The Gall of the Wisconsin State Journal (Part 2: Letter from Grant Petty)

Followers of Monologues of Dissent may have already read my own letter to the editor on the gall of the Wisconsin State Journal and the ensuing email exchange with opinion editor Scott Milfred. I'm happy to report that the paper has confirmed it will run a revised-down-to-200-words version of my letter (god forbid I include all my reasons for objecting to their editorializing - they only have so much room for dissent, you know). I'll also acknowledge that despite his glaring editorial weaknesses, Scott Milfred is a very polite person, and at least he writes back, unlike some governors I know.

I want to share however, this much more lucid and compelling letter to the the WSJ editors, which puts my own correspondence to shame and is a must-read for anyone who cares about what's going on in Wisconsin, or who is interested more generally in the depressing topic of how local news coverage betrays the local citizenry.  Grant Petty is treasurer of the local activist organization, South Central Wisconsin Move to Amend, and a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I thank him for giving permission to share his letter here. Please read, and pass on, his letter, which has been making the virtual rounds all week and has now been picked up on The Daily page of local alternative news weekly, the Isthmus.

Why I am dropping the Wisconsin State Journal
by Grant Petty

Dear Wisconsin State Journal,
As non-union public sector workers (yes, we exist) who are about to be hit with an 8% take-home pay cut as a result of Gov. Scott Walker's budget repair bill, my wife and I have to decide what luxuries we're going to cut out of our lives. She has been arguing for weeks that we should let our subscription to your newspaper expire.
Despite my recurring annoyance with your hit-and-miss political news coverage and editorializing since moving to Madison, I had halfheartedly defended renewing it. My excuse was that there was local news in your paper that I still wanted to be able to get from my breakfast reading rather than having to go online to look for it.
My resistance to dropping your paper finally collapsed Sunday morning when I read your jaw-dropping editorial "Rampant recalls wrong".
It was not simply that I disagreed with your position. I disagree with other publications' positions all the time without necessarily feeling insulted by them. The straw that broke the camel's back for me was that you had once again ignored or grossly oversimplified deep and important issues affecting Wisconsin while basing your position on superficial ones.
There were of course other straws:
You habitually oversimplified the motivations of the countless thousands of citizens -- many of whom previously had no union ties whatsoever -- present at or supporting the protests at the Capitol.
You inexplicably neglected to report on the remarkable, and nationally significant, outcome of the April 5 Dane County and Madison referendums on corporate money and speech, leaving it to out-of-state blogs and a local reader to do your reporting for you.
You confidently touted the "narrow yet conclusive" victory of Prosser over Kloppenburg without ever acknowledging, let alone countering, widely publicized anomalies and procedural violations (see also here and especially this testimony before an Assembly committee) that severely tested voter confidence in the provable validity of that outcome -- at least among those voters who had news sources other than the Wisconsin State Journal. And despite your own earlier pious lip service to "making sure all votes have been properly counted and tallied."
You mentioned the mess of the Prosser/Kloppenburg election in your advocacy for merit-based appointment of judges (which I do strongly agree with) while utterly failing to address the obvious and disturbing implications of the same mess for all elections held in Wisconsin.
You praised the bottom line of the "balanced budget" while failing to offer more than token criticism of just a few of the very controversial provisions of Walker's "budget repair" bill. (Hint: there are certainly less destructive and divisive ways to balance the budget and "not raise taxes" even if that is truly your sole overriding objective. And there are analysts who argue persuasively that Walker hasn't even done that.)
And the list goes on.
You are writing for one of the most informed, educated and civic-minded readerships in the country, encompassing both a top-tier university and the state capital, and yet you often write pabulum. You ignore, rather than confronting and testing, information that is widely available through other sources. You routinely insult the intelligence of a large fraction of the readership you depend on for your livelihood.
Worst of all, you fail to confront the myriad signs that democracy itself is under assault in the state of Wisconsin.
Do you really believe that the recall efforts against the GOP senators would have gained the remarkable momentum they did if they were solely about disliking one specific vote those senators cast, independent of the way in which it was done? Your simplistic and superficial editorial makes it sound like a few whiners and sore losers were behind the recalls, failing to note that they collected record numbers of signature in record time. Just from union members?
Since you're apparently posting your editorials from another planet, or at least another state, let me be clear: the spreading flame of opposition to the Walkers, Fitzgeralds and Prossers of this government, and all of their enablers, may have been ignited by opposition to specific policies, but it has been fanned to white heat by the following:
In other words, all of the ugly things that we used to associate with banana republics, not with Wisconsin, of all places.
Corruption of political processes and abuses of power are not unique to any one party; indeed, they are the rule rather than the exception in human history. In our democracy, we depend on constitutional safeguards enforced by impartial courts, an uncompromised ballot box, and a vigilant press to keep them in check.
Once those barriers are breached, they are not easily restored.
Passion for the recalls was inflamed by events -- starting with the open meetings violations and concluding with the compromised Wisconsin Supreme Court's blessing of those violations -- that give us good reason to fear that the Wisconsin traditions of clean government and rule of law will be as dead as Monty Python's parrot unless all Wisconsinites, not just union members, fight for it with every tool at our disposal.
By failing to do what real journalists are supposed to do, which is to hold the powerful accountable and to challenge your readers to have a more nuanced understanding of the issues and hazards confronting us, the Wisconsin State Journal, our newspaper of record, has become one of the enablers of our spiral into political corruption, and for that reason we will not support it any longer.

