Don’t Do That

This article got me thinking:

Locals reveal the ‘common forms of torture’ tourists subject themselves to when visiting their countries

Here’s the one that caught my eye:

For American Roger Cole, it’s ‘the Cross Country USA Road Trip’.
He wrote: ‘Let’s take one state, Florida. Rent that car in Miami after hitting the beaches and drive north. Guess what… in eight hours YOU’RE STILL IN FLORIDA.
‘You’ve seen 47 exit ramps and some ads for Ron Jon’s Surf Shop, golfing retirement communities, and road signs telling you Jesus Saves and don’t abort your babies.
‘You ate at McDonald’s or maybe tried some alligator meat at a weird little place off a highway exit that smelled like bug spray.’

So, O My Readers:  if someone asked you what not to do when you visit the U.S. of A. (or your home country, if yer a Furrin Reader), what are the top three (3) things you’d tell them not to do, or places not to visit?

Mine are, in no specific order:

  • Avoid New York City.  It smells terrible, the people are rude, and everything costs at least three times more than it should, for no discernible increase in quality.  Most activities are crowded and overrated (e.g. Broadway plays such as Les Miz), food in the “best” restaurants is no better than you’ll get in any good restaurant in your home town, and walking in the streets of Manhattan is as close to a contact sport as you’ll get off a rugby field.  Don’t buy into the hype;  New York sucks.  If you can make it there, you probably have organized crime ties (just like Sinatra did).
  • Don’t drive on the interstate highways.  Almost without exception, the scenery is terrible (writer Bill Bryson suggests that beautiful scenery along the interstate highway system is in fact banned by federal law), the distances are astonishing (except in New England), the highways around major cities (e.g. Washington D.C., Seattle, Los Angeles and even Dallas are more like (slow-) moving parking lots than highways, and the plethora of 18-wheeler trucks make driving a white-knuckle exercise.  You will never find any decent food just off the interstates unless your idea of “interesting” is McDonalds or Waffle House, and in a word, interstate highway travel is BORING.
  • Don’t visit a theme park, any theme park.  Disneyworld/-land/-whatever is horrendously expensive and at least half of the “rides” will always be closed for maintenance, regardless of season.  Sea World is crap except for the killer whales.  Six Flags and Wet ‘n Wild “amusement” parks are an anthropological exercise in trailer-park entertainment, and the non-franchise local amusement parks are even worse.  Avoid too the goober theme parks known as “state fairs”.  They are designed for and run by farmers, and unless you’re a farmer or country hick who enjoys looking at livestock, the day will be a complete waste of time.

Your suggestions in Comments, and feel free to disagree with my selections, as always.

37 comments

  1. I was in Orlando, and a nice British family was talking about driving to Miami to have some lunch.

    It was noon.

    “No, you’re going to have dinner in Miami. You’re not going to be there for lunch.”

    1. Europeans have no concept whatsoever of how large the USA really is. They’re used to countries that are the size of a single state.

      1. Plus more here in Canada. I had German cousins offer to drive from Toronto to Calgary for an afternoon visit, planning to return in the evening. 3406 km one way, 32 hours by car, via Chicago.

        I told them it was about twice as far as Berlin to Moscow.

      2. I was doing a project in Norway and a colleague took a trip to NY, bought a map near his hotel, decided where he wanted to go wasn’t far and began walking. After an hour or so he realized the scale on American maps was drastically different than what he was used to.

  2. My last trip to Florida (and it will be my last trip to Florida,) My brother and I left Melbourne mid-morning to “go for a ride.” We spent more than seven hours driving through swampland, turned around when the gas gauge reached the mid-point, and I don’t believe we ever reached another population center worth complaining about.

  3. As someone who spends every work day in NYC (in fact I’m there right now), I have to agree with #1. Walking is a full-contact sport, and driving isn’t defensive driving, it’s first-strike driving. Plus as noted the prices, the smells, the homeless in the subways (a CLEAN homeless person is one you can smell, the real bad ones you can TASTE. I shit you not).

    Interstate highways are a means to an end, there’s a (more-or-less) efficient method of driving from point A to point B and they’re moderately more pleasant than flying (at least if you’re my size, my car seat is MUCH more comfortable than any coach-class airline seat I’ve ever occupied). If you avoid the big cities you can actually make decent time unless some jackwagon decides to play demolition derby. Yeah, they’re ugly and non-scenic, that’s why you drive 65 mph. You’re not “driving”, you’re “commuting”, and the payoff is getting to the destination.

