Totality and the Aftermath

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“…everything under the sun is in tune, but the sun is eclipsed by the moon.” Pink Floyd

The problem with living only a few hours from a total eclipse is that you feel obligated to go see the damned thing. The media trumpet the event like it will rival the parting of the Red Sea, never to return in our lifetimes (or at least for the next seven years), so for it all to be going down just 150 miles north puts a lot of undue pressure on a person.

The thing is, I’ve not been witness to many of humankind’s bigger moments. I was a zygote during Woodstock (okay, I was 12), and the one time I showed up for a shuttle launch it got scrubbed. I have no stories about shooting up backstage with the Rolling Stones or pulling Hemingway from the path of rampaging cattle on the streets of Pamplona. There was that time Richard Nixon came to give a speech at my high school in the days before Watergate. As a member of the band I sat in the stands behind the podium and carry with me many fond memories of the back of the president’s head. So #Eclipse2017 seemed like a perfect ‘bucketlist’ opportunity.

Still, while I’m probably more astronomically nerdish than most, there’s a lot to consider. How bad will traffic be? Can I find a place to park? Will I get my money back if it’s cloudy? What if I can’t hold my breath long enough in the porta-potties? Will I go blind because I waited so long I had to buy knockoff glasses from that guy on craigslist? Will the werewolves speak English?

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All is forgotten, though, once the moon eases fully across the face of the sun, and totality is upon us. An eerie darkness falls on the low hills of eastern Wyoming as a cheer goes up from the crowd of nearly one hundred-thousand gathered at the airport in Glendo – a tiny farm town (population 204 on a normal day) in the bullseye of the big event. The ridiculous cardboard viewing glasses are tossed aside and all bask in the wonder of the black orb overhead, ringed by the dancing strands of the solar corona. Stars are suddenly visible in the half-night. This is what we came for.

But it’s over in two and a half minutes. And as soon as the first rays of sunshine peek from behind the moon’s trailing edge, the rush for the exits is on. Actually, exit. There is only one. Gridlock is immediate and all-encompassing as the parking lot goes from zero to Thunderdome in a matter of seconds. Thousands of cars that had moments earlier been parked in neat double rows now jockey for position as they funnel down to a single line, to be then funneled onto to a single road that is the only outlet for two other massive fields similarly choked with vehicles as well as those spilling from the nearby state park viewing areas. A scenario that is being repeated across the state, with the ultimate goal of funneling nearly a million people onto the single freeway where southbound traffic is already stacked up as far as the eye can see.

We decide on the ‘play it cool’ approach and avoid the mayhem, having some lunch while what we assume will be the worst of it subsides. Our first tactical error, as “the worst of it” will actually continue, statewide, for most of the day.

After about an hour, we pack up and head into the fray, inching along with everyone else toward the main road that will take us back into town and out to the freeway entrance ramp maybe a mile away. But what’s this? When we finally get to the road, someone is standing in the intersection waving all the vehicles in the opposite direction – not south into town (which is, of course, at a standstill), but north to points unknown. Like sheep, we comply. Tactical error number two. After two-and-a-half hours we have gone 14 miles in the wrong direction and now face the unappealing choice of getting back on the freeway to inch our way 14 miles back to where we came (and then beyond) or take our chances in the wilds of eastern Wyoming.

We choose the wilds – tactical error number three.

It turns out paved roads are something of a novelty across the high prairie of the Equality State. And we are not the only ones who have smartphones and are desperate for an alternate route out of this post-eclipse hell.

There are 83 miles of absolutely nothing between the towns of Torrington and Cheyenne. And one road. Have you ever seen an 83 mile long conga line? Moving at 10 miles an hour? Nuff said.

So here are a few tips for those planning to catch the 2024 eclipse. Do some breathing exercises beforehand to condition yourself for the porta-potties, bring plenty of treats for the werewolves, and pray that flying cars finally arrive.

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Oh, and get a new cellphone, ’cause a Galaxy s3 just ain’t up to the task.

