No matter how much you think you know about the United States, we’ll bet you don’t know as much as baby boomer Roger Clark of Valley Center, Kansas. For one thing, when you’re from a small place in the heart of the nation, it’s pretty likely you’ve spread your wings. For another thing, most people go for the big cities. Roger goes the other way. So read on, because he’s giving us a geography lesson we never knew we needed.
One of those things I inherited from my parents was a love for the road less traveled. As a result, over forty years, I’ve been through all 50 states in the U.S. of A. Along with landscapes, dialects, elevations, and spirits, every one of these regions boasts names that stir imagination.
Cellphones, GPS, and the internet have blurred out some of the names that once graced my maps, but many still exist. Come with me on a road trip. I’m leaning on the sign that says Memory Lane. I promise you’ll be back in time for dinner.
From Bird-In-Hand, Pennsylvania, to Weedpatch, California, there is no shortage of unique names. Stop in Athens, Rome, Paris, Moscow, or London, and never have your passport stamped… not even in Texas, Georgia, Tennessee, Idaho, or Kentucky. You could be carefree, in Carefree, Arizona, and face the truth, or the consequences, in Truth-Or-Consequences, New Mexico.
You could get to Paradise, in Michigan, or go to Hell, Pennsylvania, and scratch fleas on the way in Fleatown, Ohio. You might look for oil in Greasy, Oklahoma, or pancakes in Buttermilk, Kansas. But the only thing you’ll actually find in either town is the school bus stop.
If you decide to visit Austin, and trust in your GPS, you might be heading for Texas. But you also could end up in Minnesota, or Indiana, or my favorite, Nevada. It takes a long time to get to Austin, Nevada, no matter where you’re coming from, because it’s on what Life Magazine once called “The loneliest road in America.” You also could end up wanting to go to Mt. Vernon, which is not just across the Potomac from the nation’s capital but it’s also in Texas, Illinois, Missouri, Washington, Alabama, and Georgia. Then of course there’s Chillicothe, which is pronounced one way in Ohio, where they build Kenworth trucks, and another way in Missouri, where they bake sliced bread. In Illinois it’s spoken in whispers, but in Texas it’s said only with a rebel yell.
And speaking of the Lonestar state, don’t ya just love Cut-And-Shoot, which has a log cabin for City Hall, and Dimebox, a Lee County community of just 200 (as of last Friday). I doubt if you’ll find Sasquatch in Bigfoot, Texas, or breakfast in Oatmeal, Texas, (population 20), but you will get the bird in Turkey, Texas.
I don’t know if you’ll find peanut butter in Chunky, Mississippi, but you can order really good coffee at Marlin’s truckstop in Tea, South Dakota. You might feel kinda funny in Peculiar, Missouri, or bat right- handed in Left Hand, West Virginia, but never be listless in Boring, Oregon. You could be a regular guy in Ordinary, Kentucky, or humiliated in Embarrass, Wisconsin, but count your blessings in West Bountiful, Utah, and go ahead and complain about stuff in Gripe, Arizona.
Thanks to technology that guides today’s travel turn by turn, we miss whole mountains, not just city limit signs. We’re so busy on the phone, using Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, talk-to-text, and Onstar that we don’t move over, can’t see the bluebells, and won’t stop for grape stands near Cuba (Missouri).
Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.