Sometimes travel, like life, is a comedy. You drive along near Monteagle, Tenn., and spot the road sign directing you to ”Fiery Gizzard and Savage Golf Trails.” Savage golf, yeah, let’s put some zip in the game: Losers get eaten by bears.
Or you pass the warning in the Cascade Mountains of Washington: ”Danger flying rocks — 35 mph.” One wonders if the rocks travel at that speed and whether they will be passing you on the road if you are driving too slowly for them.
Or you pass by the high school in Tillamook, Ore., where they proudly announce they are the ”Home of the Fighting Cheesemakers.”
Of course, I shouldn’t point fingers: My alma mater was the “Fighting Quakers” and my wife was a “Demon Deacon.”
The world is filled with little jokes. Sometimes intended, usually not.
Over the years, we’ve traveled pretty much everywhere in the continental United States and Canada, and we’ve come across many little geographical punchlines.
Some things you notice are outright funny. Others only strike you odd when you think about them: The Burns Brothers Gasoline Station.
Across this wide nation, from Dekay Street in Hoquiam, Wash., to Debree Street in Norfolk, Va., you can find yourself doing double takes at road signs or the names of industries or towns.
No doubt, some of these prodigies have gone the way of all kitsch. They’ve gone out of business, probably replaced with something just as peculiar.
In Wisconsin, you could buy your souvenirs at Ethel’s Flood of Gifts. In Maine, you could stop at Pointy Head Antiques.
And when you visit Batavia, Iowa, don’t miss the House of Chrome.
There were Concrete Gifts in Coos Bay, Ore., and a Cement National Bank in Easton, Pa. There’s also the town of Concrete, Wash.
There was the Tired Chicken, a restaurant in Crescent City, Calif., and a tired gin joint in Lincoln City, Ore., called George’s Paris by the Sea.
In Las Vegas, a few years ago, we passed Murphy’s Law Restaurant. True to form, it was up for sale. Something must have gone wrong.
There was the Hollow Cocktail Lounge, Charleroi, Pa., and the Hester Prynne Restaurant in New Jersey, with its ”A-frame” entrance. At the Sanitary Cafe in Reidsville, N.C., the breakfast specialty was brains and eggs. I recommend ’em.
In Pennsylvania, you could order an Arsonburger.
The Best Western in Vancouver, British Columbia, offered ”Free escargot.” I wondered how big a draw that might be.
I also wonder how comfortable the Cockleburr Motel could possibly be, in Kadoka, S.D.
Kadoka is a wonderful little town. But for years, they had a sign along the interstate that read:
”Welcome to Kadoka, S.D.
Entrance to the Bad Lands
Kadoka Needs Another Doctor”
It’s not good to sound too desperate.
Maine has its own interesting town sign: ”Welcome to Kennebunk, the only village so named.”
Watford, N.D., declares itself ”The Whopper Capital of the World” in honor of the stories sports fishermen tell there. You can stay there at Four Eyes Motel, with a picture of Teddy Roosevelt on the sign. It’s also where you could find the Abstract Tile Co.
In nearby Alexander, one could hole up at the Ragged Butte Motel and Cafe, and stop by the Hard Ride Liquor Co. for your refreshment.
In Culbertson, Mont., there was Custom Built Feeds. I know the agribusiness has gone high-tech, but how scientific can silage be?
In Poplar, Mont., there was an old concrete bridge over a tiny dry creek, the way they can be in the arid West: all scrub and gravel. You’d hardly notice the bridge at all — it’s only about 15 feet long and there is nothing under it but grass and cobbles — except for the large, imposing sign: ”No Diving Off Bridge.”
The MX Motel in Chester, Mont., was named in honor of the nuclear missiles hidden underground nearby. Its sign was written in a flowery Old English script, which certainly captures the elegant and dainty spirit of nuclear holocaust.
Louisiana’s economy booms and busts with the oil business, and many businesses have a very precise focus. As you pass through such towns as Sulphur and Industries, you pass such workplaces as Concentric Pipe Rentals, the Down Hole Co. and Major Mud and Chemical. I’ve always wondered what the technical difference might be between minor mud and major mud.
But those businesses are hardly alone. There’s a Nova Mud Corp. in Ely, Nev.