Gas prices might help save us from bad trips this season, but it is, after all, High Summer. All of us will go somewhere. Or wish we did. It’s that scant subseason in which we try to cram a year’s worth of warm fuzzies and completely sick activities into a week-long outing in the increasingly stuffy Subaru. Chances are, some of it will be good. But guaranteed? There’s always a little bit of Hell on the horizon.
1) Hot fun
With the idea that a vacation is vacating the everyday grind and spending a short time in some form of upgrade, it always amazes/confounds/befuddles us that people travel to/through/near Yuma in the summer. Boasting an average WTF July high of 106 degrees (to be fair, it’s a sweet 73 in February), Yuma is Arizona’s hottest city, and, that said, Arizona is the hottest state in the U.S., and, that said again, record highs are expected throughout the country this summer. Still, there are things to see while you’re slowly committing suicide. We suggest viewing the M65 Atomic Cannon at the entrance of the Yuma Proving Ground on U.S. Hwy 95. The cannon was built in the mid-’50s with the idea of hurling nuclear shells far enough so they wouldn’t kill the people who launched them. (The underlying message here is they would kill/maim the people who did not launch them.) Specifics: A single shell was detonated at the Nevada Test Site in 1953. It was launched 500 feet in the air before yielding a 15-kiloton explosion. We knew you’d want to know this.
2) Where has the chill gone?
If you’re visiting the Inland Empire (or anywhere in California) this summer, know that your card-bearing brethren are nervous and potentially poor hosts. The DEA has been going batshit crazy on dispensaries as of late, in one case busting in with guns drawn, handcuffing four patients and leaving with 25 pounds of marijuana and 89 pounds of edibles. Despite the passage of Prop 215, which allows for medical-marijuana dispensaries, raids are now epidemic, shuttering hundreds of stores statewide. Sacramento County alone has seen nearly 100 closures. The California Assembly voted 48-21 June 1 to pass a pro-dispensary bill to create a state licensing/policing agency for medical pot, which has been valued as an industry worth more than $1.5 billion in the state. The bill sees a harsh road through the senate and to the desk of Gov. Jerry Brown.
3) Hang on tight, indeed
In short, we Americans suck. In a recent survey by LivingSocial, we topped the list as the worst-behaved tourists on the planet. More than Canadians, Australians and Brits (also high on the list of loud, cheap assholes the rest of the planet would rather not see), we steal towels, bathrobes, TV remotes, sheets and even Bibles from hotels. And our aspirations for seeing the world? The top-10 dream destinations for Americans was basically a run-down for Holidays In and Around Hell, including the Eiffel Tower, Buckingham Palace, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Rome’s Coliseum, Disney World and, without a doubt, Las Vegas. As for the Eiffel Tower, we have personal experience of a fearful, fanny-pack/seed-corn-hat-clad Texan screaming to another in the elevator: “Hang on tight, Billy Bob!” Interestingly enough, in a recent survey of Twitter users, Ellen DeGeneres topped the list of celebrities (followed by Oprah) with whom Americans would most want to hit the road. No word yet from Ellen if she wants to meet up with Billy Bob for some pommes frites.
4) Sartorial Hell
By now we’ve all contacted our pals in Anchorage and congratulated/berated them for being the worst-dressed people in America, according to Travel + Leisure’s recent unleashing of its list. (We’re guessing the Fashion Police were somehow diverted from Summit County, Colorado.) Anyway, if you’re traveling this summer and want to feel good (rightly so) about how other people are dressing, you need to steer clear of Salt Lake City, which earned the No. 2 post. A pleasant, clean town that isn’t particular keen on boozing, it’s also kinda 1980s when it comes to the sartorial arts. As the T+L people say, there are only so many ways to rock a polo shirt. Coming in at No. 9, Phoenix has seen a dangerous uptick in the oft-maligned bolo tie. Baltimore and, oddly enough, Orlando made the top-10 list, while Portland made it into the fray at No. 13 (something about prom dresses). Denver, which often fails to distinguish between unwashed rock-climbing clothes and office casual, earned a respectable 17th place.
5) Cheap thrills
For the most part, Time magazine went a little short on the American West in listing the top-50 roadside attractions. But let’s say you’re driving along Hwy 50 in Nevada, often hailed as the Loneliest Road in America, and you’d like something to do besides careen into the ditch and kill the rest of the people in your car. You’ll want to stop at the Shoe Tree near Middlegate. It’s a cottonwood with a bunch of shoes hanging from its branches, and it’s a whole lot better than 30 to life. Up in Driggs, Idaho, we’ve got the Spud Drive-In Theater, which is fairly cool because there basically aren’t any of those left. But what you really want to see there is Old Murphy, the 1946 Chevy Truck that holds a two-ton concrete potato in the back. We’re not making this up. And rounding out the list of roadside WTFs, we have the esteemed giant thermometer in Baker, California. We saw that thing hit 124 one July afternoon while pulling a U-Haul back to Colorado. The asphalt was so hot that it squished under our shoes en route to the gas station convenience store. We were pretty sure we didn’t need the thermometer to tell us that we’d arrived in Hell.
Long-time newspaperhumanoid Tara Flanagan splits her time between Boulder and Breckenridge, Colo.