Constable: On election's eve, a trip across America shows all our options

  • A cross-country drive shows how diverse the landscape (and people who live in it) can be. We, the people, decide if it's better to live in the desert, mountains or cities, or under the rule of Republicans, Democrats or a third party.

    A cross-country drive shows how diverse the landscape (and people who live in it) can be. We, the people, decide if it's better to live in the desert, mountains or cities, or under the rule of Republicans, Democrats or a third party. Courtesy of Ross Constable

 
 
Posted3/20/2018 5:30 AM

Nothing provides a greater appreciation for being an American than standing in line to vote on Election Day. Except for maybe a cross-country drive. Lucky me.

My son Ross and I had breakfast on Friday morning near Los Angeles before beginning our drive home for his college spring break. We spent the night in New Mexico at a Motel 6 in Tucumcari, sped through the Texas town of Shamrock on St. Patrick's Day, bought dinner near Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, and were home before midnight Saturday. And Tuesday, I'm voting at my local library before heading to work.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

We have plenty of options on our primary ballots. Candidates, both male and female, from many ethnic and religious groups, span the political spectrum from Democrat to Republican, from conservative to liberal, and from candidates we support to candidates we can't believe anyone would vote for.

A cross-country trip helps you realize that we don't all share the same view of the world, and it's not just because we are right and others are wrong. Driving through the Mojave Desert, we see exits for towns such as Siberia, Bagdad and Ragtown, and wonder what makes people want to live there. Just when we think the flatland of spotty grass and brush is getting monotonous, we find the beauty in a spiky, green Joshua tree, or a majestic spire of red rock juts up from the scrub to grab our attention.

Diversity, on the road or on the ballot, makes our trip much more interesting and appealing.

Ross and I stop for lunch in Needles, California, and I tell him that Needles reminds me of the old "Peanuts" comic strip by Charles Schulz. Before I can launch into another one of my thrilling road-trip stories where I use a local sight to impart some nugget of wisdom to my son, the local Subway does it for me. The restaurant features a statue of "Spike," the cartoon dog who was the long-lost brother of Schulz's famous "Snoopy" character, and copies of some of the comic strips starring Spike. That character, unknown to most people today, is a big deal here.

"Life in the desert is exciting," Spike says in a panel from Oct. 12, 1993. "Last night the sun went down, and this morning the sun came up. There's always something happening."

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Driving across the nation gives people plenty of chances to talk about the issues. This sign for the Arizona town of Two Guns can inspire conversations about whether our nation has too many guns or not enough.
Driving across the nation gives people plenty of chances to talk about the issues. This sign for the Arizona town of Two Guns can inspire conversations about whether our nation has too many guns or not enough. - Courtesy of Ross Constable

Sure enough, Ross and I do appreciate the sunset and the sunrise and the next sunset we see during the rest of our trip.

The ghost town of Two Guns, Arizona, along historic Route 66, reminds us that many modern Americans will be marching Saturday with the notion that our nation has too many guns. Route 66, which runs from Chicago to the Santa Monica Pier just north of Los Angeles, used to be the way Americans made the trip west. Now interstates let us make that trip much quicker.

Some drivers opt for the convenience of the new roads. Others appreciate the charms of that old American classic route. That doesn't mean interstate drivers are un-American or Route 66 drivers are evil. If companies ever figure out how to make a self-driving car that doesn't kill anybody, we might relegate human drivers to the off roads.

Throughout our 40-hour, 2,133-mile odyssey, we notice very few cars, trucks and RVs sporting political bumper stickers. We don't know if the hotel clerk who gave me the senior discount voted for Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton or someone else, or never votes. We don't know if the gas station attendant who refunded the coins we dropped into a machine with a broken air hose belongs to the NRA, donated to Planned Parenthood or would be appalled by my political views.

I'm not sure if anybody has changed a person's mind with a bumper sticker or a social media post, but I do know that voicing our opinion at a polling booth can change the direction of a school board, park district, village, county, state or nation. And if election results aren't to your liking, I guarantee you can hop in your car or a bus and find a part of this nation where you would feel at home.

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