Either in the US, Canada, Mexico, or other nations. I am most familiar with the US, but am curious about "road trips" like the Amsterdam-to-India "hippie trail" that used to run through Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
1970′s movies make it seem like road trip "culture" back then involved lots of small local diners, fat trucker dudes with bushy beards, CB radios, 8-track cassettes and/or local radio stations, and small motels with neon signs and black-and-white TVs.
Today, road trips are all about national chains – gas station chains, fast-food chains, and hotel/motel chains, all in unified clumps right off of the freeway.
How different was the past compared to this present-day reality?
My family and I used to go to Florida every year starting in 1965. I 75 was not open all the way between Ohio and Florida, so we had to go through the mountains. We stopped at tourist traps like "The Dog Patch Zoo," and old buildings with old stuff and wagons. We passed cabins in Kentucky that had quilts and coverlets hanging from the porch to sell. We passed through a place in Kentucky called "Stinking Creek" that really stank. One road on our way wound around a mountain. There was a steep drop off on the driver’s side, all the way down the side of the mountain.
On the road in Tennessee and Georgia were Berma Shave Signs. They were really fun because each sign was a part of a message. In Southern Tennessee, Georgia and Florida there were a lot of Textile outlets that sold "Togs." Chain restaurants were Crystal Hamburgers. McDonalds was not as ubiquitous as it is today. In fact, I don’t remember seeing any. We stopped in road side diners and Mom and Pop places; places truckers might eat for lunch. In the evening, we asked at the Motel where was a good place to eat.
In Valdosta Georgia and Cocoa Florida there were some really nice "All You Can Eat" places that served Home Cooked Southern Meals in bowls on the table. They served Turnip Greens and Sweet Potato Pie.
There was a place in Clearwater Florida called the Kapok Tree. Their special treats were corn fritters dusted with powdered sugar and a layered Planter’s Punch made with 3 different kinds of rum.You got to keep the straw with a plastic flower and the fancy glass. Back in those days, they’d serve you alcohol even if you were under age if your parents ordered it for you. The Kapok Tree looked like a huge conservatory full of plants on the inside and had gardens and fountains on the outside. One of the best aspects of the Kapok Tree were the extensive gift shops . In 1975 I saw L. Ron Hubbard in one of the gift shops at the Kapok tree, looking at English Bone China.
My parents favored fish places. Johnny Liberocks in southern Florida, the Oyster Bar in Clearwater. The Red Lobster was a favorite, as they were not yet in my home town. Another chain we liked was Steak and Shake.
Other attractions in Florida were Sunken Gardens which had beautiful gardens, a religious display and an extensive gift shop. Busch Gardens had extensive gardens and performing birds, but no amusement park. They did serve free beer (which your parents could get and give to you if you were under age) and the best pretzels which were purchased in little boxes. Tarpon Springs was a Sponge Diving village founded by Greek Immigrants. It had wonderful greek restaurants and extensive gift shops. In the 1970s it also had a creepy crying Icon that my parents always went to see. Before Disney World, the place to go in Orlando was Sea World. The Miami Seaquarium. Wiki Waki with the "live Mermaids" Silver Springs with the glass bottom boats and old Tarzan sets, the Alligator Farm, Sarasota Jungle Garden, Bok Tower Gardens with the The Singing Tower in Lake Wales, Madame Toussand’s Wax Museum, the Old Jail, Ripley’s Believe It or Not, were just some of the attractions we visited wile in Florida.
We always stayed at Motels rather than Hotels. Motels back then were little mom and pop places that looked like "The Bates." There was a sign out front indicating the name of the place and whether or not there were rooms available. The rooms were not fancy. There were always real glasses wrapped in wax paper, an ice bucket with a lit. Sometimes you had to put money in a coin box to watch the B&W TV. Most of the time the beds had coin-operated "Magic Fingers," which my sister and I always begged our parents to let us use. There was usually a long single story building accented with neon lights that had rooms opening onto the parking lot. Usually there were a couple aluminum lawn chairs sitting next to the door and a pool out front if you were in Florida. Most of the places we stayed, like the Motel Ann (at which we were regulars for 10-12 days each summer), were owned by families who lived there. Even the bigger chains like the Best Western that we sometimes stayed at in Georgia, were run by local people.
Gas prices in the 1960s and 1970s were cheap. In the July of 1973, just three months before the Arab Oil Embargo, I remember my parents pinching pennies by driving around looking for the places that were charging 13.9 cents for a gallon of gas. They didn’t want to give up the extra penny to the 14.9 cent places. The Gas Stations had names like Esso (Exon); Texico; Sinclair; Standard Oil or Sohio; Phillips 66, Shell, and Gulf. The speed limits were about 72 mph back then.