28 October 2010


By Andy Weddington
Friday, 29 October 2010

   "Modern man drives a mortgaged car over a bond-financed highway on credit-card gas." Earl Wilson

During the last three weeks or so I've logged nearly 4,000 road miles--along Interstates, highways, bypasses, byways, rural roads, and city streets in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, and Colorado.

The vastness and beauty of the landscape in Utah and Colorado is especially stunning.

Other than a reliable motor coach and "enhanced GPS" (my wife--a superb navigator--for about half the trip) all I needed was a bag of clothes, a state-issued photo-adorned piece of plastic that said who I was and permitted me to legally operate the motor coach, a photo-adorned federal-issued piece of plastic that said who I was and was occasionally honored for discounts, and a bank-issued piece of plastic embossed with sixteen digits that authorized removal of money from my account. Though the photo-adorned pieces of plastic were issued within a couple of weeks of each other, you have to look close to confirm they're of the same person--it's the photographer's fault.

Anyway, each piece of plastic measures approximately 3 3/8 inches by 2 1/8 inches by less than 1/16 of an inch--their size disproportionate to their power. They are the keys to our world.

As I am a responsible, law-abiding motor coach operator not one law enforcement officer asked for my stated-issued piece of plastic. My days risking the sight of flashing blue and red code lights in my rear and side view mirrors are long over. Nor did anyone else ask for the state-issued piece of plastic to confirm I was of age to purchase alcohol--and that even at places with posted notice they checked everyone who appeared under the age of 39. In denial and mostly to humor myself, I offered anyway.

I voluntarily produced my federal-issued piece of plastic (along with a another federal-issued piece of plastic) for gratuitous entrance to Utah's Arches National Park. The Park Ranger said, "Welcome. Enjoy your visit." We did. If you've never been to spectacular Arches make a note to go. And travel the scenic highway 128 in at least one direction. But be alert as there are open ranges along the windy, two-lane road that parallels and crosses the beautiful, meandering Colorado River. Watch for wildlife; particularly cows who think they own the road and are annoyed by motor coaches.

On the other hand, the bank-issued piece of plastic was in and out of my wallet more times than I care to remember--though a statement of transactions reminds me.

With that little piece of plastic I bought fuel--at the pump--for the motor coach. The only "identification" required to activate the card was a zip code. After filling the tank the pump automatically stopped. To keep record-keeping orderly I squeezed a drop or two more into the tank for an even number on the purchase. Some call it a compulsion. Maybe. My wife thinks it's crazy. I chalk it up to Marine training. Whatever. A printed receipt confirmed location, date, time, and amount paid for the fuel. Queries for a car wash were declined. Without fail, the piece of plastic worked in all six states at a variety of distributors in small towns and big cities.

That piece of plastic allowed me to purchase food at all sorts of eateries from fast-food joints to small diners to elegant restaurants in all six states, an out-of-state fishing license, replacement windshield wiper blades for the motor coach and at a discount retailer--in another state--just like the one where I (and you live). Hint--the folks looked pretty much the same. It appeared a rain storm was inevitable so I put the new blades on in the parking lot. Turns out I didn't need them--until five days later to swipe away snow and ice while transiting the Rockies and rain in Utah.

That piece of plastic allowed me to pay for a haircut in one state in order to be presentable for an important dinner in another state a few days later. While in that same town that piece of plastic paid for a new camera battery, the dinner tab, and made a contribution to a fundraiser for a local family working to adopt a special needs child.

That piece of plastic also paid for dinner out with family and friends in another state. And was suggested, by a friend, for use to buy a round of drinks for all--mostly cougars--at the bar. That did not happen. The tiger I live with, also at the dinner table, would not permit it.

Oh, and I forgot to mention that piece of plastic, while acting on a spur-of-the-moment idea while barreling down an Interstate in one state, was used by my wife while on her cell phone (about the same size as the aforementioned pieces of plastic only thicker) to call another state to reserve a room and theatre tickets in a swanky hotel we'd visit a week later.

