The biggest rip off in America

24 05 2015

 

Because there has to be one, right? And I found it.

 

Step right up to the world famous four corners.

Step right up to the world famous Four Corners.

Four Corners is an arbitrary point on planet earth where four U.S. states meet – the only spot like this in the lower 48! – because surveyors in the late 19th and early 20th centuries decided it should be so. And thus created the crappiest, biggest rip off imaginable. For the geographically challenged: Utah, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona (clockwise, starting in the upper left-hand quadrant) are the fantastic four we are talking about here.

The actual point of interest, called, appropriately, Four Corners, is where these four states meet. It is situated on a piece of land belonging to two native American tribes, the Ute in the northeast, and the Navajo everywhere else. The drive to the “national monument” is up a dirt road on Navajo land in New Mexico. The entrance fee is $5 per person. There is no printed information or map (as one would usually receive when, say, entering a National Park run by the Department of the Interior) but rather a tourist brochure dated “Summer 2012.”

Once inside the fenced-in enclosure (be sure you don’t throw out an axle on the pot-holed muddy driveway) this here is what people have come all this way to see.

Yep, that's it.

Yep, that’s it.

Around this arbitrary point on the ground are amphetheater-like rows of benches and low balconies, one in each of the four states, so that tourists can have themselves photographed with whichever of the four state names and state seals they wish – or all of them! (And sit as they watch others be photographed.) Beyond the benches, on all four sides, are stalls with hawkers hawking original Native American arts and crafts (Made in China?) and food that would give you (and your cardiologist) a massive heart attack. I did not visit the outhouses so I can’t report on their ambiance and cleanliness or lack thereof.

It’s a place where someone a long time ago said: “If you build it, they will come… and they will even pay good money for the privilege.” And they actually, do come in droves for the opportunity to pay $5 a head in order to stand in line to get themselves photographed with their two feet in four states simultaneously. Or doing a pushup, with each limb in a different state.

How… um… exciting.

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Welcome to the great wide nothingness

15 05 2015

It’s only when you try to drive across this continent that you realize just how darn big it really is. And if all you are doing is watching the miles tick down on your GPS, you will truly go nuts. Or fall asleep.

(Unless you are driving in South Dakota, where the speed limit is an unbelievable 80 mph/128 kmh. It is wise to pay a little more attention to the road when traveling at that speed plus 10%…)

Lots and lots of space.

Lots and lots of nothing.

So it’s lots of fun to look out for the sign along the side of the highway that tells you that you are about to cross into a new state. They are quirky, colorful and tell you a little something about the place you’ll be spending the next few hours of your life in.

At the outset of our road-trip, we planned to cross into 16 states and one Canadian province (which could easily be a state as far as I am concerned…). Here are a couple of these “Welcome to…” signs we found so far, not necessarily in the order in which we passed them.

Didn’t it used to be “Yours to discover”?

And Mount Rushmore was indeed a highlight.

Maybe a little too much information to digest while speeding by at 65mph?

Simple, straightforward. Kind of like Kansans.

Everyone’s claiming rights to Lincoln now??

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There’s a river and a sun in Missouri.

It says something about independence but it was the middle of the night and we were already exhausted.

Sweet. The good life.

Yes it is.

Wow… the people of Iowa welcome me personally! Imagine that!