A few years ago I wandered across the United States to the east coast and drifted back over a period of three months. I camped in my van (basically a tent-on-wheels) or stayed with friends and relatives along the way. It was a wonderful time-alone trip that allowed me to get a visceral feel for just how big this country really is.
Along the way, I drove in silence, listened to music, or “read” a recorded book. I learned the hard way that fiction was a bad idea. Happily visualizing voracious vampires while listening to an Anne Rice novel, I almost slammed into the back of a stalled car on the freeway.
During the quiet passages, my favorite road entertainment was attempting to discern the character of a state by paying attention to billboards. In Texas the advertisements were mostly for restaurants, gas stations, car dealerships and anti-abortion sentiments.
In Florida, tourism and real estate seemed to be a dominant theme, with ads urging me to take advantage of great deals on hotel rooms, beach-side condos, homes in gated communities, and timeshare vacation resorts.
But across Louisiana, with a constant stream of advertising, there appeared to be five major areas of interest to the locals.
- Food: Crawdads, shrimp, catfish, gator, frog legs, BBQ, deep fried turkey, hush puppies, boudin and cracklins; restaurants everywhere claimed to be the most Cajun, the best southern cooking, or just like grandma’s!
- Fishing and hunting: Signs advertised gun stores, bow ranges, taxidermists, classes for the concealed-carry of hand guns, boats, and RVs. Every few miles a state road sign pointed to the places where people could enjoy using those things – lakes, forests and beaches.
- Gambling: Judging from the proliferation of billboards, there must have been a casino next to every exit. Even the Love’s Travel Centers “love” to have you gamble in their little slot parlors
- Sex: Adult Superstores (Batteries Not Included) and Gentlemen’s Clubs sponsored numerous billboards featuring nearly naked women.
- Salvation: And if you should find life miserable, unfulfilled, or loaded with guilt (see the above), there were plenty of signs pointing the wayward soul to Jesus.
Editor’s note: Sherry Hardage lives in Los Alamos and has been traveling solo in the Americas, Europe, and Asia since she retired from Honeywell in 2009. She is a photographer and writer who leads tours through her website: www.mexadventures.com
Follow the continuing adventures at: http://sherryhardagetravel.blogspot.com/
Hardage welcomes comments: firstname.lastname@example.org