We make a sweeping curve through the mid-west. Early on, we’re pressed for time and stick to the Interstates. The great mile eaters. The conduits of the nation. We begin to suspect that we’re standing still and everything is flowing past. The endless trucks, moving 70% of the stuff that gets moved, we hear somewhere. Corn fields, now harvested stubble. It is fall. Leaves are changing color and falling. Bill boards, advertising everything imaginable. Fireworks at the state borders. Vasectomies. Reversals. We joke that they might have a drive through option at the clinic.
And the towns. Or more accurately, the parts of towns that touch the Interstate, the exits for food, gas and lodging. Bruce Cockburn says it well;
The skin around every city looks the same
Miles of flat neon spelling well-known names
Used trucks dirty donuts you you’re the one
Fat wheeled cars squeal into the sun
We are traveling in a bubble, outside of time and the normal course of our lives. The uniformity of these small worlds – the same fast-food chains, the same hotels – makes it seem like we are not moving. But there is something almost pleasant about this trance-like state we’ve entered into.
Now heading south and east. The unseasonably warm autumn weather breaks, a front catches us, wild winds and rain, but the next morning the air is cool and clean as we drive down into the real south. We avoid the Interstates and follow small country roads.
The pace slows. A different world and a different time. Trailers with generations of trucks rusting out front. Bishop Jones declares on the notice board of his tiny peeling church that “God hates sin and so do I”.
Communication, when we stop for gas and snacks, is a challenge despite the, supposedly, shared language. There are occasional glimpses of a different kind of south. Large columned houses set back amongst the bearded oaks, everything still and cool, perhaps hinting at a particular genteel kind of corruption. Or have we watched too many movies? It’s a curiously empty landscape.
As the miles pass, we listen to C S Lewis’ autobiographical, Surprised by Joy. A journey of the spirit. From mythology, to atheism, realism, theism and then the final, reluctant surrender. There is no ultimate arrival, not for Lewis – at least in the book – nor is there for us. The homecoming is later. But the joy is also in the journey.
An article by Travel Writer, Paul McIlwain of the The International Travel Writers Alliance.
See Paul McIlwain's professional profile at http://www.linkedin.com/