There is nothing particularly enjoyable about the ribbon of asphalt that is I-95—especially when you’re forced to endure it for the hundreds and hundreds of miles that stretch between Florida and Pennsylvania on the way back from a rain-drenched Rolex 24. I didn’t think anything could be worse than the wet dog stench emanating from our worse-for-wear camping equipment. But when we crossed into South Carolina, I was proved wrong. So, so wrong.
I’d heard tales about these billboards before. Friends who had made cross-country treks had warned me about them. They’d even expressed a mild interest in the roadside attraction that these billboards were advertising. I did not realize that whimsical art and quaint catchphrases could spark so much anger.
That’s right, folks. I’m talking about the South of the Border billboards.
If you happen to be one of the fortunate souls who have never encountered a South of the Border billboard, allow me to enlighten you. South of the Border is a faux-Mexican style resort tucked at the border of North and South Carolina (hence the name, haha, get it?). The billboards themselves caught some flack for being pretty racist in the late 1990s, but the ones that weren’t are still there, taunting me and every other motorist innocently making their way across the country.
But what makes these billboards so awful now is the sheer number of them. Dear God. I was getting tired of the Hampton Inn signs advertising Waffles + Wifi and Bytes + Bites like they’re some tragically hip restaurant in Austin and not just a quick place to sleep en route to somewhere more appealing. But nothing could compare to the torture I was about to endure.
The moment you cross into either North or South Carolina, these billboards smack you right in the face: there are [insert horrible number here] miles left until the border!. In the last five miles alone (yes, I rage-counted) there are more than ten billboards. Each and every one is laden with the equivalent of a travel-themed dad joke. Each and every one proclaims exactly how many miles are left until you hit this “wonderful” attraction.
Now, I will admit that I’m not the most pleasant person to be around on fifteen-hour car rides that take place immediately after a 24-hour race. I am a sourpuss. A grump. All I want is to close my eyes and teleport to my destination. I’m not even going to look at the number of miles left or projected ETA until I’ve made it to Virginia.
And then here are all these goddamn signs, telling me there are 174 miles left to a goddamn tourist that is by far the most disappointing—wait, there’s another one telling me it’s now 171 miles—attraction on the whole east coast. I don’t want to know! Stop reminding me that I’ve only gone four miles since the last sign! It’s felt like a goddamn lifetime! My shoes are soaked, my ears are ringing, and I know I’m not going to be in my own bed until at least tomorrow. I do not want a sombrero’d cartoon figure named Pedro telling me that “I never sausage a sight” on a billboard laden with a giant wiener. I bet their tacos aren’t even good. And, hey, did you know that there’s 168 miles to South of the Border now?
I fully believe that there could not be billboards in any of the fifty states more horribly obnoxious than these. It is impossible. To create something worse would be a monolithic feat, a wonder of the modern world. And I hope beyond hope that I will never be in a position where I will be proved wrong.