Most interesting is that on only on one or two occasions did anyone ask to see one of my photo-adorned pieces of plastic in order to accept the piece of plastic with sixteen embossed digits. No wonder there is such enormous costs with fraud and identity theft. The lesson again reinforced--check statements regularly.

Though we tend to take technology for granted not giving it so much as a momentary second thought--like clean water and electricity--it is rather remarkable that a small piece of plastic--by means of a quick swipe--can purchase fuel, food, lodging, sundry personal needs etc. at an endless number of stores around the clock and that is just for starters.

Aside from the incredible convenience of that piece of plastic during recent travels, I have entered its sixteen digits into secure websites on this same computer to purchase paints, brushes, canvas, frames, shoes, shirts, jewelry, food, flowers, clothes, furniture, airplane seats, theatre tickets, hotel rooms, etc. with many of the items delivered to my doorstep within days.

And the card can also be slipped into a machine for cash. But why do that?

What a country we call home. It wasn't all that long ago that Blue Laws where I grew up prohibited the purchase of fuel (for cars) on Sunday. Nor could you buy tools on Sunday--27 years ago I once tried to buy a hammer and was told not until tomorrow. Alcohol sales were restrictive and liquor-by-the-drink was unheard of. Most retail stores were closed. And nearly all purchases were made with cash.

Alcohol--no big deal. In most states today you can buy beer, wine, and the hard stuff at convenience and grocery stores. In some states at a drive-thru. Now, at least in one state, with a photo-adorned piece of plastic, a piece of plastic with sixteen digits embossed on it, and a doctor's note you can buy marijuana--supposedly for medicinal purposes only.

Today hundreds of millions of us can buy damn near anything we want anytime we want and do so by providing, in any number of ways--via a swipe, voice, or type-written entry, a string of sixteen digits.   Ironically, offer cash and some venues literally do not have the means to deal with it.

America, despite our current woes, what a country. And our relatively carefree lives made possible by folks who volunteer to take a step forward, don a military uniform, and write a blank check up to including their life. I met some of these brave ladies and gentlemen last Thursday evening at that important event that required a fresh haircut. More about them and that remarkable evening in a future Commentary.

So what does all this have to do with today's title: Fedon's Bait & Tackle?

Fedon's Bait & Tackle--encountered during the thousands of miles of road time--is an obscure gem of a place that does not accept the piece of plastic with sixteen digits embossed on it. Nor are pieces of plastic adorned with a photograph required. At least that's my understanding. Maybe that had something to do with their fondness for U. S. Marines and Sailors. And Soldiers, Airmen, and Coast Guardsmen, too.

The proprietor is a Marine--with a unique path of completing recruit training at Parris Island and less than a week later reporting to Officer Candidates School; as a candidate. A long time ago he flew jets. Later airliners. And recently a propellered plane--like the one he trained in--just for kicks. I watched a video--shot from a camera positioned just forward of the cockpit. Ever seen a film with a propeller spinning in the foreground the entire time? Interesting cinematography--felt like the fluttering was going to trigger a seizure so I stopped watching.

I saw his partner wearing the in-demand long-sleeved Fedon's Bait & Tackle T-shirt. I now own the equally in-demand ball cap--emblazoned with their world-famous stitched rendering of a hooked bass leaping from the water against a rising, blazing orange sun (same logo as on the T-shirt). I'll wear the cap fly fishing for trout anyway.

Fedon's Bait & Tackle enjoys their obscurity. Don't bother with Google, you can't find them on the web. And you won't hear radio or see TV plugs or ads in sporting, vacation, or slick GQ-like mags. They don't need to advertise. And far be it from me to compromise their location. You'll know you've found the place when a couple of real extrovert characters, Eddie and Tony (aka: Joey, Larry, and Fred)--they run the show--rush to warmly greet you. And just to be sure you're in the right place ask for the Lollipop kid impersonation--it's a riot!

Post Script

Enjoy your weekend. If you should happen to meet Eddie and Tony pass along my heartfelt "howdy" to each. I really like those guys--they're the cat's meow.

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