24 August 20XX
My Dear Lucilius:
Before anything else my friend, thank you for the pictures! You all look very well indeed, and your bride is indeed as stunning in photo as she was in your description. I am hopeful that someday I will be able to meet here in person.
First, a bit of old news. I strolled down to the Post Office to do my weekly check of mail – really just waiting for the last few items I had ordered. They were there, thankfully, as was a notice that this post office was going from deliveries once a week to no deliveries at all. Items could now be picked up at the main post office for this region, 25 miles away. There was some additional language there I sort of breezed over as well about “cost savings” and “continuing to serve the public”.
On the bright side, I have now received all my packages. On the less bright side, I have lost my supply of easy junk mail for fire starters.
And today, I made what I suspect is my final drive to a town what may be a very long time.
The town is the one 25 miles away, the largest perhaps in either direction until you reach the city where I did my usual Big Box Shopping. I have been weighing the cost/benefit ratio of going soon enough while there are still things to buy that I need versus spending the gas – my guess is I have about 200 miles left plus whatever I have in my gas cans. This would consume about ¼ of my available fuel.
But the notice from the post office spooked me: if I did not go now, it would probably not be much longer until the larger town (in turn) was no longer getting anything either.
Driving on a road with absolutely no traffic was the most uncomfortable experience I can remember in some time. Yes, we live in a fairly rural area – but I am used so seeing some traffic (with the seemingly obligatory hand wave in this part of the country). My drive, for the most part, was devoid of anyone.
In my drive, I passed through two small towns: both true Old West style ghost towns, both state parks, both tourist dependent. In the first one there was nothing – even the Country Cowboy church tent that has been there almost as long as I have (along with their trailer) was gone. The second town, the larger one, was also devoid of any traffic, although there were signs of civilization as this was a more permanently inhabited town (and the county seat). I slowed to the in-town speed limit and passed a county sheriff who tracked me all the way from his location to the end of town. It was uncomfortable.
From there, it is up the grade and then down the grade into the regional center.
There was a little moving traffic here and people were out.
My needs were few: Grocery store, hardware store, and whatever passed for a feed store in town if I could find one.
The grocery store was first. The shelves were pretty well denuded of any basic sorts of supplies. Still a little sugar and salt, which I bought more to have than for actual needs. A few packaged of beans, somewhat surprisingly. No fresh produce at all. Prices were higher than I expected but not “extravagant”. The young lady at the check out counter made sure she pointed out the “Cash only” sign on the register. “The credit card machine is in and out” she explained a bit embarrassed after I pulled out my wallet.
She asked where I was from – when she found out, she asked how things were over there. “Quiet”, I responded, and mentioned that the post office had finally announced that there were no more deliveries and our traffic had dropped to nothing. She nodded. “Lots of locals left here, but no tourists. The trucks make their weekly delivery on Thursdays; it looks like this the day after every time now.”
I left here a $20 as a tip. She was painfully grateful. Given those prices, I cannot imagine how people in her position are going to survive without any tourist base at all.
The hardware store was next. My need here was piping – not that (again) I needed any, but it was the most likely thing to go. As well as piping insulation.
The store here was better stocked. They had my needs: six foot runs of PVC, metal piping for the plumbing along with fittings for replacement and insulation. I also picked up a gasoline pump for hand transferring gasoline to and from a truck as well as some of that gasoline stabilizer– you would have think I would have purchased such things long ago, but who thinks of such things when the power is on? The conversation with the older man at the counter – the owner, no doubt – was much the same. Business was slow at best and deliveries were becoming more spotty.
The feed store was my last stop – and there, I was flat out of luck. It was locked up and a sign on the front saying “Out of Business – Locals contact” and had a phone number attached. Apparently, regionalism was already setting in.
For my own interest, I took a drive down the main drag of town, the tourist part where (during happier times) a thriving throng of out of towners passed in and out, generating income to see folks through the fall and winter. No crowds thronged through now and about half of the shops had open signs on them, although I could not tell by looking if they were open or not.
I did stop by the local ATM for a cash update. Here it was even worse - $40 daily withdrawal. I took my $40, which did not even make up for everything that I had purchased.
I could have stayed longer. I turned about and headed home.
The drive home was...uncomfortable. Not that I saw anyone or anything. It was just the sense as I climbed the grade up back from one valley to another that this might be the last time I ever saw this view. I sat at the top for a while, just staring. Then headed on.
I reached home without incident (other than the uncomfortable sheriff, who again watched me as I diligently held to the speed limit), unloaded my pipes and parts and put them away, and then fed everyone. Dinner was smoked fish and dried apples.
I do not think I will be going shopping again, Lucilius. There is little enough left for me to buy and I am almost out of ready money, not that I think that paper money will mean much in the near future. At this point, the gasoline has more value as a trade item than it does to drive me somewhere.
I wonder if I can convince someone to just purchase my truck?
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca
Your Obedient Servant, Seneca