America's Roadside Distractions | Last Page

Magic Carpet Ride To Roadside Distractions

America is nothing if not perverse. (Is that not a double negative, no?) From the hundreds of 40-foot-tall lumberjacks repurposed to grip attractive steel-belted radials or juicy racks of succulent pork ribs to life-size stucco dinosaurs with curio shops positioned where the large intestine would normally reside, America is the cradle of the roadside spectacle. When it comes to making key motoring navigational decisions, we 'Muricans historically veer toward the 30-foot glazed donut, or the promise of the perverse.

This is not a new development. Trainloads traveled hours to see Edison's first light bulbs, or to taunt P.T. Barnum's Dog-Faced Boy. Then, in postwar America, our national curiosity was harnessed to fuel local commerce with Mystery Spots and Forgotten Caverns luring wide-eyed motorists off smooth and wide new highways to see desiccated jackalopes, enjoy a delicious cold Coca-Cola and take perhaps a much-needed potty break.

But now it's all gone terribly wrong. The modern automobile has completed its metamorphosis into isolation chamber: sound-insulated, climate-controlled, UV-screened and particulate-filtered with the same few hundred satellite channels booming crystal-clear from coast to coast. Jackson Hole is now indistinguishable from Jacksonville.

Today, there is no better place to feel the inexorable magnetic pull of the stupid than the saddle of a motorcycle. Smell the warm apple pie from that roadside diner with the towering Johnny Appleseed out front. Or maybe ride through a living (barely) giant redwood thoughtfully mutilated for your amusement.

It's America, damn it. Love it. Ride it. Or regret it. (Music up, cue Blue Angels flyover, dissolve to waving American flag/Paul Bunyan dance animation, fade to black.)