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Midwestern Road Side Philosophy

Written by Birgit

sunny 28 °C
View Around the world 2016/17 on dreiumdiewelt's travel map.

In the last couple of days we’ve done quite a bit of driving – over 1300 miles by now. And as we’re still pretty much in through fare mode, this was mostly on the interstates along the old Route 66.


When traveling such distances, the scenery changes significantly. From the endless flat black fields of Illinois over the Mississippi into the rolling hills of Missouri. Oklahoma was flatter once again, but there we encountered mainly grassland with much more cattle around little ponds of water. And Texas’ red earth clearly put another accent to the landscape.
The other thing that is hard to overlook along the way are the many billboards. While we had not seen too many of them in Illinois (or were not quite paying attention at that stage), they were just way too obvious in Missouri. Admittedly we have spent probably not even 30 hours in Missouri. Astoundingly enough these 30 hours were long enough to teach us a lot about life and what’s important in life by just reading the signs along the interstate.
‘Quit dreaming, start living’, ‘Happy wife – happy life’ or ‘Be bigger’ all could have been written by philosophers. There is a lot of wisdom (or fun) in all of them. But clearly enough: what might seemingly present itself as philosophical statements triggering the readers’ mind on what is important or not in life, was in fact all advertisement. As the pictures next to the statements reveal, ‘start living’ requires you to own a huge RV, the ‘happy life’ will happen if you spend the money on engagement bands with enormous diamonds, to ‘be bigger’ is easiest if you start gambling in a casino. My personal favorite was ‘Roadtrip calories don’t count‘ which invited to shop at a chocolate factory.
Interestingly enough, these billboards were carefully interleaved with more profane advertising such as ‘Supermarket - Free fireworks with every purchase’, ‘Caves – open today’, ‘Tobacco – lowest tax state’ or ‘Adult video. Men’s spa’. We discovered without much research that not all promised made on the billboards were in fact true. At least the Meramac caves that were promised to be open turned out to be closed for at least another week due to some chlorine vapors. And most likely also the seemingly philosophical promises would turn out to be false promises that are not worth the money spent.
All in all, Missouri billboards were telling their story of a fun and relaxed place. Even the official road safety signs were kind ‘Buckle up. Drive carefully. Love Mom.’. Missouri seems like a good place to be – even though looking at billboards might realistically not be the best way of telling.
As soon as we crossed the border into Oklahoma, it was extremely obvious that there is a different culture in that state vs. neighboring Missouri. We were greeted (not unexpectedly) by a toll road and speed limit signs with the additional note that there’s ‘No Tolerance’. After almost 800 miles on the road, we suddenly learned that ‘Bridges ice before road’ and that making a U turn on the interstate is ‘strictly prohibited’ vs. ‘only allowed for authorized vehicles in the previous states. Oklahoma being a more correct place than others already then. But then we read ‘Meth – not on our land’, ‘We have lots of good traditions – domestic violence is not one of them’, ‘Detect strokes FAST (F…, Arms, Speech, T…)’, ‘Saving money now, might end in bliss forever’ and realized that Oklahoma must be heaven for teachers. Still, Oklahoma must have a small funny side as well, as they sincerely praise themselves as ‘Oklahoma – The shopping cart was invented in our great state’. What a state…
One of the very first billboards that greeted us in Texas was the ‘Top of Texas Catholic Super Store’ followed by one for the Amarillo Brewery offering a free 72oz steak for everyone who manages to finish it alone. So we’re greeted by a different culture once again…
Still, I do have my personal favorite sign. I really loved that one. It turns out that contrary to all the ones mentioned before, this is a sign we still saw in Illinois… Above the entrance to the restrooms at the gas station in Farmersville it said ‘Men left, as women are always right’. Sam has quoted that statement several times since we’d seen it. And even in some those events we’d probably be talking more the exception than the rule, I still love it!
There were still lots of other road side observations, but let me just mention one last one: From what we’ve seen, it seems that there’s one very easy but workload intensive way to prove status and wealth: the more lawn you have neatly mowed around your house / farm / estate including the sides of the road, the better.
I’m fairly sure that the interpretation of what you see along the way, is not the most realistic and correct way of telling how a state and culture is like. But it’s a lot of fun, that’s for sure!

Posted by dreiumdiewelt 15:32 Archived in USA Tagged billboards roadside midwest interstate

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