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Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

Posted April 02, 2019 9:00 AM by dstrohl

Highways these days are pretty sterile places. Sure, they’re far more efficient, safe, and standardized than the highways of the first several decades of the motoring era, but whatever character they might have had has been brushed aside in the name of progress.

Prior to the Interstate Highway System, roads and highways were in many ways parts of their communities and not just literal means to an end. For better or worse, they were littered with motels, Burma-Shave signs, unique roadside attractions, hitchhikers, vernacular billboards, and cars on sticks. The highways were the internet before there was the internet, connecting travelers to the landscapes they traveled through. The roads were a shared culture.

But it is an endangered culture - one that continues to shrink. So what are the relics of highway culture past?

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#1

Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/02/2019 1:43 PM

Change is inevitable. Progress is not.

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#2

Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/02/2019 2:36 PM

Similarly: STUPIDITY is infinite while INTELLIGENCE appears to be finite, because, seemingly, not everyone has it (wink,wink).

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#3

Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/02/2019 11:55 PM

For those who are close to Monrovia, CA (just east of Pasadena), on Foothill Blvd (the old Rte 66), there's an old Aztec building that was a motel at one point many years ago.

Head a little further east and you'll see the old Wigwam motel in Rialto, CA. It's pretty cool - like a big park, where people would stay in fake Teepees.

I think they called this stuff kitschy. I'll search the internet to find photos.

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#4
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/02/2019 11:59 PM

Wigwam Motel: Wigwam Motel

Aztec Motel: Aztec Motel

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#5

Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/03/2019 12:06 AM

When I first moved to CA in the late 1980's, my friends and I would take a weekly trip to Santa Barbara to go hand out at the clubs. I remember driving by Santa Claus lane on Hwy 101 in Carpinteria. A pull off with tourist trap shops and a giant Santa Claus to draw the kiddie in.

Some time in the 90's, Santa was removed and brought further south to Nyland Acres, where he sits to this day. Nyland Acres is an area of Oxnard, which is about 30 - 40 minutes from Carpinteria.

Here's some info on Santa Claus and Padaro Lane. Santa Claus Lane off the 101

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#6

Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/03/2019 9:56 AM

You don't see many Ford Pintos or Chevy Vegas broken down along the side of the road like you did in the 70's. The quality of these cars must have improved! I think the government protecting them with the endangered feces status has really worked well

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#11
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/03/2019 3:31 PM

The quality of domestic cars has improved since the 70's to early 00's. No question about it. Thank goodness the Pinto and Vega (and all their junky brothers and sisters) are no longer made. The quality improvement was a necessity for the Big 3 to compete. A complete change of corporate philosophy was required, which took decades. So, why is the quality better now?

Here's my take. Back in the 1960's, GM had almost 50% of the US auto business, with Ford, Chrysler and AMC splitting the other 42%. The rest was high end imports (Mercedes, Audi, Porsche, etc) and low end imports (Datsun, Toyota, VW), with a few specialty cars added in (Alfa, Lotus, Lancia, Fiat, etc) (4-5% for all three categories). When the Japanese imports began improving, they started eating into the domestic sales. Add the oil crunch and new emissions standards (emissions control parts were killing performance and driveability), which led to the big, heavy domestic cars were losing sales.

Fast forward to the 1980's. After years of putting out poorly made vehicles that they wanted to produce (not what the customer wanted), GM dropped to 34% in 1987. Ford and Chrysler dropped to 35% combined, for a total of 68% - a huge drop from 92%. But the Big 3 still didn't get it. They tried to force us to buy their junk - Chevy Cavalier, Cadillac Cimarron, Plymouth Sundance, Dodge Omni, Ford Tempo, etc. Meanwhile, Honda gave us a new Accord, Toyota the Camry and Nissan's sporty Maxima - all cars that were made to last a long time with minimal repairs and low cost of ownership - and great fuel economy! The domestics still had a chance, with Toyota owning 6%, Nissan 5% and Honda 5% of the market, with the other Asian imports claiming 7% (23% total). The Europeans were still at 4%, so they weren't taking the share like the Asians. The Big 3 still kept on with their way of doing business, even though the writing was on the wall.

