That's Something You Don't See Every Day, Chauncey

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Gone Walkabout, Day Three: In Which The Road Begins To Take A Toll

Posted by kozemp on December 13, 2009

Okay, so, last night. Yesterday was a short driving day, only about 250 miles from St. Louis to Kansas City, but all the same after dinner last night I was dead tired.

And I mean DEAD tired. I sat down to start writing up the story of the road yesterday and I just couldn’t stay awake. You know that thing you do in a meeting, where you’re really tired and you have to keep your eyes open and look like you’re paying attention, but you also have to keep your head up even though it feels like there’s a brick taped to your forehead? That’s what I was doing last night, and eventually I realized if I actually fell asleep at my laptop and let my head go all the way down the laptop would probably lose. So yesterday got put off until today.

Tonight, unfortunately, I find myself also pretty tired. Not too tired to get this stuff out there, mind you, but a little too tired to whip up a complete narrative on two days. So today we’re going to do yesterday with a series of short vignettes (mainly to see if I can do “short,” I’m guessing no) and hopefully tomorrow we’ll get to cover today.

So, to wit:

– The drive from St. Louis to Kansas City, while short, is not nearly as boring as the stretch from Columbus to St. Louis. There is much in the way of actual geography between the two cities.

It's still better than Illinois.

Admittedly not a LOT of geography, but there’s at least an elevation change you can clearly see here.

– No wacky stuff on trucks yesterday, but we did get some quality wacky sign action. First there was this guy:

I saw that and I was like, well, that’s certainly a definitive statement on the subject.

What I didn’t know at the time was that it really WASN’T a definitive statement. “Jesus is real” merely sets up the pins. This bad boy knocks them down:

The second picture is so bad because I wasn’t prepared to take it – I didn’t realize the first was part of a series and that the continuation would come so quickly. You would think that folks of the sort to spend what has to be significant dollars advertising¬† on a major interstate would have the presence of mind to alert you to the fact that there are multiple signs and that they are related. Next time, in addition to “Jesus Is Real” or whatever message you choose to impart, put something like “Sign 1 of 3” at the bottom right corner so we know to keep our eyes peeled for the rest of the message. (Though I would be willing to hazard a guess the rest of the message is not something like “and everything is nice.”)

– Something I caught twice on the road but was never able to get pictures of: actual sheepdogs. Like, big herds of sheep with a couple dogs running along with them. I’m not really the sort of person to say that things are “cute,” but even I will admit that those came close.

– The signs for road numbers in Missouri, like in Ohio, are shaped like Missouri. This is the bad kind of “cute” and part of the reason I don’t really define things as “cute” that often: “cute” usually means annoying. I don’t know why but the whole “signs shaped like states” thing annoys the hell out of me. Missouri, though, adds a twist to it: whereas in Ohio, if the road number doesn’t fit inside their little Ohio decal, they reduce the font a little bit to compensate, in Missouri they just WIDEN MISSOURI. Now most of the time you wouldn’t notice this except for when you get one exit with two numbered highways on it and the sign (which I repeatedly tried and failed to get pictures of) has two Missouris of different widths on them.

I wish I was at the highway planning meeting when these were designed.

Highway Commissioner #1: “Okay, we’re going to go with the Missouri-shaped highway signs?”

Highway Commissioner #2: “Yeah, they’re cute.”

Highway Commissioner #3: “Uh, guys, the number decals we bought, we can only fit two of them on the Missouri signs.”

Highway Commissioner #2: “That’s fine, we’ll just get some other, smaller decals.”

Highway Commissioner #3: “We spent 114 million dollars on THESE decals.”

Highway Commissioner #1: “Okay, so how about we just widen Missouri on the signs with three numbers? No one will notice.”

Highway Commissioner#2: “Yeah, that’s still cute.”

– Continuing our wacky sign theme, you know those LCD warning signs that there are, like, two of back home? One on 95 at Allegheny and another one at Broad? Okay, once you get out into the Midwest they’re fucking everywhere, and unlike the ones we have that are never on, these things are fountains of useful information out here. My favorite is the list of upcoming exits and how long it will take you to get to each of them. Genius, that.

