John Sandford, Naked Prey (2003)
The thing that made travelling across the land [northern Minnesota] so strange, Lucas [Davenport] realized, was that you did nothing: you simply sat in the car and time passed. Driving almost anywhere else, the road moved: you went up and down hills and around curves and past houses, speed zones came and went, cars and trucks went by, and something new was always popping up. Out here, the road was dead straight, with hardly anything on it, or at the sides. Rather than whipping around a curve over the crest of a hill, and finding a town tucked away, surprising you, here the towns came up as a slowly growing lump on the horizon; you could see them, it seemed, for hours before you arrived.
Small towns, [Lucas]’d realized a long time ago, were a little like spaceships, or ordinary ships, for that matter – they generally had to have one of everything: one McDonald’s or Burger King (couldn’t support one of each), a department store, a quick oil change, a hardware store, a feed store, a satellite-TV outlet, a bar or two. Everything needed for survival. Armstrong was like that, a lifeboat, one of everything necessary for life, all packaged in yellow-brick and red-brick two-story buildings. About one in four of the storefronts was empty, and the owners hadn’t bothered to put “For Rent” signs in the windows.
These are great pieces of description (happy to be reading detective stories again). I haven’t any photos that could remotely be considered to expand on them; but I do have a photo of McDonald’s.