Many times very small towns in the United States are described as being "nothing more than a wide spot in the road". Settlements so described fall into two distinct categories.
1. The town fallen on hard times.
There are a great many towns started with great optimism in the 19th or 20th century to service either a number of local mines or widespread farmsteads. Most mining operations last no more than a century before exhausting the veins. In many cases (especially those of precious minerals) the days of large employment fade fast leaving few jobs. Meanwhile with the advent of the automobile distances to larger cities and towns have become much easier to traverse and the small local hamlet is patronized less frequently by the isolated farmer.
2. Never really was a town.
This is usually a collection of buildings that may look like a town at first brush, but is not. Sometimes a ranch or farm will have numerous buildings collected together near a main road and this will have the appearance of a small town. Or a small strip mall will be built near a gas station to serve the tourists on a previously scenic route.
Both types are characterized by quiet and most often elderly residents attempting to get by and unholy cults and dark rituals carried out upon unsuspecting travelers forced to spend the night by car failure. Notable buildings usually include a church with a single spire topped by a cross, most often sided with white clapboard. In almost every state but Utah there is a better than even chance the minister will be of a protestant denomination. The second required building is the general store or post office, either alone or in combination. Also available are a variety of greasy spoon diners or the studio/shop of a artist inspired by the area.
See also: ghost town or village.