Home of the World’s Largest Golf Tee, Home of The World’s Largest Windchime, Home of the Annual Popcorn Festival … everything along this stretch declares itself to be the bullshit home of something. The selling points are meager, designed to draw fast-passing motorists beyond the off-ramp into doldrums, beyond the cheap motels and gas pumps into whatever circus tent or freak show the chamber of commerce can procure.
While driving through St. Louis I stop off to visit the World Chess Hall of Fame, where I find myself consumed with the phrase “Pax Americana”. Thirty minutes later I am weaving west along I-70, the DJ sending “Highway to Hell” out to “The hottest girl in Wartville”. From there it’s north-northwest along I-29, where the rural routes bear names like H-I-J and K. I check into a Super 8 beyond Topeka, its office doors within a stone’s throw of the highway. One quick left and then a right, and I’m off and running once again the following morning.