Summer interstates

Pam Droog Jones

By Pam Droog Jones

To me, one of the great pleasures of summer is seeing all the strange things that are transported along the interstate highways, from June through September. 

Throughout the year, of course, it’s no big deal to see vehicles with flashing lights and WIDE LOAD signs leading the way for lane-hogging, double-wide, pre-fab buildings. Sometimes you just can’t pass them for miles. Huge semis routinely carry gigantic, unidentifiable machine parts with gears and fans and shafts that would look right at home in the alien universe of a superheroes film. And it’s not unusual to come across large, mysterious, tarp-wrapped things that might or might not be containers of nuclear waste. I’ve read about that. Then there are those intriguing two-story rolling condos, typically decorated in swirling graphic designs, that you just know are carrying stars to their next gig. I wonder, Who’s in there? Willie Nelson? Lady Gaga? 

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But above all, summer is the time when you can see fantastical rides heading to county fairs and local carnivals. Colorful, gaudy, sometimes a little sad around the edges, these kiddie Ferris wheels, fruit-themed tilt-a-whirls and haunted houses so tackily airbrushed with skulls and monsters never fail to fascinate me. Once on I-70 during a summer drive to St. Louis I caught up with a semi pulling an extraordinary Chinese dragon roller coaster ride. The head was facing out so the scary but fabulous face glared at drivers all along its journey. 

I think the most memorable thing I ever saw going down the interstate in late summer 

was a chunk of the World Trade Center on a flatbed truck. It must have been touring the country soon after Sept. 11, 2001. With its tortured shape and metal beams, no one had to tell me what it was.