Tuesday, October 26, 2021

A Long Drive From Home To Home

This past weekend, I made the long drive from Old Home to New Home.

It is practically halfway across the country by the time one is done, approximately 1800 miles (1802 miles, to be exact) and right at 30 hours.  The drive conveniently breaks itself into two equal mileage portions at about 900 miles.  One day took 16 hours, the next day took 14 hours.

Why would I drive so far when one can fly, you might ask?  My parents have a car they are no longer using, and Nighean Dhonn could use a car (instead of borrowing The Ravishing Mrs. TB's).  For the price of gasoline, both problems could be solved.

My time in driving - besides paying attention to the road - was well spent:  I finished out a podcast lecture of Classical Greek History by Donald Kagan of Yale (18 hours or so) and spent the rest of the time listening to audio dramas, a combination of H.P. Lovecraft and post-apocalyptic fiction.

Some general observations about the drive:

1) This country is big.  We, who have - for the most part - compressed our travel into short air burst of 3 to 5 hours - forget that.  It is big beyond our imagining, and one can understanding the disbelief of the Native Americans that anyone could "own" such a thing and the awe of the European immigrants as they just kept going and going and still found emptiness.

2)  Outside of cities, there seem to be almost as many big rigs on the road as there are cars.  That might be a slight exaggeration, but only slight.  For all of the problems of the supply chain, it is not because the big rigs are not out there.

3)  I really saw only two kinds of freight trains:  container car trains, empty and full, and (once) a car carrier train.  No tankers, no ore cars, no boxcars.  Yet another marker of my childhood, gone.

4)  I made a total of 8 fuel stops.  The difference between the highest and the lowest was $1.80 (really $1.50, but only after I had filled did I realize I was in the position of having a "credit card" surcharge applied).  I probably could have driven farther, but with an unfamiliar car and not fully knowing the mileage range, I tend to panic easily at less than half a tank.

5)  A matter I will write on tomorrow - but only mention now - is that most of the crops, refuse disposal, energy generation, and resource extraction I passed was nowhere near the urban centers which consume them.  

6)  The country is littered with historical sties, those funny brown or blue signs with national or state park notices.  One could spend an entire trip pleasantly just stopping at the places everyone else does not.

7)  The smaller towns beyond the urban core - the between towns - are to almost a full extent dependent not just on tourist traffic, but on the aforementioned big rig traffic.  Thus, anything impacting that network impacts not just the ability of urban areas to get their supplies (and thus, their economies) but these smaller places as well.

8)  As mentioned in item 1, this country is big - so big, the concept that 68 miles of square territory should being dictating to everyone else how to run their lives is ludicrous at best.

9)  Even with all of the issues going on, this country remains stunningly beautiful.

25 comments:

  1. Anonymous4:16 AM

    Thank you for writing your road trip observations. #7 is one I have never considered.

    Its been quite a while since the family and I went on our road trips. My wife being a teacher, these trips were spaced about four a year (Spring Break / Beginning of Summer / End of Summer / Christmas). Both our families are mostly local, so these road trips were just to stretch the legs and see new scenery. 'Blue Highways' (two laners) were the main route chosen, interstates are fast but we wanted scenery and time wasn't an issue. The two kids were very young, an a stroller through small town city parks after the sidewalks had been rolled up was often done. Peaceful and quiet, my wife and I had time to re-connect.

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    1. You are more than welcome. To be honest, I had never considered #7 before either, but the combination of the amount of big rigs on the road and the what-must-have-been punishing tourist season of the last 1.5 years made me realize any of these places still open was largely open because of commercial traffic.

      Growing up, we used to do that as well - in our case, probably because it was cheap form of entertainment. But now, if one lives in an urban center just getting to where such two lane roads exist can be an experience to where one does not try at all.

      Still, worth considering to do again. It certainly represents a break from the confines of the regular.

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  2. 900 MILES A DAY? My rear doesn't have that kind of resilience anymore. But you are correct, there is so much space out there. And with the youngsters heading for the cities since the 80's, even more space out there.

    Great observations, as always. You have a way of knitting things in your mind. Thanks for that.

    I remember my halcyon days of driving to work, working, then driving to the motel to sleep. Leave south central Texas, drive to El Paso, work till I was done, then north on 25 until I hit Truth or Consequences. The long circle was drive to San Antonio, then El Paso, up to Albuquerque, Gallup, Farmington, Durango, Santa Fe, then back to south central Texas. In a week or less. I knew the bumps on roads a 1000 miles from home, like I knew my own driveway.

