In our Two Lane travels, we have discovered a handful of small towns each with their own unique history and charm. (Some with fewer than 1,000 people!) We’ve gone through our travel log and compiled a list of our favorites to share with you for your next back road drive.
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Ask any local why they live in Galena, Illinois and chances are they’ll respond much like store owner Joe (a.k.a. Buzz the Drifter) Sprengelmeyer did on a recent trip we took to this picturesque town. We’re not lying when we say picturesque….this place really does look like a POSTCARD. A postcard that hasn’t changed much since its lead ore boomtown days over 150 years ago.
Galena is one of the few places left in America that’s literally been untouched, with over 85 percent of its buildings landing on the National Historic Register. You’ll find a 118-year-old blacksmith shop, authentic Italian pizza, and the longest running antique store in town, La Belle Epoque (the “beautiful days” in French, or put simply “the good ol’ days”). Mike Wolfe has been picking in this store for almost 20 years!
Fun Fact: Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent their honeymoon here in 1939. The 135 citizens of the town make their living selling handmade goods to travelers on Route 66. A must-see is the Oatman Hotel. Built in 1902, it’s the only two-story adobe structure in Mohave County and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Write your name on a dollar bill and tape it to the hotel’s restaurant wall while you wait for your homemade chili and fried bread to be served. Take in the magnificent sights of the Black Mountains and feel the freedom of the open range.
Watch out for the wild burros! They run free ’round this Old West town. These friendly little donkeys, once used for mining labor, were set free back in the 1920s after a fire shut down the mines for good. But they weren’t unemployed for long – they’re now the official Oatman Welcome Committee.
Located in the heart of Bluff Country, this quiet, artsy town of fewer than 800 people is one of the best-kept secrets in the Midwest. Lanesboro is ideal for couples looking to unplug and be in the moment without the fast and flashy distractions of modern day life. We say that upfront because upon arrival you’ll most likely find yourself sharing the road with a horse and buggy on your way to breakfast.
The charm of this place comes from the fact that the entire town seems to be frozen in time. No buzzing neon signs, traffic lights, or fast food chain here! Every inch of Lanesboro is photogenic from its position along the historic Root River to its quaint town square filled with local goods.
If small town solitude is what you and your shotgun rider crave, consider Lanesboro your lovers getaway!
This town, just about an hour south of Nashville has become one of Mike’s favorites.
You can often find him here wrenching on an old car in Columbia Motor Alley, grabbing a drink at Muletown Coffee on the historic square or a new pair of tires at Trek Bicycle Shop. The Columbia community is proud to be known as the “Mule Capital of the World” since 1817. The locals have been hosting the Mule Day parade and events annually since the 1840s and is one of the largest livestock events in the world.
Other attractions include the former home of President Polk, the century-old courthouse and the Chickasaw Trace County Park. It is a great small town destination if you are headed toward Tennessee to visit Antique Archaeology.
In 1716, the French named this place after the American Indian tribe in the area called the “Natchez”. Being the oldest city along the Mississippi River, it was recognized as the hub of the steamboat era. (As you explore the city you’ll notice the steamboat anthem throughout.)
With more than 100 structures on the National Register of Historic Places, wine tastings, browsing Antique Row, and catching mighty Mississippi River sunset at Bluff Park it’s not difficult to find something interesting while in town. Don’t leave without a bottle of muscadine hot sauce and Charboneau Rum — the first legally distilled rum produced in Mississippi.
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