The grocer down the road from your motel knows your name. And the mechanic who checked your radiator pointed you toward a well-hidden, way-cool hiking trail.
You savored the best green chili in town at a dumpy storefront diner and whiled away the afternoon at a bookstore learning about Navajo legends.
All this youve experienced because you nestled into a community for a week, instead of breezing through in a few hours on your way to somewhere else.
Spoke travelers set up home base for five or more days and make short trips from headquarters. Outings may be as simple as a morning stroll to the bakery or as involved as a 50-minute drive to the mountains in search of wildflowers.
But what sets spoke travelers apart from others is their desire to discover more about a place and its people than the typical passer-by.
Youre at the center of a wheel of exploration with spoke travel, discovering the people, landscape and ambience of a small area, rather than spreading yourself thin with the "pick-up-and-go" mentality.
Its tempting to want to see the entire American Southwest from the Puye Cliff Dwellings to the Grand Canyon to the UFO vortex of Roswell on your two-week vacation. Instead, consider seeing more by seeing less through the wisdom of spoke travel.
SUBMERGE IN THE LOCAL CULTURE
From an observation platform you can see only so much. But when you decide to hang out for a few days, you have an opportunity to experience life with the locals. Wave flags at the Presidents Day parade, listen to the town historian speak at the library, and tune into the AM station that broadcasts local news and music.
When youre not in a hurry, friendly banter comes naturally. People love to share tidbits about themselves and their community, and when youre in need of help or advice, your familiar face will heed honest, useful answers. Who knows? You may get invited to a family shindig or be honored with a shot of whiskey at the local watering hole.
DISCOVER THE UNDERBELLY
The peach pie at the diner is unmatched. A side path off the main hiking trail leads to some cool petroglyphs. Your favorite rockabilly tune is on the jukebox at the corner bar. The drug store has a 1950s soda fountain in the back with spinning stools and awesome frappés. And you wouldnt have discovered the St. Marys Church thrift shop if youd left town yesterday.
PACK FOR PLEASURE
Chances are, the painstaking process of strapping and unstrapping your guitar to the car roof every day will deter you from bringing it. But with spoke travel, your guitar relaxes at your hub in good company with your bubblebath, slippers and feather pillows from home. Pleasure packing overrides efficiency when youre not on the run.
RELAX AND INDULGE
Forget about the 6 a.m. wake up to make your 6:30 departure to cover 400 miles to beat your 2 p.m. ETA at the next port of call. No more packing and repacking; no more long, unbearable treks. Road trips are slower and easier with spoke travel; typically, you keep outings to less than an hour, so theres no need for crack-of-dawn departures, but there will be time to linger over your cuppa joe and wallow in the pleasure of not working.
MEET THE BASICS
The socks you washed in the sink havent dried, and you forgot to buy snacks for the long drive ahead. With spoke travel, squeeze in a trip to the Laundromat and skip wearing dirty or, worse yet, wet underwear. Make lunches and snacks, and perhaps even enjoy a meal by grilling supper beside the motel pool. You may grow to discover a new home-away-from-home.
Have a hub
Once youve renounced the idea of covering excess miles, youre ready to plan your spoke vacation.
Two questions must be answered: where to go, and where to stay? Here are some fun hubs to consider.
IN THE STATES
Rapid City, South Dakota.
Explore wilderness and wildlife and visit cheesy cowboy gift stores. Stay at the Hotel Alex Johnson and hang out in the 1930s lobby.
Québec City, Québec
Create your own historic walking tour or kayak through Jacques-Cartier Provincial Park. Lodge at Auberge Saint-Antoine in an old maritime warehouse.
Saint Saturnin, France
Delve into Provençal France, nestled among vineyards and mountains. Settle at Le Clos des Saumanes in Chateauneuf de Gadagne; its charming courtyard is perfect for lolling over local wine, cheese and olives.