“Ain’tcha glad ta finally live someplace y’kin park y’car on the lawn if y’ont to?” inquired my redneck cousin.
The only response I could think of would’ve completely alienated the Georgia branch of the family that I was so eager to connect with. Why would anyone do something as uncouth as parking on grass? That I could now legally destroy a lawn wasn’t a thing I could appreciate, although it did feel good to escape the foolishness that ensues when the state tries too hard to control idiots.
Compared to California, Georgia did seem like a bastion of freedom. Plenty has changed, however, in the nearly three decades since my cousin sung the praises of parking on the lawn in Cobb County, Georgia.
The county worked hard to distance itself from its rural roots, adding many more rules governing many more things. California, for its part, has in many respects become an even more stifling place to live. Lovely to visit, though – right?
Anyway, I think when you stay in one place for a long time, it’s easy to simply accept as normal the way things are – at least, if you can avoid having any preferences that conflict with laws on the books.
When you travel, though, your eyes are opened. You begin to see that, in places where people are allowed to do crazy things like pump their own gas, purchase a car any day of the week or buy lunch from a guy running a food cart on the street, society has somehow held itself together. And then if you’re like me you go, hmmm…should this thing really be illegal elsewhere?
As a libertarian and former Californian, I get giddy over areas where rules are relaxed or even avoided altogether. It’s true that those places on the map or in the law books are for now limited to happy little pockets of freedom in an icy sea of bureaucracy. But don’t you think it’s a helluva lot better to focus on what we can do without risking arrest than it is to sit around and do nothing but whine about how oppressed we are?
Yes, I know you do. You are a positive thinker who refuses to let “the man” hold you down. With that in mind, I present for your consideration the following suggested stops on the Live Free Road trip:
#10 – Skip the sales tax in Portland, OR
Actually, the entire state of Oregon is a tax-free zone, except for Ashland and Yachats (where they charge an extra 5% on prepared food and non-alcoholic beverages). The state makes up for it with income tax. But if you’re a traveler – or you live just across the border in income-tax-free Washington, your money will go farther in Oregon. Alaska, Delaware, Montana and New Hampshire also have no statewide sales tax, though you may incur other consumption taxes depending on what you’re buying and where.
#9 – Grab tequila and limes in one shot (pun absolutely intended) in Cali
See, this is one thing my home state gets right. Why, when you’re planning to make margaritas, should you have to visit separate stores to buy all the ingredients? You shouldn’t, unless you care about supporting corrupt and/or outmoded beverage distribution schemes. Here’s a table showing which U.S. states allow grocery stores to sell distilled spirits (and, actually, providing an overview of all state-level alcohol laws).
#8 – Drive 85 mph – guilt-free – on Texas’s Pickle Parkway
Every day on interstate highways in and around Atlanta, people drive 85 mph and faster. There is certainly safety in numbers, and the net result is that unless you stand out in some other way the odds of getting a speeding ticket are low. Not nonexistent, though. If you want the thrill of speeding without all the paranoid glances in your rearview, hop on Texas 130 – a.k.a. the Pickle Parkway. With the highest posted speed limit in the U.S., the Pickle will take you from San Antonio to Austin lickety-split. It’ll cost you. But not as much as a speeding ticket.
#7 – Lose your shirt practically any way you like in Louisiana
Sure, there are plenty of places in the U.S. you could go broke gambling (or playing poker, which is a game of skill and not gambling, according to Brian). Why not do it in a place with authentic Cajun food, and that offers more types of gambling (e.g., horse racing, lotteries) than Vegas?
#6 – Stroll historic Savannah, GA’s shady, cobblestone streets sipping mint juleps
If I’d realized it was no biggie to ask for a to-go cup in Savannah, we might’ve spent more time there when we visited. OK, I’m kidding – but only partly. This policy is as convenient for teetotalers like me as it is for party animals.
#5 – Enjoy a beach day with the whole family – Fido, too – when you visit Oak Island, NC
Don’t you hate leaving your best bud behind when you head for the beach? I can’t wait to see how John Lee reacts to waves and sand. I might not let him off lead, since he’s a Greyhound and could take off after a bird and be lost fast. But if your dog is less speedy and more responsive when you call, Oak Island has a big chunk of time where off-leash fun is allowed.
#4 – Buy fresh eggs direct from Virginia’s backyard chicken owners
Oddly enough, commercial egg-production “experts” usually produce inferior eggs when compared to hobbyists whose chickens run around the yard eating bugs and weeds. Eggs from backyard chickens allowed to free range are more nutritious than their commercially-produced counterparts. If you’re just passing through an area about all you can do is ask how the chickens are kept, but it’s worth a shot and they’re bound to be better than commercial eggs. In Virginia, you’re likely to have an easier time scoring fresh, free-range eggs because the state doesn’t regulate these small producers.
#3 – Purchase fresh, unpasteurized, non-homogenized milk straight from the farm that produced it
The U.S. has a hodgepodge of laws controlling or even outright banning raw milk. Vermont (along with Missouri, South Dakota and Wyoming) allows farms to sell their milk directly to consumers, without forcing them to obtain a special license. Pasteurization covers a multitude of commercial dairy sins that raw milk producers can’t get away with. While it does minimize the risk of bacterial contamination, it also kills flavor and nutrients. If you haven’t tried raw milk, you’re in for a treat when you do.
Growing up, my dad was a health food freak before it was the least bit cool. We lived in a Southern California suburb, at a time when most dairies had long since retired their milkmen and shipped their supply to supermarkets. Yet we got weekly deliveries of raw milk from Alta Dena Dairy – until lawmakers forced them to stop raw milk sales. Going from Alta Dena’s milk to pasteurized, homogenized supermarket milk was like going from aged cheddar to Velveeta. Yuck! And now look at the map – you can apparently buy raw in the supermarket in CA!
#2 – Take your ATV on a Dunkin’ Donuts run in Berlin, NH
There are some expected limitations, but it is generally legal to run errands or just ride around on your ATV in Berlin. The city also has a dedicated ATV park and large network of trails nearby, in case you’re looking for a different kind of donut. Side note: We almost moved to Berlin.
#1 – Munch on brownies with Mary Jane in Maine
Despite all the hoo-ha over legal marijuana in Colorado, if you’re really into more weed with fewer restrictions, you might be better off visiting Maine. I’ve never smoked the stuff so I don’t know if being allowed to have up to 2.5 ounces (vs. Colorado’s 1 ounce) is a big deal. Maine also has provisions for social clubs, unlike Colorado. From reading a comparison of marijuana laws in both states I can say it is still fairly locked down even where it’s legal.
I don’t think I’d ever smoke marijuana, but if we were someplace it was legal – check out these s’mores! Aren’t they adorable?
By the way…
As I prepared to write this post, I asked RVers on Facebook what unusual freedoms they’d run across in their travels. Imagine my surprise when I heard almost nothing but complaints about what they couldn’t do, and where they couldn’t do it. I was so disappointed.
Hell-bent on proving there is still fun to be lawfully had, I spent a ridiculous amount of time compiling the tips above. Even though I might not try each one, it’s nice to know I can do something, somewhere, that where I’m at now would get me an expensive fine or jail time.
Just remember that I am not an attorney and cannot offer legal advice (or bail money) should you choose to enjoy the right activity in the wrong jurisdiction. I don’t believe I’ve included anything too murky here, but you should do your own research before planning your liberty (libertine?) road trip.
Wha’d I miss?
Is there something I should have included in the “Live Free Road Trip,” but didn’t? Leave a comment and let me know what it is.