Bill Engvall is one of my favorite comedians. He is known for his “here’s your sign” bits. “Stupid people should have to wear signs. That way you wouldn’t rely on them, would you? You wouldn’t ask them anything. It would be like, “Excuse me…oops, never mind. I didn’t see your sign.” …
“We were trying to sell our car about a year ago. A guy came over to the house and drove the car around for about 45 minutes. We get back to the house, he gets out of the car, reaches down and grabs the exhaust pipe, then goes, “Darn that’s hot!” See? If he’d been wearing his sign, I could have stopped him.”
Speaking of comedians, I also love Brian Regan. I thought of him every time Chris and Charlie talked about coffee. They like their coffee black. Maybe it’s just Charlie that’s picky about that. We were driving together from the hotel we all stayed at in Crescent City to the beach house. When Heath was in the lead he pulled into a parking lot with a drive thru coffee shop. We asked Charlie what kind of coffee he likes, knowing he wanted a cup in the afternoon. He said he likes it black.
Anyway, every time I saw those two drinking coffee I thought of this bit by Brian Regan. It may be visually annoying since someone basically illustrated the jokes. You can close your eyes and listen if you prefer.
Back to signs.
Highway 101 has some of the strangest signs. Highway 101 is kind of a strange road altogether. It’s two lanes of opposing traffic separated by paint. Kind of like some crazy trust exercise. It says a lot about society that at any given moment a driver can choose to turn the wheel differently a few degrees and CRUNCH!
Speeds range from 25 to 55 depending on whether or not you’re passing through a town. There are houses and businesses on the 101. I just think that would be weird to put on a return address label.
The Piquant Storyteller
456 Highway 101
I think Fortuna was in Oregon. There were so many strange cities and towns, not to mention unfortunate street names. Fortuna was one of those names that cracked us up. Fortuna press one. For roast beef press two. It sounds like a sandwich hotline. There were some others but I don’t remember them and it’s probably just as well. We had a little too much fun with some of the street names. Like Leavage, a street that runs between two hills. You have to wonder what people were thinking.
I hated everything about traveling on the 101. Twiddly bits are fun and all but that’s all the road is. Twists and turns at breakneck speeds considering the twists and turns among the trees. There were no quiet parts of the road either. There was always someone behind us who seemed to be annoyed that we weren’t speeding through the terrain. And of course there was always truck and RV after semi truck and car careening down the road opposite of us. Separated by paint. Barely. Let’s just say that my legs were sore from trying in vain not to stomp on my imaginary brakes.
We listened to audio books for much of our driving. My heart was racing as we got to the most exciting part of Inkheart while it looked like we were inches from death from a head on collision with every vehicle that passed. Did I mention I didn’t like Highway 101?
At one point we were taking a break from the audio books and just listening to music. The kids were zoned out watching movies in the backseat. Heath was on a roll with the jokes. His sense of humor is one of my favorite things about him and he was cracking me up. I’m going to write this story knowing it won’t be as funny to anyone but us. You kind of had to be there.
The first elk sign came up and I had to say it. “Why do they put those signs there? Deer can’t read! No, but they do recognize pictures of themselves. Here’s your sign.” It’s a whole Bill Engvall thing from his Dorkfish album. Anyway, Heath and I giggled at the joke as we always do. Apparently there are a ton of elk that live in the Northern California and Oregon hills because the signs were everywhere.
At one point there was a sign that said Slow Elk 200 yards. Seconds later we rounded a corner and saw an old red one room schoolhouse. Heath started joking about slow elk and how he needed to run for office so he could lobby for better education for the elk. We decided the males were the slow elk because their horns can’t fit through the school door. Only the females can fit in the school. After that some signs specified slow elk while others just had a picture with the word elk. Heath kept asking if they were slow or fast elk.
Suddenly we came up on a long line of stopped traffic in both directions. People were getting out of their cars. As we inched our way around cars parked as far off the road as possible, which was about halfway through the lane, we expected to see some grizzly car accident. No, it was a herd of elk chilling in the grass. People were getting out to take pictures.
I managed to get a picture of only three female elk before we completely drove past the scene. Ironically all the slow elk were too quick for me and my camera prowess.
Heath and I laughed some more over elk and the strange scene of the elk grazing in the middle of the field by the road. Earlier we had laughed over the tsunami signs. You are entering the danger zone. Now you are leaving the danger zone. By the way, our beach house was in the tsunami danger zone! One sign had a dramatically decreased speed limit for the 90 degree turn. Heath had me laughing hard at that one too. “If we go that direction we’ll be in the ocean! We’re not trying to get to Japan!”
Then the sign to beat all signs came up.
“Campers 1/4 mile”
I laughed so hard I cried. Between tears and guffaws I choked out, “What, you wanna picture?” Think about it. The sign was not informing us of an activity. We weren’t being invited to a camping activity. It seemed to only be letting us know that people participating in a camping activity could be seen in a quarter mile. Like monkeys at the zoo. Drivers were left to wonder if these campers were displayed on the side of the road or if sleeping bags were strewn across the street. A quarter mile warning is not a lot of time at 55 mph through twiddly bits.
There were no campers that I could see. I feel a little like they made a big deal of not inviting me to their camping exposé. Whatever. It still makes me laugh. That night we went out to dinner in Cannon Beach. At some really delicious and very posh restaurant that we were severely underdressed for. As we were munching on bread and chatting, Heath tells the campers sign story. The hilarity was still very fresh on my mind and I snorted. Out loud. When he started the story. I’m not sure if anyone noticed. Not that it matters now, I just admitted it! That sign will be my happy thought for years to come.
Other crazy signs included pictures. Over and over we saw signs with a picture of a bike and the words “on the road” underneath. It just seems to me that it would be easier to remove the bike from the road than make a whole sign warning motorists about it. That’s not an unreasonable assumption either because there were plenty of bike racing signs. Those signs included a stick figure person on the stick figure bike. That’s a sign I can understand. Don’t hit the bikers. But the riderless bike? What’s that all about?
There were many signs that came in multiples. A large board would have a picture of a campfire, a tent, a picnic table, and the most chilling picture ever – a small person holding the hand of a big person with water under their feet. What!
It kept showing up. What were they saying? Vertically challenged individuals must hold the hand of the vertically endowed? Someone likes long romantic walks on the beach so much they advertise ten times in as many miles? Our favorite hypothesis was that it was a sign for child abduction or child exploitation. Maybe the sign meant that if parents turned their backs a kidnapper would walk off hand in hand with their kid. Maybe it was a safe surrender site! We felt better knowing that all those criminal activities were contained in small designated areas up and down the coast.
Eventually our silly imaginings turned to real contemplation. What in the world did that picture mean? We still don’t know but it’s highly likely the sign means it’s a family friendly beach. Oh.
The names of creeks were great too. Some of them were really lame like Big Creek. Little Creek. Rock Creek. Don’t hurt yourself coming up with names right? Maybe they liked Dick and Jane books. Maybe the creeks were named to be the setting for a Dick and Jane book.
My favorite was the tunnel that went straight into a bridge. I could just imagine the trailblazers. Some guy was sick of the twiddly bits and was going to bore straight through the mountain already. Forget going around when you can go right through. The tunnel was painstakingly dug and they finally came out the other side. *plop* A pickaxe dropped into the creek below. And then they had to make a bridge to get across.
For as much as I hated the 101, it was beautiful. Trees and mountains to the right. Breathtaking ocean views to the left. The signs more than made up for any anxiety. Now if you’ll excuse me I need to look at the campers exploiting children at the lake.