Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sign, Sign, Everywhere a Sign

It's Thursday! Ready for your Trip down Memory Lane?

We've all seen the signs.

Huge signs, one every mile or so.

Florida Citrus Fruit! Free Samples! Souvenirs! The Largest Selection of _____! Discount Fireworks! Lowest Prices! 13 Foot Alligators! Live Bears! Last Chance for _______!

In my travels, the queen mother of these roadside tourist attractions has always been and will always be: South of the Border. Traveling south along route I-95 in North Carolina you see your first sign for South of the Border over 175 miles north of the attraction. You know this, of course, because each sign helpfully announces just how far you'll have to travel before you reach this most wondrous of destinations.

135 miles to South of the Border.

75 miles to South of the Border.

Only 11 more miles to South of the Border.

At the beginning, you only encounter signs every ten miles or so. As you get closer, the signs are only a mile apart. Closer yet and they seem to be right on top of one another. All of the signs feature an amazingly politically incorrect stereotype of a Mexican man named Pedro. We know this, because the text on every sign begins with, "Pedro says..."

Pedro says: Keep America green! Bring money!
Pedro says: You never sausage a place! (You're always a wiener at Pedro's)
Pedro says: Our honeymoon suites are heir conditioned!

When I was young and traveling south on route I-95 every summer en route to Myrtle Beach, the South of the Border signs were a great way to mark our progress. They were a double-edged sword for my parents, though. While they eliminated the constant barrage of "are we there yet?" (you always know where you are in Pedro's territory), they inspired instead a new litany, guaranteed to make parents long for "are we there yet?". That litany, of course, consisted of variations on a theme:

Can we stop at South of the Border?
Why can't we stop at South of the Border?
You think everything is junk! How can you know it's tacky and junky if you've never even been there?

Pedro says: Keep yelling, kids! (They'll stop!)

Year after year my parents sighed and stuck firmly to their guns.

Pedro had guns. Well, fireworks, anyway. Just sayin'.

Pedro says: Pedro's fireworks! Does yours?

I can't swear to this, but they may have just inserted ear plugs at the first sign alerting us that we were, indeed, approaching South of the Border.

One year, I will never know why, they caved. Not only were we going to STOP at South of the Border, but we were going to CAMP there for the night.

Oh bliss! Oh rapture unforeseen!

As we took the exit - the one right before

Pedro says: You just missed South of the Border!

I was filled with anticipation. Years of wonder were about to be satisfied. Where would I start? Pedro's Beachwear? Pedro's Arcade? Pedro's Dirty Old Man Shop? (Mom probably wouldn't like that, but she'd never know!) Oh, how is a girl to decide? Oh Pedro, you magnificent bastard! How I've longed for this moment!

As we pulled in between the legs of a giant Pedro statue, I could tell we were in for a night of pure class. There were large statues of Pedro everywhere, as well as statues of animals and various inanimate objects. There's a sombrero tower, for Pete's - er - Pedro's sake. Statues big enough to climb on. Statues you KNEW you'd look great next to in a picture.

Pedro says: Take a picture, it'll last longer

It was after dark when we pulled in and, to my distinct disappointment, many of the shops and activities were already closed. Even more disappointing were the ones that were open. I was young, and I was naive, but I still knew junk when I saw it. Miles and miles of junk.

Just like my parents had always said.

Damn! Why did they always have to be so RIGHT?

I had a taco. It was mediocre at best. Damn, damn, damn. They'd been right again.

Pedro says: Chili today, hot tamale!

You know what else they were right about? Making that stop. In future years the pleading ceased completely. We still used the signs to track our progress, but we no longer wanted to listen to anything Pedro had to say.

Stupid Pedro.

Smart parents.

Pedro says: You just missed South of the Border!

How much further to the beach?

Are we close?

How close?


Badass Geek said...

If they were truly smart, they would have brought you there the first time you asked so that you could see truly how crappy it was.

It would have put to an end all the whining and requests right from the start.

Sandy said...

I have never driven the the Sunshine State. I've visited all the coastal states but never drove the coast. My grandparents did yearly for a while and EVERY year they brought back something from South of the it was a religious experience or something. Should I ever have the opportunity, I would HAVE to stop just to be able to say I Was There!

I agree with the Geek. They weren't smart enough to realize YOU were smart enough to see it for what it was...JUNK! Great always.

Kathy B! said...

I love those Pedro signs!! I've never stopped but it really does make the drive more entertaining! Next time you go through call me and we'll meet up :)

I think most of the shops are closed these days. I always crane my neck as we fly by and it *looks* like a lot of the places are closed down... but we aren't stopping to check...

