Now I Get It, "The Show-Me State"!

April 30, 2007

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Good evening from Independence, Missouri, roughly 17 miles outside of Kansas City. Holy cow is it hot here. My in-car thermostat hit 98 degrees this afternoon. While I was waiting for my dinner to be prepared (more on that later) with the windows rolled down, the sun baked me into submission. Maybe I was wrong about this whole “I love warm weather” thing.

Arose and shone this morning at 8:15am. Showered, ate a free breakfast (a bagel and a half, an apple, a banana, and a glass of orange juice), packed my belongings into the Volvo, and sped out of Kentucky. The route today was slightly haphazard. I started north towards Dayton, Ohio, veered west towards Indianapolis, turned south towards Saint Louis, and then west to Kansas City. Oh man, the sights…they were incredible.

It was blue skies and sun this morning in Ohio. Not much else, really. All the welcome signs in Ohio read, “So much to discover!” but there really isn’t much of anything in Ohio. The first billboard I passed this morning was an advertisement for “Raper RV’s,” which gave me a very hearty chuckle. Other than that, there were mostly farms (and, by extension, farmers), more farms, a couple of farms, and… some farms. I think it hasn’t rained in a while, because for long stretches of road, the pavement is stained red from rotting animal carcasses (I think a certain somebody just found his new desktop background!).

Just outside Indianapolis, I drove past a giant airport dedicated solely to FedEx. It was an enormous plot of land with countless runways and giant planes. I guess that’s where the FexEx planes I see approaching Newark on I-78 originate from.

Did you know that Putnam County is “Covered Bridge County”? Now you do!

I didn’t stop anywhere in Indiana (except for when the Volvo required petrol), but opportunities to become lost in locale culture were countless. The Chinook Fish and Wildlife Area looked remarkably peaceful. The water was still and deep blue in color.

Just like two years ago, the Christian symbolism is heavy in this region of the country. There are billboards for churches juxtaposed to those for fast-food establishments, and plenty of anti-abortion billboards. My favorite three included, “Abortion Is Forever: Choose Life,” “Love Your Babies Born And Unborn,” and “Embryos Are Tiny People.” The illustrations range from pictures of Jesus to pictures of aborted fetuses. What’s more, in southern Illinois there were countless other religious messages, and some symbols stood taller than the surrounding radio towers. Also in southern Illinois, there are more farms. Many more farms.

I stopped for gas. Oh look, a sign of life. I was going to stop elsewhere in Illinois, but I couldn’t decide between chain saw carvings in St. Elmo, or Lu-Bob’s Home Cookin’ in Mulberry Grove. You know, it’s funny…I was thinking this morning that places like “The Titty Twister” (From Dusk Till Dawn) or “JT’s BBQ” (Grindhouse) don’t exist in real life. Then, WHAM! Lu-Bob’s! Can you believe that there’s a real man out there, a live human being, named Lu-Bob!? AMAZING.

The bulk of today’s drive took place in Missouri. As I drove west on I-70, with Wolf Eyes blaring from my speakers, I took my first opportunity to listen to local radio. The first station I turned to (580am) was talking about the death of the St. Louis Cardinals pitcher on Sunday. The next words out of the radio host’s mouth were to report that there was a fatal accident on I-270, the road I was about to merge onto. The host stated that on J.J. Kelly near Manchester, a semi with a yellow aerator struck a car and killed its occupant. The show followed the incident (apparently the semi sped off, and police were asking listeners to be on the look-out for it) as I changed roads to avoid the impending traffic snarl. It was quite a strange feeling, being in the area and watching traffic in the opposite direction for a vehicle meeting the description. Listening to callers phone into the show to talk about their own close encounters with trucks on highways made me grateful I’ve survived 2.5 coast-to-coast drives without incident.

I drove on stretches of Route-66, and crossed both the mighty Mississippi River and the slightly-less mighty Missouri River.

At 2:26pm, roughly 156.6 miles from Kansas City, I saw my first advertisement for Ozarkland! Oh, the memories of Ozarkland. That fateful day in 2005 when I made it my mission to find Ozarkland – and I missed it. Now, two years later, I made it my business not to fail twice. I found Ozarkland in Kingdom City, Missouri. Actually, I first went to a museum dedicated to artifacts from the ’50s and ’60s. It was quite boring, and an 8oz. glass bottle of Coca Cola cost $1.30. Alas, just down the street from that time-waster was Ozarkland. Man, did I overestimate that place. It’s like a twelfth-rate convenience store (Wall Drug, anyone?), but with a roomful of fireworks, and also guns and knives. Yikes. Actually, come to think of it, Ozarkland is a pretty scary place.

There’s a stretch of highway between Arrow Rock, MO and Houstonia, MO (between exits 103 and 71 on I-70W) where nothing exists. There are scattered gas stations, but no other signs of life. Except for the vast array of adult boutiques at every single highway off-ramp. The sheer number of them was enough to shock even me. I guess the over-sexed population of this state is how they came up with the Missouri state motto (see: title of this entry) I missed pictures of several due to distractions. Also, Ken called while I was trying to take a picture of the Microsurgical Vasectomy Reversal billboard, so that one didn’t come out. I get chills when I pass towns I’ve passed before. They really creep up on you, sometimes. Bates City, Emma, Sedalia. I read the road signs and suddenly dormant memories return in a flash.

Finally, I arrived in Independence. Where the freight trains roll through. I stopped for a soup and salad at Outback Steakhouse. They didn’t give me any utensils, so by the time I got to the soup it was lukewarm. Also, they didn’t give me any dressing for the salad. I guess I’m never going to eat at Outback ever again. I’ll probably get food poisoning. That would be a fitting end to my life with Outback, as well as a fitting end to my life in general. Think of the irony: the kid who rarely if ever eats dies from food poisoning.

For those of you keeping score at home, I have completed roughly 1,250 miles in my 2,749 mile trip. I have spent 18 hours, 38 minutes in my car during the past 48 hours. I have listened to 221 songs on my iPod out of a possible 8,750. I have purchased gasoline four times. The most I have paid so far is $3.009 per gallon. I have spent $28.14 on food and drink.

Today’s, “Oops, the camera was set to video, not still-frame!” video: a watering hole.

Today’s extended video: Farmland with Jasper, TX as soundtrack. (88MB file!)

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