It's a luxury we literally can no longer afford.

   Grant Petty
   Fitchurg, WI

 PS:  And just this morning, we have this: .  When will YOU start defending Wisconsin?

Thank you, Grant, for sharing your powerful letter. Let's hope the Wisconsin State Journal  - and its readers - take it seriously. Because you're right: we can't afford not to. The people fighting these corruptions of democracy and decorum are not just isolated fanatics screaming into the void. Maybe if we put all our "monologues" together, people will start listening, and we'll get to some real dialogue. 
"If you are neutral in situations of injustice, 
you have chosen the side of the oppressor."

- Archbishop Desmond Tutu

The Gall of the Wisconsin State Journal

Below is my letter to the editor of the Wisconsin State Journal regarding the paper's decision to run, on the day that Walker signed his budget into law, an opinion piece lambasting supporters of the recalls and painting them as motivated only by anger, partisanship and stubbornness. I don't count on the State Journal to provide much in terms of real commentary; the paper is a corporate mouthpiece and they rarely stray from their dollared script.  But I did expect them to at least address the topic of the budget on the day Walker signed the bill, and I did not expect them to so soundly disrespect the concerns of their readers.  Needless to say, I was disappointed in their editorial perspective and felt compelled to share my opinion. As most of you know,I've got a couple of working mottos - and one of them is this:
If you don't have anything nice to say, 
you have identified a topic about which you are morally obligated to speak at length.
So here's my two cents, and I encourage anyone who agrees that the recall efforts are not, in fact, a waste of time, but a moral imperative, to write the editor as well.

Update:  The editor, Scott Milfred, was kind enough to respond to my concerns and I have included our exchange below, and informed him that I've done so, to which he did not object.

To: The Wisconsin State Journal

Dear Editor,
I was shocked and disgusted to turn to today’s opinion page and find a giant photo and opinion piece, Rampant recalls wrong, just above an insulting cartoon depicting those opposed to Gov. Walker's budget as senseless chickens squawking about.  Of all days, you chose the day Walker signs his budget to announce that you - like he (surprise!) - feel the recalls are a distraction and a waste of time.  I was even more disgusted when I found the article online under the title "The gall of recalls."

Let's set aside the obvious: your consistently editorializing reportage and the hypocrisy of the fact that Walker himself, when elected through a recall election to the seat of County Executive, called recalls “patriotic” and made a tv ad praising recalls as the people's effort to "take their government back."  Apparently, recalls are only patriotic if the person being recalled is a Democrat.

I disagree with the content of the editorial, and that’s fine. We don’t have to agree. But your editorial is offensive because its central assumption (that foes of Walker want to recall him – and certain justices because they’re “mad” at him or for purely political reasons) trivializes the very real concerns that  Wisconsin citizens - and not just public workers - have about Walker's disingenuous budget, corporatist agenda and refusal to communicate with his constituents.

Worse, though, it angers me that this is the piece you chose to run ON THE DAY WALKER SIGNED THE BUDGET. Of all the editorial possibilities this day provided you,  your choice to trivialize the passionate and informed concerns of so many of your readers is insulting at best and a pandering journalistic ruse at worst. By posting this piece today, you shift public attention from the place it should be - on the budget and its catastrophic potential for Wisconsin - and point your own finger of shame at the people who dare to stand up for their state to protect and preserve democracy. What gall indeed. Shame on you.

I received my renewal notice in the mail this week. Don’t hold your breath for my check.

