Here are a few more observations from our quick road trip to Kansas City and back (which I wrote about yesterday).

Whenever I’m somewhere else in the world and someone asks where I’m from, I say St. Louis, even though our house is about 25 minutes west of downtown (but still within St. Louis County). I wonder how far away you have to live before you don’t say St. Louis. Is it when you cross the Missouri River for the first time and enter St. Charles County? Do people in St. Peters, Weldon Springs, or Wentzville identify as St. Louisans? Surely by the time you get to New Florence, Foristell, or Fulton, you don’t consider yourself a suburbanite, but rather a small-towner — or, more generally, just a Missourian. And on the other side of the state, how close to Kansas City do you have to reside to claim that as your hometown?

The big difference in driving the I-70 corridor in December — as opposed to August — can be summed up in one word: bugs. In the summer, my windshield gets positively littered with smooshed bugs, so much so that, after a round trip, a visit to the car wash is mandatory. But in December, the glass stays clean and bug-free all the way.

If you’ve ever been on I-70 in the middle of Missouri, you couldn’t have missed the ten or so signs in each direction for Ozarkland, a tourist trap off exit 148, urging you to pick up some fudge because “Road Trip Calories Don’t Count.” I’ve passed those billboards dozens of times, but was never tempted to stop in. However, this time, Martha — who loves fudge — insisted we check it out, so we pulled off and went inside. A woman’s tired voice from behind a counter welcomed us as we walked through the door, but when I looked over, she and her fellow employees seemed miserable, just counting the minutes until they could get out of there.

I don’t blame them. Ozarkland has the dusty smell of an indoor yard sale where nothing’s ever been sold. Among the kitschy wares on display are cowboy hats, wind chimes, hunting knives, shot glasses, and doormats with such hysterical messages as “Hold On! We’re Probably Not Wearing Pants!” Then there was the line of sodas on display (pictured below) with flavor names like Bug Barf, Toxic Slime, Monster Mucus, and Dog Drool — not to mention Bacon Soda. Feh!

On the other hand, Martha did like the fudge.