Although it was already fading when I was growing up, I still remember riding with my grandfather (in the front seat with no seat belt) in his Chevy and seeing traces of Americana along the highway. It could take many different forms; a sign for a filling station shaped like a giant plaster horse, the abandoned remains of a motor inn designed as an Indian village or even the rat rod that passed us that had once been a Ford Model T. They were symbols of the freedom inspired by the open road and a generation that, weary from a world at war, was ready to savor that freedom to the hilt.
These roadside curiosities are all but gone now. You can still catch a fleeting glimpse of them along historic Route 66, the occasionally sleepy, small town or a custom car show but, for the most part, they have faded into history. They've been replaced by cold, politically correct, cookie-cutter, digitally designed symbols of our current time. A time were it is in vogue to shun individuality, American Exceptionalism and the Capitalism that has made all the above possible.
Anytime an opportunity presents itself to share just a tiny piece of Americana with River, I will not pass it up because these colorful relics are quickly going the way of the incandescent light bulb.
Will she understand why these things are important? Will she ever marvel at giant dinosaurs that aren't the product of CGI? Will she ever spend the night in a metal wigwam while on her way to see the world's largest ball of twine? Will she appreciate the history of the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile.. or will it just be a giant hot dog on wheels?