Off-duty: Our Great Mid-America Redneck Tour

Greetings from metro Waynesville, Missouri!

We were officially here to visit my son Patrick, who was graduating from his chemical school training at Ft. Leonard Wood. After 10 weeks of working around various nerve agents, he’s fully prepared to handle whatever the Army throws at him. Fortunately, he now has a third hand protruding from his head to handle things. The Army said it will go away in a few weeks. Until then, he’s learning to juggle.

We took this trip by car to see a bit of America — and America we have seen! Detective Sandy and I always give our trips a name to remember them by. For example:

  • Losing Two Grand in Vegas ‘07.
  • Losing Two Grand in Vegas ‘08.
  • Winning a Lousy Two Hundred While Losing Four Grand in Vegas ‘09.
  • Too Poor for Vegas ’10.

And so on.

We left metropolitan Ball Ground in the late morning hours, intending to drive just past Memphis or whenever the little energy drink wore off. My job is to drive. Sandy’s job is to remain sharp by sleeping as much as possible until we find something interesting enough to wake her up — like thrift shops or Jimmy Buffett.

This trip became the Great Mid-America Redneck Tour ‘10. It was named early, just about 20 miles east of Tupelo, Mississippi. It is there you will find a Wal-Mart. Without telling you why, when passing through and you have an hour to spare, try this great bit of people watching:

Stop in the Wal-Mart and walk the aisles. Count the time it takes to spot the first Elvis impersonator. It won’t take long. For us, it was less than five minutes. Although I’m quite sure he wasn’t an official impersonator, he was right on with the jet black pompadour, Elvis, circa 1971. Later, Late ’70s Elvis was spotted walking in and, later still, a mid-’60s Elvis browsed the women’s intimate section.

Leaving Tupelo takes about 25 seconds, more if you stop at the home in which Elvis was born. We moved toward Memphis, but kept driving because of the abundance of crack houses on U.S. Highway 78. For sport, we counted them but lost track at the red lights while counting gun shots instead.

We moved on.

Cue finger-wave: ‘I did not have sex with that woman … ‘

Little Rock was the stopover spot for the night. It’s true, everyone talks like Bill Clinton! We were up and going early the next morning because I couldn’t think of any Bill Clinton jokes that haven’t already been worn thin.

We moved northwest through Tulsa and landed in the northeast Oklahoma town of Bartlesville, where I revisited where I lived as a kid. The house was smaller than I remember. And the yard was too small for the football games I remember playing with the neighbors. I called my parents to make sure this was the house we lived in. They laughed at me and pointed out the restraining order was still in effect.

Driving back east, we spent the night in Joplin, Missouri, where nothing in particular happened. We drove to Springfield and toured Missouri State University, where — again — nothing in particular happened. We had a nice lunch at a street-side café where we noticed that everyone but us was heavily tattooed. That — having no particular meaning, and it being very hot outside — convinced us to drive on to St. Joseph, home of Ft. Leonard Wood, which is where we were for the weekend.

Since our son could not see us that evening, we found a cinema and took in a movie, which took a second seat to the surrounding scenery. If you like people watching, then this was jackpot night.

I guess we’re so used to suburban movie mega-complexes that we assume they’re all alike. They’re not. This one was small, and everyone in St. Joseph and Waynesville flocks to the movies on Friday nights. Everyone was heavily tattooed here, too, and the mullet percentage was about 45 percent.

It’s about the same for the men, too.

Today we continue the Great Mid-America Redneck Tour ‘10, passing through St. Louis and Nashville on the way back to Ball Ground. Among the highlights we’re looking forward to include the world’s largest rocking chair, several thrift stores, hours of Radio Margaritaville to help Detective Sandy sleep, and comparing the pompadours of Nashville to those of Tupelo.

18 comments Add your comment

Mike S.

June 28th, 2010
3:14 pm

Any chance you can review the International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum in Chattanooga? It’s not far from the incline railway, and something tells me only you could bring that special eye to the subject.


June 28th, 2010
3:42 pm

Man, you missed Paris, Tennessee, just outside Memphis. They have their own Eiffel Tower! You could have had your picture taken!


June 28th, 2010
9:53 pm

CAS, that was a fine post you made, and I do hate to take you to school over it. Howsomever, it makes me just a little bit crazy to hear Eudora Welty’s tongue misspoke. One does not have one’s picture “taken”; one has it “made.”

Rule .303

June 28th, 2010
10:41 pm

Nice. I did my basic training and AIT at Fort Leonard Wood in 1988. Combat Engineer, 12B.

Thanks for refreshing some memories.


June 28th, 2010
11:16 pm

Thanks for the update. I always knew you were a little off but now I know the reason, you are from Oklahoma.

el kabong

June 29th, 2010
3:32 am

Joplin MO was the site of a major shootout between Bonnie and Clyde and the local police. The incident was dramatized in the movie “Bonnie and Clyde”. Springfield MO was the site of one of the few meet in the street at high noon gunfights in the old west. The famous participant was Wild Bill Hickok.

Enjoyed the read

June 29th, 2010
5:58 am

Very funny story.

mervin bryant

June 29th, 2010
8:30 am

Mike S. The International Towing and Recovery Hall of Fame and Museum in Chattanooga is awesome. But liked it better when it was downtown. And Det Rose, I get to take a “Great Mid-America Redneck Tour” every time I head to Louisville. Beaver Radio in Bowling Green, Corvette Museum. Largest Fireworks in the South, etc…..


June 29th, 2010
8:56 am

The people you saw at that Wal-Mart are tame compared to some of the stuff found on the popular website Trust me on this.


June 29th, 2010
9:08 am

I hate to say this Steve but you were either blinded by the light of so many Elvis’s or totally bored to death going through my home state of MIssouri but Rolla MO is the home of Fort Lenordwood not St Joseph (which by the way is a few miles north of Kansas City MO) many miles away from Fort Leonardwood (or as the Army people call it Fort Stuck in the mud.

Love child

June 29th, 2010
11:26 am

I’ve driven this route by myself, donchaknow? (ballsy girl that I am) Enjoyed your story until I saw the word “mullet”… Please refrain from using that word ever again – it causes me to break out in hives…won’t be able to unsee it all day now.

Brian the Brain

June 30th, 2010
10:39 am

I grew up in Ball Ground. It’s entirely appropriate that the Great Mid-America Redneck tour starts and ends in that fine city.


June 30th, 2010
11:59 am

WHAT? This is perhaps your worst column yet! Why don’t you get back to reporting on dumb criminals. No one cares to hear about your vacation. Are you going to show slides next? AJC needs to get someone else to write this blog and soon.


July 1st, 2010
8:00 am

Enjoyed the blog. I, too, like to name roadtrips that my wife and/or I take.

BTW, Steve, if you get a chance, check out my little blog at

Van Jones

July 1st, 2010
9:56 am

Funny stuff Steve! But why do you live in Ballground instead of Sandy Springs???


July 2nd, 2010
10:23 am

My son graduated from the Chemical Battalion in Ft Leonardwood also. The only side affect he had from the chemicals is that he then became a police officer!!!!

Way Prettier Than You are

July 2nd, 2010
12:38 pm

LT Rose: Have you ever thought of writing a book…I think it would be a best seller…tongue in cheek with reality..Gotta LOVE that!


July 2nd, 2010
10:22 pm

My dad was at Ft. Leonard Wood in 1943.

And do you say Mizzurrahh or Mizzurreeee?