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killing off cultures

2007-09-24 17:50:50.733792+00 by Dan Lyke 11 comments

Dave took a road trip. He's still in the process of filling out the travelogue, but he bailed early:

After about ten minutes, I realized that I wasn't having fun anymore, and it was time to call it quits on the plan. Mostly it was due to the heat, but that wasn t everything. In many of the small towns along the way, I'd looked around in vain for a place to eat, or stop for a drink, or anything and it seemed that in so many small towns, there was nothing left.

At least out here in California it seems that every town is becoming an identical strip mall, a big box store, the same set of chain restaurants, suburbia has become commodified, and the identity and character that used to make it interesting to go some place has disappeared. I'm not sure that's always a bad thing, but it seems like something to be pointed out. One of the things that makes where we are appealing is that when we go various other places (the Atlanta area, large swaths of Oregon, etc) they often just look like bad copies of Fresno.

[ related topics: Photography California Culture Travel ]

comments in ascending chronological order (reverse):

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-24 20:03:20.462787+00 by: meuon

Or bad copies of Murphy NC. Nancy and I had a nice weekend in Highlands NC, spent some time with a friend, had some great meals in non-chain eateries, took a hike, atended a lecture, even had some interesting ice cream and drove home. We are great at finding interesting 'mom and pop' resturaunts. Until we hit Murphy NC on a Sunday at 6:30pm. Nada. McD's, Taco Bell were open, we hit every main road in town and could not find one. Wendy's hit the spot and we were back on the road.

Neil Stephenson's "Snow Crash" the book is visionary, not only in his visons of cyberspace, but in his visions of the franchisification of the world.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-24 21:29:26.935131+00 by: JT

Amazingly, that's one of the reasons I love the place I live. There's one McDonald's, a Burger King, and a Subway in town, but you don't see that many people eating at those places. Most weekend mornings, you have to wait for a seat at the Dam Korner in Lake Isabella, or Cheryl's Diner in Kernville or even her mother's former diner that is now run by her brother, Nelda's Diner in Bodfish. It's like a postcard town from some bygone era. There are few chain restaurants, a single drug store, and a Von's (chain grocery store owned by Albertson's) but most businesses are family owned and have been for a few generations.

Small town individuality is still around, it's just hard to find. Chances are you won't find it by taking an exit off of the interstate or freeway, you find it by following rural highways that don't seem to go anywhere. The fabled "long way" that we loved to take when we were teenagers while we were still in love with traveling. It seemed for a few years I missed that quite a bit because traveling became a way to get from point A to point B.

The last time we drove to LA (about a two and a half hour trip) we took about six hours. The time before, we took nearly eight hours. We're going to Big Bear in October, about a three hour trip, but we're planning on leaving at five in the morning and don't expect to get there until late afternoon.

Don't drive the interstate, look for highways to take you somewhere instead. If some road looks like it goes out of the way through an extra 20 miles of desert... that's probably the road you want to take.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-24 21:37:47.340799+00 by: Dan Lyke

I think Dave's experience was off the interstate.

For our part, we've recently been looking at a few different towns in our neighborhood. Marin's done a pretty good job of keeping out the mundane experiences, Sonoma's doing okay too, but I don't know how long they'll hold out.

I think we're gonna have to get down your direction and go see Kernville and environs. The next trip planned is to go take a tandem down to Three Rivers, just south of Sequoia National Park, around Thanksgiving.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-25 00:02:47.200181+00 by: jeff [edit history]

Things are just fine in the small town of Saluda, NC.

I spent 3 days in the surrounding area on one of my motorcycles with a group of about a dozen others two weeks ago.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-25 01:49:56.576305+00 by: spc476

I've taken non-interstate routes between South Florida and Central Florida twice now and both have been surprisingly nice (considering I hate traveling in general). The “long way” added an additional hour or so to the travel time, and I found it way easier to stay awake during the drives.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-25 10:48:20.024867+00 by: DaveP

Yeah, I was off the interstate. I stuck to the Great River Road, mostly. I'd planned to drive US 61 until I found that it had taken on most of the characteristics of an interstate, so I switched to smaller roads.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-25 13:12:44.922852+00 by: markd

Unfortunately, it seems the homogenization is what the typical american wants. I live in semi-rural western PA, and we have a number of nice small stores and restaurants and local oddities. A freaking huge "Mills"-type mall moved in about 15 miles to the south, and everyone drives that 30 mile round trip to hit Wal-Mart and Olive Garden and RedRobin and BestBuy, even when things are available locally, and better food is available locally.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-25 14:49:36.369494+00 by: JT [edit history]

When I was a kid, we used to drive I-10 from New Orleans to Pass Christian because it was about a 90 minute trip. One day we left early and Mom and I went on our own all the way on Highway 90. We hit the French Quarter for breakfast, drove through the garden district of New Orleans, then took the old industrial route through factories that had been shut down for years. We traveled across an old rickety bridge on the south part of Lake Ponchatrain and through a couple of sleepy towns and fishing villages where we saw a fishing camp shaped like a pyramid and another shaped like a castle.

We continued on into Mississippi where we found a Civil War fort which neither of us had ever heard of. We stopped and explored that for what seemed like hours, then continued onto Waveland, MS to eat lunch at some road-side diner place that put real corn in their cornbread. We headed down way off the highway and found a road called "scenic drive" which went along the beach through these little art districts and piers full of fisherman.

Overall, our hour and a half trip took us about five hours. I don't remember going to grandmas the fifty times before then or the fifty times after, but I remember a lot about that trip. The small towns, the forts, the old factories, the old steel expansion bridges we passed over, the little diner, and small parts of the coast I visited years later and remembered from when I was a kid.

When my girlfriend and I can avoid it, we take her kids to do the same thing. We stop in tiny towns, we look for alternate routes, we spend a half day driving somewhere that should take a couple of hours. It's disappearing fast, and I want her kids to have the same types of memories I had when I was their age. Looking wide-eyed into a world to discover new things that you've driven by a hundred times and never noticed. Memories of small towns, strange little attractions, and laughing while eating in some mom and pop place four hours into a two hour trip.

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-26 00:08:45.633836+00 by: polly

funny that this comes up...andy and i went to a conference in franklin, TN this past weekend...i wanted to do a saturday lunch at a "mom & pop" diner. i really thought we would find that in franklin. my expectation was a small backwoods town like shelbyville...nope! it looked like nashville and we ended up eating at the mellow mushroom in the historical part of downtown franklin. where is "mom & pop" USA?

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-26 00:19:12.017526+00 by: Dan Lyke

Polly, I'm remembering a little diner in Benton Tennessee, I saw it on the news once, they'd just failed their health inspection. I wasn't surprised, but I still went back for breakfast: I never expected them to pass a health inspection, but they made a damned good breakfast.

Wonder how that area's doing, whether the post-Olympics tourism has overrun it, or whether it's still locals makin' moonshine and river guides trying to not pay rent...

#Comment Re: made: 2007-09-29 19:57:21.207151+00 by: polly

i hardly ever go up that way anymore. but when i do, everything looks different. once "grumpy's" and the corner station were closed, then the next time i went that way "grumpy's" was open. both those times the river was low and not much going on with the rapids. plus with the shortage of rain, i've heard murmers that the whitewater stuff wasn't doing too well.

of course the shine is still good :> however, i've had some REALLY good stuff from sand mountain, AL. woohoo! oh yeah, the "inbreding" is still rampant in the hills around benton. dept children's services has been busy up that way.