The Scenic Route

By Tyler Cole

My older brother called the other day and said he’d bought a house in Idaho, so I decided to drive out and take a look. I wanted to take Interstate 80, but a friend recommended Interstate 90 instead. He said that by taking Interstate 90, I could drive through the Badlands and past Mount Rushmore and maybe into Yellowstone National Park. I thought the Badlands were a swamp, but he described them as scenic rocks, so I agreed to take his advice.

My brother celebrated a birthday last week, and I’d tried to build him a wooden nightstand with a black concrete top, but the concrete didn’t set right, so I decided to buy him something on the way. When my nightstand fell apart, I’d marveled that a single, continuous strip of concrete started two miles from my apartment and ran two thousand miles to Seattle. Then I decided I’d be damned if I marveled at the U.S. interstate system like an old man, so I got into my car and started to drive.

One radio station disc jockey in Wisconsin asked, “If you had 50 million dollars, what would you do with it?” It was the question of the week. A nice lady called and said that she would cure multiple sclerosis and buy two Ford Mustangs. Later the disc jockey said, “You know, I really liked what she said. That would be really super if she cured multiple sclerosis.” I thought it’d be super too, but was mad at the scientists who wouldn’t cure multiple sclerosis for less than 50 million.

I finally arrived at the South Dakota Badlands, and they were as scenic as my friend suggested. I got out of the car and asked a couple to take my picture. The guy agreed, but then said the scenery was more important than me and started walking farther and farther away. Then he laughed like hell. I laughed too, but I didn’t really think it was funny. Then I thanked them, and as I drove off, they started making out.

After the Badlands I drove to a place called Wall Drug. I’d seen a lot of signs like “Wall Drug’s Six-foot Rabbit,” “Wall Drug’s Shooting Gallery,” and “Wall Drug: As seen in Reader’s Digest” on the interstate, so I thought I’d better take a look. The population of Wall, South Dakota, is only 700, but the people of Wall have the fanciest drugstore ever. Wall Drug sells postcards, souvenirs, homemade ice cream, rock candy, beef jerky, six-dollar film, and ice water. They also sell bull horns mounted on a piece of stained wood, and I bought one for my brother’s birthday. The cashier was an old lady who smiled and asked if I was planning to attach the bull horns to the hood of my car. I laughed like hell and decided to use that joke on my brother. I wanted to tell him they were Montana bull horns, but I noticed that “Mexico” was written on the bottom in pencil.

From Wall Drug I drove to Mount Rushmore. I decided I’d be damned if I marveled at a national monument like an old man, so I tried to think of a good pun about defacing a mountain by facing it. I couldn’t come up with anything so I went to the snack shop and had a monumental scoop of ice cream.

The rest of the trip was uneventful. I tried to go to Yellowstone, but it was closed, so I stayed the night in Sheridan, Wyoming, at a place called the Mill Inn. The sign outside said “Once a flour mill and now a fine motel” and I fell for it. When I checked out in the morning, a young girl with a pretty face, freckles on her eyelids, and big hair took my key. I was embarrassed by her big hair, and she said, “Bad hair day,” and then, “It’s a good thing I’ve been working here awhile or else I’d accidentally walk into the wall.” She said that because her big hair covered her eyes, and all of a sudden I was charmed as hell and wanted to ask her out. The best I could do, though, was ask questions like “Where’s the napkins?” and “Where’s the jam?” during the free continental breakfast. She answered them courteously, but didn’t seem too interested, so I left.

I decided to drive through Montana, but I didn’t see much.

I finally got to Idaho and decided to drive through Ketchum. Ernest Hemingway killed himself in Ketchum, Idaho. When I was in fifth grade, I liked Ernest Hemingway so much that I put on a play about his life for a school project. I was so good at acting like I was on safari and writing and hobbling around with venereal disease that I won first place and a cash prize of ten dollars. I went to the store and bought a copy of Across the River and Into the Trees with the money. On the cover of the book was a painting of a soldier lying on the ground kissing a girl. A gondola floated in the background. The soldier had reached the rank of colonel, and the girl had blue black hair and bee-stung lips. I used to look at the picture a lot and think of dirty things. Later I masturbated to it.

Ernest Hemingway, by the way, didn’t like to masturbate. He thought it weakened a man. I’ve also read that he didn’t much like blacks or homosexuals or women either, and that he was born right here in Chicago. In fact, you can go see his birthplace in Oak Park. You can see his grave in Ketchum, and I stopped by the cemetery and started thinking of something Gutzon Borglum, the Danish sculptor of Mount Rushmore, said: “A monument’s dimensions should be determined by the importance to civilization of the events commemorated.” I wondered what kind of memorial Ernest Hemingway deserved and how it would compare in size to Mount Rushmore. Old Thomas Jefferson owned slaves and Teddy Roosevelt didn’t give a hoot about Panamanians, so I thought maybe a Hemingway monument should also have a 20-foot nose and reach high into the sky. But I decided I’d be damned if I marveled at Ernest Hemingway or followed the advice of an old dead guy who’d also carved a supersize Confederate memorial in Georgia. I got back into the car and finished my trip.

My brother liked the bull horns and my joke. He didn’t even notice that they came from Mexico and an old lady in Wall.