Dispatches From America - Part One
Here are some ramblings from my drive across the U.S.:
Day 1 -- Washington, DC to Richmond, VA - 100 miles
It has been an exciting 24 hours, beginning when, the night before I am to move, I take off the oil filler cap to add some oil to my car, and proceed to drop it in the bottom of the enclosed engine bay, where it is completely inaccessible. I call a couple of "experts," who suggest solutions requiring gadgets that only exist in James Bond movies, such as grippers with powerful magnets at the end. Fortunately, with some assistance, I am able to remove the cover underneath the car, and the cap continues its gravitational journey to my garage floor.
Moving day is similarly surreal, when the first thing the driver asks me is, which furniture do I want to leave behind, since his truck is already filled to the brim.
I finally leave for Richmond at 6 pm, after a 9 hour loading job from the Tortoise Moving Company. Why are the HOV lanes on 395 more crowded than the regular lanes? Oh, duh. They just opened to all traffic.
Day 2 - Richmond, VA to Marietta, GA - 575 Miles
I learn the following:
1. The Southeast U.S. off the interstate has plenty of open space.
2. It also has plenty of fast food from national chains.
3. #2 may outnumber #1.
4. In North Carolina, people still dress preppy. Really preppy. Polo pink and green 1980's Reagan era preppy.
Speaking of which, it is a joy to begin a drive across the United States the day after Election Day, listening to the news of the returns on satellite radio, while history is made and the Senate slowly changes hands. I am so proud of my countrymen for coming out to exercise their democratic rights in huge numbers in an off-year election.
Just when I am bemoaning the sameness that exists along the highway, an accident ahead of me on I-85 turns into an opportunity to experience a bit of local flavor. I quickly exit and locate Route 29, one of those original highways that was eclipsed by the giant interstates that were built parallel to them beginning in the 1950s. Within a short stretch, I pass the Hot Rod Barn, Libby's Pit Stop, and the 50's Ice Cream shack. Now that's more like it. And as a final reminder that local commerce still exists just off the interstate, I am propositioned by a young woman at a North Carolina rest stop who says that she needs money to get home and asks me if I would like "a date in the bathroom." I thank her for her offer and politely decline, explaining that I am not currently dating.
In Marietta, I visit my college roommate "Jann," who drags me out to look at a house that he is thinking of buying as an investment the following day. Jann has forgotten the combination to the lockbox on the front door, so he breaks into the house through a rear window. We tour the place in the pitch dark, using flashlights. I feel like a Watergate burglar, and wonder what this must look like to people out on the street.
One day, and I am already a witness to one attempted crime and a participant in another. I'm off to a great start!