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Of Fools and Gold

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Image credit: abebooks.com

It all started with a book, Coronado’s Children, that recounted (alleged) tales of forgotten treasures in the wilds of west Texas. I first came across it at an early age – maybe eight or nine. And I was immediately hooked, poring over old road maps, drawing anally-precise little Xs on the most likely locations of the concealed bullion and mislaid bags of stolen bank loot. From the sound of it, these riches were stashed in every hollow tree stump and under every rock pile in the region. So I began to scrimp and save, buying a cheap metal detector a few years later. Mail order, no less. I may have wet myself when it finally arrived; bright red control box and coil, a pair of adjustable dials to fine-tune for precise depths and metals (coins, nuggets, ingots), the detection meter with its bouncing needle – it was like a Geiger counter on steroids. I hurriedly popped a nine volt battery in and ran to the backyard.

But my glittering dream soon lost its luster, as every beep issued by my new toy turned out to be a bottle cap or rusty nail rather than the lost gold of the Incas as I envisioned. And I cursed the gods who saw fit to strand me in Michigan, a place seldom frequented by pirates or stagecoach robbers looking to hide their ill-gotten fortunes. I was convinced that if I could just get myself, my map and my electronic marvel to El Paso, then, like Ginger Rogers, I’d be singing “We’re In the Money.”

The metal detector is long since gone, and my one trip to west Texas was little more than a drive-through, though it did make me realize that there would be ample hiding places for a cache of cash in those miles of deserted, scrub-covered hills.

And now, along comes Forrest Fenn. A self-proclaimed collector and adventurer, he (allegedly) squirreled away a box of gold, gems and other trinkets somewhere amongst the rugged spires of the American west. And to help narrow the search, he’s woven a handful of cryptic clues to its whereabouts into several stanzas of mangled verse published in a book called The Thrill of the Chase.

Nonsensical rhyme aside, this is the sort of thing I have waited for since those days in suburban Detroit, slowly sweeping that metal detector to and fro, listening for a telltale chirp in the headphones that would send me to my knees, garden trowel at the ready, giddy with anticipation over the bonanza I was about to unearth.

It would appear I am not alone. The story has been featured by The Today Show, Newsweek and NPR among others, sending hoards of modern-day children of Coronado into the countryside looking for the prize, as many as 65,000 by one estimation. Fenn claims he did this to get people off the couch and outdoors again, so on that point he appears to have nailed it. But now the body count is starting to climb. A 54-year old from Colorado, by all accounts a ‘regular’ on the trail of Fenn’s treasure, disappeared in January of last year while poking around in the hills near Santa Fe, New Mexico. His remains were found several months later near the banks of the Rio Grande. Then another treasure-seeker’s corpse was plucked from the same river earlier this summer, and just recently a third turned up floating in the Arkansas River. Yes, they were all adults and yes, they died in pursuit of something they loved, but I also think it’s worth noting that Indiana Jones didn’t do his own stunts.

I doubt any of this is what Fenn, now in his eighties, ever expected. And before he decides to call off the hunt to avoid legal repercussions – by simply revealing the location of the gold, one would assume – I’ve decided to go have a look for myself. In fact, I already did.

It’s something I’ve considered ever since first catching wind of it a few years ago. Still, after scrutinizing terrain on Google Earth (stretching from northern New Mexico to the Canadian border) and convincing myself of possible locations, I didn’t head out with shovel in hand because, well, it’s not what grownups do. “I’m on a treasure hunt,” seems a foolish response when people ask what I’m up to these days. Especially considering my time might be better spent looking for a job.

Hell, for all I know it may already be gone. People have been combing the west since 2010, when Fenn first published his book and poem. There is certainly a chance that someone may have come across it and just slipped quietly away. Fenn estimates its value at somewhere between one million and two million dollars, so bragging about having unearthed that sort of windfall might not be advisable. I imagine it wouldn’t take long for the taxman (followed closely by a bevy of coattail relations and salivating conmen) to beat a path to your door once your ‘look what I found’ selfie hit social media.

Yet all the while, that excited kid digging for Spanish doubloons in the backyard has been asking, “What the hell are you waiting for?” Then my wife flew back to Michigan to be with family for the Memorial Day weekend, and suddenly I had several days all to myself. A quick calculation revealed that the odds of locating Fenn’s chest in roughly 300,000 square miles of wilderness were still slightly better than – at my age – finding employment, and my ‘search zone’ was only four hours from DIA, so…

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Wheeler Peak, New Mexico’s tallest

Okay, now I’ve come clean. Yes, that was the reason for my brief trip to New Mexico a few weeks back. But rather than singing like Ginger Rogers, my efforts prompted more of a Yukon-Cornelius-after-licking-his-pickaxe reaction – nothin’! Nothin’, that is, except for some pleasant hiking in the shadow of Wheeler Peak, a star-filled night and a camp meal fit for a king.

