One road trip at a time
By Chris Zivalich
Only a handful of people can claim to have made the arduous journey from Denver, Colo., to Ithaca, N.Y., by car.
My good friend Sara and I are two of those people. In fact, we’ve done it four times now. Just do the math: two people + eight states + four trips + 6,648 miles = one helluva time.
But for those of you who have never experienced the mysterious beauty of Iowa’s cornfields, interacted and conversed with the politically enlightened pacifists of Nebraska, or slept within the comforting walls of an Indiana motel, you have truly missed out on something special.
Something so special it’s kind of complete bullshit.
Because although I can’t say I haven’t enjoyed my trips back and forth between ‘The Promised Land’ (Colorado) and Central New York’s favorite liberal haven, the middle of America has not afforded me the true glimpse into hearty American culture I was once promised.
Admittedly, with the help of caffeinated beverages, variations of political ramblings and more pop songs than a Kidz Bop fan can handle, Sara and I managed to strengthen our already fabulous friendship throughout such trips.
However, we also began to acknowledge the true idiosyncrasies in just about every area whose border we crossed. Through one of our many discussions on the road we realized we could remodel the U.S. to better fit the needs of everyone (everyone who is sane, at least).
The largest and most embarrassing place among our taste of all things American is Nebraska. Fashion-wise, Nebraskans seem to favor one of two options in attire: shirts for women that read, “Not Everything in Nebraska is Flat,” and shirts for anyone that read, “Welcome to America. Now speaking English.”
Our decision: Remove Nebraska and make it a lake. The benefits of this move extend beyond the miserable state itself, as Colorado would now touch a large body of water (vastly improving its current landlocked status).
Iowa permitted same-sex marriages last year, earning it a gold star before we even ventured in. While in Iowa, we were also privileged enough to visit the World’s Largest Truck Stop, which may have its own zip code independent of the state. Here we were treated to toy raccoons and a girl who, upon hearing a friend insult Iowa, insisted no one could hate something that’s “part of God’s country.”
Our decision: Keep Iowa and its contributions to the gay rights movement. Remove the crazy girl.
Illinois is one of many states in the U.S. in which you must be 21 to check into a hotel room. Sara and I found this out the hard way in May of last year when we were denied a room at Motel 6 and relied on the confusion of a tired Budget Inn employee to procure a room for the evening.
Our decision: Chicago is worth keeping, albeit absent from our Denver-to-Ithaca travel plans. If hotels change their policies to accommodate younger road-trippers, we will preserve their state.
Aside from musical landmarks (we go through Gary), Indiana has become the latest bane of our existence. This state, full of bad weather, pseudo-southern accents and greasy food, has only served one important moment: the burial ground for Sara’s fish, Leo, who tragically died last January. You see, although it might seem like a good idea to drive until 3 a.m., check into a sketch motel and immediately go to bed without realizing that your pet fish is in the car (slowly freezing to death in below-zero weather), it isn’t.
Our decision: Remove most of Indiana, except for the pipes of the Motel 6 bathroom where Leo’s spirit (and body) remain.
Ohio is home to Cleveland—the only city on our route that has some assortment of skyscrapers, making it one of the most interesting visuals along our journey. Ohio is also home to Archbold—a ridiculously small town that saved us when we nearly ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere.
Our decision: Keep Ohio—both for its interesting political diversity and abundance of gas stations.
Look, we’re in Pennsylvania for—what? Approximately 30 minutes? We get a slight glimpse at Erie (but never Lake Erie) and bought our replacement for Leo there last January. We don’t really have time to think about Pennsylvania.
As a whole, the United States doesn’t always uphold the most favorable reputation among its own citizens and across international borders, but what Sara and I have learned from our travels is that we do not have to keep the unlikable characteristics of this fine, young “democracy.” We can just change it as we like! Now who’s up for a trip to Lake Nebraska?
Chris Zivalich is a sophomore journalism major who wishes the U.S. was a jigsaw puzzle. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.