Ephemera Road Trip: Truckload

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Some starting notes on a trip cross-country: It doesn't take too many days of being on the road to realize that trucks are the most print-ly thing in the landscape. Sure, there are license plates and highway signs, but those are usually commonplace and visually insignificant; billboards are few and far between, and so are towns and businesses on the interstate.

But trucks–ah, trucks, are with us everywhere, lumbering slowly in the right lane, splashing a heavy mist at our windshield during a rainstorm, and sporting their stark logos in the largely nonverbal world of the highway. You might see Conway Conway Conway three times in a row, in a breezy blue almost-script, and then, in some factory parking lot in Ohio, see a whole herd of them, waiting expectantly.

Later that afternoon, as you are starting to need your third cup of coffee, and as you are crossing over the Illinois border, you might focus on the back of a truck you are trying to pass: the explosive cartoon picture of a lit bomb, the company name CHERRY BOMB and the phrase "Disturbing the Peace Since 1969." Intrigued, you discover–and you must do this very quickly, as you move past the roaring giant, with help from your passengers–that this is the name and slogan of a muffler company.

And finally, when you come to rest in Red Wing, Minnesota, at your AmericInn beside the great Mississippi, you spy a lone truck, a smallish panel truck, resting in the lot beside your car, announcing, happily but modestly: Vern's Cheese, from Chilton, WI, with its two homey chunks of cheese and Vern's jazzy red signature with its fiery underline. It reminds you of the little engine that could. Somehow you can go to bed happy that Vern and his truck are nearby.