See the USA in your Chevrolet
It was time to get in our car despite the price of
gas and see this country...
Warren Resen - Member North American Travel Journalists Assn.
�See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet...� This was the opening theme
song from the old Dinah Shore (Burt Reynolds' lady friend), television
After years of foreign travel,
with all of the accompanying discomfort and indignities of airline travel,
worries about safety, revolutions and natural disasters, it was time to get
in our car despite the price of gas and see this country where there are no
currency changing hisses and people speak the same language, well basically.
Road trips can be fun, interesting, and yes even
boring at times. Plans have to be made. Being a free spirit and going
where the road takes you can be exciting to some and daunting to
others. The most important factors for a really great trip are an open
mind and a willingness to experiment.
Long distance road trips by car, or SUV in my case,
not RVs and motor homes, means lots of pit stops for food unless you
pack a large cooler, personal convenience and overnight stops in
motels, campgrounds or where ever you wind up sleeping.
Stopping at chain restaurants is convenient,
predictable and boring. You don't have to think. Everything is always
the same. And that's OK if covering miles is most important. But then
why even leave home?
Traveling is more than just seeing the famous
sights. It's about learning and making memories that last a lifetime.
You can't do that by stopping at the national fast food chain
Whenever stops and time allows I always look for
local eateries, often with funky, individual names offering local food
and color. On the early part of this trip in Mt. Dora, Florida, there
was the Chew-Choo Express butted up to the railroad tracks. In
Wiggins, MS, there was the Whistle Stop Caf�, also alongside train
tracks. In New Orleans the attention grabbers often had VooDoo in the
name. Near Baton Rouge the famous Boutins Restaurant serves local
delicacies and features Cajun music at night.
Years from now will you remember the hamburger
chain you stopped at in some forgotten city or the unique local
If you are a fan of everything fried, then
traveling the southern states will be to your liking. I generally tend
to shy away from the really deep fried foods, but in the south deep
fry cooking is an art. My favorites tend to be fried cheesecake and
fried ice cream. Someone can get rich if he or she can discover a way
to deep fry water.
Be flexible in your planning if one or more of the
secondary attractions listed on the Internet or your GPS is not open
as advertised or is no longer in business. The listings seem to last
forever on the Internet even when the attraction is long gone.
From experience we've learned to wear and pack
mostly nylon shirts, pants, quick-drying socks and underwear when
traveling for more than a long weekend. Cotton takes too long to dry
and spending time in a local laundromat is not one of a trip's more
memorable moments. Packing light takes practice.
Not having to consider weight restrictions, it's
easy to fill in all of those empty spaces in your vehicle with �stuff�
you think you might need. But most of this extra �stuff� can be
purchased on the road if needed and you'll discover that you have been
transporting �stuff� for no reason. Dressy clothing no longer seems
necessary, especially on a road trip.
Depending on the time available, you'll have to
decide the purpose of your trip. Is it a trip of exploration, or
visits to friends and family, or possibly both? There is nothing worse
than trying to meet time schedules on the road. Things can become
hectic and tempers fray if you are trying to arrange your trip like a
train time-table. The 1969 movie comedy, �If it's Tuesday, this must
be Belgium,� says it all. Go for quality not quantity unless you are
entered in a contest for most state capitals visited in three weeks.
On your travels you'll see the road signs for towns
and cities with strange, descriptive and sometimes funny names, a
particularly American tradition. Names represent local features,
history and individuals. There are too many of them throughout this
country to even begin a list. However, in the early part of my trip
one really stood out. In the Houston area is the town of Bottle �N'
Smoke near Sour Lake. The sign naming this location was definitely a
head turner and I have no idea of its origin. If you are trying to
amuse the kids, have them keep lists of these wonderfully unique
names, many of which could possibly disappear from the map when the
postal service begins closing local offices.
Meeting people from other places, people with whom
you would never normally interact can provide lifetime memories. The
interaction can be funny, poignant or frustrating but definitely
memorable as was my stay at a campground in southeast Louisiana.
We had a campsite overlooking a lovely bay. It was
the only site with any vegetation. Next morning I noticed the foliage
was supporting a healthy growth of poison ivy and reported it to the
manager. The following day the camp's maintenance man came by for a
look. When I pointed out the offending vegetation his response was,
�Really? Don't look �nothin like the poison ivy from where I come from
up in Maine.� I will never forget this exchange, nor will my wife. She
wound up with a case of poison ivy.
Unique places to visit are not
confined to the major tourist sites of the West. A trip around the southern
Mississippi River in Mississippi and Louisiana will yield riches to the
traveler. There are miles of plantations depicting a different era in this
country when cotton, rice and sugarcane were king and millions were made and
lost by men on the whim of nature or the flip of a coin. Two totally
different examples of plantation life are the Evergreen Plantation in
Edgard, Louisiana, and Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow,
Evergreen, a bare bones working plantation has been
faithfully reconstructed along with its slave cabins to the era before
the Mississippi levees were built and paddle boats docked at
plantation dwarfs to load produce. While it looks grand from the
outside, the main house is quite simple inside. On the other hand
Houmas House, also called �The Sugar Palace,� is an eye popping
example of how a successful plantation owner lived and flaunted his
wealth. The house and furnishings are magnificent and the grounds have
been turned into something quite spectacular for today's visitors.
As our trip continues, with the
furthest destination being Yellowstone National Park, I will report on
places seen and things done that might be enjoyable or bring back memories
of past trips. Reports will also be made of specific locations I found
Our trip is being made in a small SUV. We will be
stopping at campgrounds, cabins, motels of all types and even some
five-star hotels. Perhaps an overnight in the car will even be