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Do you love state welcome centers?
Danny  Tyree

My family made a recent day trip to a neighboring state, so I decided this week’s column should be a tip of the hat to those oases of the interstate highway system, the state welcome centers.

Whether you’re a vacationer, traveling businessperson, truckdriver or zip-across-the-state-line shopper, welcome centers are a great place to “stretch your legs,” “wet your whistle,” “get the lay of the land” and discover other activities that keep the quotation-marks industry trouncing the brackets industry.

Some travelers are truly overjoyed to reach the welcome centers and their facilities. (“State with the world’s largest ball of bellybutton lint, meet the family with the world’s smallest bladders!”)

My son is a brochure collector, so he invariably makes a bee line for the Wall o’ Brochures. These pamphlets can bring you up to speed on regional museums, stage shows, lakes, eateries and shopping destinations. Brochures for state forests are becoming a little scarcer because of printing all the...well, you know. (“Maybe if Charlie Brown’s friends would furiously wave their hands over the remaining trees...”)

If you do a lot of traveling, you may have noticed that some welcome centers are more up to date than others. Here are the three most common signs you’ll find posted at a welcome center that is overdue for refurbishing:

– “Yes, we are a proud sanctuary state for dodo birds.”

– “We are not responsible for any items left unattended in your conveyance, but we cheerfully offer free access to our dueling grounds if pilferage does occur.”

– “If you enjoy your visit, be sure to tell all your friends – unless it’s still just you and Eve. Oh, and check out our fig-leaf emporium.”

Modern welcome centers offer more and more amenities: phone charging stations, free Wi-Fi, short tourism films, et cetera. I’ve heard that one super-competitive state is looking at coin-operated, repurposed electric chairs for giving an attitude adjustment to stubborn dads. (“I’m telling you for the last time — ask for directions!” “Ouch! It’s not about the destination. It’s not about the journey. It’s about letting your old man know you haven’t gone soft. Ouch! Hey, give me a map to the spa! I’ll carry it in my fanny pack!”)

One amenity that will probably not catch on is state-furnished comfort animals. At least not comfort cats – or “welcome centers” would require being renamed “Oh, are you still alive?” centers. (“Glad you brought an extra-large cooler. I’ve got a hairball for it.”)

Some people might think that working at a welcome center is a cushy job, where you can practice your NPR voice. But I have it from reliable sources that such work is a major producer of hypertension. (“Nooo! One more visitor with bumper stickers for the ‘wrong’ college football team! Must...not...accidentally on Lane...”)

The beleaguered greeters bone up on knowledge about elevation and precipitation, but usually get questions more like, “So, is there anything I should be boycotting you over?”

Thank those dedicated welcome-center workers, but grant them some privacy. Don’t go imagining what their after-hours homelife is like.

(“Honey, wait until you hear what family-friendly adventure I had with the vending machine. It was a historic event. Ah, I see the panoramic vistas in our back yard need weed-eating this weekend. Right now, I must venture off to the restroom and make memories that will last for a lifetime!”)


Danny Tyree welcomes email responses at tyreetyrades@aol.comand visits to his Facebook fan page “Tyree’s Tyrades.”