January 19, 2007

The John Thune Memorial Highway Signs, And Other Tales From The Road

Sometime last week, the powers that be decided that much snow (way more than usual, anyway) would be dumped on the state of Washington. Whereupon, the residents thereof all decided at once that it was time to get that pair of chains they'd always been meaning to have and also get work done on their tires. I made it out Tuesday, but conditions were snowy, icy and/or generally mucky or low visibility all the way to Spokane (279 mi) where I stopped. Wednesday, the Idaho mountains were grueling, teeth gritting and generally annoying (bring me the hide of the person who planned those sodding curves in the passes that feel like you're driving off the side of an overturned cereal bowl), but this was made up for on getting to Montana's generally flat and dry stretch of I-90. I got to Billings, MT (540 mi), there not having been snow or anything particularly unpleasant since light flurries at lunch in Missoula, and there was much rejoicing. Today, I made it through the rest of Montana, Wyoming and almost all the way through South Dakota, stopping in Sioux Falls (717 mi) after having enjoyed the most crystal clear weather I could possibly have hoped for.

There was much snickering. I will explain.

So I'm driving by Murdo, SD, and learn that it's the hometown of U.S. Senator John Thune. How did I pick up this fascinating bit of trivia while enjoying South Dakota's fabulous 75 mph speed limit? (Not only is the limit 75 mph, but the minimum speed is posted as 40 mph. A minimum highway speed. Bestill my fluttering eyelashes.) Easy. Right below the standard green and white DOT highway sign letting me know that I was indeed approaching the town of Murdo, there was another standard green and white DOT highway sign informing me in a bold, easy to spot way that it was the "Hometown of U.S. Senator John Thune." (I can't remember at the moment if hometown was one word or two in the sign, but I DID just drive 717 miles, so bear with me.) And I thought, well, how adorable.

Then I got to Sioux Falls, the destination I'd been hoping all day that I had enough fortitude and caffeination to reach, and learned that it was the home of U.S. Senator John Thune. I learned this because as you're probably beginning to suspect, there was another standard green and white DOT highway sign posted beneath the Sioux Falls sign to tell me that this happy place is the "Home of U.S. Senator John Thune."

I guess there won't be any Santorum-like problems with establishing Thune's residency status. If you're on the highway sign, you're a fixture. Immovable. A rock. Or at minimum, some reasonably stable structure made of plaster and wood that's expected to last somewhere in the vicinity of a half century. If you're on the sign, you're a veritable roadside attraction; though, one suspects in this case, not the kind where you get further directions to a precise location and an encouragement to drop by for a visit.

Of course, as soon as I exited and was back to driving at wholly reasonable speeds, I cracked right the heck up. The guy's been in office barely two years, for love of Graud. Two years and he's already being memorialized on highway signs. Does this happen elsewhere? Were there similar signs up for Sen. Tom Daschle, whom he replaced, and Thune's just continuing the tradition? Is there no snark in South Dakota of the type that would have mocked this idea out of existence before anyone even got around to calling the DOT?

I just can't fathom it, but I had a good laugh. And I absolutely had to share it.

Other random notes: A white guy somewhere in the vicinity of 60 was telling his table companion in a Spokane Denny's that he'd read Barack Obama's books and thought the guy really had something to say. The "Don't Know Much About History" (American history, btw, if you don't know the book) audiobook keeping me company on the drive had gotten into the 'mopping up' efforts against the Indians after the Civil War and was in the middle of the passage on Little Bighorn when I went by the first sign for the site of Little Bighorn. Going by Wounded Knee and the Black Hills later was a different experience than it might otherwise have been, as you might imagine. I passed the site of Laura Ingalls Wilder's home in SD; under other circumstances I would have stopped to see, I loved those books when I was a kid.

"Nobody with a good car needs to be justified. ... And I'll tell you why. ... I come a long way since I believe in anything, and I come half way around the world. ... Where you come from, is gone. Where you thought you were going to, weren't never there. And where you are, ain't no good unless you can get away from it."

"Then there's only one thing left for me to do, momma. I gotta ding a dang dong my dang a long ling long." - Jesus Built My Hotrod (extended version) by Ministry

Posted by natasha at January 19, 2007 01:11 AM | Random Mumblings | Technorati links |

Oh, lots of place have a minimum speed, including Kansas and Missouri. It sort of keeps the tractors off the Interstate.

Posted by: Scorpio at January 19, 2007 08:25 AM

Yup. And you'll notice they aren't as common in certain parts of Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania because of the local Amish populations in various locales.

Posted by: palamedes at January 19, 2007 11:15 AM

Struddle your finguz and Sieg up!


Posted by: cccokz at January 20, 2007 05:56 AM