By 2000, GM was down to 28%, and Ford + Chrysler were still at 36% = 64% for the Big 3. Toyota was now up to 9%, Honda 6% and Nissan 4% = 19%. The Big 3 still didn't get it! GM was still building the Cavalier, Catera and Alero. Ford had the Contour and the Focus (dropped valve seats at low miles). Chrysler had the Cirrus, Intrepid and Neon. Meanwhile, Honda built a bigger and better Accord and Civic, Toyota was on fire with their 4Runner, Tacoma, Camry and Corolla, Nissan's had the Altima, Frontier and Maxima. The other Japanese carmakers had 5% and the Koreans now had 2% of the market with Kia and Hyundai. The Asians were up to 26% of the market and building momentum with quality products with top notch reputations. This was also the time when the European luxury market took hold with a 6% market share. The Big 3 were in trouble and they didn't care!

Here's where everything finally fell apart. By 2010, GM was down to 18% and Ford + Chrysler were down to 25% = 43%! Below 50% - a drop of 21% in a decade! Why? Loyal Americans bought those unreliable, gas guzzling, poorly built domestic cars for decades, listening to the stories about the new and improves, blah blah blah! In contrast, the Japanese imports talked the talk and walked the walk. They built cars that were still on the road 20 years later with 200,000 to 300,000 miles. We wanted bigger cars, so they made them bigger. We wanted comfort, so they made them drive like our cars. We wanted luxury, so they created Lexus, Infiniti and Acura. Most of all, we wanted to feel like we were getting value for our hard earned money. Toyota was now up to 15%, Honda 10% and Nissan 8% or 33% of the market - 1/3 from under 20% a decade earlier! Kia and Hyundai were up to 8% from 2% a decade earlier. The other Japanese were still at 5% = total of all Asian sales = 46%, nearly half of all vehicles sold in America! The Europeans had gobbled up 9% of the market, so for the first time, over 1/2 of the vehicles sold here were by import brands!

It's now 2019 and the domestic cars have improved. They're much better in initial quality. They last longer than before. They are more fuel efficient. You don't see them littered on the side of the road, like in the past. The Big 3 may have finally turned the corner, but in my opinion, it's too late.

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#14
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/04/2019 1:03 AM

I just bought a Kia.

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#16
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/04/2019 2:19 PM

Which model did you buy?

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#20
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/05/2019 9:00 AM

The KIA dealers around here offer a "buy one get one free" deal once in a while. Don't know how you could beat that. I am sure the price tag is bumped up, but still seems like a good deal. At least interesting they can do that with cars.

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#23
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/09/2019 1:53 AM

That's an amazing deal.

In California, there's a law that states that the agreement is on the contract and the only changes allowed must be in writing. So, as soon as you sign the contract, anything that was talked about that is different from the document is no longer valid, unless you and the dealer agree in writing. So, if they tell you you get two cars for one - verbally or in writing, however the contract doesn't agree, you get what the contract says. Or, the dealer quotes you a price and you agree, but the contract shows something different, your legally tied to what the contract says. I'm not sure how things are in other states, but it's the law here.

If one of my clients tells me something that's too good to be true, I tell them that their credit union needs a purchase order, so they can get the loan check for the dealer. If it's a legitimate offer, they write up a purchase order. In the 17 years I've been in this business, I've had maybe 3-4 people succeed.

A few weeks ago, I had someone refer their business associate to me. That person went to a larger Ford dealer (I believe the #1 in the country for many, many years). They had a 2018 F150 Super Crew with a 5.0 V-8 XLT, sticker price $47K for sale. The client told me they were offered 25% off and an additional $5K rebate = $30K + tax and license. Invoice cost on the truck is $44K or so - $5k rebate. Why would they sell it for a $9K loser? Though I've heard of this dealer getting spectacular "deals" from Ford Motor Co - they had to take last year's inventory and Ford would give them a huge discount - to get rid of old inventory. I told them to get a purchase order ... Two days later, my friend told me that they paid $42K for the truck. So, they paid full sticker - $5K rebate!

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#15
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/04/2019 2:17 PM

I think GM got the message loud and clear in the 80's and 90's.

We purchased a new 1/2-ton 2002 Chevy Suburban with the 5.3L Vortec. Used it to haul around four kids and an 8,000 lb 32 ft travel trailer. We've towed all around the country.