Jenni Jiggety said...

I think I need to go there! I loves me some souvenir CRAP!

TheSingleGirl said...

I am eternally traumatized by the "BOILED PEANUTS" signs...those signs SAID they were good. The texture, omg.



Keeper of the Skies Wife said...

Parents are ALWAYS right!!!

MiMi said...

Thank goodness your blog is back!!
What was up with it I wonder?
I wonder if your parents would have stopped years earlier if they knew it would cause you to cease and decist?
Macey :)

Melissa B. said...

We've been visiting SOTB since I was a wee one. Did you know that they had to relocate the planned Interstate because Pedro refused to move? The last time I stopped was 3 years ago, while on college visits down South with Ella Dos. Same place. We didn't buy anything but cokes, and of course the requisite bumper sticker, but it was just like being home!

SparkleFarkle said...

Sadly and alas, no Pedro signs posted on my personal Memory Lane. And, by the sounds of it, Burma Shave, Stuckey's, and those sci-fi looking alerts directing you out of town in the event of nuclear fallout don't fit this bill (billboard???). But your painting is so vivid and fun that I feel like I'm keyboarding between the legs of a GIANT Pedro! Thanks, Tammy! I had a nice trip!

Brandy said...

I hate those dang signs. They are obnixious & they do not make me want to stop. Of course I know they have junk. :o)

Pam said...

My younger daughter is very Pedro-susceptible. We had to stop in every. single. tourist. shop. on our recent vacation. And they all had the exact same JUNK! But did she care? No, she did not. She obviously hasn't learned that essential rule about parents being smart. Maybe a visit to Pedro would solve that. Or maybe not!

Simon said...

Oh God! You are showing my cultural ignorance. I had no idea what the ‘x miles to South of the Border’ signs were referring to: I kept wondering why they didn’t just say ‘x miles to the border’ And which border?

I feel so boorish and uneducated.

Housewife Savant said...

"Oh Pedro, you magnificent bastard."

Tammy, you hysterical b*tch.

Gibby said...

OMG, before coming to the comments sections, I copied the SAME exact line as Housewife Savant, planning on pasting it here:

"Oh Pedro, you magnificent bastard!"

Too funny! Both the line and that we think alike! Love the trips down Memory Lane...

When we went to Mexico, there was a guy who set up a "bazarre" every night at our hotel. His name was Cheapo Filippo. Junk. But man, did we love saying his name.

blueviolet said...

I remember really loving the signs to tourist attractions and my parents were simply annoyed with them. I particularly remember the See Ruby Falls and Lookout Mountain ones but I heard almost every single one of those signs is gone.

BONNIE K said...

That is funny - I've never driven that way before. I do remember,tho, taking vacations with the kids where the highlight of the trip was those junk shops.

Vodka Mom said...

omg!!!!!! I will NEVER forget South of the Border. We had the same experience and it made me SMILE to read yours.


those were the days. ..........

mzbehavin said...

I love, love, LOVE your younger self!!! Mind you.... I don't think I would have loved RAISING your younger self..... :-)

Myrtle Beach........

I've been there, once........

I want to go back.....

I want to retire there!! ( who doesn't??)

Alex the Girl said...

The first time we passed that way, we were really hyped by all of the first, second, third, glance I thought it reminded me of one of those spooky roadside side shows where you might find the worlds smallest horse and the bearded lady displayed for your viewing pleasure...but if you stayed overnight, you'd be captured by three maniacs who would truss you up, stick you in a hole with only your head poking out, where they'd then fatten you up and use you for the meat in their chilli.

Pedro rocks, it's not to late to turn back.

The Redhead Riter said...

for you...

Anonymous said...

Happy Saturday Sharefeast SITSta!These stupid signs are so cazy...!!!

JennyMac said...

Thanks for the Sat am laugh. Love your sassy self. Happy Sharefest by the way.

Unknown Mami said...

Tammy I don't appreciate you talking smack about my Tio Pedro's place. He's just trying to bring a little bit of culture to you ingrates.

Vivienne said...

In theory, Pedro sounds great and I can see why you'd want to stop there! Your parents had a good plan to shut you up. (About Pedro, anyway.)

the girl with the pink teacup said...

Oh Tammy, I have tears of laughter running down my face... I am so sorry I was slow in getting to this one! The only way this could've been better was if you'd added photos what it's like being in between Pedro's giant legs (!) So. Damn. Funny...

Your parents clearly passed their smarts on to you.