Heather DuBois Bourenane

This cartoon by Paul Hand was just below the editorial, which did little to soften my fury.

UPDATE       28 June 2011
This is the reply I received from the Wisconsin State Journal by email:

Subject  RE: The gall indeed
Thanks for the feedback.
I really don't think it's such a dastardly position to take that rampant recalls are not a good thing from Wisconsin, regardless of whether it's the left or right launching them.

And clearly you are mad at Walker, no? Are you really suggesting anger at Walker over his striping of collective bargaining rights isn't a key factor driving the recalls?

Heck, we are even mad at Walker for some of his dumb moves. And we like some of what he's doing. While we endorsed Walker for governor, we endorsed more Democrats than Republicans for the Legislature. We are fans of split government.

We think offering and allowing a diversity of views on our Opinion page is a good thing for our community and democracy. If you think we are shameful for doing so, I can accept that. But I really think you are reading WAY into one opinion piece that you disagree with. I read opinions on the Opinion page every day that I disagree with. That's because we give preference to publishing reader views that differ from our own. I would find the Opinion page pretty boring if it only reinforced my views every day.

Regardless, if you really think rampant recalls -- those launched by the left and the right -- are good for Wisconsin, why don't you join the conversation and send us a 200-word letter to the editor that includes your address and phone number for verification.


Scott Milfred
editorial page editor
Wisconsin State Journal
(608) 252-6110
Twitter: @ScottMilfred
and my response to that reply:
Dear Mr. Milfred,

Is this a form response or are you talking to me? Because I don't get the impression from your note that you actually read my letter, which addresses (primarily) your editorial gall in ignoring the budget and making absurd claims about "rampant" recalls (before the recall elections even begin!) on the day Walker signed the budget. As my letter makes clear, it would have been preferable to catalog your reasons for loving Walker's budget (and vetoes! you had access to these with plenty of time to editorialize!) than to ignore the news of the day on your opinion page. 

I find it laughably hypocritical (literally: I laughed aloud at your letter) that you would reply to readers who offer angry and dissenting opinions by saying "a diversity of opinions is a good thing..." so how dare you object to my point of view!  Good one.

I don't expect - or desire - to agree with the editorials from the WSJ; I know you tow the Lee Enterprises line and therefore cannot be considered a reliable news source. So don't flatter yourself by thinking my subscription was a reflection of the paper's content; I subscribed to the Sunday-only Wisconsin State Journal for the coupons (because I'm a fat-cat state worker who's living so high on the hog that I can't even go to the grocery store without my folder full of clippings). News, I get elsewhere. As of Sunday, I also get my coupons elsewhere.

As to your question about being mad at Walker: of COURSE people are mad at Walker, and anger is a motivating force in politics. But to assume that the anger - and not the reasons we are angry - is what drives the need to force him out of office, is precisely what is offensive about your initial opinion piece, and also the email you just sent me.


PS There's a typo in your message, so if it is a form response you might want to edit it before you send it to others. It should say "WAY too much..." I believe.  While you're editing, you might also do something about the terribly condescending tone of it, too. People who read the opinion page don't really need to be told that conflicting views are a good thing, for instance.

Reply #2 from Scott Milfred (28 June 2011)

Subject  RE: RE: The gall indeed

We most definitely have not ignored the budget. Since you say you don't read the newspaper often, that's probably why you missed all of this. Our top priority, in fact, for this year on the Opinion page has been fixing the state budget mess. And we have weighed in on the state budget dozens of times in just the last few months -- back when it mattered, before the guv signed the thing. WE supported some aspects of the budget and railed against other parts of it.

You really seem to be unloading on the newspaper because you disagreed with one editorial. And what precisely is the Lee Enterprises line? We supported gay marriage before Russ Feingold had the guts to, we're pro-choice, pro-medical marijuana, pro-alternative energy, support most school referendums, want to clean up the embarrassing Supreme Court, fight for open and good government, support a higher beer and gas tax, opposed the Las Vegas loophole -- a key Democratic priority last session -- and just endorsed more Democrats than Republicans in the last (regular, not recall) election.

Is this the terrible agenda you dislike?


Scott Milfred
editorial page editor
Wisconsin State Journal
(608) 252-6110
Twitter: @ScottMilfred

And response #2 from yours truly:

Dear Scott,

Thanks for your note. I'm not entirely clear on why you're trying to engage me in debate on these issues, considering I was just trying to submit a letter to the editor for publication. I feel compelled to respond, though, to clarify a couple of things, since, for an editor, you do not seem to read particularly closely.

