Question for Rural Drivers

One of the things I’ve found most educational to me since I joined the community,
is the exposure I’ve gotten here to folks of various backgrounds and lifestyles. I’ve only lived in either an urban (New York City) or suburban (New Jersey) environment, so I’m hoping those of you living in more rural locations can provide me with some insight. I flew from Philadelphia to the Pacific Northwest for the recent holiday. Once we were west of Chicago, I noted that we would occasionally pass a small town, clearly delineated by the lights being on, connected to the next small town by an unlit, two lane road, stretching for perhaps hundreds of miles. As it got dark, I would occasionally see a car on one of those desolate, unlit roads. I thought to myself how critical it is to have a cell phone and an AAA card when driving on those roads. Then I asked myself if AAA even provided road service in these areas and if there’s even cell phone service. I concluded that if I were forced to live in such an area, I’d be afraid to leave my house at night. How do those of you that live in such areas do it?

Lived in the boonies for many years before cellphones. Never had any serious problems with breakdowns etc… It was a different day, see someone stranded, stop and see if they need help was the norm, in my neck of the woods in Southern IL. Cell coverage is adequate for all the places I go, no more stopping to see what I can do for stranded vehicles though. Did have a blowout on my triumph cycle, bud with a bmw cycle and I and 2 passengers sitting along side the road maybe 20 miles out of Louisville. Guy stops, says he is an alderman and has a towing company that owed him a few favors. They towed out a pickup truck, loaded the bike in it, took it to some people in Louisville my buds girlfriend knew and would not accept a dime. I helped out people also, run to the gas station for gas if needed, or head into town and call or ask someone call for a towtruck if needed. Gas stations back then had loaner gas cans!


Only if you get the most expensive level.

Never had the most expensive level I do not believe. 100 mile towing, 40 miles out of Elk River in MN, no problem. Sat afternoon of course, towed us to a place that worked on Sundays. Walked up to a nearby business and called for a tow. Flat and broken stud, AAA broke 2 more than towed us.

Good grief you coasties are so sheltered from real life! We have cell service in the flyover states. We have tow trucks and service garages. We have stores that sell the same things you buy. Restaurants, coffee shops, bars, everything. We have everything you have in New York or California. A lot less crowded and quite a bit less crime, maybe a few more cows and a lot more wheat and corn.

Drive across this great country sometime and experience it for yourself. You’ll see some great towns, meet some great people… many of whom will bend over backwards to help you if you need it. Even at night.


You know that old saying what you don’t know can’t hurt you. That is all we knew growing up [ think Appalachia ] because we didn’t know about the outside world till we became of age and left home we knew through books TV and newspapers that there was big city’s when I left home I wanted to see what the big city was like I went saw didn’t like and left

That would be me if I was in the situation of having to live in the big city.


I used to live way out. I carried a bunch of tools and spare parts with me. I helped others more than myself. I think AAA serves all paved public roads. I helped a guy who needed more help that I could give him. He thought AAA was going to tow his car back to LA, some 400 miles. I told him he was crazy, that they were going to tow it to the nearest town. He was disappointed.

The whole country used to lack cellphone service.

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Not only that but I have been told the west was settled without refrigerator’s and Microwave’s but that can’t be right :wink: .


Is this the first time you have traveled to the west coast, or seen how much of the Plains and Rockies are isolated areas?

My aunt left the big towns and married a farmer in Eastern Montana. As a boy growing up (70’s and 80’s) I was sent to the farm for the summer to learn how to work and see what country living was like. The farm was 14 miles of gravel road away from the nearest gas station/post office/general store, and the “town” had a population of 145. The phone was a party line until the mid 80’s.

My older brother and sister were raised by my aunt from an early age. One winter my brother was ill, had a fever for 3 days and it was time to take him to the doctor. Of course it was during a blowing snowstorm. The nearest doctor was in Billings, and it took my aunt over 3 hours to make the 48 mile drive. It’s just part of life.

It’s not unusual to be 20 miles away from the nearest anything. Your car always has some water, blankets, hand tools, spare tire and jack, etc. If you’re on the road and see a car pulled over, you stop too. If you see smoke you go check it out. You wave at every car you encounter and you know who lives down every dirt road.

You also never lock your front door because someone might need to come in. You leave the keys in your cars and trucks because someone might need to borrow one. If you come back from a day in town and the bucket loader is gone, you don’t think someone stole it. You wait for whoever borrowed it to bring it back. It’s not a bad life, just different.


