Tag: road trips

Any serious detourist knows it's crucial to take frequent breaks when covering long distances. Even if it's just 5 minutes to stretch your legs and grab a sack of peanut M&Ms from a caged snack machine, a pit stop helps avoid fatigue and possible accidents on the road.

Unfortunately, recent reports indicate that several states are shutting down many of their highway rest areas. According to The Wall Street Journal, departments of transportation are beginning to see their rest stops as obsolete and have begun barricading exits.

Louisiana has closed 24 of its 34 rest areas since 2000, four of them last year. Maine, Vermont and Colorado have recently announced plans to shutter more rest areas because of cash constraints. Rhode Island, Tennessee, Arizona and others are thinking of doing likewise.

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The portable-digital-wireless age, with its mapping software and GPS tools, has been a boon to those of us who love to venture down back roads in search of the unusual without fear of getting irretrievably lost and forced to sleep in the car behind an abandoned taco stand.

Still, it's not unusual to find oneself with an old-fashioned paper map that we were forced to buy at a gas station after our wireless service failed us or we discovered that the online map for a particular region just isn't as up-to-date as we had hoped it would be.

For just those circumstances, the Web site Map Reading offers a couple of nifty methods for folding those paper projections without suffering the dreaded "map wad."

With summer in full swing, detourists are hitting the road in search of roadside attractions and capturing their adventures with their brand new digital cameras. Unfortunately, many of them will subsequently bring home a slideshow full of mediocre photos they'll force on the rest of us.

Before you commit the same faux pas, you might want to peruse a few of the links below offering helpful tips on taking better photos while out and about.

And if you're in the market for a new camera, Consumer Reports recently posted a list of cameras they recommend specifically for travel.

Those of us who tour the nation's roadside attractions on a budget depend on many of the amenities offered by those who provide us lodging: free shampoo, free coffee, free breakfast and enough towels to wash off a long day on the road.

According to an article published yesterday by The Wall Street Journal, however, chains are starting to eliminate many of those freebies in response to the weak economy. Some items are simply being moved behind the front desk, others like towels are being reduced, while still others like free coffee are being cut entirely.

Most of the hotels mentioned in the article carry names like Marriott, Wyndham and Ritz-Carlton — not the sort of places we detourists usually settle down for the night — but you can bet the budget motels will be following suit. The good news is they're reportedly cutting their rates, as well, hoping to draw more motorists back out on the road. Let's just hope they don't start charging for all the free wifi they've installed the last few years. ... Continued

Do you really know what you're doing on the road? I doubt I'll ever meet an American driver who'd say no, but a frightening one out of every three people who've taken the Traffic & Road Sign Test have failed.

Me, I'm not surprised. Whenever there's a major storm in my neighborhood, a number of traffic lights go out and a nobody seems to know what to do. At least half of the drivers around me run the malfunctioning traffic lights — both directions. Genius. Naturally, the same people will then stop at a flashing yellow.

In case you didn't know — and if you drive, you should — a traffic light that's gone dark is always treated as a four-way stop, just as if there were stop signs there. Always. (It doesn't take much intelligence to figure out why.) A flashing yellow, on the other hand, means proceed with caution: not stop, not yield. A flashing red, though, does mean stop. ... Continued

Today's Arizona Daily Star has printed in their Accent section a great piece on Weird Arizona.

I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Valerie Vinyard last week on my travels to the Grand Canyon State and all the unusual stuff I saw out there. Naturally, being a Tucson-based paper, the Star was mostly interested in hearing about stuff in the "Old Pueblo," like Diamondback Bridge, the 280-foot rattlesnake spanning East Broadway; the Garden of Gethsemane, a decades-old park where you can lunch with Jesus; and El Tiradito, a shrine built in memoriam to an adulterer axed to death by the husband of his lover.

As mentioned in the article, the Tucson area tended to suck me in on my trips out west, but one can include only so much from one region when covering an entire state. One might infer from the article that I believe there are only six weird things in Tucson, but I'm certainly aware of many more; as a bonus for those of you who've followed the article here to the Roadside Resort, here's a list of several other sites in and around Tucson you might want to pay a visit:

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When I hit the road, I take way too much crap. Suitcase, camera bag, walking camera bag, laptop, peripherals, emergency supplies, tools, grab bag, spare water, spare gas, books, CDs, souvenir-storage solution — it all comes along. I have to rent a small SUV and jury-rig a shelf unit in the back. But when you've got a deadline looming and need to cover four dozen sights in 12 days, you've got to be ready for every eventuality.

For the recreational road trip, one need suffer neither the anxiety nor the cumbrous cargo. In fact, with a little thoughtful culling, you might be surprised how little you actually need on the road. And packed carefully, you can probably dump that roof rack and still have extra space for all the shot glasses and lacquered alligator heads you plan to buy. ... Continued

As I was going through a few of my Googie images the other day, I was reminded of a somewhat cryptic phrase I've noticed on a significant number of motel signs over the years: "American-Owned." I couldn't quite understand what that meant exactly. Was there a large foreign corporation that's been buying up motels across the United States and running them from overseas? Or was the cynical side of me correct when it detected an undertone of racism?

Turns out, unfortunately, that the latter appears to be closer to the truth. What's being exhibited as a cry of patriotism looks to be, at best, a misperception of ownership within the lodging industry and, at worst, outright bigotry.

Road-trip aficionados, or anyone else who's spent a great deal of time on the road, have almost surely noticed a considerable East Indian presence behind the counters of highway inns. I — and I like to assume all the fans of the Roadside Resort, as well — couldn't give a damn either way. But it's certainly evident. ... Continued

Got an e-mail yesterday from the U.S. Park Ranger in charge of Saguaro National Park West. I had contacted him at the end of Weird Arizona Trip 3 concerning the odd little woman I caught illegally collecting rocks from the Signal Hill area and he was providing me an update on the case. Using the Maxwell Smart-like surveillance photographs and the license-plate number I had sent him, he had been able to track the woman down. She was cited for swiping natural resources.

A friend of mine gave me a hard time for turning the woman in just for collecting a few rocks. But let's face it, she was stealing from a national park. It's theft, punishable under federal law. Not to mention she was robbing an area distinguished by its irreplaceable petroglyphs.

I don't want to sound like somebody's stodgy old grandpa, but if I have to, I will: It's my park, too. And when I go there, I want to see all of it, including the rocks. I mean, what's a national park made of, anyway? ... Continued

Had my second book signing Saturday up in Denton. I have to say it was another great turnout! More good muffins, too. But I earned them this time by signing four 3-foot-tall stacks of Weird Texas before I left. Bad news, I guess, for the guy trying to sell one of my signed copies on Amazon.

I've also been hopping around the state taping a segment for Channel 8's Why Guy, Mike Castellucci. So far, we've hit the Cathedral of Junk in Austin, Stonehenge II out in Hunt and the Eiffel Tower of Paris, Texas, up near the border. The weather hasn't really been with us, but it made for a couple of interesting shots at Stonehenge II.

I haven't a clue what footage they'll be using from all of this, but hey, any excuse to put on my best Hawaiian shirt. Hell, they could've just told me they were buying me dinner at Austin's Chuy's and I would've made the trip. ... Continued