We left Birmingham on a drizzly day, taking a direct route to Memphis, Tenn. where we’d turn left onto Interstate 40 and head west for several days.
This is my eighth cross country trip.
I was six years old for the first one. What I remember most was the large green Sinclair gas station dinosaurs, teepees in front of highway stops, and my mother cleaning toilet seats with disinfectant before we could use them.
Sadly, I’ve only glimpsed one Sinclair station this trip, but teepees are everywhere…at the highway souvenir shops, over picnic tables at rest stops, and as decorative symbols on freeway overpasses.
But there are new sites along the way. My favorite was the Toad Suck Harley Davidson. There’s a legend here. Apparently the Arkansas River was sometimes too shallow for steamboats, so their crews would hang out at local taverns sucking down brews until they were as bloated as toads. The name still appears on businesses and a local park.
My next favorite sign was the Sherlockmobilehomes. The owner of that business was about five hundred miles from where he should be located…in the town of Moriarity where we stayed last night.
As we passed from state to state, signs proclaiming towns as the home of their local celebrities were proudly posted along the freeways. Elvis Presley, Carrie Underwood, Garth Brooks, and Astronaut Tom Stafford were so honored.
Because the I-40 follows the old Route 66, there were many reminders of that storied highway. The towns that survive play up this link to the past. We drove through some of them to eat at the diners that still survive, away from the fast food chains that line the freeway offramps. Cracked vinyl booths and canned green beans were worth it.
We have one more day on the freeway before we turn off and head north. I’m sure there will be other unique signs, like the one I saw yesterday, Happy Tracks Horse Motel. I assume it was pet friendly.
But I will be looking for something specific as we travel among all the semis. Just once more I want to stand in awe, looking up at a Sinclair dinosaur. Of course it will appear much smaller now.
But it still will be very cool.