I did not accuse you of ignoring the budget. I simply said (which is clear, again, if you read my original letter) that it is an absurdly telling editorial choice that you would post a piece on the "wrongness" of the recalls on the day Walker signed the budget. 

I also never said I don't read the paper; I do, daily, online (though I admit I go to the Capital Times page first). I said I don't expect to agree with your editorials, and that I don't  consider you a reliable source of news due to your established conservative bias, which taints and distorts most of your reporting. My concerns with Lee Enterprises have to do with the increasingly conservative tone of the paper, and its apparent influence over Madison Newspaper's drive to render obsolete and relegate it to online-only the paper I trusted much more for independent news, the Cap Times.

Your laundry list of things with which I might agree is interestingly irrelevant to my letter and my concerns, and your assumption that I am not aware of these things, is (yet again) annoyingly condescending. Your decision to promote yourself, rather than address the responsibility you bear in shaping the political discourse in Madison and throughout the state, speaks volumes.

I find it ridiculous that you accuse me of "unloading on the paper because I disagree with one editorial."  I wrote a letter to the editor on the topic of one of editorial, which ran last Sunday. It's my understanding that this is the customary approach in a Letter to the Editor. If you prefer, in the future, that your readers address every single item with which they disagree, you might consider lifting your 200-word limit restriction.  I have disagreed with countless editorials that you have provided, but that has little to do with the topic of the letter I wrote on Sunday.

If you're trying to win back a customer, by the way, you're taking a curious approach. 


PS: Just so you know, I maintain a blog, Monoloques of Dissent, where I make public my open letters to Scott Walker and others.  I have posted this correspondence on my page, with links to the editorial in  your paper, as I thought your previous response was an autoreply. I plan to post this reply as well, unless you have reason to request otherwise. I assume that as editor of the opinion page you do not have a problem with your response to my letter being made public.
 Reply #3 from Scott Milfred (28 June 2011)

Subject  RE: RE: RE: The gall indeed
I've been trying to address your concerns.

If you'd like to submit a letter to the editor, it needs to be 200 words. We limit the length so more voices can be heard. Also, you would need to include both your phone number and address for verification.

I'm glad we agree on my long laundry list! :)

Scott Milfred
editorial page editor
Wisconsin State Journal
(608) 252-6110
Twitter: @ScottMilfred

And response #3 from yours truly:

Dear Scott,

I do appreciate that  you've been trying to address my concerns, but you did ask me a number of direct questions in your email, which I interpret (rightfully) as engaging me in debate about these topics.  Apologies, however, if I mistook these questions for literal ones if you meant them rhetorically. If, however, the latter is the case, I think your response was even more condescending than I originally thought.

Here is an abbreviated 195-word version of my initial letter which I hope you will consider including - sorry I didn't meet the word requirement the first time around; thought I came close. But being brief is not my specialty.

Dear Editor,

I was disgusted to find Rampant recalls wrong, just above a cartoon depicting those opposed to Gov. Walker's budget as senseless chickens squawking about.  I was even more disgusted to find the article online under the title "The gall of recalls” (which you have since changed).

Your editorial is offensive because its central assumption (that the recalls are motivated simply by people being “mad,” or for purely political reasons) trivializes the very real concerns that taxpaying Wisconsin citizens have about Walker's blatant dishonesty, unconscionable budget, corporatist agenda and refusal to communicate with his constituents.

Worse, though, is that this is the piece you chose to run on the day Walker signed the budget.  Of all your editorial possibilities, your choice to disregard the informed concerns of so many citizens is insulting at best and a pandering journalistic ruse at worst. By posting this piece today, you shift public attention from the place it should be - on the budget and its catastrophic potential for Wisconsin - and point your own finger of shame at the people who dare to stand up for their state to protect and preserve democracy. What gall indeed. Shame on you.

Heather DuBois Bourenane

(address, phone - again)

 Reply #4 from Scott Milfred (28 June 2011)

I think you are reading into my responses. Maybe I am reading into yours. That's one of the downsides of email. In any case, your letter looks fine to me, and thanks for the verification info.

Scott Milfred
editorial page editor
Wisconsin State Journal
(608) 252-6110
Twitter: @ScottMilfred

 Response #4 from me (28 June 2011)

That could very well be, Scott. I do tend to read into things. 

I just realized, though, that I forgot to add the postscript to my original letter, which I feel is important!  Can you please make sure this gets added if you do chose to print my letter:

My subscription ends today.

