Not Wyoming, but Australia understands.
I’ve done it before, so I knew what lay ahead before going in: driving through Wyoming. I say that, but I still wasn’t prepared because before I – never mind. This time I had teenagers and it changes everything.
“What time is it?” This is the teenage version of ‘are we there yet?’ They’ve learned the latter will incite insanity in the parental figures, which bodes ill for their chances of fun later.
“This is the most boring road ever!” Clearly The Girl (17) hasn’t completely learned the survival lessons Hubby spent so much time trying to teach her.
I was driving at the time and in a fit of temporary insanity chose to answer her.
“No, it’s not.” I look around: there is featureless terrain as far as the eye can see. On the plus side, it’s green. “Twenty minutes ago we finished thirty miles of construction where I couldn’t pass and had to follow a truck I couldn’t see around at 60 mph. That wasn’t boring. It was frustrating and infuriating, but it wasn’t boring.
“An hour before that we had twenty cars stacked up, all going precisely six over the limit and afraid to pass each other because someone left their radar gun on and everyone’s radar detectors were going off for fifteen minutes straight. There was something amusing about all those drivers and passengers all looking around for an unmarked highway patrol car, plane, ‘your speed is:’ sign, or even a damn automatic door. That wasn’t boring.
“And now I’m on a two-lane highway where I have to wait for a lull in oncoming traffic to pass the car in front of me who, in all fairness, is simply going the speed limit. I’ve waited for miles to pass this guy. Not boring. Do you know when I finish passing him I’ll be going 90 and more than eligible to be ticketed? Again, not boring.
“Plus, we’ve seen one cop since entering the state. One. They’re out there. Where? Not boring.”
“Mom, I think Wyoming doesn’t care about what you do. Lack of cops running radar should tell you something.”
“Then legalize marijuana, it’ll send a clearer message. And raise the speed limits off the interstate, I like 80.”
“Dad, do something with her, she’s nuts.” There was that whine that I’ve tried to beat out of her (figuratively and clearly without success).
“Says the kid tallying roadkill,” responded Hubby. At which point The Girl updated us on her count. On every road trip she tracks the number of memorial crosses she sees by the road. Then it grew to counting wildlife that we hit (I’ll tell you about our cursed vehicle sometime). Now she counts memorials, wildlife we hit (or hits us), and roadkill. Bit morbid, but it’s led to some interesting discussions about animal behavior and interaction with humans, and she also sees how species distribution changes with environment. Not the best way to present that lesson, but it worked.
The Boy has played video games or watched Netflix on his phone the entire drive and had little to say until his sister kicked him and drew him into the conversation. His input?
He looked around. “I’m sort of surprised I can get a signal out here.”
I glanced at him in the rear-view mirror. “Verizon loves you.”
He nodded and slid his headphones back into place. That was it.
I looked around again; the gently rolling grassy hills reminded me of a Windows wallpaper, the one on corporate computers that home users replace. I kept half expecting to see the Teletubbies over the next hill. That was my cue it was time to let Hubby drive. Then I could play ‘spot the living prairie dog’ with The Girl, which she had little interest in.
Soon we got our first deer warning sign, which annoyed me because they didn’t really mean ‘watch for deer’ they meant ‘watch for pronghorn.’ As a point of interest, we had been watching for them already, and had seen many. Mostly alive.
They always use the general ‘prancing reindeer’ sign for the ‘watch for wildlife that could total your car’ warning. Except moose. Somehow moose get their own sign. Cows too sometimes. Cows were plentiful in the area but no sign to watch for them! The really weird thing is that they’re using the prancing reindeer sign in the lower 48 states, where you have zero chance of seeing a prancing reindeer (other than on Christmas Eve). Reindeer aren’t native to Wyoming. Would it kill them to make a sign for pronghorn?
It’s the cost! Sigh. A legitimate argument, sure. Except every time you change counties in western Washington the signs change, at least some do. I’ve seen five different ‘don’t drink and drive’ signs. I swear the state does it to keep artists employed, although it’s entertaining. And those warning signs about trucks and tight corners? Some of those are awesome. Let’s not forget ‘don’t drug and drive,’ those can be fun, especially in rural areas. My favorite is between Redmond and Duvall. If Washington can spring for new signs all over the place, surely Wyoming can print separate pronghorn and deer signs. At least give the drivers a better idea of what they’re looking for. They’re clearly not spending the money on highway patrol (not complaining there, honest!).
It’s not just Wyoming either. South Dakota, Idaho, Oregon, Nevada, Utah, and Arizona are similarly guilty. People who live in those states: tell your DOT people to snap to. Although Northern California has an interesting twist on signage I’ll never figure out. They have which direction you’re supposed to be going painted on the freeway. I’m serious. I saw it on a divided section of the 101 coming from Oregon and it floored me. I just couldn’t see where there could be any confusion, and it reoccurs regularly despite there not having been an onramp or side road. Like I pulled over onto the shoulder to … I don’t know, switch drivers, and Hubby mistakenly did a U-Turn to re-enter traffic? Does that happen much in California? The worst part is there was a reason they had to paint those directional arrows on the road. I’d love to know why.