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In my continuing effort to broaden the scope of my in-depth report, I recently went all the way across the country, finally ending up in Washington state in the Hoh Indian Reservation. This reservation is on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. Most of the peninsula is the Olympic National Park. There are a few Indian Reservations, and only a few small towns. The peninsula borders on the Pacific Ocean, and there are ferries across the straits to Canada. Much further and we wouldn't be in the U.S. at all. You might say I went to the ends of the earth for my readers. We have a spectacularly beautiful country, and our national parks are treasures - but that's another book.

My lovely wife, Marianne, served as my traveling secretary on this trip, and we performed as a well-oiled team. She would take dictated notes on the plates along with my comments while we both combed the highways and byways looking for fresh material. Our first stop was at Glacier National Park, where we traveled the length of the Going to the Sun Road searching for interesting plates. Oh sure, we did see some fabulous glacial landscape, but we never forgot our duty. We were after the plates. The mountains and valleys that were carved by the glaciers, the beautiful aqua colored lakes, the fabulous cliffs, the glaciers and the picturesque waterfalls provided a nice backdrop, but it was licenses all the way.

By now I am in my third revision on my postcard interview form, and I believe that I am going to make only one more small change since it is getting very good results now. The first postcards didn't look too professional, and they didn't get much response. The more recent versions ask for more information, are printed professionally, and obviously make it clear to my respondents that I am serious about this project. I cannot tell you how pleased I am, because it expands my reporting capability immensely. Every day I get a postcard or two from my previous efforts. I feel like Johnny Appleseed.

So back to the mountains; oops, I mean the licenses. At the top of the world in Glacier Park, we found a Buick Roadmaster Wagon with Montana plates that said SYMPHNY. This car belongs to a woman in her seventies who is active in the world of music, primarily the symphony. She gets a kick out of the fact that some people don't even realize that it is misspelled. She is a strong advocate of the arts.

I discovered that the nurse at one of the lodges in Glacier Park has a black pickup with a camper top with PULSE 86 on her tags.

EMS4U is a Washington license that belongs to John Hinchcliffe. It stands for, "Emergency medical services for you". He is the Captain of the Snohomish, Washington Fire and Rescue. He is in charge of administering the Pre-Hospital Emergency Medical Division. His other choice would have been MEDBOSS.

As the days passed, we became aware that there were very few vanity plates in the northwest at all. I found that very puzzling. Don't they have egos out here? I was quite perplexed. It isn't that we didn't see many cars. Cars were everywhere. They all seemed to be late model mid sized American cars. Hmm. All of a sudden the similarity of the cars, and their license plates hit me. They were:

HRZ (and four nos.) Hertz
BGI (and four nos.) Budget
AVR (and four nos.) Avis
NAT (and four nos.) National
ALA (and four nos.) Alamo
DOL (and four nos.) Dollar

They were all rental cars! More than ninety percent of all the cars that we were looking at did not belong to their drivers. No wonder I was having such difficulty finding exciting creative ideas to report to you. Rental car companies are not into vanity plates. In fact, in Florida they are getting rid of their initials so they won't be such easy targets for thieves. The last thing they want is to be noticed. By the way, I noticed that Hertz had more than anyone else, and they had numbers like 2754 while Dollar had numbers like 0080.

Then I found one that I thought was a legitimate vanity plate. The plate was attached to a white Toyota. It was ALL0000 ("all zeros," I thought, "how cute"). As I approached the car and put my interview form in the wiper I saw the label in the window that said All Star Rent a Car. I left the interview form anyway out of total desperation, but I doubt that I will hear from Mr. Allstar. Maybe this is their only car. There could be a story in this yet.

Our next stop was in Portland, Oregon, where we found a red Ford Explorer with Oregon plates with ALARM U on them. The truck belongs to Crimebuster's Security Company. Crimebuster's installs burglar alarms and security systems. It was a natural.

Later, when Marianne and I visited Washington, we found this company's alter ego on a white Plymouth (you know the kind that they used to use for squad cars) with Washington plates that said GUNS. The car was parked and it looked sort of like a rolling billboard. It had signs all over it saying "Guns, Knives, Ammo", "We gotcha covered", etc. I never did see the company name, but this place is obviously keeping the other one in business. What a country.

We stopped at the Ship Inn Restaurant in Astoria, Oregon for lunch one day. Out in front was a silver and green Chevy S10 pickup with HMS INN on the Washington plates. I guessed that it belonged to the owner of the restaurant and I left a card. Sure enough, by the time we arrived back in Chicago we received the reply. HMS INN stands for His Majesty's Ship Inn and Fenton V. Stokeld is the owner of the inn and the truck. By the way, if you ever get a chance to get to Astoria, be sure to eat there. The food was out of this world! Really!

The attractive young Spanish looking girl slipped away before we could get a good story on her red Firebird with Oregon plates that said LATINA, but we think we get the hint.

As we drove up the side of the mountain, we were behind a Volkswagen Scirocco with Washington plates CLF JMPR (cliff jumper). The young couple appeared to be headed up for some serious interaction with the rocks. I gave them an interview card. I am still waiting for it to come back.

Back in Illinois I found ROC CLMR (rock climber) on a raspberry Plymouth Laser. Delores Drees has been a rock climber for three years and she decided to report it to everyone. Her previous vanity plate was ONLY KID. She is an only child.

Our next discovery was along the rocky coast of the Washington Olympic Peninsula. It was on a huge brown and cream colored Southwind motor home. It had Washington plates with SIGHTCN (sight seeing). The motor home is owned by Gil and Barbara Brigham. It was Barbara's idea because they are retired and they travel and go sightseeing. It wasn't their first choice actually. They tried for TIN TENT, SIGHTCR, and WANDRN. They report that they enjoy reading vanity plates during their travels and they were kind enough to wish me good luck with this book.

Irvin F. Matson has STBTACK (Starboard Tack) on his ivory Mercedes 300SD. This is the sailboat with the right of way. Irvin reported, "Shouted at another boat it means I have the right of way, am proceeding on course, you get out of the way." I love it. Subtle yet effective - don't you think?

The grey Jeep Grand Wagoneer with California plates said 4RKIDS 8 (for our kids 8). They were staying at the Lake Crescent Lodge in Olympia National Forest. They were in and out before I could locate them, but I did drop them a little love note. I'm quite curious about the license even though it seems obvious. What I want to know is do they have eight kids? What do you think? Hopefully they will respond and solve the mystery.

4 BOYS was on a white Jeep Cherokee with Washington plates. The woman who owns it said she has four nice boys. She thought up the name when their fourth son was born. She said he was a surprise! Her husband has
2TONIC (Teutonic) on his 1976 BMW 2002.

Here's another one for the obvious category: Washington plates that say 4X4 FORD on a green Ford 4X4. What will he do if he buys a Chevy next time?

The Jeep Ragtop with EXITEME (excite me) was hard to catch. I barely was able to hand the driver an interview before he drove off at the green light, but I made it and I asked him to send it to me. Hopefully, more on this later.

Another one I really hope responds is the maroon Oldsmobile Cutlass with FORDS on the Washington plates. My bet is that it is the Ford family that just happens to drive a Cutlass.

We left our calling card on many other vehicles and we are hoping for additional responses. I will let you know how this progresses.

This concludes our little "field trip" to the far reaches of the great northwest, but as your able servant, I will continue to search out the finest in license plate creativity throughout our beautiful country.


©1994 by Dennis R. Cowhey
All rights reserved.
Library of Congress Number: 94-96301 Guest Post