Friday, June 4, 2010

Quickish Takes

This is a beautiful and interesting country we live in.  Driving three quarters of the way across it last week, we were constantly amazed -- sometimes because we were amused, sometimes because we were apalled, sometimes because we were awed by the scenery.  Here are some quick takes on our Colorado to Virginia trip:

1. No question about it: on our particular route, Kansas was the most boring state to drive through, but it was one of our favorites due to the lovely crop of conservative billboards that grow along the highway.  (We've seen the same thing in Nebraska on other trips, incidentally -- and love Nebraska for it!)  Missouri is very pretty, rolling and pleasant, but it's half way through that state and into Illinois and Indiana that the apalling billboards start to appear.  We were shocked at the number of "adult" venues that were advertised.  We don't have anything like that in Colorado.  Mind you, such horrible places do exist here, but they hide under the armpit of our state instead of being emblazoned on its forehead.    I wonder if it's part of our laws here or just an extension of our sensitivity to natural beauty. I don't know if it's true anywhere else in the United States, but in Colorado billboards are banned altogether on scenic highways; a law I very much appreciate.  And, though I don't think it makes sense to ban billboards everywhere, it does seem like there ought to be decency laws to protect us from public pornography.

2.  We did see some funny billboards on our travels, though, and some that just captured the essense of the country we were passing.  For instance: 
In the middle of Missouri:  Heads up Taxidermy
Somewhere in Kansas: The 2nd Friendliest Yarn store in the Universe  (Begs the question: Who's the most friendly?)
And all through Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana, there were barbecue restaurant signs, something we don't see out west.  And biscuits.  The closer we got to Appalachia, the more biscuits were featured as hot items on restaurant menus.  I guess we don't go for biscuits so much in Colorado.  (Though, I personally LOVE me a good biscuit...)

3.  We saw this one (tho the picture's off the internet) on the side of the road outside of Kansas City, MO, but it didn't occur to me at the time what the statement was.  Duh.  Just a little point to be made about our president.

We didn't see the following billboards, but they also apparently decorate the roadsides of Missouri:

4.  Then there was just the natural beauty.  The rolling hills and trees of Missouri.  The big beautiful barns dotting the farmland that patchworks Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. Then the beautiful, soft mountains of Appalachia through eastern Kentucky, West Virgina and western Virginia.  I grew up in the midatlantic, so these are the mountains I know from my childhood.  Certainly, they aren't as majestic and awesome as our Rockies; there are no snow-covered peaks or soaring rock cliffs in the Appalachians.  But you can feel the history of the mountains here.  You can smell it in the air. The landscape is softened and deepened by it.  But you can also sense the poverty of this region.  And it's a sad thing to see, but, in a way, I think it's preserved the natural beauty.  Money has a way of taking over a place.  If you've ever driven through Vail Valley, you know what I mean.   We have valleys full of condos and lodges and swank hotels, ringed at night with twinkling strings of lights in the trees year-round, but we almost never see anything like this where we come from:

We found this old, rotting house in Mossy, West Virginia.  So sad. How did it come to be abondoned?  It was a fine proud home at one time.  I'd kill for a place like this!  (Well, not really, but I'd love to have this kind of a house!)  What do you think? I bet it's haunted.

Check out all the life here, too.  So much , it takes over what isn't consciously preserved from being consumed.  Moss, saplings, shrubs, trees.  Covering every square inch.   It's so, so green in the east.  Living in the arid west for so long, you forget the green.  But it's so beautiful. 
Here's the river across from the haunted house pictured above:
You can just barely see the Civil War soldiers hiding along the riverbank and Tom Sawyer is just beyond that thicket playing pirates with Huck Finn...
5.  Just across the street from the old abondoned house in Mossy, West Virginia, there was a little, old, no-name gas station.  Inside there was a haphazard convenience store arranged around two tables in the middle of the room.  Four or five older gentlemen sat around the tables shooting the breeze and drinking coffee. If there had been music playing, it would have been Billie Holiday singing 1930s blues or The Skillet Lickers playing "Bile Them Cabbage Down." 

 A lady from Florida in shorts and high heels came in while I was looking through the drinks fridge, and I didn't hear what she said to the old guys, but Nicole told me later that she was enthusing about the novelty of the harrowing mountain roads and the "Watch for ice on bridges" signs.  (snort!) Us Coloradans got a good chuckle out of that when we got back in the car.  But, truly, it's all relative.  

6.  Oh!  By the way! We got a couple bottles of "original" Dr. Pepper while we were in that  little country gas station.  No high fructose corn syrup!  But still not as good as I remembered it as a child.  I think I could write a whole post about Dr. Pepper and the connection between smell and taste and memories...  And maybe I will.  But, in short, I don't think a bottle of Dr. P. could possibly taste right unless it's consumed while dangling bare feet and mosquito-bite-covered legs over the edge of a pier on a humid Carolina day.  With a bag of barbecue potato chips and a pile of skipping stones nearby.

7.    And then there were the names of towns we passed.  They change as you travel east, becoming more interesting, telling more of the story of the place.  On the Colorado highways, we have towns like Fairplay, Limon, Fruita and Rocky Ford, serviceable names, but not colorful.  And there are very few turnoffs that mention a community name; the stretches are so long on the prairies, especially, that any turnoff that's not a town goes by its mile marker number.   In West Virginia, though, you pass turnoffs like:  Frazier's Bottom, Johnny Cake, and Droop Mountain.  We happened by a road called Black Cat Run and stayed in the town of Hurricane.  You know there's a story behind every name back east, though you may never find out what it is.  But, then we got into Virginia and passed turn-offs like Chancellorsville, and Spotsylvania.  And we knew those stories.  So much history.  So much beauty.   This is an amazing country we live in.

* Run over to Jennifer's at Conversion Diary for lots of Quick Take Friday posts!

Coming Soon:  Drivers west to east...  Is there a difference?


Sharon said...

My grandmother was born in Hurricaine, WV! :) I've never been there, though. Sounds like a great road trip!

Sharon said...

Hello, again, my bad; my grandmother wasn't born in Hurricaine, she was born in another part of West Virginia (McDowell County, in coal country). We did know someone who was born in Hurricaine, though; I'm so confused, LOL!

GrandmaK said...

Just got home form 10 days in God's country. It's hard coming down from that "Rocky Mountain High!" So glad you had such a grand triP!!! I sure did! Cathy

MightyMom said...

girl! have you BEEN to Waco, Tx?? the birthplace of Dr Pepper?? where you can get it just like the original?? oh yeah!! I'm talking REAL STUFF here. It's worse than crack.