Happy Independence Day! Or If You Prefer – Amexit

Each July Americans commemorate the American Revolution with a national holiday celebrating our independence from English rule.

This bloody revolution made all our freedoms possible, and after the recent upheaval in the European Union, we propose a shorter and catchier name for it – Amexit.

“You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.”  ~Erma Bombeck

And before you laugh, the two events may have more in common that you might think. Recently Britain has objected to onerous EU rules and regulations that impinged on its sovereignty, so it held a referendum to decide to stay or go. Colonial America took issue with burdensome taxes and having no say in its governance, and it held a referendum by rifle.

Who knows what will happen in Europe and where all the histrionics and political posturing will lead. But after almost two and a half centuries of independence in America, freedom of choice and all the wacky creativity that goes with it are alive and well. So here at Gallivance we’re celebrating the holiday with a Fourth of July toast to all those eccentrically creative folks who keep us entertained on the road. Here’s your heapin’ helpin’ of Roadside Americana.

License plate balloon

A 1,200 foot-long mural made of recycled road signs … really? Really! This Meadville, Pennsylvania marvel sits at the top of our Roadside Americana list. Its clever use of color and shape as well as its sense of humor make it a remarkable piece of public art. You should definitely check out the details – fabulous.


Cave City, Kentucky’s Wigwam Village is a vivid reminder of the halcyon days of early car travel when the journey was just as important as the destination. These nostalgic motor inns are a rarity, and we applaud the owners for maintaining a romantic piece of history.

Paul & Babe

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, Minnesota need little introduction. Their colorful comic strip simplicity and peaceful lakeside location clearly make them classic Americana. Our only suggestion: visit in the summer because the lake can freeze to 30 inches in winter.

Spine FI

Meet “Palmer” – the sublime spine carved in place from a dying silver maple tree, and named after the founder of chiropractic medicine. Never let it be said that the doctors in Columbus, Ohio don’t have a sense of humor.


There was an old woman who lived in a shoe,
Three bedrooms, two baths, and a dog house for Ol’ Blue.

So if you’re on the road this holiday drive safely, and keep an eye out for Roadside Americana. If nothing else, it’s a good excuse to get out and relieve your car-butt. And remember, if this Amexit name takes off, you heard it here first.

Happy Independence Day,
James and Terri

Photo Credits:
2. Gerbil via Wikimedia Commons
5. Dawn via Wikimedia Commons
6. Andreas F. Borchert via Wikimedia Commons
7. taliesin
8. webmojoe
9. Christopher Michel via Wikimedia Commons
10. Matt Kennedy via Wikimedia Commons
16. Terry Shuck via Wikimedia Commons
17. rachjose
18. EricPruis

Author: gallivance.net

We're Terri and James Vance - high school sweethearts who went on to international careers and became world nomads. Today, 65 countries later, we're still traveling ... and still in love. Check out Our Story for more of the backstory at gallivance.net.

59 thoughts

  1. The iffy potatoes and spine sculpture are my favorites. (Less so the so-called rifle revolution 😉 But woohoo, happy 4th to all and sundry!

    Amexit. Like the ring of it. (plus there’s an X in there that splits my name in half, so I might be using it myself one day, when I’m feeling a little.. umm.. separatist myself 😉

    1. We’ve done a number of these posts Amit, and I think that my favorite is the recycled sign mural. It was particularly nice that the mural hid an ugly storage yard for road equipment; lemons to lemonade. Happy July 4 to you as well. ~James

  2. Fun post and pictures. Yeah for Independence Day and have a lovely picnic! BUT historical context is way different, and I doubt very much the Brexit shenanigans will have any positive results for our Brit friends, though the EU might end up all the better for it … 🙂

    1. Bea, I guess that it all depends on your point of view. The effects of Brexit will take years to shake out, and even the experts can’t agree. But, that’s democracy at work – or to use Alexis de Tocqueville’s phrase – the tyranny of the majority. ~James

  3. I loved these shots from the road. When I lived in the States (1986-88), there was one thing that really shocked me. In Pennsylvania, they take the wrecks of cars, paint them white, and stick them on poles by the roadside at accident black spots. I can’t thing of any better warning of the need to drive carefully. Do they still do that, I wonder? Perhaps it was just a Pennsylvania thing.

    1. I’ve never seen white cars on the roadside Alastair, but I can believe how sobering it must be to see. I’m not sure if it’s officially allowed or not, but frequently the family will place a small cross with flowers at the sight of a deadly accident. Either way, these are great reminders to slow down, pay attention and stop texting. ~James

    2. Alastair, we often see bicycles painted white in remembrance of cyclists killed along the roadside. A very sombearing reminder to share the road!

