I love summers in the Keys, the heat, the bright sun, the drama of thunderstorms, the empty streets and unlimited highway travel. And because I like it so much I also greatly enjoy taking road trips out of the Keys. The best trips are when the children are in school and their harassed parents are too busy to be clogging freeways and rest areas and back road access to interesting places. Unfortunately my wife is a teacher and her free time coincides with the little dears and their families' vacations so there is a certain amount of inevitable cross over.
Celo, North Carolina
My schedule allows many more spontaneous weeks off here and there in the year because I work a peculiar schedule, somewhat lopsided, a week of almost all work and a week of almost all off and I love it. Exhaustion followed by tons of time spent with my camera and my dog, the perfect schedule. So sometimes I get to go for a ride by myself and sometimes I get to take my dog to Pennsylvania to get my scooter rebuilt. So the long and the short of it is I have a lot more experience of being on the road than you might expect from someone who lives in a community pervasively opposed to taking a trip more than five miles from their homes.
The joy of travel here in the US is the natural grandeur, the simplicity of a uniform language and currency and a largely amalgamated culture. No passports, no language barriers and perfect freedom to drive uninterrupted, unquestioned and free from interference. The European Union has done a lot to break down barriers but they aren't the United States of Europe by a long chalk, which is great for us who visit. Also if you find a dish you like in Italy once you cross the Alps get your taste buds ready for everything to change. And in my opinion no one makes uniformly delicious food like the Italians. You may prefer French cooking and someone somewhere prefers German cooking to Italian cooking but that's not me.
Latitudes Cubano sandwich with sweet potato salad.
It used to be that tourist traps could survive based on one time customers and I'm sure there are still many dives that can continue to pull that off but as today's youngsters become middle aged and hopefully have money to spend, restaurants will have to survive in a Trip Advisor/Facebook world and that is already happening and destined to become the norm.
World class Thai food in a Brunswick strip mall, Georgia
On our recent journey to Asheville we took off on Highway 301 to take a break from the freeway and we stopped at a local restaurant filling with locals who had, judging by their formal dress, just finished with church. Oh good we thought, this place looks popular. It was but it wasn't terribly good, bland, unseasoned and apparently serving a crowd of hungry locals with no choice. Everywhere else was closed as we discovered after lunch and drove away through a somnolent southern town shuttered for a Sunday. We'd have done better to have stuck to Interstate 26 and looked for somewhere to eat in Columbia. Oh well, live and learn.
And the lesson learned is that in order to eat well, and sensibly and to support worthwhile local businesses we use our phones. Think about the power of the phone, not only is it a web search tool! It is also a reservation agent the old fashioned way with a call placed to the business, and then it is a guide that will lead us directly to the restaurant no matter how much it is hidden away in a suburban strip mall. Local five star secrets are exposed by smart phones and smart users. It amazes me.
Flakowitz Jewish Deli Boynton Beach,Florida
I know I am probably at the back of a long line of people who have already figured this out well ahead of me, but this new way of travel has the potential to make huge changes across the landscape of America. I hop we will move past the tired image of crappy food mass produced and uniform in every respect as the sole source of roadside eating. I'm not saying fast food has no place, because God knows when I travel alone...! But what I am saying is that we can support and sustain local kitchens in a landscape that has been overrun by uniformity. I know it's a quixotic thought considering how many visitors to Key West demand chain food, this in a town filled with quirky local stuff and pretensions to local ethnic cuisine (imagine that America!) so it's not going to be easy to change eating habits bit it's no longer required to live in New York Chicago or Los Angeles to find world class food.
And what the smart phone means is that interstates no longer need to be viewed as the road to hell. They aren't involving or even interesting but they are fast and efficient and can even be tasty. A friend of mine used to say you have to drive more than a mile from the freeways to find decent food to eat. That may still be true, technically, but you can find your way to a good lunch with no trouble at all these days and a twenty minute detour can be well worth your while. Especially as people you've never met will be giving you their advice over the Internet and like good neighbors, directing you well. What an amazing world we live in. Lucky us.