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I’m a sucker for highway signs. Wall Drug, Ruby Falls, Mail Pouch, Burma Shave . . . a well done sign says something significant in a few words and a poorly done sign leaves you scratching your head for miles. This one caught my eye the other day as I was traveling out of town to preach. In the rear view mirror I noticed the other side says “Jesus is Real.” There is more comfort for those heading north than south, which makes sense, I guess, in a heaven is up, hell is down way.
That certainly gave me something to think about as I got ready to ascend a pulpit. Shortly after exiting the interstate, I encountered this sign.
Yes, that is my thumb in the upper left. I was losing my balance and stumbling down a ditch, it was freezing, the wind was blowing 128 miles an hour and I had stopped my car to take a picture of a sign because it said fart. What is wrong with me? This was on a Sunday when I was going to preach!
Speaking of vulgarities, I’ve long been enchanted by this sign on I-94 in Michigan.
You can imagine how I raise my eyebrows and act like I’m fighting the steering wheel every time I drive past this with my wife in the car. What do you think humorless people do when they drive down I-94? Pretend it isn’t there? There’s another exit in Michigan I adore, the much more sublty named “Covert.” Wish I had a photo of that one. Just the word covert and an arrow. What in the world goes on down that road? I’ve never dared exit to find out.
Speaking of roads I didn’t dare drive down and pictures I wish I’d taken, I did see a sign in Alaska once that said, “Hazardous Glacial Road Ahead. Notify next of kin if proceeding past this point.” I was sitting alongside my next of kin and instead of stopping to take a picture we backed up and got the hell out of there. Which, of course, is the name of a town in Michigan (about the same latitude as Climax, if it matters), and I’d show you a welcome to Hell sign, but isn’t that sort of cliched and haven’t I already done a hell sign in this piece?
Anyhow, speaking of covert activities, the first time I saw this sign outside DC I almost ran off the road.
Who are they trying to kid? But wait, there’s more. How’s this for merging the presidency with the surreal? I saw this in Key West.
How did Margaret Truman get mixed up in this? The Truman family vacationed in Key West, leading me to believe this can’t be some other Margaret Truman. This was Harry Truman’s piano playing daughter. She grew up to write murder mysteries, among them Murder in Foggy Bottom. Foggy Bottom, by the way, isn’t too far from the George Bush Center for Intelligence. I see the Foggy Bottom signs every time we visit our daughter in DC, and they never fail to delight the junior high boy that resides in me.
For years I’ve noticed the lineup of towns on exits and put them together to see if they make a name. Stoughton LaBaron has long been a favorite. Gary Chesterton works, but it’s nothing like the bluebood Chesterton Gary one encounters from the other direction. And Dundee Monroe sounds like some long-lost relative of mine from the Highlands.
Did someone mention the Scottish Highlands? (What smooth segues, even in a blog that’s mostly pictures!) I encountered this in the Scottish Highlands.
Needless to say, I sat in front of that sign for a long time reevaluating my life before driving forward.
Here’s another European favorite. That’s right, I’m a guy who travels to Europe and takes pictures of McDonalds. We have drive-thrus, the French get McDrives. Those lucky French.
Makes me wish I’d taken a picture of the Atlanta Fried Chicken restaurant that sits right next to the train tracks in The Hague.
One last European sign, this one from Brugge. Sometimes you just have to take a picture of something because you never want to forget it.
Anyway, this is but a sampling of my favorite signs. I’m sure you have yours. What are they?
One of my favorites is a billboard along I65 somewhere in Kentucky or Tennessee. It says, " Tattoos while you wait." I've always pondered the alternative. Should I drop off my left bicep or shoulder on the way to Florida and pick it up on the way back to Michigan? If I figure that out, I'll probably get my first tattoo.
Just south of Kansas City is a Highway exit sign that I always tell the kids is my alma mater. "County Road U".
All the Michigan road signs that say: "Gd Rapids"
On the southbound Kennedy Expressway in Chicago, near downtown, you have to make the choice, either "Indiana" or "Ohio St". Always seems like an easier call in football season than for basketball.
On the Garden State Parkway, southbound: "The Oranges".
"Drumbo Innerkip" exit in Ontario.
Spray painted orange on a cardboard sign leaning against a rusted, wringer-type washing machine in Michigan's U.P.: $5 OBO Not a highway sign exactly, but a poignant comment on the state of the local economy.
On back roads to Muskegon, a farmer put up signs along his stretch, much like the Burma Shave signs… "I scream," "You scream," "We all scream…" (wait for it…) "For pork loin!"
But of course.