State by State

Apparently there is an entire country between Boston and San Francisco.


by Natalia

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.

Over 400 miles of scenic drive interspersed with overlooks and signs explaining the views conveniently located at the car window level. And if that’s not enough it connects to another 100 miles of Skyline Drive in Shenandoah National Park.

There is a lot to observe and experience from the car: deer grazing along the road, spandex-clad retired cyclists passing by, sobriety test. The latter being police closing an overlook preferably attractive one and stopping every vehicle to ask a few basic questions: did you drink today, do you have alcohol or firearms in the car, you get the gist. Apparently they believe that alcohol loosens inhibitions and makes people tell the truth.

If the drive across mountaintops doesn’t satisfy you there are side road attractions like Natural Bridge fenced off to prevent unauthorized (that is: unpaid for) glance. Although it is possible that the purpose of the enclosure is to protect unsuspecting passers-by from the man-made embellishments meant to make the impressive natural wonder even more appealing like Native American Village, light and sound show called Drama of Creation, Wax Museum and some strange show that features cowboys riding dinosaurs. No wonder people here are so confused about this whole evolution thing. The bridge requires to get out of the car but provides a shuttle service should one be unable or unwilling to walk 134 steps.

And in case you are wondering: the natural bridge does still fulfill its bridge function. US road 11 passes on top of it.

toll rates

If only we had a carriage of pleasure…


Grandfather Mountain trails are marked permit required on the map. I thought: finally, someone protects over billion years old (one of the oldest on the planet) mountain from destruction. It turns out it’s only profit that’s protected. The mountain is privately owned and, as such ventures do, offers numerous attractions including road access to the summit, swinging bridge over a gorge and local animals’ habitats. Seemingly in transition toward a more discerning public as selling food to people to feed bears begging for it is being replaced by educational programs called enrichments. It’s not clear who’s being enriched as the entry fee leaves you undeniably $15 poorer while animals, with the exception of overfed bears, don’t look particularly happy.