ZIP Code Chronicles: 5 Sites of Travel Discomfort in a Post-Apocalyptic WTF Amurikuh

Misadventures of a giant road trip through the prevalent delta variant.

Having successfully avoided COVID-19 infection until Halloween of 2020 and having cleared the virus after hosting its vitriolic self for a good two months, and having been fully vaccinated in March 2021, I thought I was ready to drive from Tucson to Cleveland and back again – the very long way – in very late May 2021.

But the rampant idiocracy of the Great Unvaccinated had by then coaxed the delta variant into dominance.

Over the 5000-mile trip through

  • Arizona

  • New Mexico

  • Colorado

  • Wyoming

  • South Dakota

  • Minnesota

  • Wisconsin

  • Illinois

  • Indiana

  • Ohio

  • Kentucky

  • Tennessee

  • Arkansas

  • Texas

  • New Mexico again and

  • Home to Arizona,

I had the opportunity to see some real scary shit. Most of this real scary shit would likely have occurred regardless of the (re)emergent prevalence of a potentially fatal, highly contagious disease, but a lot of it indicated way too much about the basic American mentality when it comes to things like, you know, science.

Partially in order to anonymize the moronic residents of these otherwise no doubt pleasant towns, I use ZIP codes to pinpoint the top 5 less-than-awesome sites of travel discomfort I experienced at the hands of my compatriots. They’re listed in order of the trip – listed above -- providing clues as to the locations of these WT absolute F incidents without anyone having to Google (because what they say about curiosity is all true. Every bit of it.). Before I begin, here’s another hint, though, as to locations … in the US, ZIP codes generally go from 00000 to 99999, east to west.

81301 – WTF? Pulling in to my first of 14 hotel rooms in as many days, I was surprised by the crowds in this small mountain town and the condition of the hotel itself. After a “distance check-in experience,” I managed to unlock my room. This hotel should have been called a motel. It is the preferred crash pad of tired boondockers, mountaineering sinewy hippies, and chain-smoking biker gangs. The room itself hadn’t been made up, though it was well past the 3 p.m. check-in time. The toilet had overflowed, and there were cigarette butts floating in the water. Distance check-in translates directly to nightmare when there’s no living human being around to, you know, mop. Sanitize. An hour of phone calls and online DMs passed before the 60-yer-old housekeeper, who resided permanently in the room next door as part of her salary, rolled out of her door frame in a cloud of stank-ass pot smoke. “Oh, hey.” “Hi??? Our room is disgusting and there’s a global pandemic???” “Ahh, yeahhh, I forgot.” She cleans. The room is palatable in about another hour. Perfect time to wend one’s way through the crowded streets to wait in line to eat an overpriced taco-like substance.

82225 – WT absolute F? Pulling in for gas and a desperate, DESPERATE need to piss, the Maverick hotel right by the railroad tracks sure looked perfect right about then. And it was cute inside. There were two bathrooms, painted with a mural, and I slid into the empty one and unloaded. A line had formed outside the bathrooms, spilling out into the main part of the store. Note: I was the only person wearing a mask except my travel companion who shall remain nameless for the sake of his well-being. I finished my biz and bought a 26-cent cup of ice. Meanwhile, I overheard a kerfuffle in the hall to the restrooms. Scabby crackhead-looking shitkicker (Western for “cowboy” or “ranch hand”) was veritably screaming (maskless) at presumed a stranger for “using the goddamned wrong bathroom and exposing his girl to that thing.” (Said girl could have been a girlfriend or a daughter; her very short very holey denim shorts and Minnie Mouse T-shirt rendered it unclear.) What very likely turned into a fistfight migrated to the parking lot as I merged back onto the highway.

57747 – There are no words for this little town of 3,509 people, but there are instructions. Don’t drink the water and plan ahead for dinner because the only place open after 5 p.m. is the Tastee Freez seven miles from your hotel. Oh, and the bowling alley. Oh, and the “bar” where we ended up eating microwaved taquitos from a Walmart two hours away. A drooly Great Dane kept close watch over the still semi-frozen “food” while the bartender extoled the virtues of his new-to-him green slightly ripped very stinky carpet. Neither the Dane nor the barkeep were masked. The carpet was green – I think upon reflection due to being saturated with virus-carrying snot and decades’ worth of other bodily seepage. I could be wrong. I didn’t linger, but the smell of nuked taquito meat and mucus did.

Photo: Child’s Antique VooDoo Doll, 57790

38116 – Everyone at this true unabashed American treasure was wearing masks. It is, indeed, in the ghetto. But they TCB. The Mississippi Delta shone like a national guitar, but it wasn’t glistening with the delta variation. Let’s leave it at this – if I picked up the virus on this giant trip, it was in another ZIP.

Photo: Day’s Inn, 38116

37738 – WT absolute F are you doing here, Dolly? Droves and droves of giant Amurikans, pot bellies hanging out over their elastic waistbands, flop and roll slowly through the streets of this ZIP code. They sure aren’t going hiking in the adjacent national park. Nope. They’re there to eat greasy Amurikan food and spread the delta variant. Maybe the OG variant, too, and whatever comes after delta. Lambda? Omega? Whatever.

If I DID pick up the virus, any variant, it was ever so definitely here. Then again, it’s in this ZIP code that I saw my first fireflies in many a year. Scientists (remember them?) say that fireflies are going extinct due mostly to light pollution’s interference with their mating signaling. In this ZIP code, there are no permanent human residents. Everyone is a tourist. It’s one of the Disneylands of the eastern chunk of the US. So, there’s no real light pollution, at least not strong enough to affect the fireflies.

Photo: Vacancy RIGHT HERE, soon enough, 37738

But if there were natives, and there was light pollution, 37738 would still be a safe haven for lightening bugs (a regional variant of the name of the insect, keeping with the theme). Why? ‘Cause it’s lights out for this town, where masks and vaccines are the brunt of jokes and the stuff of rage, where the Rebel Flag translates to “COVID Widely Available Here,” where the Darwin Awards will be hosted from here on out.

Thus concludes this installment of the ZIP Code Chronicles. Perhaps the next installment will be less angry and cynical. Perhaps too I will be an expat by then. But I will be sure to select a country with more masks and fewer anti-vaxxers, and I’ll be extra sure they use ZIP codes akin to the Great Amurikan postal system.

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