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Commentary: Nation's dark corners make you appreciate O.C.

November 03, 2012|By C.M. Stassel

The troublesome things that a wayward traveler sees on the road are not there to shake his psyche or even put pits in his stomach, however, they are there to be seen, and, once they are seen, it is the wayward traveler's duty to report what he has witnessed and how it has made him feel.

Recently I drove around the United States with two of my best friends, Winston Churchtree and Frederick "Falling" Rocks. We dubbed the voyage "The American Loop" — drive through the northern half and then swoop down through the South, with more than 8,000 miles of driving in three weeks.

I am not going to take you through the entire event because that would take far too long, and frankly I do not have the energy for it. However, like a broken-down, dirty presidential candidate, I would like to tell you about some of the specific people I met and shed some insight into some of the places I visited. Be warned, in embarking on this trip, we did not seek out the normal, the healthy or the privileged. Our ship, which was a 2009 Honda Fit, was steered in the direction of the strange, the indecent and the misunderstood.

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Small-town Pennsylvania

The first place that really shook the hinges off my understanding of the United States was Shippersburg, Penn. Some 20 miles off the I-80 we found ourselves in the dark, unknown world of Pennsylvania. The streets were lined with large, boxy, white houses displaying a single candle in each window. There were no streetlights, and we did not see a soul, but we had a feeling that everyone knew we were there. Our destination was the Lakeview Motel — we did not know much about it, except that it was cheap and we had driven as far as we could for the night.

We finally pulled up to the motel. The broken-down, unlighted sign looked as if the place had been abandoned. There was no office or front desk, only a closed restaurant and an attached bar that appeared to be open. We entered the bar to find, what seemed like, the entire population of Shippersburg. As we walked in all eyes immediately turned to us — we were outsiders, and they could smell it. We were committed, though, so we dealt with the looks and took a seat at the corner of the bar near the exit.

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