Travels with MaryE

Most things I love best are about good light and good timing. That's where the adventures start. Don't be in no hurry here. Here you'll find a little bit about bluegrass music, fox hunting, life on the road, time on the mountain, and a whole lot about other things, too.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Ah!!! The Old Home Town and American Byways.

Yesterday morning after it finally stopped raining (I was ready to look for the ark) I forded the rivers still running down from the mountain and loaded my truck and headed downhill for Illinois. 910 miles later, I've arrived. Isn't it a good feeling to actually get out of the truck after so much driving? I think so. Mind, it was fairly pleasant. I got to listen and listen to all those CDs I've been meaning to get to; a couple great songwriters sent me CDs to listen to and all the familiar and not-so-familiar Stanley Brothers songs. I've really been enjoying the new Grascals release and David Peterson's latest.

There's no way around it: the interstates are just as dull as porridge. And I hate that. Me, I'm a backroads kind of girl. So I kind of satisfied a bit of my tendency by taking Route 28 West through the Catskills, then 30 South through Downsville and past the old site of the Peaceful Valley festival (Shinhopple, NY). Both Downsville and Shinhopple were recently devastated by flood waters - and after that 24-hour rain we had, the old east branch of the Delaware River was again pretty hard-pressed to mind its manners and stay its course. Hopped on 17 west and when I got to Binghamton I naturally decided to drive through more of my childhood by staying on 17 west and giving it a go all the way across the Southern Tier of New York (a lovely place, I might add). Not to worry. The mighty Susquehanna, the Allegany and a few other mud-and-flood swollen rivers kept me company. I've got to say old 17 is a darned sight better road than it has been since...well, probably since it was built. It used to be a totally bumpedy-bump affair, but it was right smooth and especially gorgeous over the 300 miles I followed it; maybe a few rough spots, but on the whole...AND...there was like NO TRAFFIC. It was like many of those parkways that cut east to west across Kentucky. It's easy to feel like you're the only one on the road.

I darned sure enjoyed that drive through New York State, possibly more than any in recent memory (the drive to Pickin' in the Pasture was also most enjoyable, except for my sprained ankle and the matter of using the clutch 1000 times with same ankle). Around Binghamton it was predictably dreary (they, too, suffered extensive flood damage at the end of June); someone recently said they have less sunny days than...well, never mind. But it cleared up somewhere around Elmira and it was a glorious nearly-fall day from then on. That 17 is a lovely drive with soft hills and mountains, hundreds of farms all along the way, and a river often running alongside.

Then I got to the craziness of 90 West and the fun went out the window. I had to put on some Stanley Brothers to ease my mind. From there it was interstate after interstate until I finally decided some sleep might be in order and stopped around Columbus. Now I don't like ANY hotels, but when I'm desperate I stop at Motel 6, thinking they are cheap and I know what to expect. As Motel 6's go, the one near Columbus was pretty nice, but geez, $47 for one person! Down in Wytheville Virginia I reckon I don't pay much more than $30 for the same room.

But I digress. I just spend the night in the room trying not to touch anything, if you know what I mean. That's why I'd really rather sleep in the back of my truck with my own germs than stay in a motel. No kidding. But there's the safety factor, and while I sleep in my truck at a bluegrass festival, I don't feel safe doing that out in the world at large.

After about 600 miles you stop and decide it's time to sleep and you're exhausted and you even take a hot shower to further beckon slumbertime....but sleep won't come. It's too early. You're too wound up from 3 or 4 cokes and road food and your body feels like it's still racign forward at 70 mph when you're actually lying in a bed. Whatever. Mind, the bed was very comfy, but I just couldn't sleep. So at 5 am I gave up and hit 70 west once again. Just over the border into Indiana I stopped for some breakfast. No warning, but when I went up the ramp I saw things were pretty well sectioned off and I thought uh-oh. Getting my breakfast so as to be in a better frame of mind to deal with this inconvenience, I headed back for the highway. No go. Can't get back on here and darned if I could find anything to direct me to I-70, so I just chose a road and started driving. Sometimes I'm a red-head like that, ya know. Went quite a few miles without seeing anything (Indiana can be that way) and finally out of the early morning mist appears a garage, one where they actually work on cars, not one of these 32 pump Super Exxons. So I asked the guys how to get to a road I see on my map that has absolutely no name or number. As luck would have it, it's right close, and I make my left and then another left and I'm on 35 South going back for I-70 (backtracking as it were). Then I think, no, I don't want to do this. I'm SOOOO tired of going 45 or 55 through a zillion construction sites where there's usually not even any equipment MUCH LESS ANYONE AT ALL WORKING. So I made an impulsvie decision and turned onto 38 West which I ended up following nearly all the way across Indiana (at some point I got onto 32 West). That was a great great road and I went about 62 mph all the way across.

Of course I slowed down whenever a little town bumped up, but there weren't many. And I greatly enjoyed the little towns that did pop up from their sleepy policemen to the dogs lifting a leg to pee on a tree to kids shouting in a schoolyard to an old lady coming out of a wooden church door. What I did get to see were all these marvelous farms and people out working the land, corn ready to be harvested, a farmer working down some ground, Victorian houses covered with gingerbread ornamentation, little old wooden churches, vintage tractors, swampland, signs for Fireman's Field Days and Fish Frys, Friends' Meeting Houses, the 3 crosses (one yellow, 2 white, you know what I mean), town halls and old cemeteries, rusting combines and tetters, milk houses and signs for fresh eggs, farm stands with homegrown white corn and fat red tomatoes. I got to see all this for free and I didn't get stuck in a traffic jam south of Indianapolis. I saw no decapitations. Just good clean country and village living.

Go back and read that last paragraph. I could have stayed on the interstate for all those miles. The roads I took (38 and 32) roughly followed I-70, about 5 or less miles north of it. But instead of seeing the backs of tractor trailers and SUVs, instead of seeing exit after unidentifiable exit, seeing signs for McDonald's and BP ad nauseum, I opted for seeing what color houses people live in and how they paint their barns (a lot of white barns and some red ones, too) I got to see that they have Hereford and Black Angus and a lot of beef cattle and not very many dairy cattle, I got to see their Thoroughbred horses and little old chihuahua dogs by the road and tabby cats and dead, flattened red foxes, heat-puffed corpses of raccoon and possum...deserted homesteads and decaying barns. I got to see all that while still driving at 60-65 mph, probably averaging better time than I would have on I-70. And it was good.

Eventually I hopped on I-74, albeit begrudgingly, and continued on into Illinois. I'm here to work so I'll shut up now. Just next time you're not in too much of a hurry do yourself a favor, see if you can still read a map, get off the interstate and take those two-way roads. I'm old enough to remember when they were the only option (besides, of course, one lane roads. It wasn't all that long ago . Get out there and see how America lives...look, listen, and revel!


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