Good thing I had 5 words left!

In any case, none of this is intended to be personal, and I hope it didn't come across as such. My disappointment with the paper is a reflection on the editorial tone and content of the paper more generally, and of the decision to run this particular opinion piece on a day when you were well aware that many Wisconsin citizens were extremely invested in, and devastated by, the signing into law of a bill they view as detrimental enough to the welfare of the state that it warrants a recall.

Look at that! I was just kind of brief. That's new for me. 

Thanks for considering the letter,

Update (6/28/2011): I came home to a very cordial message from Mr. Milfred on my answering machine, saying he enjoyed our exchange this afternoon and that my letter will be printed in the Sunday paper. Thanks, Scott! I'll look for it online! 

Update (7/4/2012): My letter, sans postscript, did appear in yesterday's paper, and online here.  

An Illustrated Guide to Grand and Historic Restrooms of the American West

The 6th Most Valuable Advice You'll Ever Receive, Guaranteed, or Your Money Back: 
How to Enjoy Your Summer Vacation, Even if You Travel With Others 
Part 2: An Illustrated Guide to Grand and Historic Restrooms of the American West 

Early into our 2010 Wild West Adventure roadtrip, I realized that I had what you might call an overly healthy tendency to photograph public restrooms, and that the rest rooms of the American West are really unrivaled in their splendor, grandness, and historicity.  I invite you to join me on this travelogue pictorial, which I hope will inspire you to consider a Grand and Historic Rest Room Tour of your own. Reader photos are always welcome, as this is an ongoing collection.

Here, then, is your Guide to Grand and Historic Restrooms of the American West (as in, West of the Mississippi, not just West of the Rockies. Those who would like to debate the point at which the West begins can do so in the comments, or better yet, on their own blogs).

There are several categories of Grand and Historic Restroom that you should distinguish before you begin your travels: we might refer to these as luxury, deluxe, traditional, and rustic.  Many of you are already thinking "I'm avoiding rustic," but let me tell you, that's not necessarily a safe idea. "Traditional" restrooms (i.e. the kind you find in restaurants, gas stations, hotels, etc) are quite often the most desirable to avoid, and you'd be surprised at how pristine and, um, interesting some of the roadside stops turn out to be.

You might also note before you begin your journey that, depending on your region of travel, the definition of "grand" and "historic" may vary widely, with "grand" meaning as much as "gilded" and as little, in some locations, as "containing soap."  "Historic," likewise, could mean anything from "of historic consequence" to "decrepit." Leave room for interpretation, and take note of the details and I think you'll find that the places you visit of necessity often rival those you visit by choice, if not, indeed, surpass them in their splendor, quaintness and charm.

1. Expect the unexpected.

Headed west, this was one of our first stops: a brand new rest area on I-94 in Wisconsin between Madison and Baraboo. So stunning that my daughter asked if this was our hotel (20 minutes from home). A portentous potty-break, indeed.

In South Dakota, they take branding to the next level. Don't miss the Chamberlain rest area which includes a Lewis & Clark Interpretive Exhibit.  I think we spent two hours here. There's also a tourist info booth where they gave the kids a big bag of goodies that kept them busy in the car for ages - coloring books, a button, stickers. Classy touch, for a public restroom.

I didn't even know there was such a thing as virgin toilet paper, much less 100% virgin toilet paper, but they have it in Custer, South Dakota. You learn something new everywhere you go. That's the nice thing about traveling.


Just because you're in the middle of the world's largest mineral spring, doesn't mean they can't build a public restroom there. Take Thermopolis, Wyoming, for instance. I wonder if they have environmental protection laws in Wymoing...


Tsunami. It could happen, you know.This restroom on the Pacific coast south of San Francisco gives you fair warning.

The most unexpected restroom in the American West
has got to be the 6th floor Macy's ladies' room in San Francisco on Union Square.  It looks like an ordinary restroom, but once you enter: HOLY HISTORIC GRANDEUR!!! From the marbled commode to the glitzy chandelier, I did not expect this. At all. Next time you're in San Francisco, you have to check it out. It's awesome. Maybe all their restrooms hold this opulent secret, I don't know. But my husband reports that the men's room was run-of-the-mill. Sexists.

 Grand, huh? Super grand. And, I imagine, historic.
2. Expect the expected. Specifically, in the West, expect taxidermy. And plenty of it.

