Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The License Plate Game

Admit it. You're as grown as you please or ever will be but there is just no resisting playing "The License Plate Game." Across town or going across the country there is nothing that evokes wiling away the hours in the back of the car like picking off out of state tags as the cars whizzed by. For us kids it wasn't the destination we most often did not want to go to or the journey along the way which bored us to tears, it was the game of being the first to spot a car from Montana while driving through Ohio. Cheap lessons in geography that kept us from each others throats and Mom from having to reach back across the seat to get to us. Today it still does pretty much the same thing, no matter how connected to the adult world we are with XM Radio, bluetooth, GPS and 4G technology.

The problem I found in driving alone was not only trying to remember all the tags I saw as I drove myself down Interstate 5 from Los Angeles to San Diego one gloomy afternoon but also in keeping my eyes on the road while trying to read some of the more unusual plates traveling in the same direction. Being a Texan I was of course pleased to see some home state tags and also seeing a few Dallas Cowboys bumper stickers on California plates as well. On this trip I would ultimately see more than half of the union represented, some 27 different states from as far away as New York and Georgia to the east along with Alaska and Hawaii both.

Some I could figure were military families on the move but I wasn't sure about the Virginia tags on the maroon and Redskins festooned SUV. San Diego is an AFC conference town meaning the Redskins will be at Qualcomm once every eight years or maybe their next Superbowl. But I digress. Two of the more interesting tags were from Mexico representing the states of Sonora, just south of Arizona and Baja California. Both of these got me to thinking what the rules of the License Plate Game were when I played as a young child.

We weren't too concerned with which direction the out of state car was traveling so long as it was spotted while we were on the highway. I admit to collecting a few of mine in the parking lot of the hotel I was staying at once I arrived in San Diego. There was also a question of whether or not any plate was fair game so long as we were away from home or if it was only during the length of the trip to the destination. I don't travel as much as I used to and certainly not up and down the California coastline so I grabbed them all. The commute to the office, the drive to dinner, whenever I was in my rented car I was out for plates!

I did not see any Canadian tags which brought me back to the Baja cars, wondering if their marketing folks might work on a promotion line like "La Otra B.C." Definitely a distinct difference between Baja and British Columbia, I'd say. I saw a massive SUV with the Arkansas Razorback embossed on the front tag but it was backed in so I could not see if the rear tags actually boasted the Natural State.

By the time I headed north to catch my flight home I was fairly exhausted from work, fighting a cold and no longer particularly interested in this innocent pastime. I'm always keen to return a rental at the end of a trip with no scratches on it, not wanting to press my luck. The last plate I saw from somewhere else was Michigan, leaving only Indiana as the Central Midwestern state I did not log that week.
I'm looking forward to the next time, though. There's a road trip to Illinois in the offing and that will take 10 hours across four different states to get to!

Gotta go.

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