I suppose this entire guide is meant to be “shit you ought to know,” So I’m not sure why I decided to call this section that. There are things, I guess, that you should be aware of if you’re going to be traveling around north america. Things that don’t exactly warrant a section dedicated to themselves, but still feel like they should be said. The point of this section then I believe, is to be an ordered randomness. As I just write down things as they pop into my head. Hopefully this doesn’t become a monster section. Actually, I hope that this section warrants being included at all. But I guess if you’re reading it then I decided to include it. So there’s that.
I know I wanted to inform the vast majority of people out there who don’t live in Oregon or New Jersey that there are places in North America wherein people will pump your gas for you. It’s something that I am very audibly uncomfortable with, anyone who knows me knows that I physically quiver at the idea of handing some strange person my credit card, telling them my zip code and then allowing them to do something my parents taught me to do when I was 6 years old. Not because they were the type of parent who sent their kid out to freeze, but because I was genuinely interested on how to do it, and I saw them do it a bunch of times, so I wanted to also do it. Monkey see, monkey do. I’m the monkey. BUT if you live in Oregon, or New Jersey, you will only get the opportunity to pump gas if you’re literally paid to do it. Now I’m all for creating jobs and shit like that, but I don’t believe that anyone grows up wanting to be a pump jockey. No one. I don’t care if you tweet me/email me or whatever any type of angry letter about how much you claim to love your job as a pump jockey, you’re lying. Like it’s great that you’re satisfied with your job and shit but when you were a kid you didn’t fantasize about the days of filling up people’s tanks peering across the bay or river or whatever at the fucking Statue of Liberty. No. It’s dumb. Companies paying some poor sap to pump gas is garbage. Why not pay your regular employees more money and just have grown vehicle operating humans pump their own goddamn gas? Or just lower the gas prices. Let the pump jockeys go. Just like we don’t need little kids to crawl into giant machinery anymore, or the ladies who sat at the switchboard to connect your calls or a fucking elevator operator. We have robots for that shit. Or in the case of the elevator, we just push the button our fucking selves. Let it go, Oregon and New Jersey. Or at least give people the freedom to choose instead of making it illegal.
*deep breath* What else is there?
I guess while we’re on the subject of New Jersey we should talk about the different ways different states turn left. Now for a lot of you out there you might be thinking to yourself, “You just get to the intersection and wait for the green arrow and then turn left.” And in a lot of the country that’s exactly how you’d go about it. But say you’re in New Jersey and some stranger just got done pumping your gas for you and you want to go left at a particular intersection. You have to do a “jug handle” turn. I think that’s what they’re called. Whatever, they’re stupid. You got to be in the right lane, and pass the intersection and then take a weird off ramp-style 360 degree turn to go back. Search it on the internet. It’s a thing. Meanwhile, in Michigan they have their own version of this. The Michigan Left involves going right at an intersection, driving a couple hundred meters down the road and get to a U-Turn in the medium (usually with a traffic light) and you go back left. Again, if you can’t picture it, use the internet. The Michigan Left is genius and helps traffic flow. New Jersey’s Jughandle shit sucks. New Jersey sucks. ‘Cept for my boy Dieter Unrath. He’s dope as fuck.
There’s no real segue for this, and not a lot of story behind it, but in North Dakota there’s no casinos. BUT bars/restaurants can have “non-profit” casinos. Like entire rooms dedicated to Blackjack or Roulette or these stupid pull tab slot machine type things. It’s pretty dope. And I’m not a huge gambler. I liked how relaxed the room was and how the dealer was a lot more warm and welcoming than the standard casino dealer. Like homie is a certified dealer and working for the local public tv station. He was good, but he was more invested in people playing a long time and having fun than he was trying to just clean us out and move onto the next people. So if you ever find yourself in North Dakota for some reason, that’s something you can look forward to. Fargo, specifically, I don’t know where else you’d go in that state (on purpose).
As for places you’re more likely to visit (you know like big cities and shit), there’s a very good chance that however you envision that city to be, you’re probably only half right. Like cities get reputations for a reason. Good or bad. But there are almost always at least some place in every big city for everyone. Whether it’s a good meal, or a monument or a museum or or or. There’s something for everybody. It’s just up to you to figure out what you want to check out, and then go do it. On the other hand, if you put yourself in a bad area, you’re probably going to have a bad time. And bad can mean either a place with a high crime rate, or New Jersey. There are moments when I will take the risk in an area with a shitty reputation if it means I get a chance at a famed meal. Just need to be smart about it you know? Just like when you’re parking your car, you got to be aware of your surroundings. And if you don’t feel comfortable to the point of anxiety or stress, maybe rethink it.
