Leno, Wall Drug, and amber waves of grain: Media lessons of flyover America

I just got back from a five-day, 2,400-mile road trip across the Midwest, the Great Plains, and the Southwest. For the most part, it was a remarkably media-free trip. My total consumption between Milwaukee and Los Angeles was one free hotel copy of USA Today, two episodes of This American Life via podcast, half an hour of televised football, 200 pages of a novel, and 35 hours of recorded music. And billboards. Lots and lots of billboards.

But it's always good to get a fresh perspective. Without the usual steady feed of newspapers, magazines, blogs, Daily Show clips, Tweets and Facebook status updates, I noticed a few things that might otherwise have escaped my attention. Below, my lessons from the road.