They may be united, but these states couldn’t be any more different. Some may be red or blue, but many are pink, orange, green, yellow, and a few are very gray. Some take great pride in their states, and one in particular thinks it is the greatest place on earth. I know states can’t think, but personification is a tool I like to use like alliteration, alimony, and allspice.
One way to judge the appeal of a state is by its trailer parks – at least those you can see from the Eisenhower Interstate System. Did you know President Eisenhower was the only one born in Texas? Pennsylvania and Ohio have the most uniform and beautiful trailer parks I saw. I imagine a bunch of white trash Stepford Wives living in them. All are set on angles, spaced evenly with car ports, and every one is the same model from the same manufacturer. Palm Springs trailer parks are the only ones you can truly call trailer parks. When you pull in, you realize where Tracy and Nicky parked their long, long trailer in 1954. At first glance, you see Mid-Century Modern color schemes then you notice that the bump-outs and porches are attached to actual trailers which were towed by Mercurys and Hudsons in the 1950s. The trailer parks in South Dakota and Wyoming were dreadful. They were a mish-mash of trailers, RVs, campers and the occasional manufactured home set willy-nilly on large, dry parcels of land. I was ashamed to call myself trailer park trash, but these are the parks that give us our reputation.
Another thing I noticed about Wyoming. No one bathes there. Every time I stopped for gas or coffee, some guy with black teeth, dirty fingernails and a ripped T-shirt was working the cash register. I was careful not to touch any surfaces. However, they were very polite.
Nevada was the curious state. It was the only place where people commented on my license plates. “You are a long way from home.” I heard that a dozen times. For a state where every billboard tells you that you will win thousands of dollars playing slots at Walgreen’s, there were a lot of poor people.
Another way to judge a state is by the way they handle construction. Along the northern route, I relayed before how professionally they handled miles-long construction projects without any interruption to the flow of traffic. The southern route is another story. Let’s take Illinois, a state that gave us Lincoln and Obama. Once you cross into the land of Lincoln, you stop – literally. For three hours. Literally. Three hours. This was mid-afternoon on a Friday. The problem was bridge construction where three highways meet. The signage indicated that two lanes would become one. Apparently, two lanes became none. Once we started moving, everyone got up to speed for about two miles, until the same thing happened again. Then again. Kentucky, reduces everything to one lane from the left, then opens it up for a mile, then from the right, then opens it up for a mile, then the left again. You are given twenty-five feet of warning before merging begins again. I think the person in charge of construction does this because he likes watching people go 70 mph then slam on their brakes. One trucker actually got annoyed and blocked the lane that was merging, so traffic wouldn’t be further impeded by those wanting to get as far in front as possible. They say that if you hit a highway worker, you will go to jail for 30 years – they have signs indicating this. But, I think if you hit the guy who came up with the method of diverting traffic through construction in Kentucky, they will build a statue in your honor.
Speaking of which, are all highways in the middle of America only two lanes in each direction? The good news is everyone knows it is cruise on the right, and only pass on the left … until you cross into Virginia. I was born in Virginia, and I can say that Virginians are the worst drivers in the country with Marylanders coming in a close second. In DC, they aren’t drivers, just idiots. In Virginia, they do not understand the concept of the two-lane highway. They go over the speed limit on the right and 5 mph below on the left. If you are passing someone, they ride your tail until you complete your maneuver. And another thing you will notice about Virginia drivers – they pick their noses and text while driving. All of them. Seriously, everyone was elbows deep into their own sinus cavities while sending messages. Never borrow a Virginian’s phone. Ever.
The most annoying part of the drive was California, but don’t tell a Californian. All those earthquakes, mudslides, fires and Lindsay Lohan trials make them very sensitive. When you are on the I-80 crossing over the border, you begin the most treacherous journey of your life through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The posted speed limit is 65 mph, but you will be going 75 mph and 45 mph and 75 mph and 45 mph on S-curve after S-curve until you do the one thing they say a driver could never do – make yourself car sick. As if that wasn’t bad enough, on the way down from Upper Lake, California, after my retreat, there was an accident, so Gladys (my GPS, whom I argued with for two weeks), sent me on a different mountain road with a posted speed of 20 mph and rightfully so. The S-curves were so tight that it was like driving a space ship. Shit was flying all over my truck. I was hit in the head by a jar of Tang. The GPS bean bag would slide to one side, then the other, then the other.
After all that, I was diverted again right into the longest traffic jam I ever saw. While trying to merge into traffic, I noticed something you don’t see in my parts. People do not let you in at all. So, you have to force yourself in then they flip you off. Now, I know why drivers shoot each other in the loony state. I experienced this all the way down the state, and a sensitive Californian took umbrage at my generalization of Californian drivers explaining that only northern Californians drive like that. Last time I checked, Los Angeles was in southern California, and I had my share of similar experiences there, but again, I was insensitive. No wonder California is the rehab capital of the world.
