I watched a very interesting and entertaining programme on TV last night about the author and humourist Dave Gorman’s attempt to drive across the United States from coast to coast, without spending any money at corporate chain motels, petrol (gas) stations, restaurants etc. In other words, no McDonald’s, no Starbucks, no Holiday Inns and no Arcos. The film was called ‘America Unchained’ and I must say that Dave did pretty well, only slipping up once.
When I travelled in the US back in the 70′s and early 80′s I loved all those ‘Mom and Pop’ establishments that you would find on many highways and in small towns everywhere. Most of them where run by such friendly people who were only too pleased to help you in any way that they could. Not to mention feed you to bursting point, sometimes with some very strange food indeed.
I remember once stopping at a diner in some remote part of the ‘deep south’ and being served a Sunday lunch of roast Turkey covered in thick yellow gravy, strange vegetables which may have come from some local swamp for all I knew, and little cakes which I later learned were called ‘corn bread’. Anyway it was pretty good grub, and I would have been pleased to comply with the owners instructions to … “Yer awl come back now. Here !” … If ever I had passed that way again.
During a trip to the west coast I pulled into a parking lot in front of a small Chinese restaurant which was adjacent to a pizza parlour. Both were a bit scruffy looking and sandwiched between the usual Taco Bell and a Burger King. “Which do you fancy ?” .. I asked my wife and daughter. We decided to go for pizza and entered the narrow restaurant and sat at a table. A door opened behind the counter and in walked the Chinese chef from next door followed by a little Chinese lady carrying three large pizza pans. She showed us these so that we could decide on the size of the pizzas we wanted. Yes, this busy Oriental ‘Mom and Pop’ ran both restaurants at the same time.
In New York City I loved the ‘delis’ where the word sandwich took on a whole new meaning and where ‘cawfee’ actually tasted of something.
Independant motels were nearly always of a high standard, although it was always possible to find yourself in unusual company, like the time in California when I was checking into a motel near Venice Beach, when one of the male guests asked the rather camp receptionist if he could borrow his handcuffs and invited him to join the party when he got off duty. I decided that my family and I would be more comfortable in the Best Western down the road.
I wonder if it would be possible to drive across our small island using only independant outlets along our highways for meals, petrol and lodging ? I bet that it would be harder than you think.
Once there were ‘greasy spoon’ transport cafés scattered along our main roads and plenty of ‘village’ petrol pumps. Motels were almost unheard of, but ‘bed and breakfast’ signs could be seen alongside many roads. I travelled a lot in Britain in those days, and compared to my travels in America, can remember …
… just how bloody awful it all was !