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    1. In all fairness STxAR, the seats are a lot more comfortable than they were 30 years ago. Picturing making that drive in our family's Ford Pinto in the day strikes me as decidedly uncomfortable.

      That is quite a circuit, although I can easily see the country in my mind. And what you say about "knowing the bumps" is true as well: I spent probably 8 years of my life driving the same stretch of Interstate and you do come to know all the vagaries of the road.

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  3. Since the days of enjoying the act of flying are long gone, I have become more fond of road trips and seeing this country close up.

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    1. Ed, it certainly is more relaxed. If I had longer periods to drive, I would certainly consider it. I did not total my fuel receipts, but spit balling it I do not know it would cost more than a plane ticket. Dreadfully mileage accumulating though.

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    2. We travel as a group of five so it is no question cheaper than an airplane ticket, even with room and meals thrown in. But going solo, it is probably more expensive when you factor in car depreciation along with fuel, wear and tear, etc.

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    3. Ed, I understand - we travel the same.

      I reviewed my spending on the trip. Fuel was about $200, plus a hotel room and a meal or two so probably right at $300. That is about what a ticket will cost.

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  4. Anonymous8:02 AM

    I was going to drive from Beaumont, Tx, LA border town, to El Paso and it's a two day, very long trip. I think it may be the widest state in America. But I love back roads car trips. Had an uncle to taught me a lot of history you don't get in school with those roadside markers.
    Margi

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    1. Texas is a huge state Margi! I am always a little shocked by how big it is.

      Growing up, I think we stopped at every historical marker just because. You are right, you do learn a lot that way. I wonder if they are still putting them up?

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  5. I much prefer driving over flying. You see more, and travel at your convenience and schedule, not someone elses. I would probably have done the trip at a more leisurely pace, maybe 3 days of 600 each.

    Interesting point, that #5. Yes, interesting. A lot of conversation could come from that, as well as #7 and your observation on the heavy truck traffic.

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    1. Anonymous10:16 AM

      Many years ago, my brother and I spent a summer with my Aunt and Cousin who lived in San Diego California. He drove a 1976 Datsun pickup that had a bad radiator - we had to stop every hour or so and wait around for 45 minutes or so to let it cool down before repeating. It was slow driving.

      But we saw a lot more of the countryside rather than just speeding along. We had a chance to appreciate a view or other interest that we would have missed, just driving through.

      A Blessing in Disguise perhaps ?

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    2. NM - When we have done it as a family, we have broken it up into a three day trip - fortunately, there are logical stopping points to make it happen.

      I do not think until this trip I truly grasped how much those towns depend on that big rig traffic. I would bet it is as or more important than tourism.

      I could including a number 10: The homogenization of fast food is sad. 1800 miles, the same 5-6 fast food restaurants almost everywhere.

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    3. Anonymous - At one time I, too drop a last 70's Datsun. Could not get above 65 mph without it shaking as if to fall apart.

      Yes, that is one lamentation when I driving to arrive, that I am not able to drive as leisurely as I might like. Funny how we do not appreciate those things until they are gone.

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  6. I'm curious about which post-apocalyptic novels you read. Also, what Lovecraft. I think I've only read a few of his short stories.

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    1. Kelly, my favorite post-apocalyptic author is Andre Norton - as I thought about it, a lot of her novels deal with a sort of post apocalyptic setting, even if on other planets. Her absolute best, in my opinion is Dark Piper (Apocalypse on another world); others are No Night Without Stars, Daybreak: 2250, and Star Rangers.

      John Christopher (real name Samuel Youd) wrote a number of apocalyptic novels for both teens and adults. The teen trilogies were The Tripod Trilogy and The Sword of The Spirits Trilogy. His adult ones include No Blade of Grass and The Long Winter. He actually wrote several more; these are the ones I have read.

      Outliers are The Missing Persons League (Frank Bonham; I still have the original book I got from a Scholastic Book Faire in the 1970's) and The Original Buck Rogers/Armageddon 2419 AD by Francis Nowlan.

      If you can see a theme, it is that I like simple sorts of endings, with not a lot of social commentary or non-essentials.