Barring my own reality series on the Discovery Channel, I don’t plan to make a habit of this – there are too many other things still to accomplish. But should the opportunity arise now and then, I might just mosey into the mountains for a few days, sleep on the ground, revel in a cup of hot coffee as the sun comes up, and take in the scenery. And if I find that other treasure I’ve been dreaming of all these years, well, that will be like icing on the cake.

The Road to Ruin (and other Destinations)

“That’s the place to get to – nowhere. One wants to wander away from the world’s somewheres, into our own nowhere.” D.H. Lawrence

It was always my intention to devote a certain amount of this blog to travel pieces. Not necessarily make it a ‘travel blog’ but at least share more posts about being on the road because, well, it’s one of my favorite places (despite the title). For me, it’s hard to beat an open stretch of pavement leading to unknown places and my ipod shuffling through my playlist while I swig bad gas station coffee and beat mercilessly on the air drums/dashboard. But, as is most often the case, life has little regard for the best laid plans of mice and men. Still, there’s no time like the present to try and make amends.

I recently took a brief trip to New Mexico, just ahead of the Memorial Day crowds. I’m happy to report that the Land of Enchantment, once I got off the freeway and headed into the hills, lived up to its billing. But here’s the thing – while pictures of sweeping vistas and snow-capped peaks are wonderful, for some reason my eye has also been drawn to less awe-inspiring scenes. Roadside oddities, mostly. In particular, our failures as a species. When those best laid plans go awry. When dreams both big and small end in quiet desolation. Maybe it comes from growing up around Detroit, a city that never really got back on its feet after the riots of ‘67 and fell into such disrepair that it became the poster-child for the term ‘ruin-porn.’ Or maybe it’s that I see some stoic elegance amidst the destruction. Then again, maybe I’m compensating for my own perceived failures (too heavy?) or maybe it’s just a train-wreck mentality. Take your pick.

Along with these random remnants of humanity is the simply weird – plenty of that around, too. I’m sure they all have their stories, so I like to think that I’m picking up where Charles Kuralt left off (sans mistress, of course).

Questa is a blip of a burg in northern New Mexico that wears ‘rough around the edges’ as though it were a badge. And like an emissary, this sits just north of town, welcoming intrepid travelers.

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Looks like I’ll have to hold it a little longer

I had a job a few years ago that involved a great deal of travel in Wyoming and western Nebraska. At first blush it appeared to be a perfect fit, considering my love of driving and the opportunity to explore new places. Of course, the actual work consisted of stocking shelves in grocery stores, overnight, so that was a bit of a trade-off. Still, it gave me the chance to poke around in some of the loneliest places in the lower 48.

There’s an old Jimmy Buffett song called Son of a Son of a Sailor wherein he sings “…I’m just glad I don’t live in a trailer.” Well, this guy outside of Ogallala appears to live in half a trailer, but at least he has his priorities in order.

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Home is anywhere you can pick up 500 channels

And as long as we’re talkin’ trailers, this former mobile home in Ethete, Wyoming (a community that appeared to have more canine residents than human ones) gives new meaning to ‘open concept.’

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Realtors will tell you ‘location’ is everything, but walls would be nice, too

Welcome to what Rand McNally refers to, with great optimism, as the ‘town’ of Angora, Nebraska. There’s not so much as a driveway or parking lot to be seen, giving the impression that someone simply dropped this building in the tall grass and walked away.

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A harbinger of retail’s woes

When people talk about ‘God-forsaken’ places, much of Wyoming comes to mind. And I imagine it can be tough to keep your faith out in these no-man’s-lands, where evidence of a higher power (or anything else, for that matter) might prove hard to come by. Yet still we seek guidance. It looks as if the Vatican hasn’t done right by this diocese in Jeffrey City…could use a little more stained glass, if you ask me.

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Maybe the Pope will stop by on the NEXT world tour

And I think perhaps God has forsaken this edifice at the foot of the Wind River Range.

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A realtor would also tell you “All it needs is a coat of paint”

Then there’s just plain WTFery. Some guy decided that the fringe of civilization north of Alliance, Nebraska was the perfect spot for a post-industrial Stonehenge ‘reboot,’ so he planted a ring of vehicles in the prairie and, yes, he calls it Carhenge. In very un-American fashion, admission is free.

