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“Shall I check your tyres, sir?”

Posted by Big John on April 17, 2008

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 ! 😀


9 Responses to ““Shall I check your tyres, sir?””

  1. Betty said

    I think I need to translate for you. LOL That waitress in the “deep south” actually said, “Y’all (meaning you and your family), come back, hear?” And, I’ll bet one of the veggies you got was “grits”. You can’t eat anywhere in the south without getting a side of grits, whether you order them or not. They’re actually pretty good.

  2. Ginnie said

    You’ve really put an idea into my head, John. I’ve been looking for a travel idea (and had to cut out going to Europe since the U.S. dollar is worth so little now) and maybe I’ll do just what Dave Gorman did and go “unchained” somewhere here. Thanks.

  3. Red Baron said

    Ooooh you b45t4rd I have a post in draft about Gorman’s program and you beat me to it. Serves me right for being too slow off the mark.

  4. Red Baron said

    However if you fancy doing the Unchained Britain in a Mini Cooper then let me know!

  5. There are plenty of independent hotels in the UK and, I suspect, plenty of independent cafes, though these may be harder to find, especially later in the day.

    The main problem we have found in travelling around the UK is the lack of consistency in the quality of accommodation. We always choose the cheap end of the price spectrum and sometimes find such places clean and comfortable and other times less so.

    The amusing (?) thing about cheap hotels in Britain is that they are usually converted dwelling houses and considerable ingenuity has had to be exercised in order to fit everything in. You sometimes find yourself trying to wash in a basin not much bigger than a cereal bowl. Or banging your head on a TV set screwed to the wall just where you have to pass on the way to the wardrobe.

  6. Terri said

    Unfortunately, many of those mom and pop places are a thing of the past here in the States. But I do still see a fair amount here in the south, compared to the northeast.
    Your trip to France sounds wonderful! I’m sure you’ll enjoy that. I’m sorry to say I had to cancel our trip to France this past Sat. It’s been a nightmare two weeks here with Ray being sick.

  7. […] by Red Baron on April 23, 2008 As I had this one as a work in progress I see Big John has beaten me to it.  However John and I are coming from a very similar perspective and I find his […]

  8. Oscarandre said

    I loved the sign in a little diner in South Dakota which reminded me that guns were not permitted in the restaurant.

  9. Judging from the descriptions in Bill Bryson’s ‘Notes from a small Island’ things haven’t changed much in The English hospitality trade….opening a cafe/bed and breakfast etc is the Australian national pastime so it would be easy to do here, except for the petrol

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