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If there’s one thing about the USA we absolutely love, it’s its small town and city mottos.

From Gas in Kansas to Hooker, Oklahoma, we reckon it’s worth getting some car hire and roadtrippin’ just to see these places with your own eyes.

Eureka, California

Eureka, on the shores of Humboldt Bay on the North Coast of California, has a population of just 26,512. The entire city is a State Historic Landmark with hundreds of Victorian era homes, including the famous Carson Mansion which has been ripped straight out of the Gothic handbook – this is a serious example of Queen Ann style architecture, and is often considered the grandest Victorian home in the whole country.

But about that motto – way back when, Eureka was a hub for prospectors during California’s Gold Rush, so ‘Eureka’ – a Greek word meaning ‘I have found it!’ famously said by Ancient Greek mathematician and inventor Archimedes in the bath before running through the streets naked – is a pretty appropriate exclamation for all those hopeful gold rush miners. It’s also the state motto of California.

Redwood City, California

In Northern California’s Bay Area and just 27 miles from San Francisco, Redwood City’s history spans its origins as the home of the Ohlone people, to being a port for lumber and other goods, before becoming a centre for technology, with a bunch of tech companies like Oracle and Electronic Arts setting up shop here – it is in the heart of Silicon Valley, after all.

It also happens to have a seriously good climate – or it did once upon a time, at least according to a survey carried out by the United States and German governments…before World War 1. Even if it probably doesn’t have the same high score today, it was once considered to be up there with the Canary Islands and North Africa’s Mediterranean Coast. The more you know!

Gas, Kansas

As of 2020, the population of this city in southeast Kansas was just 475. Named for – you guessed it – the abundant reserves of natural gas that were found here in the summer of 1989, besides its famous motto Gas is also known for a large water tank emblazoned with ‘GAS KAN’.

Hooker, Oklahoma

In Texas County, Oklahoma, Hooker did not, in fact, get its name from a certain profession. It actually got it from a cattle foreman, John ‘Hooker’ Threlkeld, so-called for his skill in ‘hooking’ a cow from the herd, who came to the area in 1873. Prior to that, this patch of land had been referred to as ‘No Man’s Land’ because no one really wanted to claim it until they realised it would be quite good for cattle.

Since then, this town has fully embraced its name. A billboard with a painting of a 19th century prostitute stands at Hooker’s entrance and the local baseball team is the Hooker Horny Toads – no, seriously. You can even buy t-shirts in town that say ‘Not your usual hooker’ and ‘All my friends are hookers’.

Gettysburg, South Dakota

Settled by those who fought in the Civil War and then moved west, Gettysburg, South Dakota is not actually the location of the famous battle, only named after the real place back in Pennsylvania. Tourists come here less for the Civil War history than the local water sports and catching walleye, the state fish.

Things to do here include the Dakota Sunset Museum, which tells the history of the early settlers as well as the Akira people, native to the area. One of its highlights is said to be Medicine Rock, a 40-ton rock embedded with human hand and footprints that was found about 15 miles outside of town near the Missouri River. But if you fancy a watching a film or shopping at a big store, you’ll have to drive a whopping 100 miles!

San Andreas, California

Like Gettysburg in South Dakota, San Andreas also shares a name with something famous – in this case it’s the San Andreas fault, responsible for the San Francisco earthquake in 1906, the country’s deadliest.

The citizens of this small town have decided to take a more light-hearted approach though, with its official motto being “It’s not our fault.”

Colma, California

Colma, California, gets its motto from its founding as a necropolis in 1924, with most of its land being used for cemeteries. The population of the dead here is actually said to be around 1.5 million – with just over 1,500 people living here, that puts the ratio of the dead to the living at a 1,000 to 1! Some actually call this place the ‘City of the Silent’.

Colma as a necropolis was founded after San Francisco outlawed new internments within the city limits back in 1900, as well as evicting existing cemeteries a couple of years later. A lot of these bodies were moved out to Colma, and today quite a few notable folks have been laid to rest here: Levi Strauss (of the jeans), Joe DiMaggio, and Wyatt Earp, just to name a few.

Dodge City, Kansas

Known for its history as a wild Frontier Town of the Old West, Dodge City is the county seat of Ford County, Kansas. Its roots as a town go back to 1871, when a rancher built a house to the west of the previously existing Fort Dodge to keep an eye on his cattle operations in the area. It became a stopping ground for travellers, and quickly expanded with the arrival of the railroad the following year.

By 1883, Dodge City had become known as a true frontier settlement of the Old West, with saloons, gambling halls, brothels – and more gunfighters than any other town in the west. It also had a bit of a problem with something they called ‘splenic fever’, better known today as…anthrax. But by the mid 1880s, they started to clean up their act and give the city a more polished, upstanding reputation. Besides being a Frontier town, Dodge City is also known for its brief stint as a hub for motor racing – William Harley and Walter Davidson, of the Harley Davidson brand, adopted the hog as their mascot after attending a race here where one of the riders brought a piglet with them. Save that for the pub quiz!

Gettysburg, SD town sign image from Flickr

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