There are certain things in life you learn only through experience. Sticking your fingers over fire. Putting a fork into the electrical outlet. Waving your genitals covered in steak sauce in front of a rottweiler. But while these things we will all do once and carry them over for a lifetime, there are others, like crossing the USA by car, that scar us unconsciously in ways we can never imagine.
Things I learned while driving across the United States of Generica:
1) If you are driving on any major Interstate between Georgia and Kentucky, two exits out of three have a Waffle House.
2) If you are driving on any major Interstate, the next most common thing to Waffle House is roadkill.
3) Shredded tires outnumber milestones by an average ratio of 10 to 1.
4) If you are in any American city, after 8 o'clock, and you see two people walking in the street wondering where everyone is and why the pubs are closed, these two individuals are Canadian.
5) When those two Canadians stop the one and only person they have encountered while wondering aimlessly in downtown for hours about the location of said pub or a coffee shop, they are greeted with a strange look of disbelief: "Coffee shops open? It's 8 o'clock!"
6) In the US, people that are rich, drive. People that are poor, take the bus (assuming this is one of those US cities where public transportation actually exists). If you ask for information from someone on the street after 8 o'clock, these people are poor. Warning: this does not mean they are unarmed. They probably can only afford a revolver-style weapon instead of a semi-automatic.
7) The moment you set foot in New York, about 6 individuals will know for sure you are not from there, try to swipe your bags, ask for change, bum a smoke off you, ask for change again, try to break your heart with a compassionate story about their dead grandmother and ask for change again. Always answer in French when in New York. Since nobody in Canada really speaks French, we've provided you with some patented samples: say things like "Je suis un petite poubelle" or "Je suis tres desole! Je suis un amateur de chevre!". While this means you are a tiny garbage can, or that you are very sorry, but you love goats, they will leave you alone muttering "bloody Canadians".
8) When on a Georgia's Interstate, signalling other traffic of your intention to change lane actually means "Please accelerate and prevent me from passing the slow vehicle in front of me".
9) When on a Georgia's Interstate, keeping a safe distance between you and the vehicle in front of you means "Please squeeze in between them and us, there is plenty of space!" to vehicles around you.
10) Anywhere south after Wisconsin, attempts to communicate in English are next to impossible.
11) When in Kentucky, if your flavour of music is anything but Country, and your vehicle happens to have no tape deck, you may as well throw the radio out of the car.
12) The concept of Elevator Music in a gas station anywhere in Kentucky is Country music.
13) The ability to drive and use signals when changing lanes is not a major requirement declared by the Department of Transportation of the US of G.
14) There are enough fingers on one hand to count the total number of public transportation vehicles seen in each city while crossing five states.
15) Amtrak's concept of "Fast, reliable and safe" transportation involves travelling at an average speed of 40 kilometres per hour. While this ensures safety and that even turtles have plenty of time to cross the tracks, it also means taking a total of two days to travel a distance normally covered in 12 hours by car when not speeding.
16) When on Interstate 90 from Wisconsin, you see the sign "Welcome to Pennsylvania" it actually means, "There are no more potholes. You can put the pop cans back into the cup holders".
17) Truck drivers are your friends: when they slow down, you slow down. Pigs are not far away.
18) It may be "Built in America" but at 90 miles an hour, deers are pretty damn sturdy even for a Buick.
Crossing the border to the US can be a one minute dealing or a half an hour ordeal. Passing through Buffalo is not wise. Here the US Customs people are as nice as a board with nails and as easy to deal with as dog shit stuck in the grooves under your shoes. Cross by Niagara Falls if you can. You could be carrying nuclear weapons in the US at that point, they don't seem to care. However, if you happen to be unfortunate enough to go through Buffalo, remember to always lie and tell them what they want to hear:
NSI: "Where are you going?" after checking documents.
You: "New York!" (Atlanta)
"How long are you going to stay there?"
"Two weeks" (four days)
"What is the purpose of your trip?"
"Pleasure" (if you are a masochist)
"How much money are you carrying with you?"
"Five hundred dollars" (seven cents, 3 of which are American)
"What are you bringing into the US?"
"Nothing" (cuban cigars to smoke while driving)
"How will you be getting back into Canada?"
"By train" (driving a truck across 5 states)
Never volunteer information. This is basically asking for trouble, and a possible cavity search. Unless you like that sort of thing.