See more travel less

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 you’ve 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.

You’re 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.

It’s 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.


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 you’re not in a hurry, friendly banter comes naturally. People love to share tidbits about themselves and their community, and when you’re 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.


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 wouldn’t have discovered the St. Mary’s Church thrift shop if you’d left town yesterday.


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 you’re not on the run.


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 there’s 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.


The socks you washed in the sink haven’t 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 you’ve renounced the idea of covering excess miles, you’re 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.


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.

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