Left: A jackalope greets the ladies in Ten Sleep, Wyoming. 
Center and Right: Buffalo Bill's Hotel Irma in Cody, Wyoming, still in operation, is packed with history. Including the sad history of mindless game slaughter in the American West and the racist enigma that is our ongoing infatuation with Buffalo Bill Cody. The Buffalo Bill Historical Center does a pretty good job with this, but be prepared to be reminded of a lot of terrible things on this vacation. And teach your kids the truth, please. Because they make it pretty easy not to, especially in the gift shop department.

3. Follow the instructions.

Some restrooms  have a lot of specific instructions. Just follow them, ok?
This (above) was at a roadside picnic area in the Bighorns. Why make someone's life harder than it already is? Pack it in, pack it out.
If the Wyoming Highway Patrol finds out who did this, someone's getting convicted. And someone's getting $500.
Hawaii, which is as far west as you can get, has some very specific instructions about what you can and cannot put down a toilet. I suggest you follow these instructions, and maybe even take it a step further by leaving your sticks outside the restroom to retrieve when you are finished.

(Above) I wasn't thinking of smoking at all, until I saw that sign in the world's bossiest restroom.  Same with washing my rocks at Crazy Horse Memorial.

(Below) Like I said, the restroom at the 1880 Train depot in the Black Hills is really bossy. I was going to flush anyway, but even if I wasn't, I heard you the first time!


4. Don't touch anything you don't have to. Like these West Central Electric promotional materials, also at the 1880s Train depot. (See how bossy they are? They even make you share germy things!)

5. Pay your share.  If you're headed West into the Badlands, you must stop at Okaton, a ghost town with a population under 20 that has little more than some skeletal houses you're free to wander and the Okaton Gas Station and Rock Shop,whose bathroom is seen here.
The fine print: you should have bought a squirrel rock.

6. Rule of thumb: If the ceiling is gilded, check out the restrooms. Exhibit A: The Occidental Hotel, Buffalo, Wyoming. In addition to being insanely reasonably priced for a historic hotel, The Occidental is impeccably preserved and is much the same today as when Teddy Roosevelt slept there.  Spend the night if you can, but if you can't look through all the rooms that aren't occupied (you may, just ask), and be sure to use the restroom. The pipes are, as they warn you, older than you are, though. So don't even think about flushing sticks.

7. Keep in mind: not all historic restrooms are that grand, but it could be worse. You could live there.
The path to Alcatraz is lined with portapotties, but you needn't worry; they have flush toilets, too. The tour guide said, "Just look for the building that looks like a Taco Bell."

Inside, it's a different story. Imagine using these restrooms for life. Historic, but not grand:

8.  Get ready for some grandeur.  Some restrooms are grand by virtue of their surroundings, which makes them all the more a welcome stop, as is evidenced by these lovely stops in and around Yellowstone National Park:

9.  Don't just assume that the first restrooms you find are the nicest restrooms in that place. If possible, follow the clearly marked trail to the newer, deluxe restrooms at the back.  Wall Drug (Wall, South Dakota) knows how to sell 'em, that's for sure. I couldn't wait to get to those deluxe restrooms!  They couldn't help but not live up to the hype, though. I had very high expectations after all that advertising.

 Oh. That was kind of anticlimatic. 
Deluxe means something different in South Dakota, I guess.

10. If you're barely able to bear puns, I don't recommend the restrooms at the Teddy Bear Town World Record "Museum" in Hill City, South Dakota. But the charming proprietor, who all-but-for-a-Britney-Spears breakdown would have been on Dr. Phil, makes it worth a stop. Also, she has nearly 7000 run-of-the-mill teddy bears that she mainly bought with her own money on display, which is wonderful and sad, even for kids. Also, it's free.

11. Some restrooms, and some towns, are not as public as they appear. These signs are usually pretty easy to read.  The kind locals of Cooke City, Montana, for instance, make it clear by posting that Families Are NOT Welcome. And also by putting padlocks on the portapotties.


12. Don't bring anything into the restrooms that you don't want to set down, and forget about, then have to drive back for. Like your sunglasses. Especially nerve-wracking in Yellowstone outhouses like this one.

12. Best Restrooms in the West, and possibly the entire United States: Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone National Park. If you can live for a couple of days without a bathroom in your room, stay in the old part of the Inn that has the dorm-type communal bathrooms and enjoy their splendor. Especially great: the giant tubs so big you'll worry your kids will drown. And rumor has it you don't need to be a hotel guest to use the tubs - just ask for a key at the desk and check it out!



Wild West street humor. Get used to that, if you plan to motor west.
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