I took a road trip late last week to see my friend Country Bird in Oklahoma. We met at the Bird Sanctuary in 99 and have been friends ever since. She's a fellow bird nerd and we've had all kinds of (mis)adventures and hijinks during our bird watching excursions. She moved in 2006 but we've managed to see each other at least once a year whether it be through a planned birding trip, a bird banding conference or a short visit.
It's an 8 hour drive from my doorstep to hers and this was my first solo road trip. Yup, you heard right. In all the traveling I've done, I've never taken a road trip alone. Usually I fly and the road trips I have gone on I've been with other people. So I was a little nervous with all the things that could go wrong running through my head.
I passed through a long stretch of tacky tourist trap signs on the highway. The billboards for Meramec Caverns began about 30 miles outside of the city. Advertisements to see the cave of Jesse James hideout and various rooms in the cavern (such as the Ballroom) were ok, not too tacky, but somewhere along the way, Meramec Caverns started sporting billboards advertising their new "caveman zipline", complete with a cartoon cave man swinging across the billboard via the zipline.
Once I passed the Meramec Caverns attraction, the billboards began advertising the Jesse James Wax Museum, the World's Largest Rocking chair, the Vacuum Cleaner Museum, the Candy Factory, the Toy Factory, Ozark Souvenirs (over 25,000 souvenirs!) and the Precious Moments museum. I knew I was within driving range of Branson, probably the mecca of tacky tourist traps when I drove past a large A-frame tin building that was the "Candy Factory" with "BRANSON COUPONS" painted in bold yellow letters across the roof. Soon I was passing billboards for a.m. radio stations devoted to information and COUPONS for Branson attractions. How does a radio station manage to give traveling tourist coupons anyways? They certainly don't print through the car radio and most people don't stay long enough in the same hotel to receive mail. I thought the whole coupon thing was rather strange. And who devotes an entire radio station to nothing but tourist attractions?
The tacky and strange billboards abruptly dropped once I hit the Oklahoma state line. I traveled across the lower half of Missouri and was inundated with these tacky tourist trap billboards the entire way. I traveled through half of Oklahoma and did not come across one sign that was strange or ridiculous.
Someone please tell me Missouri isn't the only state that has advertisements for the obnoxious tourist traps along the highway. As I stated before, this was my first solo road trip. All the other road trips I had conversation with other people in the car to keep me occupied and otherwise too distracted to look at billboards. I'll be embarrassed on behalf of the people like me, who have strong aversions to the tacky tourist traps if I find out that we're the only state that proudly advertises those awful places.