It looked for a moment as if the long winter of our discontent ended in May with the last fresh tracks we left in Arapahoe Basin skiing area. We drove south and spent some time in New Mexico and Arizona getting progressively warmer. It quickly got too hot for pretty much anything unless we stayed at high altitudes. Also we ran out of states to visit to the point we had to cross the border. When we got to South California endless summer was in full swing and we trashed our carefully prepared packing system fishing for shorts and flip-flops. After a while we decided it’s time to move back to temperate climes and started driving north.
Pioneer Auto Show in Mudro, South Dakota is a genuine road side attraction. Row after row of early cars. Building after building of period pieces illustrating life on the plains in the first half of the 20th century. A huge barn full of tractors. Collection of motorcycles including one that belonged to the King. One of the first custom made houses on wheels a.k.a. RV. It’s all dusty and the smell reminds me of my grandparents’ attic - not necessarily in a good way. It sorely needs money: audio narration mentions cars absent from exhibits - probably sold to help the site survive. It sure could use some public funding and a professional curator to de-clutter displays and put them in historical context.
We travel along Natchez Trace Parkway built roughly along the old trail used by boatmen to return home after floating down Mississippi river. It’s a strange road maintained by National Park Service. Driving it is like driving through 400 miles of park. You are easily fooled thinking you are in the middle of nowhere, but most of the time you are in the narrow green strip of trees isolating the parkway from farmland and subdivisions. Better this than nothing.
We are merely driving through South Carolina this time. No time for more than just a cursory glance. We probably should stay longer. This is not your average state. None really is. It’s late, so we opt for a meal in a chain restaurant. As chain restaurants go, this particular one is lower upper shelf. The nice thing about chains is they are familiar. Nothing really changes anywhere. Or so we thought. The greeting lady welcomes us asking ‘two for non?’. Huh?
Americans practically live in their cars. Or at least they eat and drink in them, besides commuting over ridiculously large distance (half an hour one way being on the short side). The number of cup holders often exceeds the number of passengers (2010 Honda Odyssey has 13 cup holders for 8 passengers). It’s no wonder that the most visited national park is Blue Ridge Parkway where one can commune with nature not leaving one’s car.
If only we had a carriage of pleasure…
After 2 days of traversing mountains and crossing forests we reached Lake Erie in a rush of excitement at such a great body of water. The feeling was short lived once we’ve realized it hasn’t escaped unscathed the greed that transformed the mountains and the forests we’ve left behind. Reminder of extinct species of fish made me guilty ordering local yellow perch. You cannot really see the destruction anymore as the intense conservation efforts of the last 40 years created illusion of pristine nature.