You pull into the parking lot of the town’s only store and restaurant, Clem’s Bait and Tackle, General Goods and Diner. You find it slightly odd there is a bait and tackle shop here as there isn’t a lake or even so much as a pond for at least 100 miles in any direction. A sign, yellowed and peeling with age implores you to try the meatloaf. You settle for a ham on rye and a Coke served in a chipped glass. The sandwich is passable, save for the roughly quarter gallon of mustard slathered on like tar, and you tend to like any amount of ice in your pop. The waitress, Bobbi-Judy grimaces from the counter. You head over to the Jukebox and flip through the pages, the machine clunks lazily. After 6 or 7 pages you realize the only song in the Jukebox is “The Happiest Girl In The Whole USA” by Donna Fargo.
You select track B7, it calls to you for some reason. the song skips and begins to repeat the line “It’s a skippidity do da day” over and over. You leave the waitress $3 in quarters because you had just cleaned out the center console and they don’t accept credit cards here.
You head over to the general goods side of the building to wander among the pork cracklings and taxidermy beavers and to clear your head. You’d always thought road trips were an adventure as a kid, but that’s because you slept through most of the sprawl. You never noticed that the highway yawned forward for hours, the same scenery almost mocking you as you chug along, hoping for something worth doing, something worth seeing. You chuckle to yourself as you think about how much you want to shove the entire Grand Canyon up Joan from accounts receivables smug ass as you blindly grab at a display of corn nuts.
It’s not until you’ve been on the road for 2 hours that you realize you bought the Jalapeno flavor, you toss them out the window and hope the deer and raccoons that will surely eat them don’t get the shits.
Fuck jalapenos. You find yourself singing “it’s a skippidity do da day” tunelessly, aimlessly.
God damn you, Donna Fargo.
Your stomach rumbles, it’s been a while since you left the house and you didn’t pack a cooler because it’s in the 90’s and your A/C is broke and fuck driving around with a box of hot water in your backseat. You hit the next exit and pull into the gravel parking lot. The bell chimes listlessly as you open the door. Everything is covered in a fine layer of dust and you’ll probably die from eating that jerky, but it’s $3 a pound and you’re at least 4 hours from the nearest Hardee’s. You search the cooler for a drink. Among the dusty glass bottles of Coke and Peach Fanta you find the original run of Crystal Pepsi.
You opt for a can of Dr. Pepper that is most certainly from 1988.
As you walk to the counter you notice the coffee pot is half full, yet the coffee has a film on it. You scan the magazines on the rack, unsure of who anyone on the cover is. The magazines seem to be the only new thing in the building. A second glance tells you they are all gossip magazines from Fiji. The clerk eyes you with indifference, His cigarette dangles idly in his mouth, the ashes beg to be flicked, but he won’t. He never does. The music tinkles faintly over the stereo speaker stapled to the wall. You’d swear it was a Tammy Wynette song, but sung in an empty pool entirely through the medium of sobs.
It feels like you’ve been in the store for hours, days, years. The clock, it’s glass frosted with a miasma of dirt and neglect does not yield the time.
You get back in the car and look at the clock on the radio, you were in there for 3 minutes. You open the Dr. Pepper to find it’s surprisingly still fresh tasting. Your favorite Golden Earring song comes on the radio as you continue your drive to see the largest rubber band ball in America.
Welcome! So glad you decided to stop in, sit a spell and have a cup of coffee on the house.
Here, among all the 45 albums glued to the wall and the glass cabinet full of salt shakers shaped like first ladies you’ll find a collection of writings that describe the kinds of places you only visit while on a road trip. The diners, gas stations, and shops that exist solely because they are the only thing off that stretch of highway, the kinds of places that seem to never update their stock even though they cornered the market by being the only thing there. The places where weird shit can happen.
These are not reviews, the writings are all fictionalized and created solely by me, as far as I can tell you none of the places I will write about exist, and if they do it’s purely a coincidence.
So, enjoy entering the dusty, sometimes sad corners of my mind as we take a road trip across Americana Obscura.