Miles Traveled: 525; Current Location: Evansville, IN

As of today, I have officially driven over 3,000 miles, and believe it or not, it wasn’t until this leg of my journey that I started to entertain the thought that this undertaking might be a tad bit crazy.  It wasn’t until today, when I was in the middle of an eight hour drive to see a house that was used as an exterior for a television show that debuted over twenty years ago, that I allowed myself to wonder, “am I a total lunatic for doing this?”  I’ll allow you to answer that question for me.

Yesterday, while Melanie and I shot cans with our BB guns (she hit many more than I did), I felt like I was finally in my element.  It wasn’t as much about the shooting (although that was fun) as it was about hanging out with friends, in what seems like a very nice town, and doing everyday things.  Today, as I was driving towards Evansville, completely fixated on my goal of getting to the house from Roseanne, I realized that being in an element is a “here today, gone tomorrow” kind of thing for me.  I felt less “in my element” and more “Chevy Chase – the moose says you’re closed, I say you’re open.”  To say the least, I felt a little insane.

I’m sure that I don’t have to spell this out for you, but I’m borderline obsessed with Middle America.  I love the people who make up such a large portion of the population in this country, their values, and the patriotic spirit that permeates throughout this region.  All of these factors, along with the fact that I find it hysterical, have made me a lifelong fan of the show, Roseanne.  I appreciate the show specifically because it gave a national voice and platform to a group of people who often evade the American spotlight, and because of Roseanne, I have long wondered if there is something that I can do (on a miniscule scale) to bring a bit of that voice to people who otherwise wouldn’t hear it.  Initially, I thought that maybe I could live in the geographical middle of the country for a year and relate my experiences to others, but when I decided that that might not be much fun, I put the whole idea on the back burner and kept living my life as usual.  And then…. Then one day, I found myself on a mission to get to Evansville, Indiana.

While driving to Evansville today, I shook my head slightly as I passed several legitimate landmarks in order to make good time to get to Roseanne’s house.  I flew by Grant’s Tomb, Mt. Vernon, and the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, all the while focused on getting to a neighborhood just inside Evansville’s city limits.  I’m sure that by this point, the question of why I wanted to see this house has been raised by some of you.  I wonder that myself, but I keep coming back to the fact that while I was living in LA, I suspected that I could personally be just as happy living a simpler life.  I’m not suggesting that people in LA are not happy or that everyone should pack up and head for the interior, but when I was living there, I would often look up smaller towns on Google maps and wonder what it would be like to visit or live in one of them.  I couldn’t think of anything more illustrative of this feeling than the town that helped influence Roseanne, so I decided that the place with that house was the town that I must see.

All that “I love America” sunshine and rainbows aside, I did have some personal concerns about Evansville.  For starters, the town once protested Madonna during the 1992 filming of A League of Their Own after she compared Evansville to Prague because she couldn’t get cable TV.  Well, not only was I certainly not interested in visiting a town that doesn’t have cable TV, I generally adhere to a personal mission statement that begins with “any foe of Madonna’s is a foe of mine.” For that reason, I publicly rebuked Courtney Love during my middle school years despite the fact that I enjoyed Hole’s album, “Celebrity Skin,” and at this point, I have stuck by Madonna through a British accent and Swept Away.  I didn’t like the idea of Evansville, Indiana tearing us apart.

My next concern stemmed from a point that my father had raised.  He once came to Evansville for business several years ago, and not only was he the lone person in a group of twenty who hailed from New York, he was the only one who had ever even been there.  I don’t think that visiting New York determines anything about a person, but I always have my Massachusetts license plates in the back of my mind.  I can’t help but feel like there are some places where Massachusetts license plates might make someone stand out a bit more than he or she would like.  I was slightly worried about what it would mean to be an outsider in Evansville.

The next thing that jumped out at me as a potential red flag was the increasing number of politically charged signs that I was seeing along the route to Evansville.  I’ll share the message from the kindest of the signs with you.  “Obama – 11.5.08.  Gas – $1.87.”  More frightening, in addition to the signs, I was also starting to see a couple Confederate flags here and there.  Of course, I know that there is “one in every crowd,” and I never thought to blame the entire town of Evansville, or Indiana, or any of the states that I had driven through…. That being said, where the hell was I sending myself?! … and to see a house from a television show that ended when I was trading pogs in elementary school??

Luckily, once I arrived in Evansville, my fears were alleviated.  As I drove through the neighborhood that serves as home to “the house,” I was thrilled to see children riding bikes and families sitting on front porches, overlooking beautifully manicured yards, one of which even had a sign in support of Obama.  The high school was picturesque, and I understood the welcome sign’s declaration that Evansville is “an all-American city.”  When I finally got to the house, it looked as though Dan and Roseanne had done some work on it over the years.  It was the same but even better.  Overall, the experience was perfect.  This place was exactly the kind of apple pie America that I had been in search of.  I wanted to tie a bow around it.

High off the thrill of seeing the house from the show, I headed off to another one of its exterior landmarks, a pizza place that served as The Lobo Lounge.  I figured that I could get some pizza and take it back to the hotel to rest up for tomorrow’s voyage to Chicago.  A perfect visit to Indiana. Unfortunately, the three mile drive from the house to the pizza place took me from Leave it to Beaver to Eminem’s 8 Mile in about five minutes flat, and when I arrived at the restaurant, I realized that there was no way that I could get out of the car.  I snapped a few pictures and rode like hell.

So…I suppose the moral of the story is that nothing is perfect.  So far, I have been to or through nine states, and each one has its own pros and cons lists.  Of course, I am currently putting “sitting in hotel with a BB gun, hoping that my car’s windows are intact in the morning” in the cons column for Evansville.  I’m feeling generous, so here’s an extra piece of advice from lucky number day 13 of my travels: just because you read one review that says “city has no bad areas,” further substantiation of such a claim is never a bad idea.  Although, on the plus side, I do have cable TV.

On that note, tomorrow I will meet up with my mother in Chicago, and she will travel with me over the next five days…  If you have found any of this slightly humorous up until this point, I have high hopes for our upcoming adventures with Ohio and Cedar Point next at bat.  Thank you for continuing to follow along with me on my trek as I approach the halfway point!  I really appreciate it!