Other than a cracked exhaust manifold and a broken exhaust stud, I have not touched the engine outside of oil changes and one set of platinum spark plugs. And we've pulled some very steep mountain grades, foot to the floor in 2nd gear at 5,000 RPM. Sounded like a soundtrack to a NASCAR race.

Sure, the transmission stripped the splines out of a clutch basket while climbing a mountain grade pulling the trailer. That was at 180,000 miles. I put new bearings into the diff/rear axle at about 150,000 miles, but again, we have thrashed that truck and it never seems to complain. And I had to replace the New Process Gear (NPG 246) transfer case when it leaked oil due to a well-known oil pump wear issue at 125,000 miles. I bought a used one Ebay that came out of a Silverado with unknown miles that is still in the truck. It has never left us completely dead in the water at the side of the road. It's never been towed.

We currently have 267,000 miles on the truck. The rocker panels are beginning to disappear, but this truck has seen a lot salt here in Maryland and in New England. Right rear quarter panel too. I've gotten my money's worth out of this truck and then some. I'd buy another if I need to replace it.

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#17
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/04/2019 2:38 PM

That's great to hear! I have quite a few clients who've put high miles on their Suburban/Tahoe SUV's and Silverado/Sierra trucks. I think GM has made a good large SUV/Truck for quite a few years and their current models, though pricey, are near the top of the class.

On the other hand, the smaller GM SUV's and cars are still behind the competition, though greatly improved since the late 00's. Recent problems I've seen with GM vehicles:

2005 Envoy with 129K. Plastic clamps on cooling system broker (they only sell the clamp with the hose), front wheel speed sensors out (both), ABS controller not working, power seat lumbar broken, tie rod ends worn and rear main seal leaking along with the valve cover gasket.

2006 Chevy Equinox at 98K. Transmission controller bad (it's inside the transmission), CV boots torn, steering rack bad due to broken boot and recent rain, power drivers seat height adjustment doesn't work, heater core leaking, AC compressor leaking, valve cover leak, radiator leaking.

2008 Pontiac G6 at 108K. Wheel bearing bad, alloy wheel corrosion (eaten through lip), left window regulator bad, right front caliper frozen, CV boots torn.

2010 Chevy Impala at 76K. Right power window regulator out, AC compressor leaking, rack cracked, transaxle leaking.

Very disappointing for vehicles that should last 200K miles. The Toyota and Honda cars I take in don't have even close to the number of problems like these.

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#18
In reply to #17

Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/04/2019 3:31 PM

That is interesting. I guess the design practices in one 'division' (as in vehicle class/type/platform) might not percolate over to other divisions. That's a shame.

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#19
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/04/2019 3:55 PM

i think it's due to GM building full size pick up trucks for years. They have it down pat and the big SUV's use the same structure/powertrain. In fact, I think a lot of the components are shared. Also, the old pushrod V-8 engines are super reliable and the rear wheel drive trannys are very good.

The smaller trucks - S10 and Colorado/Canyon are not as well built. I recently bought a used Colorado for my client. Loaded version with all the goodies - leather, navigation, power seats, heated seats, etc. The truck was 2 years old and had 24K miles - should be like new, right? The outside was like new. The truck drove well, but had rattles. The interior had a lot of wear for a 24K truck. I've seen Tacoma's with 140K show less wear on the interior.

The old S10's were inferior to the Toyota/Nissan trucks of the same era. Ditto for the first gen Colorado/Canyon. Think about this - how many old S10's do you see on the road? Or the first gen Colorado/Canyon? Compare that to Toyota pick up and Tacoma's of the same era. They're everywhere and in demand.

And their fwd vehicles are not as well made as the imports. Except for their Toyota twins and Daewoo cars.

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#21
In reply to #19

Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/05/2019 11:32 AM

I had two S-10 trucks. A 1982 , 1.9 L4 isuzu with an isuzu 77.5 mm 4 speed, Hitachi DCH 340 carburetor. The engine had 94 horsepower. The 85 mph speedometer had 55 in yellow and at that speed it got about 28 mpg hwy. It was a long bed. The truck came with zero options : no radio, no power brakes, no power steering, no air conditioning, no cruise, no electric windows or locks. I put a Sony cassette head unit in it with pioneer with blaupunkt 3 ways , I had to wire and modify the door panels as it didn't have a audio option package. I carried everything, on road and off road. It was easy to work on as you could easily get both hands into the engine bay on both sides.