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Ours is not to reason why…

And here’s another high plains artist, working in a unique medium…

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Again, your guess is as good as mine

Until next time.

My Motorcycle – Ride the (not so) Wild Wind

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While the rest of the blogging world tackles the A to Z challenge, Almost Iowa has thrown down one of his own. Here, then, is my entry in his My Stuff Challenge… 

Spring has arrived on the Front Range, and with temps in the 70s it’s time to pull the cover off my motorcycle and see if I can still shift gears and chew gum at the same time.

Yeah, that’s right, I’m another old guy with a crotch-rocket. Don’t look now, but it appears the Hell’s Angels were the victims of a hostile takeover by the AARP. These days Bike Week in Sturgis more closely resembles an episode of the Golden Girls than it does Sons of Anarchy. You know it’s bad when the biggest drug problem at the event is trafficking in unprescribed Flomax.

Chalk it up to brilliant marketing. They tell us the cure for a spreading paunch and receding hairline is sixteen-hundred cubic centimeters of thundering metal between our legs. And judging by the number of sixty-somethings walking around in ass-less chaps and American flag dew-rags, we believe them. Once stricken by what is referred to as ‘Peter Fonda syndrome,’ former bankers and insurance salesmen are transformed into geriatric rebels without a cause, straddling twenty-thousand dollar cruisers, their silver locks fluttering in the wind. If you buy into the Harley-Davidson mystique, an overpriced motorcycle (along with thousands of dollars worth of logo-splashed accessories) is nothing short of the modern-day fountain of youth, making it so that even dentally-challenged guys with moobs and hairy backs can get laid. A couple of dagger tattoos, a leather vest, and you’re ready to roll. Don’t get too excited, though – it turns out having your taint in such close proximity to all that pulsating horsepower still may not be enough to raise the dead so don’t forget to pack the Viagra.

Now, I’m not simply jumping on the bandwagon here…I’ve actually done this before. I owned a Honda 350 back in the days before designer saddle-bags and fairings with 6-speaker sound systems, but it may as well have been a Moped compared to these modern-day behemoths. Bikers used to travel in packs for the protection that came with having a few buddies around who knew how to swing a crow bar when things got dicey, but now it’s more for road service…if one of them drops their bike, it will take five grown men and a gorilla to get it upright again.

And, no, I don’t own a Harley…I figure the extra money I’m saving will come in handy when my next of kin are picking out a casket for me, after I lose control of my “steed” on a mountain road because of my reduced eye-to-hand coordination and go sailing off a switchback into oblivion.

At the moment I ride an old-school Suzuki…very old school, as in circa 1984. As a point of reference, they were assembling this bike while listening to Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Wanna Have Fun’ and Wham’s ‘Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go’ (at least the Japanese versions of those tunes). It still has plenty of pep but admittedly lacks a little in the ‘cool’ department. Still, if I’m ever in the market for a new bike, I plan to avoid anything that looks like the space shuttle or, say, a praying mantis. I’m simply having a mid-life crisis, okay, not auditioning for a role in the next Batman movie.

No, it should be tastefully low-key…just a few flames painted on the gas tank. On second thought, maybe a pair of muscle-laden women – draped only in bandoleers and chains – throwing lightning bolts from their freakishly large breasts, standing on either side of a giant human skull that has a bloody snake emerging from either eye socket. But that’s all.

The thing is, it’s really not about the bike. Hell, Marlon Brando could have been riding a Big Wheel in The Wild One – it didn’t matter. He was a bad-ass, even with that “Captain and Tennille” sailor hat. But your grandpa gliding along on his chrome-bedecked hog replete with pavement lights, a luggage trailer and Garth Brooks blaring from the stereo, not so much.

Of course, there’s an easy fix for the problem – just get the manufacturers to stop including electric starters as standard equipment. There’s no way grandpa will be able to kick-start that GoldWing after his hip-replacement surgery.

The Case for Autonomous Cars – a Rant

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Image credit: whyyourmemeiswrong.com

To the morons my fellow motorists in the left lane:

How is it you haven’t noticed those signs for the last three miles, warning you that your lane is about to end? Benefit of the doubt – maybe some of you are visiting from another country and don’t understand the language. But all the license plates on the cars trying to squeeze past me herald from the good ol’ US of A. Surely not every one of these lane crashers is a stranger in a strange land. So that means there’s a good chance the rest of you are illiterate. Why else would you keep racing along right up to the construction barrels before standing on the brakes and forcing your way into the line here in the right lane?