California is also the home of Palm Springs, which according to its citizens is the greatest place on earth. All other places on earth are third-world countries with Sally Struthers standing in a mud pit wearing a fur coat and complaining about the flies and heat.
They say it is a dry heat in Palm Springs. Bull shit. Heat is heat. I actually saw an old Gay man, waiting for a cross walk, melt into the sidewalk and disappear into a puddle of bronzer and Lipitor. All that was left was a straw hat and his artificial hip. You can’t drive a convertible there unless you have Teflon seats. I lived in south Florida for five years. The temperature never made it above 95, and we had a breeze. In Palm Springs, it was 108 (by the way, that is the setting I use for a Lean Cuisine), and you have these strong, hot winds, much like an evening in my trailer after a meal of Indian food. Then I would hear, “Oh, but you have humidity in Florida.” You still sweat and stink; it just evaporates faster in Palm Springs. And, speaking of which. I have been there twice; where are the fucking springs? They have these misters, which fog up your glasses, but I didn’t see any springs. Also, what is with all the privacy fences? Everyone lives in a compound, even the trailer park people. I was told I was looking at Cary Grant’s house. All I saw was a gate with a CG on it. It could have been Carole Goosby’s house for all I knew. Who is Carole Goosby? My point exactly.
My friends want me to move there. Would you believe I am considering it? But, if I do, I am going to have the most open house with no window coverings just to freak everyone out. I am also going to say hello to all my neighbors. Do they make a sunscreen with an SPF of 236?
On the way home, I drove through Naziland – Arizona, where if you have a tan, which I do, you are careful never to stop, and you always have your citizenship papers on hand. They have a wrinkled, old bitter governor who is in love with the sheriff of Maricopa County, who only likes white people. So, why is she living in a state that borders Mexico? That is like moving to Tel Aviv and declaring you don’t like Jews.
From there, I drove through my favorite state, New Mexico, the most beautiful state. The scenery is breathtaking. New Mexico is the nation’s meth capital, according to all the billboards. No wonder the colors are so vibrant there. In addition, New Mexico gave us Vivian Vance. Therefore, I have nothing negative to say about New Mexico.
But, cross the next border, and you enter another country – literally. Good ole Texas. They want to secede from the union. I say let them.
Up to that point, I stayed in the right lane with the cruise set at 4 mph over the posted limit because where I am from, they will only pull you over if you are going 10 mph over. There I was in the right lane, going steady with all the traffic in front of and behind me and people passing me as if I were standing still, when I spotted a state trooper driving in the passing lane. He would pause by each car, and then it was my turn. Now, as I said, the cruise was set at 4 mph over the limit, and everyone else was driving at that speed. He hovered beside me for about 30 seconds, flashed his lights and pulled me over. Usually, one gets nervous in these situations, and I have never, I mean never, been pulled over in 35 years of driving. I knew this was bull shit.
What was my offense? DWJ, DWG, or DWTPT? I have a Black friend with a very expensive car, who won’t drive in Virginia because he gets pulled over for DWB all the time. I always thought driving an American pick-up truck with no identifying stickers would make me immune to harassment.
He walked up to the passenger window, which I reached over and rolled down (I know he wondered why I had no electric windows), and he said, “You are driving in excess of our posted speed limit. License and registration, please.”
While I was retrieving the documents, he asked me, “How do you like that GPS stand?”
Seriously, we are going to have a conversation? I responded that I liked it. He then asked me to step out of the vehicle and sit in his car. He commented on the size of the body bag luggage carrier and while walking over to the car, he asked if I had any weapons then turned his back to me. Ummm, if you wondered about a weapon, why would you turn your back to me?
I sat up front, and he asked me all kinds of questions including, “Where are you going?” “What do you do for a living?” “What do you write?” “How do you like your truck?” “How often do you work out?” With the last question, I was beginning to wonder what this was really about. He turned out to be an OK guy, who seemed to feel a little bad that he harassed me for being from Maryland since I gave him no grief and answered his probing questions politely. He let me off with a warning, and I didn’t have to blow him. A win-win for everyone.
As I continued on my journey, I noticed that everyone who was pulled over in Texas had “foreign” plates. Wouldn’t it be more prudent to pursue actual criminals than a Gay Trailer Park Jew in a pick-up truck with a nifty GPS, Maryland tags and smokin body?
For the remainder of the trip, I drove the posted speed limit, until I reached Maryland, where driving is a contact sport.
Although I joke, I met very nice people everywhere I went, the hygienically challenged in Wyoming, the paranoid snobs of southern California, the clean and helpful people of Minnesota, the friendly slow people of Tennessee, and even the nosy state trooper in Texas.
If you had to perform favors to get out of a ticket, follow me, get on my email list, buy my books at www.miltonstern.com.