Tales From the Cooler: Come Vacation In Beautiful Starspangled200 Dot Org!

Virgil Hilts
by Virgil Hilts
tales from the cooler come vacation in beautiful starspangled200 dot org

While stopped in traffic on the 405 today, I gazed at the California license plate on the Mini in front of me, marveling at the clever phrase that Sacramento has chosen to promote the Golden State: “dmv.ca.gov.”

Sadly, a dozen states have gone the website route recently for their license plate message, including Michigan which dumped its long-standing and perfectly descriptive phrase, “Great Lakes” for “www.michigan.gov.” Aren’t license plates supposed to brand their state? What do kids say nowadays when they play, “Count the License Plates?” Most likely, “Look Dad, a car from travel2sc.com!”

Hopefully, states with classic mottos like “The Grand Canyon State,” The Garden State” and Minnesota’s “10,000 Lakes” will not change to a URL name. Maybe they will. Part of this new state strategy may be designed to force drivers to shell out more money for more attractive “specialized” plates.

In no other state has changing license slogans caused more controversy than in Indiana. The Hoosier State used to hold a contest every few years for voters to submit their own ideas for a state motto for their plates. This led to the memorable 1984 tag that said “Wander” at the top and “Indiana” at the bottom. Hoosier humorist Jean Shepherd once pointed out that the scourge of the highways is always the drivers from neighboring states. In this case, you could just hear folks in Illinois yelling, “Look Martha, there goes another idiot from Indiana, WANDERING all over the lanes, just like his license plate says!”

Equally amusing are some of the rejected contest entries over the years:

Indiana: Keeping Illinois and Ohio separated since 1837

Indiana: More than just Good Looks

Indiana: Gateway to Ohio

In 2003, Hoosiers were outraged when the state decided to replace, “Back Home Again” with “www.IN.gov”. After churning through 9 phrases in 32 years, the state grew weary of the whole plate debate and dropped license mottos in 2008.

Over the years plates have revealed a state’s self-analysis, (“Oklahoma is OK”), their political bent, (New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die”) and odes to dairy products and potatoes. I particularly like Alabama’s current tip of the hat to legendary rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd with, “Sweet Home Alabama.”

I must also give kudos to the District of Columbia for truth in advertising for plating the phrase, “Taxation without Representation.” Uh,Washington, isn’t the word “No” supposed to precede that motto? It turns out this optional plate is part of a local campaign to appoint a first-ever Congressman to represent DC, but to many people it neatly describes our federal government’s position on taxes.

So what are your favorite, least favorite or fantasy state license plate slogans? In the meantime, I am off to visit the Land of Enchantment…

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  • Replica Replica on Jul 24, 2012

    The previous Texas plates were sweet. There was a space shuttle, a cowboy, oil dykes, a moon! It had everything that made Texas awesome! I recently moved to Washington and the plates, well, they're boring. I want state specific things on the plate. In Washington's case, it would be a hipster wearing an ironic trucker T-shirt one size too small, holding a tallboy "Rainier" (the equal to PBR or Lonestar), and a carrier bag with a bunch of small button pins on it with cleverly ironic sayings on them.

  • Southerner Southerner on Jul 24, 2012

    Dear Clutch, Thanks for a BIG laugh.

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