The Top Ten Significant Insignificant Observations at the Halfway Point

We’ve seen six months of sunsets. Hopefully that qualifies us to make these insightful insights.

Six months into our trip and we’ve already done a lap around the US, circling the country (and more) from Channel Islands to Key West, and from Acadia to Portland.  Completing a circle usually calls for some kind of reflection, something that highlights lessons learned or nirvana(s) experienced.  This is not that post. (Although you might want to check out this post for more details on where we’ve been.)

We have some serious thoughts that we’ll no doubt put on the interwebs in the coming months, but I thought it might be fun to highlight some significant insignificant observations that we’ve had on our trip.  Some are observations that anyone might have had driving 25,000 miles around the country over six months, and some might be more conditioned by the fact that we haven’t lived in the US for about 10 years.

One: Why did anyone let us drive an RV without taking some sort of course first?

You should never have let us take this trip without a special driver’s license.  Why did no one require us (and the millions of other RV and trailer drivers) to get a special operator’s license before we drove one of these things into your neighborhoods?  It’s crazy.  I’m more aware of stupid, dangerous things people do when driving RVs now that I’ve done them myself, and wow, people are doing stupid things with 5 and 10 ton rigs all across this great nation.


This means you.  Our trailer tires aren’t rated to go above 65 miles an hour, which has been nice—I’ve had more time to pay attention to the scenery, as well as other drivers.  It seems as though every other person who passes us is texting, tweeting, or snapchatting (yes, you can tell the difference). Stop it, people.

Three: Walmart is genius for letting RVs stay overnight for free in its parking lots.  

I get up in the middle of the night and read almost daily.  When we overnight at a Walmart, I get up and spend $100.

Four: Where are the American flags?  Not in the countryside

View up from the bottom of the Grand Canyon. I don’t see this much in rural areas.

When I’m driving our rig, I’m constantly monitoring the wind speed, because I don’t want to be the next overturned trailer you see while driving.  That means I’ve been looking for which direction flags are flying from Maine to Denver, and I’ve noticed something: There are almost no flags in the rural parts of the US.  Farmers and ranchers are rarely flying them.  It’s only when you get into suburbs and cities that they start popping up, most consistently at car dealerships and other businesses.  This raises interesting questions about the social context in which we fly flags.  Why are the growers of our food not flying them when the sellers of that food (and other things) are?

Five: Sign language matters. 

Every state has a different type of signage for telling people to stay in the right lane. Our experience—albeit anecdotal—is that “Keep Right Except to Pass” is by far the most effective for keeping people in the right lane.  “Slower Traffic Keep Right” or “Pass on the Left” just don’t seem to work as well.  My hunch is that everyone has a different definition of “slower traffic” and most of the time it doesn’t include yourself.

Six: Our trains are really slow. 

The US is one of the only developed countries in the world where you can pass a train in your truck (while towing a trailer).  This is great for taking action shots of trains, but sort of bad for the future of our country.

Seven: More campsites with electric hookups would be good for everyone.

I know, I know, anyone here without an RV is going to shake his or her head at the people who go into the woods just to watch TV or need climate controlled wilderness, but the reality is that RVs aren’t going away, and neither are their noisy generators—unless there are more electric sites in the campgrounds.

Eight: Diversity in the parks is an issue.

Jen is almost always the sole minority representative in the crowd at the ranger talks we attend.  It would be both great for our country and for the future of the parks if we could find more ways to encourage everyone to get outside. Interestingly enough, the only non-white demographic that we have seen with real regularity in the parks is people of Indian descent (from the Indian Subcontinent). I’d appreciate any insight into why that might be the case if anyone has some. In any case, keep it up, Indian-American friends!

Nine: Culver’s is clearly the best regional/national fast food place in America. 

Sorry Shake Shack, Freddy’s, In-and-Out, Chik-fil-a, Panera, Whataburger, Potbelly, Chipotle, Noodles & Co, Jimmy John’s, and even Five Guys. Dollar for dollar, nobody makes people happy and fat, better.

When you take navy showers, you jump in every hot spring you can. Watch out, Yellowstone!

Ten: Water, water everywhere? 

Jen and I have gotten used to using 40-60 gallons of water per week (and that includes at least 7 showers).  The average American uses 80-100 gallons per day.  Similar ratios exist for electric and gas usage.  We’re flushing our future down the toilet. Before we do, I’d like to propose that every American spends a year off the grid to encourage resource conservation.  Better yet, come join us in the parks and we’ll have an water usage olympics–loser empties out the tanks.

6 Replies to “The Top Ten Significant Insignificant Observations at the Halfway Point”

  1. Maybe because I grew up in National Parks in California (Yosemite, Big Sur, Joshua Tree, Redwoods) – I never felt Asian Americans were that much of a minority in the parks. I was always there with family or college friends so it never felt like I was the only Asian hahaha.

    1. Ha, can we camp with your people?

      I think you’re right, that too since extent the demographics we’ve seen so far have been a function of where we’ve been. I’m guessing the California parks will be far more diverse, as will the better known western parks we’re about to hit.

      That said, the statistics don’t lie (or, lie less than our observations): over 80% of campers are white. The past administration tried to address this with the #findyourpark movement and free admission for fourth graders and their families, but I think more has to happen. I know that a number of inner city schools hold summer camps in the woods, which is an example of a counter-trend.

  2. Great post! Intrigued by the flags, always thought that they were most plentiful in the north East, where for some reason they feel less chauvinistic. C and I wanna try Culver’s!

    1. Culver’s won over the Leung family in a big way this past June.

      The flags intrigue me as well. I think it really is a function of population density, although I’ve been entertaining other ideas as well.

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