God Came to I-80

By Katy

Several times a year I find myself commuting between Illinois and Iowa to visit friends and family and to just plain get away. Every trip the drive becomes increasingly more dull and my only joy is that moment when I stop at I-80 and stock up on Lipton peach ice tea in a glass bottle--a rare treasure most gas stations stopped providing. Most recently I was especially excited to stop by this old haunt as I had gone several months without a fix. To my dismay, when I approached those frosty, glass doors in anticipation of loading my arms with peachy goodness, I found that I-80 had left my side to join the ranks of inferior gas stations and convenience stores everywhere. No ice tea for me. I rushed to the bathroom to cry.

* * * * *

I-80, known today as the World's Largest Truck Stop, got it's start in 1849 as a trade post erected on the Mormon Trail during the peak of Western expansion. The early post served as a stop for pioneers in need of trading axles for oxen and abandoning their un-baptized children (heathens) in a superstitious attempt for a safer journey. A lot of people made it to Nebraska, grew tired of the hundreds and hundreds of miles of desolate nothingness and started making their way back to the East coast; doubling the popularity of the outpost. Some people even picked their babies back up: those that hadn't already been sold into the increasingly popular "child labor." Some people settled in Iowa and began farming the land and twiddling their thumbs. Others couldn't make up their mind WHERE they wanted to go and their continued travel urged the need for a larger post and an interstate which we now know as I-80. When cars were invented this interstate idea really took off and by 1967 the truck stop was already the most popular stop in the country, neigh... the world.

* * * * *

So with my soul torn apart and my heart left broken and aching I finally left the sanctuary I had found in the 50's style bathroom. A quote from Lucille Ball hung above the sink reading, "The secret to staying young is to lie about your age." I was touched and found myself smiling (even with the middle of the quote cut out) as I pictured this angry, drunken, chain-smoking icon of comedy yelling this to herself in a vanity mirror. I exited the lavatory and found myself gazing at a swirly shelf-o-postcards. Recently I had sent my sister and brother-in-law a really dreadful postcard and found myself wishing I had more for future worthlessness. I picked up these six treasures. They're difficult to see from afar so allow for a quick elaboration:

A) Four popular bridges of the QC; Centennial, Government, Memorial, and I-80.

B) A Lutheran church built near Moorhead, IA in 1884 and a lovely couple of graves.

C) A kitten lost in a sea of corn. I'm assuming, if you're
not from the Midwest, you won't get the joke. Sorry.

D) This postcard is all about how Iowa roads are constantly under construction. It's not really true, but that doesn't make it any less hilarious.

E) A beautiful picture of Cedar Rapids, IA, meant to lie to outsiders about its beauty so they'll move there and lose their lives and homes in great floods.

F) A picture solely of the I-80 bridge sprawling over the Mississippi. This is the thing dreams are made of.

While I was plenty satisfied with my postcards I decided, without Lipton peach ice tea and a will to live, I wasn't in any hurry to return home. Even in all my years of stopping at I-80 I hadn't really ever perused around this giant garage sale. I turned and glanced momentarily at the bumper stickers next to the postcards and was quickly loosing myself to boredom with the familiar "Welcome To America, Now Speak English" and "Remember 9/11, the Left Has Already Forgot" and "I Love Jesus" varieties.

(However, I do want to mention that my eyes fell upon a white sticker with words written in red: "I don't dial 9-1-1 I dial .357". Now, I'm a normal person and therefore had no idea what this was meant to say. I thought momentarily it was referring to some deadly, blood alcohol level but that would be silly, right? For a half second I considered this .357 being a gun caliber of some kind but the logical side of my brain kicked in rather rapidly to say "Katy, why would someone immediately grab their firearm for no reason in the midst of an emergency?" When I got to work that evening I asked my work family if this could be explained. My fears where in fact confirmed when said co-workers explained a .357 was, in fact, a gun. I'm now saddened that I didn't purchase that sticker when I had the chance; I need for vehicles in my general vicinity to be fully aware of my violent tendencies.)

I took off on a trek through the smorgasbord of cheaply made relics and keepsakes. Suddenly I found myself surrounded by crosses of varying shapes, sizes, colors and jeweled accessories. I found Bible verses and Christian charms along with angel statuettes and Jesus fish. When did God come to I-80? Had this seemingly innocuous free-for-all watering hole struck a bargain with the Christian church to parade their miscellany in the most popular place in the world!? Aside from genius it was most unsettling. I suddenly glanced from side-to-side, paranoid that various spokespeople from all walks of religion were stationed to con me into His light.

I high-tailed it out from the glare of salvation and found myself amongst some Disney princess colored pencils coupled with books. It gave me a moment to catch my breath and allow my pulse to slow down to something resembling normal. Once I was positive I could walk again I decided it was time to get out of this haven created by pioneers-turned-spiritual-army. As I walked away from the comfort of Disney I saw it. It was amazing, dare I say...immaculate? I have never been a big fan of novelty t-shirts of any kind, especially this new obsession with taking our false idols of pop culture and twisting it into a God-worshiping logo-- but there it was. Beautiful.

