from Out West by Dayton Duncan
[Out West is the story of the author's journey retracing Lewis and Clark's route in a borrowed VW bus. He does more than just drive - he takes time to stop and actually do things along the way. Scattered throughout the book are Duncan's (sometimes painfully learned) Road Rules and other bits of wisdom. Most stand alone quite well, but to get the complete picture, or to understand the names of some of the corollaries, read the book.]
Road Rule 1: Never stop to ask directions, unless you are completely defeated; never stop to look at a map, unless you have to stop for something else. [Looking at a map is not prohibited, but don't stop to do it.]
Road Rule 2: Never buy highly perishable items from a store that's doing poorly or in an area built around the sale of history.
Road Rule 3: Never drive on the interstate unless there is no alternative.
Road Rule 4: Never eat at a nationally franchised restaurant; there's no sense of adventure, no diversity, no risk involved in patronizing them. They're uniformly bland.
Road Rule 5: Never retrace your route, unless you are completely defeated or at a dead end. Keep moving forward. And don't forget, you can't stop to ask directions or check your map.
Road Rule 6: Never call the bluff of an eighteen-wheeler, a Greyhound bus, a highway grader, a Buick or Cadillac with heavy chrome bumpers, a teenager driving any motorized vehicle, or a tractor pulling a wagon loaded with manure.
Where to eat: "Cafe" is better than "restaurant" and much better than "family restaurant". More important than "cafe" or "restaurant" is what goes in front of them to form the name. There are four categories, in order of preference:
1. First-name cafes. John Doe opens a Cafe in Anytown and names it "John's Cafe" (or just "John's). Given the name, you can usually assume John is still around and in charge. His name's up there in front of the public, so he's more likely to make sure they're satisfied. Joint-name or initial cafes are in this category: John and his wife, Louann, call their business "Lu-John's Cafe" or "L and J Cafe".
2. Last-name cafes. "Doe's Cafe" or, more likely, "Doe's Restaurant". A little more formal. The other problem is the possibility that John and Louann may have retired years ago, leaving John Jr., who never liked the restaurant trade to begin with, but is holding onto the business until he can sell it and move out of town.
3. Place-name cafes. "Anytown Cafe" or "Anytown Restaurant". It can be as good as the first category, and a certain sense of pride and place is carried in its name; or again, it may have gone through a series of owners and be hanging on more by tradition than menu.
4. Generic-name cafes. "Sunrise Cafe", "Oxyoke Restaurant", "The Chuckwagon", etc. Take your chances. At least it isn't a franchise.
[Dayton Duncan has a fifth group of small-town restaurants that he refuses to patronize. He calls them the Ks, places that use a "K" in their name when they should use a "C"; Korner Kafe, etc. He avoids them on principle.]
Other things to watch for when looking for a place to eat:
Road Rule 7: Devise your own system or theory on choosing where to eat. It's less important what the theory is (as long as it rules out national franchises) than it is that you have one and that you follow it.
Road Rule 8: If you're at all famous, don't let them bury you on the banks of the Missouri River. [Sergeant Charles Floyd, the only casualty of the Lewis and Clark expedition, was buried on Floyd's Bluff, near present-day Sioux City, Iowa, in 1804. For various reasons, including the river undermining the bluff, resulting in the loss of portions of Floyd's skeleton, his remains were interred a total of six times, the last in 1900.]
Road Rule 9: If you want to meet people and learn about a town, the two best places to go are bars and churches. Bars are the only institutions in our society created for the specific purpose of conviviality; churches have a broader purpose, but doctrine requires the congregation to take in strangers.
Road Rule 10: The theology of the road forms its own religion, combining bits and pieces of other beliefs. It relies on technology (a vehicle), yet respects the forces of nature. Its deity is the Road Spirit; its principal practice is the pilgrimage.
Road Rule 11: The straighter the road you're on, the more your mind wanders a curving path. As your vehicle hurtles forward in space, your thoughts meander backward in time, often stopping to linger with a memory as if it were a historic marker on the roadside.
Road Rule 12: You can learn a lot from books, maps, and statistics, but the road is a better (and sterner) teacher.
Road Rule 13: A good explorer is able to adjust to new information and make the most out of the surroundings. One fork in the road or river may end in disappointment, but the other fork can get you back on track.
Road Rule 14: There are many strains of Road Fever, and an even greater number of folk remedies.
Road Rule 15: Trust your instincts. When they're wrong, you can blame it on bad luck. But when they're right, you can take the credit.
Road Rule 16: People are more willing to talk to travelers if you feign ignorance about their particular field of interest.
Trail Rule 1: Trust your horse.
Road Rule 17: Travelers and explorers in unfamiliar territory should expect conflicting advice from the natives about what direction to take, in fact about whether they should even proceed on.
Trail Rule 2: Never trust your horse.
Road Rule 18: One explorer's misery can be another's joy; one traveler's near defeat can be another's epiphany; one man's place to fear untimely death can be another's chosen spot to have his ashes spread.
Road Rule 19: Change is the only certainty. Whether it is measured in the life of a volcano, a nation, one person, or one split atom, the passage of time is change's passage.
Road Rule 20: Prejudices are like heavy furniture in a Conestoga wagon on the Oregon Trail. In order to keep moving forward, sometimes you have to toss them out, even if they are family heirlooms.
Road Rule 21: Always carry a first-aid kit in your vehicle. Indians and non-Indians often require "medicine" in their travels.
Road Rule 22: The trip home is a reverse image of the outward journey, like looking at the negative of a photograph you took not too long ago. Looking forward is looking back; each new sight is something seen before only from the opposite direction; counting mileage is a subtraction, not an addition, of the distance from home; memory is an image fading in the rear-view mirror.
Road Rule 23: You know you've explored a state correctly when you start anticipating the historic markers.
Road Rule 24: Always save some adventure for your return trip. It takes your mind off your destination.
Road Rule 25: Keep a journal of your travels. It is an invaluable tool to remind you of your trip, and the details within it are important for recounting history and the mark you leave on it.
Road Rule 26: The final value of any expedition is not what you failed to discover but what you found in its place; the important thing is not so much the dream you pursued but the fact that you pursued it. Looking back on your journey, what you remember most is not what you were searching for, but the search itself.