The Meanderthals

Signs of the apocalypse?

The thing about driving on a high-speed Interstate like I 95 is that you get to go where you’re going fairly quickly. I guess that’s a good thing.

You’d think, however, than in the spirit of the backroads travelers that went before us, you’d miss a ton by spending the hours drafting 10-wheelers or dodging the errant driving habits of snowbirds returning from the winter’s roost. The idea is to see America from the small roads, the blue highways.

We have certainly seen more interesting stuff when we’re on the smaller routes. Besides that, the six impersonal lanes of I95 from Georgia to northern Florida lull a driver into a mental numbness that has to be somewhat akin to sensory deprivation, but at 75 mph. Good thing for the distractions along the way, some of which we’re trying to capture here, observed at some point since we left the Outer Banks.

The white pickup with the unfortunate license plate “WANK”, which you probably won’t appreciate unless you’re English, apparently driven by a pest control professional. We knew this from the slogan on the side of the truck: “It’s a bad day to be a bug.”

The attractive moniker, “Sanitary Restaurant and Fish Market”, which we decided to leave for other travelers to sample.

The septic tank service truck affectionately named “Honey Wagon,” apparently by someone who is either an eternal optimist or possesses a healthy sense of sarcasm.

Six barbershops within a quarter of a mile of Camp Lejeune, NC, all of which – to our mutual surprise – specialize in military haircuts.

The restaurant in Myrtle Beach named “Suck, Bang, Blow.” Didn’t see whether there were family specials on the board that day.

Buzz’s Roost Restaurant and Bar in Georgetown, SC, where we ate terrific boiled shrimp and finished our meal just in time for the evening’s karaoke show to kick off. Highlights – beyond winning $4 in the musical trivia contest – were the efforts of Mister Ed (easily 400 pounds, a beefy crooner, he), John Wayne (not kidding…his real name), who promised me personally that he was going to “let it all go” on his final Hank Williams tune, an unnamed toothless guy who could actually crank out a tune and seemed receptive to a couple of northern interlopers, and a worryingly odd Steve Buscemi lookalike whose thirst for longneck Buds made his voice worse and louder as he once again found his way to the mike, footstomping his way through one unintelligible song after another.

But the piece de resistance was the dance contest, won by an overweight young woman in a mini skirt who literally showed her stuff as she won the coveted t-shirt dance-off skirt down. Yikes. Neither of us ventured to the mike. We don’t know many country songs by heart, and I don’t think they would have appreciated my rendition of “Sexual Healing” in Georgetown.

There were plenty of other transient amusements along the way, too, mostly in one form or another of advertising:

  • Sign promoting the 14-foot stuffed alligator at the El Cheapo gas station.
  • “Sonny’s Barbecue: Caution: Wide Load,” near St. Augustine
  • Hendlery’s Brother Cutlery and Music, Lake City, Fla.
  • Billboard in northern Fla: “Lonely, Angry, Depressed? Singing We sing for you.”
  • Billboard outside of Lake City, Fla. Advertised Bronner’s, “The World’s Largest Christmas Store,” located in nearby Frankenmuth, Mich. (rather a long drive, eh?)

Speaking of billboards, we called on a lark to find out how much it might cost Shoney’s, Pedro’s or one of the other serial billboarders along the highway to strut their stuff. We learned that for only $300 a month for a 12-month contract – plus a one-time $400 setup charge – Gabi could promote Screaming Pillows on the available billboard of her choice between St. Augustine and Atlanta.

We had a fabulous lunch at the Desoto Drug Store in Lake City, Fla., a throwback to both the deep-fried cuisine of nearly every other restaurant along the route as well as the feel of the old drug store soda fountains that populated towns across the US in the 40s and 50s.

On our way out of the Desoto, I held the door open for an elderly woman with a frayed brown wool hat and horribly scratched bifocals. She waddled through the doorway, and I wished her a good day:

“ Ain’t no such thing as a bad day,” she replied with what I’m pretty sure was a smile.”The good Lord made ‘em all, and he wrote the book.”

She continued to mutter something about the Lord as we bid farewell and made our way back to our car, to the road north to Georgia and Tennessee.

One comment

  • Steverino

    Keep an eye out for one of my favorite billboards down that way. All it says in ten feet tall letters is:"ISHEINYOU.COM"Not while I’m driving, thanks.

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