I grew up in Rural NY…and it was before Cell Phones. Cell phones make life a lot easier, but living without one isn’t impossible.

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That is the way ii is at my house today I can’t remember the last time my doors were locked.

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It’s called neighbors helping neighbors. Walk to the nearest farm and help will be given. Being stalled on the road in the middle of nowhere though in the winter can mean death and everyone knows that and stops.

Sure, drive across the great US of A and have a look, but please don’t stay. We like it the way it is.

I never really had any trouble but one cold night my BIL was returning to Pierre in the middle of SD Sunday night. Car stalled. Car stopped. Called the owner of a local shop who put in a new thing a magig in the distributor. On their way again. Probably would have been invited for dinner if the timing was right. People in SD even wave at you when you pass them on the highway.


Same in my area.

No, this was the third trip to the Pacific Northwest, but the first time I stayed awake to look out the window of the plane and contemplate the vast expanded of vacant land below.

Have you ever thought about driving across the country to get a feel of how big it actually is then think back to the days of the covered wagons and the hardship’s they endured.


I grew up in a small town near the NY /PA border in one of the 6 counties that are considered part of Appalachia. Life was different there, lower paced and nicer. They did not get dial telephones until the late 60s. If you went to visit someone, you knocked on their door. If no one answered, you stuck your head in the door and yelled “Yoo hoo, anybody home?” If they weren’t, you went in and looked for pencil and paper to leave them a note.

When my children were ranging from 10 down we drove to that town to visit my great aunt o hosted Thanksgiving dinner for years. My grandmother hosted Christmas eve.
Kid get Restless visiting an old lady so I took the three younger ones for a walk around the block. A man was weeding his front lawn. I stopped and we chatted briefly and after we resumed our walk, my kids asked me how long I had known him. This puzzled our kids and I explained that it would have been rude to pass a few feet in front of him without saying anything. I had told him we were visiting my great aunt and of course he knew her and that put u in context for him. We were no longer “city people”.

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P. J. O’Rourke in his book driving like crazy tells the story of driving a then 20yr old Buick from Florida to Los Angeles for a friend. He and a buddy took off with no real tool kit and a cooler full of beer. Every small town they broke down in someone had “one just like it” and offered some sort of fix. 1956 Buick that had been in a barn until the night before they picked it up.

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@old_mopar_guy I think there are parts of the country that are more remote than where I live now, but I do relate to elements of what you’re saying. Much of it boils down to you know and like what you’re used to. Lots of my new colleagues and acquaintances have said versions of what @Mustangman said—basically, if they lived where I lived in NYC, they’d never come outside at night, whereas I’m careful when I’m out too late now. I developed the confidence when I was living in the city that if something happened, as hustly and at times brusque as city people were, if somebody needed help, people almost always noticed. And I helped, too, because it’s just what you do and rarely makes news.

I commute about 50 miles each direction, and there are long stretches with no cell service, and sometimes roads aren’t paved and the state roads have stretches without homes or open businesses. (And the speed limits are awfully high for the curviness of the roads, but that’s another story.) But I’m more convinced it’s what one is used to, because last winter I zipped up and down to work with nary a thought. (“I maintain my car! I drive responsibly!”) A year later, I find I’m more wary because I know what I didn’t know, and I’m aware of significant knowledge gaps. (Yes, I need to fix them, and I take responsibility for that.) The other factor is that I’ve noticed the prevalence of drunk driving reports (and sadly, deaths), many of which happen at later hours. It’s a human tendency to fill in a vague scenario with negative outcomes, mostly because you want to prepare yourself for the worst. I don’t assume badly of the people around; I’m mostly worried there aren’t any people around!


Living in central Oregon for 37 years, no cell service is the norm once out of town. 100+ miles between gas stations and vast tracts of desert sage. Beautiful! It’s one of the main reasons I live here. Nothing like getting out on the motorcycle or quad and not seeing another person all day. There are always other people on rural highways, maybe 1 vehicle per hour but they would surely stop to help in the event of a break down. It could be weeks until another person comes by when off the main roads so be prepared with a reliable vehicle and everything you need to survive for a few days. A personal locator beacon or a satellite communication device could be carried also.

There are a lot of areas in this country that don’t have Cell coverage. Where I live we can only get Verizon. No coverage from the other companies.

Many areas in South America are just now getting phone service. No land-line service. Too expensive to install. Easier and cheaper to install cell towers then running land lines all over the place.