It was a great truck.

I changed the oil every 2500 miles. At about 187 k , a nail popped the radiator and the cylinder head cracked. If that had not happened, it could have easily passed the 200,000 mark.

In 1995 , I bought a used 1990 S-10. Durango, 2.8 V-6, Borg Warner 5 speed, TBI, 2wd, fog lights, all options except the Eaton locking differential, power windows and locks ( which were not available ) and the combination OEM am/fm-CB radio. It too was a long bed. The truck lasted 25 years and went 322,000 until the valve guides wore out.

That was another great truck.

Changing the oil was a learned skill, as the filter had to be negotiated between the fender well and the LHS exhaust manifold.

My trucks got flat tires occasionally, but never left me stranded on the side of the road.

I serviced and repaired most everything on these two trucks myself.

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#22
In reply to #21

Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/05/2019 11:41 AM

My older brother had an S-10 with over 300K I think. An inopportune engagement with a deer ended its life before its time.

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#24
In reply to #21

Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/09/2019 2:06 AM

Wow, I stand corrected. My clients that have had S-10's didn't have the luck you did. I think the Isuzu motor is phenomenal. Gas is good, but their diesels are incredible.

The 2.8 V-6? I didn't like the motor, but I had no idea they would go 322K miles.

The S-10 Blazer I just sold had a 4.3 V-6. The owner had the engine and transmission rebuilt in the last few years and the total miles on the car was 90K. To me, that's unacceptable. And it was a rear wheel drive, so it should've been troublefree.

The big frame trucks have been pretty good. The 5.7 motor was so-so - needed a rebuild sometimes too early. I actually like the 5.3 and 4.8 better - I've seen them go a lot of miles and I think they're built better.

I was told that the best and most inexpensive way to make a fast truck is to get a Chevy/GMC reg cab with a short bed. Put a 5.3 motor in it and put a big turbo on it. Put bigger injectors and a high volume fuel pump. Then let it run like crazy! If it blows the motor, go to the junk yard and buy another $1,000 motor.

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#25
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/09/2019 2:39 AM

My clients also had 2nd gen S10's. With the stinky 2.2L 4 cyl and the thirsty 4.3L V-6, they weren't the best trucks. Toyota and Nissan made much better trucks back then.

The 4.3L V-6 is a a 5.7 V-8 with two cylinders cut off. Ditto for the Buick 231 V-6 (3.8L). Buick bought it from AMC - their motor was 225 CI. Here's the kicker - AMC didn't design it themselves; they bought it from Buick. Buick had a really small version back in the early 60's and it came from their old 215 CI aluminum V-8 (two cylinders cut off a V-8). Here's another ironic fact, this is the same motor they sold to Rover. It's been used in their Rover cars, Land Rovers, Range Rovers, Triumph TR-8 (I like that car), MG's, etc.

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#26
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/09/2019 11:09 AM

Maybe you know this answer : how did Chevrolet get to use the name Durango, but it wasn't used before or since, and did they sell it to Dodge ?

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#27
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/10/2019 11:39 PM

Good question and I'll admit that I don't know the answer. I checked and the Dodge Durango was first used in 1997 - that big RWD/4x4 SUV that drank gas - I do know they ran and ran and ran.

I'm not sure how this works, because some companies had to change the name, while others used the same name.

Ones I know.

I know car companies are not suppose to use other companies model names. For instance, the Porsche 911 was suppose to be a 901, but Peugeot complained, because they felt they had the right to any car name with a "0" in the middle.

There's a Ferrari GTO and a Pontiac GTO. Pontiac Safari (wagon) and GMC Safari van. GMC Sprint (El Camino) and Chevy Sprint (eco box), Mercury Voyager (wagon) and Plymouth Voyager (minivan), Volvo 850 (sedan and wagon) and BMW 850 (coupe), Mitsubishi Challenger (eco coupe) and Dodge Challenger (muscle car), Mitsubishi Lancer (sedan) and Dodge Lancer (60's car), Alfa Romeo 164 (sedan) and Volvo 164 (sedan), Ferrari Daytona (coupe) and Dodge Daytona (eco coupe), BMW 328 (we all know this one) and Ferrari 328 (coupe), Volvo 240/260 (sedan, coupe and wagon) and Datsun 240/260(Z-Car). Probably much more, but these are off the top of my head.