A chortle escaped from my throat so that several bystanders turned to gauge my reaction. Was it spiritual? Was it sardonic? Was it a hiccup? With the widest smile ever brought on by clothing I stepped slowly towards this navy cloth of wonder. I just stared, open-mouthed for several seconds. I started walking around this small kiosk and reading the other t-shirts displayed: A Guitar Hero emblem ripped off to say "God is my Hero". A tiny (and adorable) Wii Jesus displaying "Hii Saved Me. John 3:16". A cluttered maroon number reading "Under the Influence..." and then in much smaller words "...of the Spirit". It's like it got better and better as I traversed! I only wish I had brought my camera in to capture this t-shirt mecca forever (lucky for you I link the website in about ten sentences). I was midly disdainful when I saw a blue shirt with a bass guitar that said "Bass your life on Christ". (What's wrong with playing bass, now?)

I actually circled this same shelving unit five times or so in order to take it all in. I'm sure I was making a spectacle of myself... like a blind man seeing a vagina for the first time I was enthralled in disbelief and wonder, but mainly curiosity. I bought the shirt:

We wait for the blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Titus 2:13

It's even more amazing writing about it now than when I awkwardly threw it upon the counter and paid way too much for it.

More important than Kerusso's blatant distaste for Obama, I wondered more how they get away with this kind of thing? If Shepard Fairey wins his law suit and in fact wins artistic claim--does Kerusso not owe him acknowledgment for ripping off his portrait? I will now to read the only bits of writing I can find on this t-shirt and it's attached tags; both because there's no mention of Fairey or the AP, but also because it's funny/daunting.

The Tag:
(Kerusso's slogan) "Change your shirt. Change the world!"
Kerusso The Greek word means--"To herald divine truth as a public crier; to preach the gospel."

Did you know that the average Christian T-shirt is read as many as 3,000 times before it goes to the yard sale? You can impact your world for Jesus Christ simply by Changing Your Shirt! So what are you waiting for?

10% of the profit from this product goes to support missions, non profit organizations, and local churches.

Oh yeah. Did I mention it's made in Haiti and then imported into Mexico? Now I know why those are such popular mission sites.

While this shirt may have saved my foul mood in an instant of sick comedic pleasure, I'm now left with an emptiness inside me that Lipton peach ice tea in a glass bottle used to fill. I'm saddened and ashamed that I purchased this product and have a mind to drive back tomorrow and return it. This is the biggest exploitation of religious propaganda I've been a part of since Peter Popoff sent me his miracle manna. And then spiritual sea salt. And cosmic communion wafer, radical roofies and twenty-five dynamite donation suggestions. Seriously, this guy will not leave me alone and I've never responded. Not once.

I don't remember where I was going with this. I guess what I'm trying to say is if anyone comes across Lipton peach ice tea in a glass bottle please send me some. Without I'm just liable to go around funding faulty church organizations and making horrific in-the-moment decisions due to thirst. Most of all, I want this to be a warning to you friends: don't let this happen to you. Finally, give I-80 a visit sometime. Even if their merchandising agenda is a bit off, their postcards are worth a second glance.


  1. I-80 is a great place. Beth gave me a haircut outside of there once because the barber wasn't there. I haven't paid for a haircut since.

  2. Who's Peter Popoff?

  3. http://www.peterpopoff.org/

    I was moderately inebriated about 4am one morning and upon stumbling through television stations landed on Pete's commercial for Miracle Manna and at the time I thought it would be brilliant to call for my free sample of salvation.

    And then I would get a letter every two weeks telling me my fortune and how God could help me if I'd only send $200 along with my blood type and it was amusing at first but that was probably a year ago and at this point it's like, really?

    I've considered composing a letter to him and his ministry about how disgusted I am by them but I'm sure it would be in vain, so I'm glad I called him out here.

  4. I really liked this post. I was born in the I-80 truck stop and then given up for adoption, but it's always felt like home to me and this article just echoes it with excessive religiosity, bumper stickers and the fowl stench of intellectual death.

  5. You should really watch Dirty Harry more often. honestly everyone should. Great movie. Anyone, he does like his .357 Magnum.

    Oh, and no, that shirt would fall under parody, so it would be A-ok. The problem with the original image is that it is a direct copy of a copy-written photo while this is a parody of the resultant image. And parody is protected and what-not. Lord, I know too much about copyright.

  6. Mary & I love the postcard. It's just a picture of a road. I show it Australia people to illustrate why they should be more appreciative of pretty things they have here like mountains and oceans. On the other hand they have no Iowa 80 Truck Stop, which I would gladly trade for all the wonders of the world. Thank you for writing about the happiest place on Earth, we'll spend a day there when we get back!


no more comments from spam bots. fuck off.

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.