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The 5 Weirdest Things You Learn When Driving Across America

Hey, remember how my first column mentioned that I lived in South Dakota, and then my next column said I was living in a shitty motel, and then nobody asked anything about how I was doing after that and I cried for three weeks straight?

Well, you'll all be glad/disinterested to know that I'm no longer living in that squalid motel room. In fact, less than a week after that article was published, I relocated to New York. But don't get too used to it, I don't live there anymore, either. Because I want nothing more than to live as if I'm part of a traveling caravan of Gypsies, I moved to San Francisco a few weeks ago. I drove there. From New York.

It was fun, though! Mostly! I actually enjoy driving. I enjoy it almost as much as Marion Gladstone and Ian Fortey enjoy using my name to get attention.

Anyway, what follows are a few of the more interesting tidbits I picked up while driving through this great land, wondering what Gladstone was thinking about the entire way and hoping Ian Fortey agrees with everything I write. I share them not only to give you, the reader, a glimpse at what kind of boring shit I get into when I'm not working, but also because writing about the trip means I can count the gas and hotel rooms that I shelled out for along the way as tax write-offs.

Here are five things I learned about America while driving cross-country ...

#5. Some Dreams Aren't Worth Pursuing

I decided ahead of time that my starting point for the cross-country jaunt would be a place I've always wanted to visit since I was a wee lad -- the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York. Sure, driving there was completely out of the way and actually delayed the start of the move by a day, but I'd always dreamed of visiting Cooperstown, so I figured I'd give it a shot.

I knew I was in trouble the minute I pulled up to the place. I was expecting a marvel of modern design. A building suitably impressive enough to pay to tribute to the years of rich history contained within. What I got instead was this ...

I guess I should have seen it coming. Of all the big hall-of-fame-type buildings, I know what pretty much all of them look like just by memory. But I guess all I've ever seen of the Baseball Hall of Fame is a podium. Coincidentally, I've never seen anything relating to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Just a point I'll throw out there for no particular reason.

But I figured that once I got inside, things would turn around. After all, I love baseball. There's no way this could be boring.


Why, just look at this breathtaking display!

But see, it was boring. It was painfully boring. Basically, it was a collection of various uniforms hanging behind glass. Although I did enjoy the jarring effect that turning a corner and seeing this has on one's mood:

Hey, Hall of Fame, who asked you to bring sadness to this party? For the record, I think that was somewhere near the Ty Cobb exhibit. And speaking of exhibits, this one was pretty inspiring:

I assume the Barry Bonds exhibit is still under construction?

Anyway, with one childhood dream now proven to be pointless, it was time to move on to a place where crushed dreams are the staple crop of the entire city.

#4. Cleveland Isn't So Bad

WikiTravel

After the massive disappointment that was Cooperstown (which is about as easy to get to as a militia compound, by the way), the next stop was Cleveland. Few cities are as maligned in popular culture as Cleveland. Surely you remember this "tourism" video that made the rounds on the Internet a few years back, right?


It's hard to see something like that and have any kind of heightened expectations. So imagine my surprise when I arrived to find that Cleveland, in fact, is not completely horrible. Granted, I confined myself to that small area of the city where Progressive Field (home of the Indians), Quicken Loans Arena (home of the Cavaliers and a thick layer of bitterness residue that remains from LeBron James' acrimonious departure) and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame can all be walked to with minimal fear of being knifed in the kidney.

If I'm being totally honest, I've spent a lot of days within a four-block radius of places, and out of all those days, the two I spent in Cleveland were two of them. It wasn't the most raucous good time I've ever had, but I wasn't attacked by the unemployment monster in my sleep or anything. And whenever I needed to venture outside of my hotel room to find something, it was never a problem. Sure, that's mostly because I only needed to leave once to buy beer, but hey, I totally found some!

By the way, if you do find yourself in downtown Cleveland and in need of hotel room beer sometime after every store in the area closes (5 p.m.) and camera crews show up to shoot B-roll for whenever they need stock footage of something desolate, head to the BP gas station across the street from Progressive Field.


When you see the most depressing slogan in baseball, you're almost there.

I'm not sure if the hotel that's adjacent to this gas station uses the fact that they are trip-over-and-fall distance from the only thing that passes for a liquor store after dark in downtown Cleveland as a selling point, but they most certainly should.

#3. Driving With NY Plates Is a Great Way to Get Pulled Over

Getty

Just as a general rule, how fast do you drive as it relates to the speed limit? Everyone has their basic guideline. There's a gray area somewhere in the 4 to 8 mph over the limit range where most of us drive, secure that while what we're doing may be illegal, it's so rampant that we need not fear being penalized for it. Like jaywalking or driving through toll booths without paying when the car you're driving isn't yours. For me, it's 5 mph over the speed limit.

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Unless the sign looks like this, in which case I ignore it entirely.

Some brave souls push it to 10. No matter where on that scale you fall, one thing we can all agree on is that people who always drive at the exact speed limit are either total lunatics or in the process of breaking the law and don't want to draw attention to themselves.

I've lived most of my highway life in the Midwest by the 5 mph rule and have never been questioned for it once. So imagine my surprise when I was pulled over for driving exactly 5 mph over the speed limit on the same highway I've been driving that speed on for so many years. It happened twice. In the same day. Once in South Dakota and once in Wyoming.

Don't get me wrong, I don't hold a grudge. In fact, I totally understand what happened. Sure, I've driven those highways at slightly over the speed limit before, but I've always done it as a resident with South Dakota license plates. This time, I wasn't comfortably speeding close to home, I was speeding on a major drug route with New York plates. I was basically a victim of bored cops playing major-drug-bust lottery. What's the harm in taking five minutes to see if maybe I'm transporting 750 pounds of weed in the side panels of my vehicle if you have nothing better to do? There's probably an instant promotion in store for a cop who makes the right guess in that instance.

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Your tax dollars hard at work.

I'd totally do that shit, too.

Hey, speaking of Wyoming ...

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