One recent one that comes to mind is the Fiat 500 and the Ford Five Hundred. With the same sound, Olds Ciera and GMC Sierra.

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#29
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/11/2019 11:23 AM

When you were talking about Ford's, I thought you might know, " when the fix will be in ".

My friend bought a 2019 f 150 4wd. This past winter his 4wd actuators and hose assemblies failed twice ( currently he is still waiting for back ordered parts , 3 months ! ) .

Apparently this set up works fine as long as the weather is warm but starts messing up when it gets cold ( - 20* ) .

He uses the truck as a tow vehicle, pushing buttons and turning the key allows the transmission to go into a free wheeling mode.

When the actuators fail, splines inside the front hubs engage and grind themselves up, all while your towing the truck, the customer doesn't know anything is wrong until they stop, unhook and reingage everything and the can hear a grinding noise as they drive, all that from a 42 k truck.

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#30
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/11/2019 9:28 PM

Sounds like the IWE. If this is what I think it is, there's been a back order on the parts for quite a while. I've also heard that sometimes, the dealer will do the repair and the grinding comes back in a few days.

Do a Google search on the Lemon Law for your state. Here in CA, the Lemon Law states that in the first 18 months or 18K miles, if the car has been in the shop more than 4 times for the same problem or for more than 30 cumulative days, then it's a Lemon. Also, if there is a major problem, they have two chances to get it right, then it's a Lemon.

I've had client Lemon a car with more than 40K miles - it was a Mustang 4cyl ecoboost that had a blown head gasket - had had been complaining that the car smokes a lot, but the dealer told him it was normal.

Ford replaced the block and head with factory fresh unit. He picked up the car and drove it home (30+ miles). When he was backing it into the garage, he said the engine was noisy. He shut the car off, and started checking things - loose hoses, caps all closed, no leaks, etc. Then he pulled the dipstick and nothing! He had to put two qts to get the dipstick to read, then almost another quart to fill it. He was very upset and called the dealership. Oooops, they forgot and told him that he shouldn't worry, because for such a short drive, he couldn't have damaged the engine!!! Yes, they told him this. So he called Ford Corporate and told them he had enough and he wanted them to make it right. They asked for documentation and in the meantime, they gave him a loaner car. He sent them the laundry list of the problems he had from day one and they decided to buy the car back.

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#28
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/10/2019 11:43 PM

I don't think Dodge bought the name. They typically don't, because most companies don't want their vehicle to be thought of as their competitors.

A good example would be the Yugo which had to change the name from Turd. They didn't want to confuse the car with the Chevy Chevette or Edsel, which were both called Turds.

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#7

Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/03/2019 10:13 AM

Are we really going to get all misty eyed over flea bag motels, rip off tourist traps, "indian" trading posts, and route 66?

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#9
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/03/2019 11:00 AM

Yes.

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#12
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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/03/2019 3:32 PM

Yes! That's Americana at it's best!

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#8

Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/03/2019 10:30 AM

1. The mom & pop cafe's ( as my wife calls them ) where you could sit down in a place that was almost as comfortable as being home. That served food that was cooked hot off the grill, not produced and packaged 6 months prior in some far away factory.

2. All of the little bric a brac shops where you could find all sorts goodies you remember from grandma's attic.

3. The road side fruit and vegetable stands, ( I remember stopping at one just north of Fresno, where I bought juicy peaches the size of large grapefruit ) .

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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/03/2019 11:13 AM

In Australia they have done the opposite.

We still have all the ads, but they have made the freeways impossible to escape from, except at designated exit points. They are fenced in armco, and if you stop at one of the designated bays, a very officious person will turn up within minutes, offering to tow you away.

Meooww?....Marum.(Die verblüfft Katze)

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Re: Open Diff – What Don’t You See on American Highways Anymore?

04/03/2019 3:36 PM

Mom & pop cafe's! Wow, they were something, weren't they! A short order cook grilling up big, juicy burgers! A slice of home made apple pie for dessert! And a bottle of Coke from the cooler! All for a couple buck!

That's what we need!

There's still the roadside stands on Hwy 126 between Santa Paula and Filmore. A box (yes a box) of sweet, juicy oranges for $5 - $10!

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