A sticker on I-80

May 25, 2006

It had been two and a half weeks on the road.

Two and a half weeks hop scotching thru the middle states of America, where people attend church Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays, dine at fast food restaurants morning, noon and night, and chew tobacco like it’s bubble gum.

Two and half weeks longing for the lefty-ness of California, the safety and security of my circle of friends, the Starbucks, the sunshine, the wheatgrass shots, the sushi rolls, the beach and the mountain views.

Two and a half weeks dealing with mullet-heads who smoke cigarettes where they eat and proudly practice politics of intolerance and ignorance.

Two and a half weeks eating at taverns that serve domestic beers, double beef burgers, deep fried chicken fried steaks, and wilted iceberg lettuce salads.

Two and a half weeks dealing with station attendants who peer over their registers and pierce holes through my soul because I don’t look like one of them.

Two and a half weeks living in the heartland of America and feeling like a foreigner in my own country.

Two and a half weeks of losing hope.

County after county. Truck stop after truck stop. It all looked the same: flat and gray. A yellow dashed line in the middle of the road is the only thing that broke up the monotony.

But in a moment that all changed.

I was somewhere west of Des Moines, IA, driving on Interstate 80, when I looked up from my dash board and spotted, on the back of a blue Chrysler-mini van, something I hadn’t ever seen — a sticker that read Barack Obama. 

In that moment, my negativity and sadness, my hopelessness and emptiness, my frustration and anger, my fear and loneliness dissolved into the road behind me. In that moment, it was all gone.

A feeling of hope washed over me when I saw for myself that a change is on its way.

Yes it is, I thought. Yes it is.

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12 thoughts on “A sticker on I-80

  1. Sad, funny, beautiful and revealing all at once, Ryan.

    On another note I understand how a bumper could restore your hope….your bumper does the same thing for me :O

    Keep on truckin, my “lefty” boy.

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  2. Boy, Ryan, the Left Coast versus the rest of the country! I can relate. I have to travel to Clear Lake, Texas (between Houston an Galveston) for business quite frequently, and there’s a route through the very physically pleasant upscale community of Nassau Bay that I follow to get my daily running fix. As you can imagine, this is prime George Bush country, and during the last federal election, the run almost seemed like a gauntlet, past home after home with Bush campaign signs on their lawn.

    Many of these people, so nice and polite and ready to nod at me as I pass would, if they knew I was a gay man from San Francisco, prefer that I live my life in some kind of concentration camp rather than as a free and valid person.

    But then, one one of my runs, IT happened !! A political gathering at one of the homes, which turned out to be for Kerry and the Democrats!

    I came very close to stopping off, telling them all who and what I was, and thanking them profusely!! 🙂

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  3. Craig, I bet you’re really gross….. but I’m sure you’re a very nice fella.

    Speaking of nice….Ryan’s derriere…..NICE!!!

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  4. Iowa is IA

    As a resident of Missouri I take offense at your dislike of middle America. We are not all redneck losers without culture, class and open minds. It’s sad to see that you are so judgemental against a whole section of our nation. You, my brother, need to be enlightened. I am willing to open a dialog, are you?

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  5. I hate that feeling…being distant, being different. I, too, have felt like I wasn’t in the same country my state is in.

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  6. I enjoy your blog but was a little offended by this post. Yes, the midwest may be less glamorous than California but why not be open to differences instead of facing them with such negativity? Not everyone here are “mullet-heads” who “practice politics of intolerance and ignorance”. I find it ironic how you paint midwesterners to be close-minded people, when that is exactly how you come across in this blog. I would’ve thought a traveler like yourself would be able to appreciate a new place, instead of just longing for the familiarity of home. Just because the people you met aren’t liberals who live by the beach and drink Starbucks, doesn’t mean that they are bad people. I hope that you learn not to generalize an entire group of people based on the small percentage that you came across.

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  7. Writing is for expressing feelings. I can’t speak for Ryan but he certainly has the right to express his feelings about things in his own words. I don’t see the negativity you others seem to see. I see a writer who is absolutely amazing at painting a picture with words. He says what he sees whether you like the way he sees it or not.
    Thanks Ryan!

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  8. I agree with Illinois. I don’t think you’re giving the Midwest enough of a chance. A number of years back, I moved to Iowa from the Northeast with similar stereotypes. But it turns out that I met all sorts of people with different political views and more importantly, I came to appreciate how friendly people were there compared to what I was used to back home. Instead of driving through and sneering at the man behind the cash register at the I-80 truck stop, why not give the Midwest a chance and actually get to know the locals?

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