If not illiterate, then you must be, like Forrest Gump, just plain stupid. Somehow, you are still unable to grasp the physics behind a traffic jam. Controlled merging while our cars are still moving, say, about a mile back, allows for everyone to keep rolling along in a continuous flow. But when you (and an endless stream of your butt-wipe friends) insist on driving down to the last inch of pavement, even as the giant flashing arrows and orange Department of Transportation signs implore you to get the hell over, you diddle us all. Don’t expect to be welcomed into the fold, and most certainly don’t offer a friendly wave as you wedge in front of me – I’m calling you every name in the book behind my tinted windows.

Congratulations, though. You’re now seven cars ahead of where you would have been had you made that controlled merge I mentioned. The irony (something else you seem unable to grasp, so I’ll explain it to you) is that a little cooperation would have allowed us to sail through this lane closure and, even seven cars back, you would have made far better time. Instead, since your inability to act in a judicious fashion has brought the entire freeway to a screeching halt, we’ll just sit here and bask in the glow of the brotherly love this moment has produced.

Is there a solution? Well, we could, as a society, just stop repairing our infrastructure – that would alleviate the problem, at least temporarily. Or perhaps the DOT could go all Mad Max and begin installing spike strips in the last half-mile or so of the lane that’s about to close. Hey, just throwing out ideas, here.

No, I suppose the best we can hope for, barring some government-sponsored electroshock ‘re-education’ program, is that your next car will be a ‘self-driver,’ one that comprehends the subtleties of playing nicely and sharing the road, one that will take the decision out of your hands while offering a friendly reminder as you try to make that last-second merge, “I’m sorry Dave (or Tom or Brian or Jennifer), I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

And maybe, just maybe, it could slap you upside the head with the sun visor, for all of us over here in the right lane.

The Line Starts Here

DSCF0855“Do you think Edward Abbey is turning over in his grave?” my son asked.

We were standing in a growing queue of disgruntled humanity, waiting to claim a seat on one of the shuttle buses pulling into the visitors’ center parking lot at Zion National Park in an endless convoy. Even in the blast furnace that is southern Utah in late July, hundreds of people continued to flock to the park’s transportation service, instituted almost 20 years ago when traffic on the two-lane road into the heart of the canyon became unmanageable. Since then the throngs have only grown more unwieldy.

“Spinning like a top,” I surmised.

This was what the naturalist/curmudgeon/misanthrope saw coming six decades earlier. Desert Solitaire, his ode to the slickrock and silence of Utah’s canyon country, warned of a time when we humans would choke what was a pristine and empty wilderness. As a ranger at the then newly-formed Arches National Monument, he once went so far as to pull up the surveyor stakes that marked out the new (paved) road planned by the park service to allow better access to the area. He had nothing but disdain for the doughy tourists who peeked out the windows of their motor homes at the natural wonders around them, and his employer, whom he felt was mismanaging the resources it was supposed to be protecting.

It would appear his fears have been realized. The parks are overrun. People are everywhere. In the case of Zion, the trail to Angels Landing – an improbable viewpoint at the tip of a soaring fin of sandstone – is every bit as crowded as a rush-hour freeway. The last half-mile along the ridge (where chains have been installed as a handhold to keep you from plunging the thousand or so feet down the sheer face of the rock to a messy end) is like a game of ‘chicken’ as those heading toward the top and those coming back down meet and try to decide who will be the first to relinquish their death-grip on that precarious life-line.

‘The Narrows’ are equally log-jammed, with hundreds of people at a time vying for footing in the gentle currents of the Virgin River, making it perhaps the most well-traveled slot canyon in the world.

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Heading up The Narrows with a thousand of our closest friends

And in a crowd of those proportions, you will contend with all types. Most are pleasant enough, of course, but many are far less than that. They are the ‘I don’t give a shit about your personal space’ers, the ‘we’re going to stroll five-abreast down this trail so no one can get around us’ sorts, the ones who believe ‘lines are for everyone else but me,’ the ‘fuck quiet time at 10pm, we’ll be as loud as we want for as late as we want’ers, the ‘my friends and I are stopping in the only passageway in this crowded cafeteria to stare at the menu’ types. Those who have absolutely no consideration for others.

