The Meanderthals

Sign of the Times…Or Time to Sign Out?

Tomorrow it will be three weeks since we hit the road in our trusty steed to explore the wilderness and learn more about the vast expanse of this country.

So far, as I write from beautiful Santa Fe, New Mexico, we have logged 4,702 miles and have many more to go before we even think of stopping.

As we wend our way across the states, not only are we learning about the country, but we’re also continually discovering things about ourselves – and becoming more and more tuned in to what we like and what we don’t.

For instance, we don’t like seeing chain stores. Or fast food places. Or shopping malls.

We don’t like feeling like we are in Anytown, USA where signs abound for McDonald’s, KFC, Taco Bell, The Limited, Best Buy and Borders.

We don’t like pulling into a town that has traffic, rush hour, congestion and hordes of people rushing to get anywhere.

We like to see Personality. Places that are run-down and boarded –up can be just fine if they feel as though they have a photo to offer or the opportunity to discover a quirky character behind the dusty old facade (like the woman in Rich Mountain Country Store in Arkansas who showed us her pet squirrel and proceeded to feed it nuts as we observed with amusement).

We also like to see Strange. Like the Showboat Car Wash near St. Augustine, Fla (yes, it did look like a showboat) or the floating bible in a store in North Carolina (where the owner told us she has 13 and 17 year-old-grandchildren, one great grand-child and a 13-yea- old son).

And we like signs.

Not the neon signs that invite to stay at the Howard Johnson or Holiday Inn. But the signs that spell “character” and make us realize we’re in a different part of the world.

For instance, there’s the one which read “Strip Karaoke” in Hot Springs, Ark. And “Stuff It Taxidermy” in the far west of the Texas panhandle.

Then there was “Paradise Motel – Sorry: Vacancy” in the ghost town of Tucumcari, NM on Route 66, and the street sign alongside the Louisiana Dept of Corrections which read “Do Not Pick Up Passengers”.

Or how about the one on the highway in Texas which read “Maximum Allowed Speed for Manufactured Houses and Buses: 55mph. All Other Vehicles 70mph.”. And the strange sign outside McLester, OK, which read “Do Not Drive Into Smoke”.

We’ve included some photos so you can see for yourselves.

There are two which really stand out in our memories.

The best so far is the sign Skip spotted after we’d had lunch in Poteau, OK which read “Pansy Kidd Middle School”. That one we’ll never forget!

For me, it might just rank up there with the sign at the French bakery we visited this morning: “Pastries Made with Real Butter and Baked Fresh Daily”.


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