Eating in McDonald’s
Like most anyone else, I’ve done my share of McJokes about the number one burger franchise in America. The McDonald’s chain is an easy target.
There’s so much McMerchandizing of new “Mc” products along with those huge, hulking signs that used to say how many gazillion hamburgers had been sold.
And, yes, as a travel writer, I have eaten my share of McDonald’s products. Although, I like to think some cows are alive today because I switched exclusively to the fish filet some years ago.
Recently, I had an occasion to spend four tedious, weather-weary days on America’s interstates as I drove a friend’s car from St. Petersburg, Florida to Denver, Colorado.
In fact, I drove in tandem with another car headed the same way. I’ve made this same drive, either from here to there or there to here, several times in the last couple of years.
It’s a way of getting a friend’s vehicle transported cross-country while she flies with her pets.
The pay-off for me is that I get some solitary days on the road, away from phones and faxes and e-mail.
The Threatening Weather
This time, though, the weather was threatening almost the whole way.
We were driving less than two weeks after the battering of Oklahoma and Kansas by a salvo of tornadoes, and the nation’s mid-section was still in turmoil, like the skies.
On past drives, I have stopped at a variety of oases along the way, letting my hunger or my fatigue or my bladder be the determining factor.
Sometimes it was a McDonald’s, other times yet a different chain name, some I’d never seen before in my home state.
This time, though, it became almost like I imagine the original Pony Express was. Every single stop for food or drink or relief was a McDonald’s, each restaurant posted along the interstate like a relay station.
I didn’t set out with this pattern in mind. But I found that as we drove, my car in the lead, we could coordinate our stops with little communication.
Once the McDonald’s pattern was established, then it was a snap to signal that one or the other wanted to stop at its next location.
I don’t know if the McDonald’s brain trust exactly planned it this way, but the spacing of franchises up and down the interstates is a terrific marketing ploy.
The name, the golden logo, the pattern of predictable tastes and reliable restrooms all work in the chain’s favor.
The Down Sides of Motoring Across Country
Let’s face it: One of the down-sides of motoring across country, unless you’re privileged to do so in an RV, is using public bathrooms that you share with lots of strange and unknown strangers.
The McDonald’s restrooms are monitored frequently and consistently, and while it’s not quite like home, McDonald’s facilities are relatively clean.
And after each rest stop ― or as the interstate McDonald’s in Junction City, Kansas bills itself ― after each McStop, I would also buy something.
Maybe it was small, a cup of coffee, some fries, but I always left money as a token thank-you for use of the restroom.
What a smart marketing strategy. Give the public a clean restroom and get paid for it.
There is also diversity within conformity, as any McDonald’s aficionado knows. Each franchise is decorated or styled slightly different, some more than others.
One McDonald’s had a restored 1956 Ford on blocks. Another, a huge saltwater aquarium as its centerpiece, providing a distraction to kids and a respite for highway-tired eyes.
Experience Two Dozon McDonald’s
In four days of driving, I visited easily two dozen McDonald’s up through Florida, then Georgia and Tennessee and Kentucky, then left through Illinois, Missouri and Kansas, and finally, Colorado.
And when the skies were especially dark, and the clouds had those rounded bottoms that sometimes portend impending hail.
It was such a relief to see a pair of Golden Arches rising high above the tree line, bright and yellow, like a tall palm tree in an endless desert.