Not that I have any ‘Holier than thou’ position to preach from. I am merely one of the herd, returning to a place I fell in love with many years ago, this time with my son. But I’m sure his first impressions of Mukuntuweap (as the Paiutes called it) are far different from mine. Yes, everyone should have an opportunity to experience the grandeur of the natural world. Yes, doing it with so many people lessens that experience, to a great degree.

And so we seek out the less-traveled paths. Surprisingly, there are still some around. One day we hiked a good distance into the wilderness outside of the main canyon, where we came across only a handful of others. Another morning, avoiding the most heavily-traveled routes and hiking times, we got up close and personal with several bighorn sheep.

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Zion bighorn, from a distance…

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…and a bit closer.

I have no answers – it simply is what it is. The world is becoming a very crowded place, even those formerly pristine and empty corners. Which makes it impossible at times to avoid the teeming masses. And as Jerry Seinfeld noted (and to which Abbey would surely agree), “People – they’re the worst.”

That Ribbon of Highway

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Random reflections from a quick trip back to the mitten.

Fort Collins sits hard against the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, which means the prairie starts (or ends, depending on one’s direction of travel) right at my door, extending east for a thousand miles. The longest and most unappealing stretch belongs to Nebraska. No disrespect to Willa Cather or the other stalwart sod busters who found some lonesome grandeur in the endless miles of grassland, but I  tend to agree with this gas station owner near Ogallala.

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Consequently, I try to time it so that passage is completed under cover of darkness. Just me and the big rigs playing tag along the banks of the Platte River while the numbers on the mileage signs dwindle all too slowly. To the cornhuskers’ credit, the speed limit is 75, so I can push it close to 80, the better to clear this interminable flatness as soon as possible. Still, it’s almost eight hours to Omaha, where I sneak through a little ahead of the morning rush, when I imagine the roads become clogged with tractors and hay balers.

Across the wide Missouri, Iowa awaits – Nebraska with wind turbines and a hill or two. Another cup of bad truck-stop coffee and a sleeve of stale powdered mini-donuts and I sling-shot around Des Moines into the rising sun. As the theme from Castaway plays on my ipod, the morning light returning the greens and golds of summer to the vast fields of corn, I can almost see why Willa loved the prairie, this place where “there was nothing but land.” Almost.

Across the even wider Mississippi is Illinois – Iowa with another tree or two. One of the exit signs tries to lure me off the freeway by offering a peek at Ronald Reagan’s birthplace. How is that not on my bucket list? A few more hours and I’m nearing Chicago, where traffic is plugged up from the sheer volume of humanity trying to squeeze through the lone toll gate on my route. I hand my buck ten to the attendant, who drops the dime and bends down out of sight to retrieve it, and for a moment I expect gunmen to pop up in the next booth and open fire on me the way Sonny met his untimely demise in The Godfather. I really need more coffee.

“Welcome to Indiana,” the sign declares. “The Crossroads of America.” Whatever the hell that means. Besides, here on the outskirts of Gary, it looks more like the Concrete Trench of America. With state troopers as the welcoming committee. And the ubiquitous orange barrels. This short stretch of I-94 between Illinois and Michigan has been the Never Ending Construction Zone since I started my wanderings back in the seventies. Day or night, rain or shine, winter or summer, there is no escaping the perpetual lane closures and traffic backups. Congratulations, Mike Pence – you can’t even fix 50 miles of freeway. I’m sure you’ll make a wonderful Vice President.

And then there’s Michigan – land of my birth, the only state where the natives can give directions by pointing to a location on a body part (with the possible exception of male Floridians). Among other things, the state is plagued with the nation’s worst roads, usually blamed on the miserable winters – an argument that doesn’t hold much water when you realize that surrounding states don’t have near as much trouble keeping their pavement smooth (Indiana’s difficulties notwithstanding). Maybe the folks at the tourism bureau should consider a little ‘truth in advertising’ and make one of their inspirational commercials about these shitty roads, with Tim Allen warmly reassuring us how we can expect that welcoming ‘thu-thump, thu-thump, thu-thump’ under the wheels as soon as we cross the border into the Great Lake State, the result of years of patchwork repairs. First-time visitors will marvel at the vast stretches of roadway that are rough enough to pound your car’s suspension to pieces. “Sitting on the shoulder of I-94 with a broken tie-rod, enjoying the radiant fall colors while waiting for a tow truck…pure Michigan!”