  4. We put almost 6,000 miles on our car last fall, travelling for a couple of months about the US, driving through states we’d never visited and taking side roads at a whim. So much fun to see the US from the road and marvel at the number of national and state parks and road signs for oddball museums. And while big cities look more homogeneous, it was a real pleasure to see small town spirit in cafes, mom and pop motels and places with a distinct,regional culture when we took back roads. Despite the doom and gloom predictions, America is pretty great right now! Anita

    1. Anita, over the years we’ve criss-crossed the US many times, and usually, we were camping. And the great thing about camping is that it gets us out into the boonies, so we see lots of that country charm and rural sense of humor which is hard to beat. I totally agree that, despite the news stories, we have it great here in the US. As you and Richard know well, it only takes a bit of time outside the States to see how good we have it. And even if that idiot Trump wins, I’ll still be keeping my passport. 🙂 ~James

      1. Thanks for the history lesson. You’re right – a lot of our ancestors’ behaviour was reprehensible.
        I only hope future generations don’t judge us too harshly, although they will have a lot of material to work with :/

    1. Many thanks, Darlene. We’re hoping that all the forecast rain doesn’t cancel the 4th of July fireworks. So, do you encounter any of these wacky roadside attractions there in Spain? ~Terri

      1. Wow Darlene! This is roadside Canadiana at its best. 2,208 equilateral triangles! These folks have taken the concept to an entirely new level. Thanks for the link. ~James

    1. Mike, you are too kind! It’s so great to hear from you. I hope that you and Florence are continuing to enjoy Greenville and planning a fun 4th. When we lived there we took our nieces wading in the river and searching for the Mice on Main on the 4th – creating a definite life memory. All the best, Terri

  5. Happy Independence Day! What a great collection of Americana. Sometimes exits are a necessity, sometimes they are whimsical. For harmony’s sake, I hope we can enter a peaceful world and there are no more exits for a while…Enjoy the BBQ and red, white and blue desserts!

    1. So glad that you liked the Americana collection Liesbet. When we spotted the “shoe house” sitting in the middle of a field we burst into laughter and knew we had to stop. And as for exits, I’m with you. Let harmony prevail. I hope that you and Mark have a fun 4th there in Massachusetts. Watch out for the “iffy potato salad.” 🙂 ~Terri

    1. Thanks Joyce. Terri and I have vowed that eventually, we’ll stay at the Wigwam Village, but haven’t managed to pull it off yet. Happy 4th to you and Dascal as well. Love, JH

  6. This is a great way to celebrate today – with a look at the America many people don’t see. We did a big road trip two summers ago (well, we’ve done lots over the years, but this one covered lots of northern and western ground) and we made a point to see a lot of weird Americana along the way. It was a ton of fun. Your photos are fantastic!

    1. Thanks Lexie. I love these big, long road trips. A few years ago we did a 5-month camping trip from FL to the northern US and out to the west coast. It was wonderful. Attractions are so spread out in the west that this is really the only good way to do it. And like you, we saw lots of weirdness along the way. ~James

      1. That sounds heavenly! I hope that after we are retired we can do something like that. I’m not helping that plan, however – I just took a new job teaching at American University starting this fall …

    1. Thanks Susan. I was thinking of contacting American Express with a possible licensing proposal for the use of the tag line “Amex-it.” You never know. And BTW, if you hit the road, don’t leave home without it. 🙂 ~James

    1. Thanks Nicole. Terri’s knee is coming along well, but slowly. I have a funny Bemidji story. When we visited we camped at the state park on the lake, which was very cool. However, a summer thunderstorm blew up, and we had our first (and hopefully last) experience of weathering a hailstorm in a tent. Between the lightning popping nearby, the monstrous thunder, and the drumming of hail on the tent we could barely hear when it was all over. ~James

  7. I LOVE Roadside America! First read one of their books dare I say decades ago, and have loved it ever since. We just got back from a fantastic vacation to Iceland, but it feels really good to be back in the USA. Happy 4th!

  8. I LOVE those roadside attractions as you know and now i see why you found my comment from all that time ago. 🙂 Amexit you say? Well yes I guess that fits doesn’t it. Hoping you both had a wonderful July 4th filled with much celebration.

    1. I thought that you might pick up on that Sue. The scary thing about going back to review old posts is that even though we have two sets of editing eyes, I always seem to find a typo or two (or in my particular case a subject/verb disagreement). In fact, for us, these reposts are a good opportunity to clean up and tighten up old posts. Only 500 more to go! ~James

  9. Hope you both had a great 4th. Love those roadside attractions. I read some comments above and found that Terri has had issues with her knee. Hope all is well.

    1. Hi LuAnn, it’s wonderful to hear from you. We had a great 4th – hope you and Terry did too. And as to my knee, I blew it out and had to have a total knee replacement a few months ago. I’m on the road to recovery, doing lots of physical therapy, walking, and stationary biking. Not a fun experience, but now James calls me his “bionic woman” – so I’ve got that going for me. 🙂 ~Terri

      1. We are currently staying with a friend who recently had a total knee replacement. He is doing quite well, almost back to doing everything he had done pre-surgery. Hope your recovery is complete and swift. 🙂

  10. We love Roadside Americana and have frequently almost wrecked the car braking to take pics! Good collection from around the ol’ US of A! We missed the 4th this year since we were in Budapest, but still thought of all the picnics, iffy potato salad as you said, and the fireworks. Ah, traditions!

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