    Driving distances in the US in general are completely off the scale. While a passenger in my father-in-law’s car one time in PA he decided that we were going the wrong way and turned around at the exit. We convinced him that we were going the right way in the first place, but it was 25 miles to the next exit (and no place to turn around before that, even illegally). So yeah, his little lapse in judgment cost us almost an extra hour in the car. I’ve heard parts of Texas are worse, never been there. That’s the price you pay for having enough space for everyone, it’s a 25+ minute drive each way if you run out of milk. I consider it a feature, not a bug.

  4. They are designed for and run by farmers, and unless you’re a farmer or country hick who enjoys looking at livestock, the day will be a complete waste of time.

    I was going to rage, but then you fixed it here and I’m satisfied.

    The only value of NYC is nostalgia for a place you’ve spent endless amounts of time in via mass media. “ooh, this is x, oh, that is where they filmed y,” etc. Once that has worn off, or if you never cared in the first place (hopefully because you were never a mass media sheep in the first place) then NYC is just another shithole.

    Had Manhattan inflicted upon me for work about 10 years ago, and the amazing thing was that I realized that I didn’t need a map, because the Grand Theft Auto game had given me enough of a feel for what was where that I could just navigate by “it should be in this rough direction.”

    1. When I was living in L.A., one of the few (small) consolations was constantly seeing places in movies that I recognized.

      1. Try the area just south of Edwards AFB. You’ll recognize an awful lot of scenery for TV ads.

        I won’t even mention “The Right Stuff”. Most of the external shots for the first half of that movie were shot at Edwards South Base…and I’m familiar enough to place them down damn near to the foot.

        1. I’ve seen the rock outcrop where ‘The Shat’ (PBUH) fought the Gorn. That’s all I need to see of CA.

          1. The Marriot Residence Inn in Fresno is a lovely place, tucked in to piney woods and walking distance from a FoodMax where the best sourdough garlic bread I’ve had can be obtained. The drive from Barstow to Fresno though, sucks.

    2. If someone wants to see NYC, I would tell them to go to West New York, NJ, and look at it from across the water.

  5. WRT road trips: Since I’m a motorcycle rider I’m on a few message boards and facebook groups for riders around the world.

    One of the most common things I see from European or Australian riders coming to the US is “we want to ride Route 66.”

    I always tell them the same thing: If you’re going to ride “Route 66”, prepare yourself for MASSIVE levels of disappointment. Route 66 is the most over-hyped road trip in America. 99% of Route 66 is boring, straight, level 4 lane highway. The remaining 1% is fairly scenic but there are SO many more scenic routes in America that even the best parts of Route 66 wouldn’t make any motorcyclists top 50 list.

    People who are looking for a “road trip” in America need to consider that Route 66 was, first and foremost, a commercial highway, designed to move traffic and commerce in the most efficient way between Chicago and LA. Which means that the engineers deliberately chose the lowest, flattest, easiest route they could. I dare you to find one “mountain” worthy of the name along route 66 (unless you count the Ozarks. Full disclosure, I live in Colorado so my idea of what constitutes a “mountain” may differ from others.)

    Not only is Route 66 over-hyped, but most of the “cute” touristy places were built AFTER the highway was ‘de-certified’ in 1985 and aren’t even authentic representations of the “highway culture” of the 1950’s and 60’s that people seem to associate Route 66 with. And the “touristy” spots are all filled with shops selling the EXACT SAME books, posters, and Chinese made crap “novelties.”

    Are there things on Route 66 worth seeing? Sure. Oatman, AZ, is a funky old mining town where feral burros roam the streets (you can buy bundles of carrots to feed them.) For those of us who grew up listening to Jackson Browne and the Eagles, it’s fun to take a photo at Standing On The Corner park in (where else?) Winslow, Arizona. Meteor Crater is bizarre and other worldly. The Cadillac Ranch in Amarillo is another fun tourist snapshot. There are certainly some remarkable old hotels and gas stations from the 30’s and 40’s along the Eastern side of Route 66 in Illinois and Missouri, but you have to drive on HUNDREDS of miles of boring interstate to get there.

    I’m not saying a Route 66 “road trip” can’t be enjoyable, but I would hate for someone in Europe, Great Britain or Oceania saving up their money for years for that “one big US road trip” and waste it on Route 66 when there are so many other, spectacular places to see in the US, especially on a motorcycle.

      1. Central Avenue in Albuquerque is the old Route 66 route. Route 66 Diner is a converted service station. Great meat loaf and family sized banana splits. Most of 66 through Nuevo Meh-hee-co is now I-40.

        1. Returning from a family reunion in CO we drove south on I-25, turned left on I-40 and nowhere could I find anyplace that sold a t-shirt that said; ‘I did, I did turn left at Albuquerque’ Bugs Bunny is depressed.

    1. > Full disclosure, I live in Colorado so my idea of what constitutes a “mountain” may differ from others.)

      If it doesn’t have at least a little snow in the crannys in August it’s not a mountain.

