Given the choice, I would travel by car from my home in Minnesota to American destinations instead of flying. Over a five year period from 2002 – 2006, my husband and I spent a few weeks each summer to eventually drive through all 48 of the contiguous United States with our two children in the back seat. Because things below tend to look relatively similar from the perspective of an airplane in the sky, we wanted to give our children the opportunity to see from the ground just how different the landscape is throughout regions of the country. I wanted them to see in person what made America so beautiful.
We stopped at lots of National and State parks throughout our travels so the kids could interact with nature and fully experience the differences in the terrain. The scenic views and experiences were impressive, but our experiences with the people we encountered along the way were even more impressive. The kids and I started taking notes for a journal we kept over the five years of road tripping titled, Oddities of our Odysseys. Instead of it being about the landscapes we explored, those notes ended up being mostly about the people we encountered along the way and the things they said and did that were normal to them but completely foreign to us. We were struck that these were people who shared the same country as us, learned the same Pledge of Allegiance in school as we did, and shared the same American liberties that we did, but they were notably “different” throughout the land. And people throughout the country made it clear that they found us to be remarkably different from the people they were used to associating with. Most people politely tolerated our differences – and I enjoyed watching my children develop a tolerance for other people’s ways of living and thinking. As we made our way across the United States, we enjoyed noting the gradual change in people’s accents, colloquialisms, clothing styles, menu offerings, zoning laws, architectural preferences, and even lawn ornaments.
My husband and I recently took a road trip to Missouri. I’m always excited about going on a road trip, but I was especially excited to hear that passengers can have an open container of alcohol in a moving vehicle in most cities in that state. I forgot to take advantage of their unique law as I had intended, but if I would have remembered, I would have done it just to feel like I was living in the 1970s again – minus the seat belt I would have been wearing and the cup holders that could have helped me out if I got tired of holding my beer through Missouri. Knowing about that law made me gladly anticipate what other new information I might discover about the people of Missouri. I noticed on this trip that the difference in their accent from mine made me stand out like an ice cream cOne (pronounced with a very strong long “O”) at a southern BBQ. People knew immediately what region of the country I was from when I spoke. I also found that some people there are still very passionate about the events of the Civil War. Most of the teenagers we met were very polite toward us and actually made eye contact when they encountered us. And almost all of the people we interacted with seemed to be Missouri nice – which struck me as way more sincere than Minnesota’s version of nice. The thing that stood out to me the most about the people we encountered in Missouri is that some of them take their lawn ornaments very seriously.
Throughout Missouri, on our way to Lake of the Ozarks, I saw many yards decorated with a large variety of large lawn ornaments. I wondered where people even purchase such decorations. I got my answer on the trip home when we drove through Tipton, Missouri and saw a shop that had displayed in front of it every kind of freakishly huge lawn ornament you could ever want.
I personally have no desire to put a cement Sasquatch in my Minnesota yard. But apparently someone in the United States has a need for one – or maybe several . . . in sizes small, medium, large, extra-large, and gigantic. Based on what I’ve come to understand about the people in my country during my road trips, I believe that someone might even give their vote to Sasquatch for President of the United States if given the opportunity. I wouldn’t, but hey, it’s a free country, filled with different people with different ideas and opinions – and that’s what really makes America so beautiful.
If you’d like to comment on this post, just follow this link to set up a WordPress user account: https://wordpress.com/start/delta-discover/user
© 2016 by Julie Ryan. All rights reserved
No part of this document may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without prior written permission of Julie Ryan.