Mad Dog on the Road, Part V: The Best and Worst of America

There's nothing like driving 4,694 miles in four weeks to make you think you've seen everything. But America's a big country. In order to see it all you'd have to drive at least 4,873 miles. Or watch the Discovery Channel non-stop until your eyes started bleeding, at which time it might be a good idea to try to find that remote you lost last November so you can switch to ER and find out what George Clooney would do about hemorrhaging eyes. Besides strike another beefcake pose for the Doctors of Hollywood calendar.Among the things I did manage to see was the cinnamon bun in Nashville that looks like Mother Theresa. I also saw the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksburg, Mississippi. I saw the Alamo, Carlsbad Caverns and the most sparkly place on earth, the Liberace Museum. Along the way I discovered that virtually every hotel now offers a free continental breakfast, which sounds great until you find out it usually consists of fluffy glazed doughnuts and weak coffee, making it obvious the continent they're referring to isn't Europe, but North America.Speaking of doughnuts (or as they're more commonly spelled on the west coast, donuts), it's interesting that Los Angeles -- the health capital of the free world -- is home to more doughnut/donut shops than any city this side of Krispy Kreme, Arkansas. It's true. Any block in the Los Angeles metropolitan area (which for our purposes includes any area west of the Mississippi River where the air is darker than the pavement) which doesn't have at least two donut shops is legally eligible for federal aid as a depressed area. As if that's not enough to make you pack up your gas mask and move there, Los Angeles is also the king of the multiple-personality food store, as typified by the abundance of Chinese restaurants/donut shops, the dining choice of table tennis champions everywhere.The most popular name for Chinese restaurants in this country is the Golden Dragon, there's one in virtually every town. The most common street name, other than "You Are Here" -- which I saw on publicly posted maps all over the country -- is Martin Luther King, Jr., usually as a Boulevard. The weirdest street name I saw was off Rt. 15 near Baker, California: XXYZX Road. I'm convinced they named it that just so my spell checker would go nuts every time I ran this article through it. It does.I saw fences along every mile of every road, no matter how small, how isolated, or how infinitesimal the chance that anyone would ever want to step on that barren land except to relieve themselves since rest stops don't exist along secondary roads. And I didn't see anything to indicate who put the fences there or why. There were way too many RVs on the road, especially the ones towing a car behind them. Wouldn't it be easier, and save on gas, if they just carried a spare tire like every other vehicle?There were too many casinos, too many people using video cameras instead of looking with their own eyes, and too many hot tamale stands all through the Mississippi delta, a phenomenon no one could explain to me. I heard a Tejano version of "The Banana-Boat Song" (better known as "Day-O") which would have made Harry Belafonte smile, ate the World's Best Hot Dog in Somerset, Kentucky (which it wasn't), and am proud to say that I drove 2,500 miles before I leaned out the window and mooed at a cow for the first time. That poor herd in Ft Stockton, TX will never be the same. A few more prizes: The most historical stretch of road is the longest intact section of Rt. 66, between Seligman and Kingman, Arizona. The most boring stretch of road is, unfortunately, that same 75 miles. The highest fine for driving in a carpool lane seems to be $271 in LA (where that odd amount came from is beyond me), while the lowest number of occupants necessary to be able to ride in a carpool lane is also in LA: two.But for all I saw in my travels, there were a lot of things I didn't get to see. I didn't see any bluegrass in Kentucky. I didn't hear any either. I didn't see many personalized vanity license plates between Virginia and California, though I was happy to see that in Louisiana they label the plates as "personalized" in case you can't figure it out on your own. I didn't see a single armadillo, dead or alive, though to be honest a couple of those road pizzas could have been one for all I could tell. I didn't see the Dental Floss Museum, the World's Largest Dryer Lint Sculpture, my fantasy hitchhiker or Elvis. I also didn't see saguaro cactus, any sense of sanity on Bourbon Street, or any agreement on the proper spelling of those places where you do your laundry. (I saw it spelled with every vowel known to man and sometimes ‘y', the oddest being the "Laundrimat" in Las Vegas.) I missed Pecos Bill in Texas, Monterey Jack in California, and though the park was open after all the winter flooding, I didn't see Yosemite Sam either.But I guess there's still hope. The way I figure it there are still a couple of miles of road I haven't covered in the United States. And face it, hitting the road still beats learning about it on the Discovery Channel.# # #

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