      As for H.P. Lovecraft, I go through phases where I read him. At The Mountains of Madness may be my favorite. I listened to adaptations of The Shadow over Innsmouth, The Color Out of Space, and The Call of Cthulhu, which were all very well done.

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    2. And, of course I thought of a couple more. Alas Babylon by Pat Frank is an acknowledged classic. And, upon thinking about it, I wonder if Atlas Shrugged effectively functions as a pre-apocalyptic novel (is that even a category?).

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    3. Thank you, TB! You've given me lots to research here. I'm not familiar with most of the authors and not read anything by the ones I've heard of. Most of what I've read has been quite contemporary, though I've been trying to work in more "classic" sci-fi in recent years from the likes of Robert Heinlein and George R. Steward.

      I'm well acquainted with Ayn Rand having read Atlas Shrugged, The Fountainhead, and Anthem. Hmmm... pre-apocalyptic might be a good description for her work. In a nutshell, I've always just seen it as a call to capitalism.

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    4. Kelly - One thing about anyone that I have recommended up there is that they are pretty clean reads: no intense violence, minor if any sexual content, virtually no cursing. Probably the reason I still continue to read them.

      I enjoy Heinlein, although he is often hit or miss for me. I have enjoyed Jerry Pournelle and should read more of him, as well as his partnership with Larry Niven (and Niven is someone I should read in his own right). I enjoyed the early (1970's) material from C.J. Cherryh, although I am not sure if she qualifies at as classic sci fi.

      Yet another recommendation, kind of pre-apocalypse, is Space Vikings by H. Beam Piper. Really, anything by H. Beam Piper: His combination of science fiction and consideration of politics and history is unrivaled.

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    5. I've lookup up all these authors/titles and some are hard to come by. Fortunately my library offers a couple in their digital app that I want to read, so they've been tagged. I'm planning to join a reading challenge next year and both will fit in nicely. Turns out Alas, Babylon is one that was recommended to me by one of my brother years ago and I just never got around to reading. I will now!

      ...and I meant George Stewart, not Steward, in my earlier comment. I enjoyed his Earth Abides. (several months before the pandemic began)

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    6. "Earth Abides" (slaps forehead). It has been many years since I read that book - but actually, that is probably one of the more realistic ones.

      The good news about most of the books recommended above are either they show up reasonably cheaply at used book stores (Norton) or can be found on the InterWeb (as I beleive a number of Piper's now are).

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  7. Ditto as well about "pockyclips" fiction (the word is a snark on a line from the Mad Max movies "Do the Tell Savannah, Do the Tell!"). I'm currently reading T.C.Sherry's Deep Winter series. Though it's from 2005, it's eerily prescient.
    As for roads and country, we did an RV trailer trip from southern Oregon to Arkansas and back last spring. For much of the interstates, the posted speed is 70, 75, even 80mph, and the trucks will do that and more. Our rig liked 60, and would do 65 if I pushed it, so I was grateful for a right hand lane to let everyone else roar on past. Yes, trucks everywhere, day and night, even on the two lane "blue highways".
    I have also done a fair bit of small aircraft flying across Great Basin country. You see a lot more from 5 or 10,000 feet than you do from 30,000. There are places in the great outback that are thirty miles from the nearest road, and even those roads might see one or two cars a day. And in a small plane, you're always cognizant of "where would I set it down if I had to". Yes, outside of the urban corridors, there is a lot of wide open space out here.

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    1. Greg - I am sure some enterprising graduate student has made a study of post apocalyptic fiction and correlated it to the major concern of the era. We write what we most likely fear as the most likely outcome; the fact the end is almost never like that is somewhat amusing.

      That sounds like a lovely trip. My drive did make think about doing a trip like that, and how nice it would it be to take a week to make the drive.

      I can imagine that you see more at that altitude and would see some pretty amazing things (and I would worry about "where to set down as well". Even at 30,000 feet, I see things that make me wonder what they look like on the ground.

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  8. TB I love that you drive instead of flying. It's almost like abandoning the quick fix and going for living in the moment when you travel by car isn't it? The world is stunning when you slow it down a little. I love being in the car, it's great thinking time for me, though I'm not too happy about the gas prices of late!!

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    1. Rain - Honestly, I wish I was able to do it more. The drive itself was long but not unbearable and if one did break it out into three days, it is much more manageable.

      It does indeed give you a great deal of time to think.

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