I travel to discover different cultures. Every state and every city in the US has a culture. People from all over the world come to visit the US to see how Americans live. Americans travel to different parts of the world to see the culture of others. Americans don’t look for cultural differences in their own country. We tend to think that we are all the same.
What is culture? It is not only the language, the food, the historic sites of an area. It is the way people think and act. The US is not a homogenous society. People are different and that’s what makes the US so interesting.
The seven lessons that I have presented here are cultural examples of American life that we don’t recognize. People from other countries would recognize them as part of American culture.
Hotel chains are not the same. I learned that one La Quinta is not going to offer the same services as another LaQuinta. LaQuinta is known for their dog-friendly hotels. They don’t require a pet fee. The LaQuinta I stayed in Medford, Oregon wanted to charge me $15. I pointed out to her that LaQuinta doesn’t charge a pet fee. She decided not to make the charge.
Hotels are franchises bought by private people. They don’t have to follow the rules that would make them the same as the others in their franchise division such as the Choice Hotel group, Holiday Inns, or Hampton Inns. Hotel owners charge anywhere from $5- $50 for pet fees. There is no set fee for one group of hotels. Hotels should follow the Starbucks model. Every Starbucks serves the same kind of coffee and you can count on getting the same service at any of them.
The Hoover Dam Lodge was the last hotel we stayed on the way home. They didn’t charge a pet fee and allowed me to take Chloe, my cocker spaniel, into the casino area. She did not like it because it was too noisy. I was winning and she wanted to leave. I was ordering my food at the little Mexican restaurant to take to the room and the waiter told me to go get the dog and bring her with me. He got a big tip!
The price of fuel depends on the city. I paid the most on the Oregon Coast, $3.75 per gallon and the cheapest in Idaho, $2.25 per gallon. I learned to have a full tank of gas when I traveled the scenic back roads. There were no gas stations and if I did find one, the price was almost doubled. Oregon does not allow for self-service gas. An attendant will come and fill your tank and even wash your front windshield. I asked the attendant why they didn’t allow self-service and he replied, “It provides more jobs.” I agree with that. Being a self-serve state eliminates a lot of job positions.
Gas stations were also the best places to take a break, use the restroom, and get something to drink.
3. Car Warning Messages
I believe everything my car tells me. Halfway through my trip the “maintenance required ” light flashed on. I was really nervous because I was traveling the backroads. I continued driving hoping that the car would not die in the middle of the forest. Who would help me? I didn’t have cell service either. I arrived at a place that had service and called the Toyota dealer and asked him what I should do. He said, “Don’t worry you can bring the car in tomorrow.” I said, “I am in Bend, Oregon and still have 3,000 miles to go.” He replied very calmly, “You can drive the car up to 4,000 miles more.” He said, “The warning light is like a timer on your oven. It is telling you that it is almost time to take out the cookies.” I don’t think so. When the timer goes off in my oven, it is TIME to take out the cookies or they will burn. I continued driving and with great caution.
I learned that I could drive up to 3,000 miles after the warning light comes on!
This is another annoying warning that indicates the tire pressure is low. I learned that the temperature can trigger this light to go on. I was traveling in much cooler weather. Every morning the light would go on. I kept driving. When the temperature reached 75F the warning light would turn off. I no longer worried about this warning in cold temperatures.
4. Speed Limits
Speed limits vary from city to city and state to state. Interstate speed limits across the USA go from 65 mph to 80 mph. Backroads have slower speed limits. Many of the roads pass through small towns and the speeds are reduced to 35-45 mph. I learned that most drivers, including me, do not drive the speed limit. I tend to drive faster when the roads are straight. I slow down passing through mountains ascending and descending. I become nervous descending the mountains and other drivers are speeding past me or getting closer to my bumper. I really didn’t find many problems with speeders during my travels.
5. Interstate vs. Scenic Backroads
The advantages of traveling the interstate are speed and time. I did not want to pass up the opportunity to travel the scenic byways of Oregon. I learned to appreciate the beauty and quietness of the state. I stopped at various places to take pictures. There were many turnouts to allow other drivers to pass if needed.
The backroads from Medford to Waldport followed the Umpqua River part way before encountering the cliff driving on the 101.
I passed through towns with names Grass Valley, Madras, Shanko, Dalles, and Rufus on the Journey Through Time byway. Most of these towns have a population of 1,000-1,500 people. There were usually a general store and a very small gas station. I wondered how these people did their grocery shopping. They were sleepy villages with charm.
6. Restaurants/Coffee Shops
Coffee Shop in Sisters, Oregon
Stand alone coffee shops owned by women are very common in Oregon. This coffee shop was located near a park and catered to bicycle riders and cars. The coffee was great and the man on the bike paid for my coffee. Chloe and I sat at one of the picnic tables and had our coffee.
I was at a disadvantage because I did have my dog with me. I could not go into restaurants. I sought out restaurants and coffee shops that had outdoor seating. I bought beef, chicken, and vegetables and grilled out at the park. There were a couple of sandwich places in Bend, Oregon that did allow me to take the dog inside.
I would sometimes go for three hours without a cup of coffee. This is really a difficult almost impossible thing for me. I am a coffee addict. There were times I was driving and not a single coffee shop in sight. Not even a gas station! I learned that I could survive without coffee.
7. Rest Areas
Rest areas are few and far between. Sometimes it was 75 miles between one area and the other. Rest areas are expensive to keep clean and safe. Many states have decided that fewer is better. I learned that I needed to use every restroom stop available. The interstate provided more chances of finding restrooms and most of them were well used. The majority of the restrooms were clean and there was plenty of toilet paper. I hate walking into a bathroom and not finding toilet paper in the US. I never carry tissue.
Some of the rest areas had vending machines and picnic tables. They also allow sleeping for a limit of 8 hours. I encountered one young couple who had pitched a tent the night before at one rest area early in the morning.
The rest areas also provide a place for your pet to do their business. Chloe did hers anywhere. I always cleaned up!
Take the time to find out about the culture around the US.