      1. Driving to a family reunion I had to stop at Monarch Pass to let the car cool. Wife-unit and daughter had a snowball fight, in July, while I waited for the car to cool.

    2. In my limited yet humble opinion, one of the best segments of Route 66 is Williams, AZ. Not the road, but the collection of bars and taverns on either side of it. park your car, walk east, visiting each establishment on that side of the highway, then return on the other side, doing the same thing.

      Then go back to your motel room and sleep it off. A day well spent in Williams, AZ!

      1. Someone needs to plant some life-sized velociraptor silhouettes peeking out from the pines on I-40 outside Flagstaff. Quite the prehistorical vibe driving there…

  6. Comments regarding theme parks apply to California and, really, the entire West coast of the country.
    Viewing it as a completely artificial fantasy land makes it palatable for one visit … and there are beautiful, natural things worth seeing there. The same could be said of New England.
    Separating the worthwhile things in those places, the ones that made this country what it was, may be easier for foreign tourists than it is for our jaded selves that tend to view those places as merely “behind enemy lines.”
    In the same vein, NYC is fascinating as a historical place and visiting there with an understanding of its history can be fun, again as a theme park. It’s also interesting as anthropology; what kind of person would actually want to live or work there?

  7. Since I seem to be in an uncharacteristically reasonable mood, I should say something about Interstate highways. I love them for getting there. I live at mile marker 750 on I-10. That means it’s a day and a half to get to El Paso and points West. I have tried it on US-90 or what’s left of it and it’s hell, plus the scenery is not really better. That may be mostly because I-10 overrode much of US-90 between towns. Other remote places have the same problem. Furthermore, there are places you cannot go without using the Interstate. Raton Pass comes to mind, but there are lots of places where you simply can’t get there, even if you had the time.
    In Texas, we are completely spoiled by a large and lovely US highway system that is still in place, usually with four lanes and 75mph speed limits. In other states, when you get off the Interstate, you are stuck at 55 or worse (see New England). In the words of the song, I can’t drive 55!

      1. Yes, I know. I was born in Illinois and lived there most recently in the 90’s. These days, when driving up to see the numerous Michigan relatives, I use a lovely route that avoids it completely … and doesn’t threaten me with jail if, as usual, I am traveling heavy.

  8. New York City – During the late 1990’s I was in NYC , Manhattan, once or twice a year and for my few short days it was fun, different folks running things and my vendors, Cartier, Dunhill, Montblanc and others would treat us to nice evenings in good restaurants and that was fun. When I had to pay for my own food I would ask the doorman at the hotel where he goes to get lunch and I was usually directed to a nice Deli, full of people getting in getting their food and getting out fast, a sandwiches were good, expensive but enough for two of us. After 9-11-2001 and changes in local government I made a few more trips and then I was glad to stay away.

    Interstate Driving – I live less than three miles from I-10 NW of San Antonio in the Texas Hill Country and heading west from here is some beautiful fast 80 mph driving through nice hills with lots of curves, all of the way to El Paso. Last year I made the drive East to Jacksonville Florida and South East of San Antonio everything gets flat and pretty much stays that way skirting the Gulf of Mexico and then you hit Florida Panhandle with the most boring driving I have done on a straight road through a corridor of trees for 360 boring miles.

    When you get off the Interstate Highways in Texas you will find some decent roads with 70 and even 75 mph speed limits out West, good extra uphill lanes for passing and light traffic, the good news is they actually take you though nice county seat towns around the court house with good local restaurants and the bad news is you have to slow down and pay attention coming into town because a number of them are speed traps, it kind of keeps you awake and on your toes.

  9. 1. Concur on avoiding NYC, with the possible exception of hitting the museums. And even there, I’d recommend Washington.

    2. WRT the Interstates, you drive them to get places, not see the scenery. Having said that, I-66 and I-81 in the Shenandoah Valley are gorgeous. Highway 101 in California north of Malibu is breathtaking…come to think of it, the entire Pacific Coast outside the major cities is just plain spectacular. There was a reason my father would not willingly visit Los Angeles…he was born in Long Beach in 1939 and remembered what it had been like.

    3. Concur on the theme parks. Overpriced, with long lines to ride tame rides.

    I’ve found that it’s often wise to plan a major trip ahead of time, and tailor it to your interests. Were I in the greater DC area, my must-sees would include:
    a. The Smithsonian museums. You can kill a week with those.
    b. The NRA’s National Firearms Museum.
    c. Udvar-Hazy. This is the BIG aviation museum next to Dulles International Airport.
    d. U.S. Marine Corps Museum at Quantico.
    e. Not sure about the monuments…

    1. Feh, Charlottesville, VA was a sleepy little university town until the advent of I-64 connected us to DC. Unlivable since. Joined the army to get away immediately after the Vietnam dustup. Haven’t been back. I-81 through the Shenandoah is a lovely drive, though. Just don’t stop…

      1. Agree with your visit choices in DC, though. Call a cab or Uber or whatev. Parking nazis define ‘vicious’.

  10. Washington D.C. – – My wife and I took a night bus tour of the Monuments, it was a peasant, light jacket, spring evening with a bit of mist in the air and I am still sure I saw of the Korean War soldiers who are free standing life size statues moving, just a little bit. The lighting on the various monuments makes them appear a bit different from the daytime and the Viet Nam wall is special.

