I was in a little bit of a hurry to get from Connecticut to Santa Barbara, so didn't really have time to stop to really observe some of the natural wonders of our country. But on the way back, I intend to fully appreciate such phenomena as:
The world's largest rocking chair. I want to see it up close, to take in its wondrous dimensions from only a few feet away, and think about how big someone would have to be to do it justice.
The world's biggest saddle discounter. I don't have a horse or anything, but still, once I get inside the store, I'm sure some of those deals will be hard to resist.
A "Cherokee trading post" with "100,000 gifts and novelties." Out of that many, there surely must be at least a few hundred that I would be interested in.
On the New Mexico/Arizona border, a Navajo trading post offered blankets for $4.99. Hmm. I know people will be expecting gifts when I return to Connecticut; I wonder if any of them would like a blanket.
I searched hard for evidence of cultural differences across the land. I did notice that the motel in Wytheville, Virginia served Raisin Bran for breakfast, whereas the motel in Maumelle, Arkansas, only offered Frosted Flakes. (Aha! That explains regional differences in body build.)
I also noticed that west of the Mississippi most gas stations don't offer 93 octane. So while the humans get supercharged (and super sized), the cars are put on a diet.
Speaking of the Mississippi, one of the most impressive things I saw -- on a more serious note -- was the power of the river. I had to drive close to a hundred miles west of it before I saw anything even remotely resembling a hill. This means that in the past, the floods have been so powerful that they have simply flattened everything in their path.
On an even more serious note, you see a lot of real poverty from the highway. In the past, I've driven through Compton, California, known as a poor area, and been struck by how nice many of the smallish -- but not tiny -- houses were. I've also driven though poor sections of Detroit, and while some of the areas are rundown, the houses themselves were obviously nice middle class homes once upon a time. I've also seen plenty of inner city housing projects, and structurally at least, they just look like every other large apartment building.
But driving through Oklahoma and New Mexico and Arizona, you see a lot of houses that look like tarpaper shacks. Some of them have the look of places which have been long since abandoned, and it's only the car parked outside or laundry hanging on a line next to it that makes you realize that they are occupied. The most extreme example of this was probably Henryetta, Oklahoma (not to be confused with Henrietta, Georgia).
Henryetta advertises itself as the hometown of Troy Aikman, former quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. Anyone who grew up in the crowded shantytown that I saw (and admittedly, nobody who can afford to live elsewhere will live near a highway) could only have developed a throwing arm by tossing the football back and forth across the interstate.
If Ivy League colleges were truly interested in helping the disadvantaged, or in true diversity, they would recruit American Indian students from places like this. But they never seem to.
The other interesting thing I saw -- and I seem to be the only person who finds this interesting -- was watching how the temperature changes as the altitude changes. The coldest place I drove through on the trip was Arizona (I-40 passes through Flagstaff, altitude 7000 feet). Sometimes you can see the temperature drop (from the reading on the dashboard) as you go up a mountain.
Whenever I've pointed this out to passengers in the past, they react as if I'd just pointed out, "Wow -- it's exit 149!" or "Hey -- I just saw a sign for a Days Inn!" ("Dad, will you please shut up" seems to be one popular reaction.)
But there's nothing wrong with being able to keep yourself entertained.
In fact, if you're going to drive across the country, you sorta have to.