On the Road Again, and Again

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— Michael Kraus
On the road again, and again

During long journeys across the country, the authors of two new memoirs searched (respectively) for down-home grub and a free ride. We asked them to give advice to anyone hoping to walk--or eat--in their footsteps.

In Two for the Road (houghtonmifflinbooks.com, $24), authors Jane and Michael Stern reminisce about rodeos, state fairs, cheap motels, and more than 70,000 meals they ate while penning their bestseller, Roadfood. What do they look for?

  • Restaurants open only for breakfast and lunch, because these are places where the locals come to chat 'n' chew.
  • Old menus with gravy stains or barbecue-sauce fingerprints, because they've been used by the multitudes.
  • Statues of cows, pigs, roosters, or crabs on the roof, because they're irresistible (and the food's usually terrific).
  • A jukebox with Hank Williams songs, because the menu probably hasn't been modernized either, and you can count on country-comfort food.
  • Based on his experience thumbing rides all over the world, including a recent cross-country hitchhiking adventure described in Riding With Strangers (ipgbook.com, $23), Elijah Wald advises would-be hitchers to:

  • Smile and appear clean, like you're trying to get somewhere rather than wandering.
  • Display a sign when appropriate; no ride is too short works particularly well.
  • Choose your spots carefully, where you can be seen as far off as possible and drivers have plenty of space to pull over.
  • Let the driver set the mood. Be quiet if the driver's not talkative.
  • Pass on drivers who seem drunk or who spook you out for any reason. Another ride will come along.
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