However, once you hit St. Louis on I-70, and for a solid 20 miles thereafter, the warning signs say:

“Interstate 64 Now Open. Completed As Promised.”

Does MissouriDOT just blithely promise to build highways and then not come through so often that the populace has become jaded and mistrusting? Maybe it’s a “Show Me State” kind of thing, but as I have long maintained on that particular subject: fuck you, Missouri.

– My entry into Kansas yesterday at approximately 2:59PM increased the number of US States I have been in to 35.

– I am not actually staying in Kansas City. I am staying just south of Kansas City in Overland Park, KS, which has been voted one of the 10 nicest places to live in the US. And it is quite nice, if you like shopping.

When I arrived at my hotel, one of the questions the staff asked me was “are you here for shopping?” I thought it a bit odd at the time and said “no, I’m here for a basketball game.”

Then I drove around Overland Park a bit.

Understand something if you’ve never been to a city out in the Midwest: what we of an eastern extraction think of as “suburban sprawl” is pissant shit compared to out here. My hotel here in Overland Park is on Metcalf Street, which I think is sort of the main drag. I have now driven 10 miles of it and it is NOTHING BUT STRIP MALLS AND CAR DEALERSHIPS. NOTHING. I’ve ventured off Metcalf a bit when I needed to pick up some supplies – again, nothing but shopping centers and office buildings. I’ve covered large stretches of Overland Park the last 30 hours or so and I haven’t seen so much as a single house. There are CARS everywhere, and people in them, and people shopping in these places, but I’ll be goddamned if I can figure out where any of them fucking LIVE.

Back home we complain about “suburban sprawl” when someone puts up a Best Buy on a vacant lot. You have no idea how good we have it. You have no idea what suburban sprawl really is: it is FRIGHTENING. We’re lucky that there is enough pre-existing population density to keep our hometown from ever looking like this, and thank god for that. The next time you hear someone complain about suburban sprawl in Holland Township or whereever, ask them if they’ve ever actually seen an area the size of Bucks County given over to nothing but commercial real estate, and then kick them in the junk. They have no idea what they’re talking about.

– Unfortunately, it has turned out that spending 8 hours a day in my car does quite the number on my back, and through my back my leg. Originally my plan was to head south from here, to hit San Antonio for a bit and then New Orleans on my way back home. It doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

The problem is that going south from here means six more days of driving, and I don’t think I’m up for that at this point. Driving this much is causing me to take my daily max of Vicodin, which is bad for two reasons:

1) Vicodin is delivered with Tylenol, and there is a limit to how much Tylenol you can take in a day before it starts to, you know, kill you.

2) At my current consumption rate I do not have enough Vicodin to last six days.

You may note that “getting addicted to Vicodin” is not an issue here. I have asked three different doctors if I should be worried about this and they all said no. One of them actually laughed and said “you’ve been watching too much House.” And they’re probably right – as someone who has taken other, much more powerful, narcotic painkillers, Vicodin isn’t that great. Getting addicted to Vicodin would be like getting addicted to Bud Light. Why even bother?

Anyway, instead of heading south I will be heading back home tomorrow. I’m getting the procedure done on my back in like two weeks, by which time I should hopefully be able to do all the driving I want, and it’s not like San Antonio or New Orleans are going to go anywhere anytime soon (well, San Antonio won’t at least). Instead of just heading back the way I came, though, which would be incredibly boring, I am returning by way of Chicago, and then Cleveland. This not only affords me the chance to see and drive through areas I never have, the time spent tomorrow in Iowa will increase my state count to 36.

It’s weird, the things that make me happy.

Tomorrow: Iowa and Chicago, where I will Titan up.

JLK

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2 Responses to “Gone Walkabout, Day Three: In Which The Road Begins To Take A Toll”

  1. slerock said

    If you’re going back home via I-80/90, you GOTTA dip your traveling toe in Michigan, if nothing else to cross it off “the list.” Hit Battle Creek, MI and get some cereal at the “Breakfast Capital of the World!”

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