Diners, road trips, and sunbleached maps in the glove compartment

By Steve Cichon
steve@buffalostories.com
@stevebuffalo

I first stumbled on this diner driving the back roads to Washington DC as a high school kid, and I have the same feeling for the Miss Worcester Diner in Worcester MA— which I found on my way to Boston as a teenager.
The Diner in Wellsboro, PA is my all-time favorite diner. I am genuinely excited, but I think Monica is mocking me. Hahaha
In both cases, I pulled out my giant road atlas, and created my own routes with little more to go on than little numbers pasted on top of colored lines criss-crossing the wide open country between where I was and where I was heading.
The place is on Route 6, and to stay on the route, you have to make a left hand turn which puts you right in front of the diner. It’s about 3 hours out of Buffalo, and the perfect spot for a break.
I was so excited to find an actual diner car diner– but then was just beside myself when the food was great, too.
My preference was always for state roads and US highways over interstates. I’d the back roads with the hopes of finding great places like this one in those dark pre-Internet days, but there was never a guarantee, which made turning a seven hour trip into an 11 hour one tough when you wound up eating at McDonald’s anyway a lot of the time.
But that really was part of the fun for me. There’s no more serendipity in road trips, mostly because it’s so much easier to plan a trip that’s as fast as possible and hits plenty of neat stuff along the way, too.
Planning a road trip 2018 style, with Google searches for “Pennsylvia diners” and “Donut shops near Harrisburg,” and then having perfect turn-by-turn directions spit out by a smart phone app is wonderful, and I wouldn’t give it up.
But it just can’t replace the wonderful feeling of hitting the open road, and hoping to stumble into some great place to grab breakfast or a meatloaf dinner along the way, and spreading open that map as the waitress fills your second cup of coffee, and maybe gives you an idea about a good place to stop a few hours down the road.
You can do all that now, but it feels antiquated and forced with so many better options. I liked when it was the best option.
And my 25 year love affair with the Wellsboro Diner is a reminder of my discovery of how amazing a road trip– and life–can be, when you leave room for magic.