xrae is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 08:48 AM
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I've never done a marathon cross country drive before - the closest thing was California to Colorado and back over a couple weeks. Other than getting across the salt flats, we didn't have any long days of driving or anything. Most of our trip was on US highways and secondary roads since we were out there to see the countryside, not necesarily to get from point A to point B.

When I travel for work, that is when I sometimes default to the chain restaurants off the interstate because it is easy. I try to find good local places more often than settling for Applebees, but a lot of times I'm tired and all I want to do is get something to eat so I can get back to the hotel and prepare for the next day, then try to get a decent sleep.

Last week though I was in Hudson, WI and had a free evening with nothing to do the next day but get up and catch a plane home. I went downtown and had a great time - what a fun little town.
J_Correa is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 09:05 AM
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Whenever I'm traveling on the road and in a small town, I look for those Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions Club etc signs that mention where the meetings are held (usually a restaurant)

They are usually good...if the local business guys go there for their lunches, it's usually a safe bet and some local flavor/color.

I'll also ask in a firehouse if I see somebody around....they usually have some good recomendations.
milemarker0 is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 09:09 AM
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milemarker, that's funny and a good tip. I used to be in Rotary and went to a lot of lunch meetings when I traveled -- you have to do "make-ups" in Rotary if you're out of town. Very often we'd return to the same place at night for dinner, because they were often such good restaurants.

As a kid I remember always hearing you were supposed to look for the trucks outside a place to know it was good. But honestly, it never seemed like most of the truckdrivers we followed the lead of had much taste for good food! Those were some of the worst greasy spoons I've ever eaten at.
NeoPatrick is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 09:38 AM
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Sounds like we could start a new thread...If you are ever in (fill in the blank), eat here (fill in the blank)for a taste of the local flavor.
bennnie is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 10:54 AM
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When my late husband and I took road trips we always got off of the freeway. Small towns are so much fun! We normally had good luck with local independant cafes/restaurants. And we too would look for a Lion Club or Rotary sign. The only time we got food poisoning was in Barstow..that is an incident I do not want to think about.

My one regret is that we never took the roadtrip around all of the US that we talked about. My husband wanted two months to do this so that we could enjoy all the little out of the way places. That would have been so enjoyable. I any of you that desire to do this..please find the time!!
LoveItaly is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 11:10 AM
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I second xrae's recommendation of the movie Cars. I didn't see it while it was in the theater, because I thought it was about NASCAR.

It was until I encountered the old boom truck that inspired the Mater character (on Route 66 in Galena, Kansas), that I learned what I had missed.

Keith is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 11:11 AM
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In another lifetime (late 70's-mid 90's) I did not travel by plane. I did not have a computer and I had no money.
I would go to Half Price books and find a regional Mobil Travel Guide and plan our modest little road trips.
One of my favorite trips was from my home in Mt Vernon, Tx to New Orleans, LA. This was in 87. We took the back roads all the way, passing through some of the most wonderful towns. St Martinville, St Francisville, Opelousas, Alexandria, Franklin, Breaux Bridge, etc... it was a fabulous trip. Not because of things we bought or the fantastic gastronomic gourmet food. We were poor as poor can be and we ate peanut butter sandwiches in the car! We would stop and get meat pies and other regional foods at stands along the way. At one point we got lost in a crop field of some sort, sugar cane I think. There were still street signs even though the road was a single dirt lane winding through the tall crop. All of a sudden it dumped us into a tiny town. We were thrilled!
TxTravelPro is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 11:24 AM
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At many small towns near an interstate highway, the original town centers are basically dead, and EVEN LOCALS now buy from the Wal-Marts and eat at the Apple Bee's at the interstate highways.

So, there's often nothing to see in the "actual towns", as the actual towns have moved to the highway exits.
rkkwan is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2007, 12:58 PM
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"Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything. From the Interstate, America is all steel guardrails and plastic signs, and every place looks and feels and sounds and smells like every other place." -- Charles Kuralt, On the Road with Charles Kuralt


We make it a point of always staying off the Interstate Highways. Much more to see. The only Interstate I want to see is the one I go under or over in my travels on the older US and State highways.


RedRock is offline  

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