Just back from two weeks in New Mexico and in Arizona but never far from Missouri.
1. A few days in Phoenix and Tucson, nice, 80s, low humidity, a gentle breeze. We have a better appreciations for snowbirds now.
2. The Missouri Tourism agency is missing a bet by not promoting one of Missouri’s most prominent sights. Billboards. We drove through Oklahoma, Kansas, parts of Texas and Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. There was a distressing absence of billboards in all of those states. We saw mountains and plains and deserts and corn and cotton and sorghum fields and pecan trees. If there was an adult toys store close to the highway, we saw it. If there was a car dealer on a nearby access road, we saw it. No billboards were necessary for us to notice them. Highway signs at the exits told us if there was an Arby’s or a Super 8 or a Phillips 66 station nearby. The absence of billboards did not detract from our trip. But we knew we were back in Missouri as soon as we crossed the state line. Billboards. And it’s time we made them an attraction. Nebraska has sandhill cranes. Minnesota has its lakes. Illinois has Abraham Lincoln. Kentucky has horses grazing in pleasant pastures. Kansas has the Flint Hills. It’s time Missouri started inviting people from billboard-deprived states to come here to see what billboards are like and what an exciting element they provide to the travelers’ experience. It surely is to our advantage to promote the idea that billboards might be endangered species in many or most other states. But Missouri is a haven where they can flourish and even multiply. We knew we were getting close to our home after three-thousand miles of driving and seeing the word “Passions” along the roadside ahead of us.
Through much of the trip, the words of the great American poet Ogden Nash echoed in my head:
I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree.
Perhaps unless the billboards fall,
I’ll never see a a tree at all.
Perhaps the legislature should pass a bill designating the billboard as Missouri’s officials state eyesore. Or it could designate Ogden Nash our honorary poet laureate.
Getting back on track:
3. We saw numerous non-billboard signs discouraging motorists from texting and driving—as we drove along looking at a screen in the middle of our dashboard that told us what radio station or satellite program we were watching, or what time it was, or what our gas mileage was, or—well, you get the idea.
4. A Saguaro Cactus is one of nature’s most impressive creatures.
5. Albuquerque has a great dinosaur exhibit in its science museum.
6. Driving in Arizona while listening to Mike Kelly tell us a University of Missouri football player was taking “it” to “the house” was pretty neat. We asked Mike several years ago to describe this “house” to us–how many rooms? Big porch? Nice yard? One story or two? He snorted and changed the subject.
7. Biosphere2 in Scottsdale is uninhabited but still interesting because of ongoing research there.
8. The Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix is one the darndest places we’ve been in. Not many museums serve lamb at the lunch counter.
9. Watching hawks dive THROUGH the audience in the Sonora Desert Museum is an incredible experience.
10. Kansas isn’t so bad, or most of it isn’t.
11. Tombstone is kinda fun. Pretty touristy. But the buffalo burger at the O.K. Restaurant was something above O.K.
12. And the pink jeep that took us on a three-hour tour of the red rock country around Sedona had O.S. handles that were definitely needed. And appropriately named.
Maybe the legislature can pass a bill designating “O.S.” as the official state reaction to the state’s official eyesore.
It’s terrible to be unable to escape thoughts of Missouri politics even when among the majesty of mountains and deserts.