I’ve been on the road a lot lately. It’s occurred to me the mottos as depicted on the license plates – while technically true – really don’t reflect the reality as contained within the borders of the tri-state area. I’ve had a lot of time sitting in my car watching the landscape scroll by to think up new mottos that I believe would better describe the states and the experience travelers have when visiting.
In case you didn’t know, Indiana’s official motto is “America’s Crossroads”. I suppose this reflects the notion people drive through Indiana rather than to it. I am most familiar with the northwest corner of the state. When I was in college, I had a summer job painting the refinery tanks Trashcan Man blew up in The Stand. At lunchtime, my co-workers and I would grab a bite and eat in a local park where stunted trees and yellow grass tried their best to grow in soil that was greasy to the touch. I recall I could stare straight up at the blood red sun hanging overhead in a copper green sky. While other areas of the state can be quite nice, the Indiana Department of Transportation wants to keep people in the greater Gary area as long as possible. I respectfully submit the motto could be changed quickly as they have many, many signs up with it already: “Under Construction”.
Wisconsin – our neighbor to the north – seems like a rustic destination to most. This isn’t totally fair. There are large cities like Milwaukee and cosmopolitan areas like Madison. However, every Friday like clockwork travelers trek past my home lugging their bass boats and snowmobiles to spend time in “America’s Dairyland”: hunting, fishing and partaking of the state beverage (which – oddly enough – has no connection to cows). Wisconsin thrives on this rural perception; they allowed Native Americans to name practically everything in the state before sticking them on the reservations. Even places like LaCrosse are given nicknames like “The Land of Sky Blue Waters” and Tommy Bartlett Land is sometimes called “The Wisconsin Dells”. Wisconsin people are a simple and friendly folk and their official motto is just that: official. It sounds way too formal and I’d recommend they replace it with the friendly invitation that beckons us across the border from Kenosha to Platteville: “Cheese, Gifts and Fireworks”.
I’ve done a lot of driving in my home state of Illinois. We have the most extensive tollway system in the area. Actually, it’s not all that extensive; we just happen to have the only major tollway system in the area. Traffic used to come to a complete standstill half a mile before each toll plaza where annoyed drivers would rummage through their cars looking for exact change. Under Governor Rod Blagojevich, the system has been completely modernized. Illinois drivers now cruise through the I-PASS lanes without slowing down. Dashboard transponders automatically debit checking accounts. Apparently, this technology was also put in place in the Governor’s office. It has been used as an example in the past few weeks to help state schools combine their studies in math and civics. For example:
“If Johnny gives five dollars to the governor and Timmy gives the governor ten dollars, who gets to be Senator?”
Our motto here in Illinois is “Land of Lincoln”, referring – of course – to the last politician in Illinois called “honest”. In light of recent events, I’d describe our official motto as being a tad ironic for my tastes. I suggest to the lawmakers in Springfield, we switch to the informal state motto, the one everyone entering our great state is all too familiar with: “Welcome to Illinois. That will be a dollar.”