Oh here’s a fun bit of info by way of Zech Pluister of fabled pop punk band: Sleep On It: If you’re driving the Atlantic coast, and want to check out some of those sweet sweet tax funded monuments they got going on in our capital, go at night. Like after midnight night. All of the monuments are technically open, and are public spaces. You just walk right the fuck up to them and not worry about loads of stinky normies tourist-ing up the place. It was honestly one of the coolest things I’ve ever experienced on the road. I had never seen the Lincoln Memorial so empty before (and there were still other people there). Plus parking was a breeze and we just walked all around. It was tight, and it’s something I would absolutely do again. If your trip is to D.C you can knock out all the major monuments at night and save the museums and shit for the day time. I don’t know if there are other places in the country where you can just walk up to monuments in the middle of the night. I guess if you’re stopping for a monument you should check and see if there are hours in which it is not available.
What other random shit can I toss in here? Oh how about we talk about that wacky ass monopoly money they have up in Canada? This tip really only applies if you’re an American and you plan on crossing the border (like it’s quicker to get to Boston through Ontario than it is to go around). No one prepared me for this, so I figure I should take this opportunity to prepare you. It’s silly. Absolutely, utterly, silly. And I KNOW that having the money be different colors makes it easier to stack and count. I know that the Canadian government spent a lot of time and effort into making sure their bank notes were incredibly difficult to counterfeit. I know these things. But that doesn’t stop me from struggling with the fact that a stack of Canadian bills are either too sticky or too slippery. They don’t have the right feel to them, as they seem to lack any sort of meaningful texture. They’re too smooth, yet they clump together making them hard to separate when you’re trying to pay someone. Plus they seem to make the big bills smell of maple syrup for some reason. I haven’t had an official confirmation of that, but next time you’re handling a fresh stack of Canadian twenties, give it a little whiff and see if it’s just me. The only recognizable person on their money is the British queen. Queen Whogivesafuck. And if you bring up the fact that they’re meant to be an independent country and therefore shouldn’t have foreign royalty on their currency, they get pretty irate. Sorry buddy, we in the “south” fought a war so we could put OUR leaders on OUR money. “Important” presidents (and the guy who was struck by lightning) ONLY! (For now at least.)
And I haven’t mentioned the fact that they don’t have singles for their cash. Instead they use these fat little hockey puck coins. The Looney (which has a duck on it, obviously) is worth 1 Canadian dollar. And the Twooney, which has a beaver on it, and is worth (you guessed it) 2 Canadian dollars. Now I know the UK uses coin-based dollars and shit and that’s all good and bohemian. But honestly it’s a pain in the fucking ass to deal with on any kind of mass basis. I don’t know what it’s like to try to go to a strip club in Canada. Do you really have to tip $5 all the time? Or are you meant to chuck a looney at the poor dude’s thong hole when he bends over? I don’t know. And frankly, I don’t want to know. But at least YOU NOW KNOW that if you plan on heading to the Great White North, you ought to have some way to deal with excess coinage.
So this about wraps up The Tour Survival Guide OR How to Travel the Country When You’re Broke As Fuck. The goal when I started this was to have a quick, easy and most importantly entertaining reference for people who want to travel, but don’t think they have the financial means to. Don’t get it twisted; taking a trip will absolutely cost you money. But if you follow this guide, you should be able to find ways to minimize the damage you’ll end up doing to your bank account while maximizing the amount of memories you’ll be able to create with those you’re traveling with. I understand that I’ve been very fortunate to have all these opportunities to travel in my life, and I just wanted to impart onto you the same confidence in budget savvy traveling that my mother imparted onto me, even before I started traveling with a low level pop punk band. The only bit of advice I have left is to know your own limits; both mentally, physically, and financially. There is nothing in North America that’s more important than your safety. Remember the best part about doing a car trip is that you determine the speed at which you travel. Repeat this mantra when you start to feel stressed about being rushed, “We will get there when we get there.” Take in the surroundings. Allow yourself to relax and have fun. We may not be able to live the “American Dream,” but if you hop in a car you can experience it’s death first hand. It’s not much, but I’ll take it. And you should too before it’s gone forever.
Also fuck New Jersey.
So that wraps up the Tour Survival Guide! I hope you've enjoyed this 10 part series. If you want more of this kinda stuff be sure to sign up to this patreon and tell me the type of things you would like to see me write about in the future, either here or on twitter (@Im_Alex_Smith).
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