I think that because I was born in California and grew up here, I am used to driving around California and the west rather than flying. It seems much more reasonable to me to just drive to LA, for example, than to fly there and then rent a car (getting around by Public Transportation or Taxi would be inconceivable). The downside is that, once one leaves the Bay Area and until one gets to the next real urban area (that would probably be Chicago – going east), there are no interesting, fast, places to eat.
Finding an interesting place to eat in the American Outback is almost impossible. The choice is between stopping at a known fast food place like Carl's Jr. or an unknown authentic local place like the Jerk Water Cafe. There are a few exceptions: Doe's Eat Place in Greenville, Mississippi, was a lucky find, or the long gone Nut Tree in Vacaville, and ….The Mobile Station on Hyway 395.
The Mobile Station is slightly uphill from where Highway 120 hits Highway 395 on the eastern side of Yosemite's Tioga Pass and it overlooks Mono Lake,
otherwise, it looks just like any other gas station in the boondocks,
selling – maybe – slightly better junk than most gas stations.
But, inside is the Whoe Nellie Deli
which is a very fun cafe (Café – really) serving such things as actual Espressos and Smoked Trout on a Bagel; as well as the usual bacon and eggs for breakfast. For lunch or dinner, there are – among lots of other choices – Fish Tacos, or a Chicken Caesar Salad Wrap, or Wild Buffalo Meatloaf, or Lobster Taquitos, or St. Louis Style Ribs. And all of it is good.
It is well worth going out of your way (but probably not worth the five hour drive from Reno or San Francisco, or the seven hour drive from Los Angeles).