American Culture

Where are the road signs?

The land between two cities sometimes makes for the most interesting places to explore. Though the 427 miles of land along the route between Little Rock, Arkansas and New Orleans, Louisiana may require a more intense search to support this theory, my brother, Dan, and I found ourselves still entertained by these lonely miles of countryside.

It all started during our hour-long exit from Little Rock. Because of the detours and lack of road signs, we found ourselves driving down a wooded backroad with not a soul, car or house in sight…not a soul, that is, besides a brown, mid-sized dog trotting down the road toward us wearing a collar and leash around his neck.

We pulled over to investigate. With nothing but trees and pavement around us, we couldn’t tell whether the dog had been purposely abandoned or somehow lost from his owner. We looked around again, but still saw nothing. There we stood…just two New York-bred traveling souls standing in the backwoods of Arkansas with a 12-foot-long yellow truck, a lost dog and a gray cat named Logan.

We found our way to the nearest house – Dan leading with the Penske truck and me following on foot as if on a casual summertime dog walk in suburbia. Within seconds of arriving at the house, a man emerged from the front door sporting a white tank top, jeans and low-hanging cigarette. He had never seen the dog before, and told us if no one at the corner store up the road knew the owner then no one would. We might as well just take the dog, the man suggested. “Sure is a pretty dog, but no one would miss him anyway.”

Of course, my animal-loving soul had already begun scheming a plan to have the dog join Dan, Logan and me on our seven-hour journey south. I became convinced that fate had brought us all together.

We had barely made it out of the driveway before the dog’s owner slammed the brakes of his passing truck. The young man came and left with few words besides “appreciate it, brother” as he led my dream dog to his vehicle. And, away they went.

The first man’s wife had since emerged from the house and seemed delighted that we found the dog’s owner. She told us all stray animals migrate to their house, and they simply could not take in any more. They currently have six cats (three of them who need to be “spayed-ed”), three dogs (all who were barking at us from the house’s small window), a few chickens and a turkey that “comes around once in a while.” We were glad not to trouble the couple with more forgotten animals and to finally be on our way out of town.

To touch further on the confusingly large number of unlabeled roads…they’re everywhere. The farther south we drive, the harder it has become to get in and out of cities. We have driven miles past needed turns on several occasions, simply because of unmarked roads. It’s like we’re supposed to just know the name of every road in every city. Even some of the major highways are unmarked, so if not for GPS on our smart phones we could have added hours onto the drives just searching for interstates.

In addition to the wandering dog and lack of road signs, we passed several other notable sights and sounds throughout the South Central United States. Among them, we saw one hitch hiker, one forest fire, two horses grazing in a fenceless front yard, countless baptist churches and an establishment with a sign advertising “BBQ Pit and Flea Market.” Two different radio reporters – one in Arkansas and the other in Mississippi – read the weather report by saying “Tomorrow will be 96 and sunny. Sunday will be exactly the same, and the day after that will be the same as Sunday.” The highways were bumpy almost the entire drive, especially in Arkansas where they were also uniquely narrow. We drove by numerous small towns of only several thousand people, not including two we passed with populations of 500 and 240.

There certainly isn’t much going on around those parts, but that makes it almost more fascinating to passing Northerners like ourselves. Now, we can say we’ve traveled through the backroads of Arkansas and the marshes of Louisiana. We saw towns with populations reflecting both our high school and college graduating classes. Best of all, we can cross off accidentally almost kidnapping a tagless dog from our bucket lists.

2 replies »

  1. The whole roads-without-signs thing might be bad down there, but I’ve never been anyplace where the signs-to-roads ratio was lower than in Boston.

  2. I agree, Boston is nuts. Worse by far than Mexico City. At least Mexicans can drive.

    There are traffic lights you’re supposed to ignore. The locals in my car were sceaming, “Don’t stop, Don’t stop,” as I slowed for a red light.