  11. Don’t go to Los Angeles. It’s an overpriced cesspool. Unless you like the sight of Hobo the Crackhead publicly masturbating on Sunset Boulevard, there’s really nothing there for you. Los Angeles is a 65 year old diseased whore who still thinks she’s a 25 year old beauty.

    Avoid Seattle, for much of the same reasons. However, the Olympic Peninsula is absolutely gorgeous, and you can get good seafood cooked in real restaurants served with a smile instead of a tattooed sneer.

    Highway 2 across the top of the country is also gorgeous, and you drive through some farm country that has festivals going all summer long.

    For people who want to “road trip”, do a food tour. Cherries and apples in Washington State. BBQ pretty much any Southern state. Lobster from Maine. Cajun and Creole from Louisiana. Honest to God brisket in Texas. Midwest steaks. All the Skandahoovian delights of the upper Midwest (beer battered cheese curds, served with the locally made brew that went into the batter oh crap I’m 40 pounds heavier) There’s plenty of things to see and do in the country without having to spend days in the urban areas.

    Oh, and for the one or two things to do in cities? Take in a game at Fenway Park. The National Mall and it’s Museums. Any concert at Red Rocks outside of Denver.

  12. Do not drive to Northern Canada. 200 miles north of the 49th the world ends. Unless you like stone cold flat fuck all with either no food or food that would gag a vulture.

  13. There is one Amusement Park in the US that can be recommended . LasVegas!!!Baby!!!! ( all one word ). But be aware that there are actually 2 different Las Vegas. There’s Convention LV that operates Sunday Night to Friday Morning. The rooms are reasonably priced. You can afford to eat and maybe even see a show and as long as you stay out of the Casino’s and avoid the various dubious promotions it’s worth seeing at least once. Then there is PARTY LV from Friday noon to Sunday Noon when every Wan-a-be from LA shows up and the price of everything Quadruples. There are two things that will tell you all you need to know about the Major Hotels and Casinos . 1 All the motorized walkways, escalators transporters, etc. go exclusively in only one direction. Into the place. You want to leave?? Sorry, you’ll need to walk ( assuming you can actually find the exit ) 2. To go anywhere in the Hotel Complex, you must pass through the Casino.

    Distance. They have no conception of the distance it is across the US. NYC to San Francisco is roughly the same as Paris to Moscow …… and then back to Madrid. ( only the roads are much better. ) NYC to St Louis is an easy 900 miles ( 1400 K ) then it’s another 900 to Denver but those miles seem much longer since the view never changes, there are no trees, and the road only rarely varies from a straight line. ( and those big puffy innocent white clouds in front of you are just the tops of Thunderstorms ) The curvature of the earth is hiding the Darkest Hail and Tornado storms you will ever see. When you see them …..run and hide ). from Denver to San Francisco it’s ANOTHER 2,000 K. You’ll be just fine as long as it’s NOT Winter …… or Summer … and when the sign says there are NO SERVICES for the next 180 miles you need to believe them. not just no services….. there’s no anything in that space, except for the occasional poisonous Snake or Spider.

    But other than that ….. a cross America Drive is a grand adventure.!!! I high recommend it.

  14. Dude, can I call you Dude? No? Well dude, don’t be dissin’ Waffle House. When I was NCOIC for a funeral detail my choice of hotel was highly dependent upon the proximity of a Waffle House. Having said that their quality in each location was highly variable, like Wattaburger. Find a good one and keep it. There was a dirty, dark and dismal Wattaburger in Lawton, OK. They’ve since closed. There is one in Burkburnett, TX that will make you glad you dropped by. No Waffle House in Lawton. For that I’m sad. I’ve found the perfect place for one, and if I win the lottery…

    Oh, and top three places not to visit? That’d be the east coast, west coast, and gulf coast. Highly overrated, losers live there. Search out the world’s biggest ball of twine. Have dinner at The Vast in OKC, top the router bit, err, Devon Tower dead center OKC. Took the wife-unit for our 25th. Not disappointed. Going again for our 50th, in 2040. But hey, I’m an optimist. Daughter will have to drive because I will have obtained full geezerhood by then.

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