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The Herald, Friday, April 13, 1990
Signs mark the way
It's light reading time again, brought to you by all the signs, billboards, mailboxes and license plates across America.
Marshville, N.C., is seriously proud of its most famous resident, country music star Randy Travis. At the town limit is a welcome sign built on a stout brick foundation. Randy Travis' name is far more prominent on the sign than the word, "Marshville."
Dovesville, S.C. has a famous resident as well. A handmade addition to the Dovesville sign proclaims, "Home of Flat Nose the Tree Climbing Dog." Since I didn't have a celebrity map of Dovesville, I rode on through. Flat Nose hasn't given many interviews since he had his pacemaker installed.
I rode through an area of Kansas where elaborate mailbox ornaments were the thing. Pardon me, mailbox statues. The first one I came to was a marvelous work of art. It was a cowboy relaxing on a split rail fence with a whip in his hand. I had to get within 10 feet of the thing before I could tell it was hand-built from odd-shaped pieces of scrap iron welded together.
Further down the road I came to a pretty fair likeness of the tin man. This guy was standing with a hard hat on and a cigarette in his mouth.
Obviously mailbox vandalism hasn't yet spread to the Midwest. I wondered how long either of these statues would last on this side of the Mississippi.
At a stoplight in North Carolina I saw a personalized license plate -- JKLMNOP. The middle letters of the alphabet? Beats me.
A breakfast house in Stateville, N.C., had several skinny parking spots in front of a sign, "Compact cars only." I had the strange desire to park a dump truck right there.
In the North Carolina mountains I passed a sign pointing to Camp Cheerio. That sounded like a great place for kids to have breakfast.
Not far from Camp Cheerio I came to a settlement that displayed a blunt version of a familiar message -- "WARNING! This community is watching you." Suddenly I felt dozens of eyes staring at me. The town's residents were masters of covert surveillance, as I looked all around but never saw a soul.
At the Colorado state line is a sign, "Fine for littering $1000." No wonder the roads are spotless. At rest stops I would eat sunflower seeds and collect the hulls in my hand, afraid to throw them down. I imagined a Litter Patrol officer hiding behind every rock.
A mobile home dealer's sign in Wilkesboro, N.C., bragged, "Stop in and see convertible mobile home." What a trick. I almost stopped, sheerly out of curiosity. Would it be a ragtop or a removable hardtop? How fast could you get the roof back on if it started raining? (Note: I am forever amazed at the bizarre ideas I come up with on the road.)
I stopped for a rest break near the Marshall Steam Plant on Lake Norman and took a photo of my bike leaning against one of Duke Power's "No Trespassing" signs. It was a stealthy maneuver. I ate pizza very close to the chain link fence that guarded the top-secret woods. I even kicked around a few of their private gravels. I rode away feeling like I was truly one up on the world. Strange what a difference a "No Trespassing" sign can make.
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