THE TOUR STARTS HERE!
The idea of taking an automobile trip that avoids interstate highways is enticing, but not realistic, given time constraints. Getting from Mordi’s cousins’ home in Norfolk to our bed and breakfast in Charleston, South Carolina took a good seven plus hours by way of four lane highways and interstates. Not wanting to waste time listening to bad radio or repeating the same CDs until I was ready to tear my hair out, I stocked up on several audio books. The journey to Charleston was spent listening to the newly released memoir of Sonia Sontomayor’s journey from the slums of the Bronx to the Supreme Court. It’s a great “read,” or shall I say, “listen.” Still, this is a road trip and attending to the road is an important part of the journey. Alain De Botton in his book, The Art of Travel, describes how most of us imagine our vacation destinations as depicted in travel posters. The sky is always blue. We are enticed by scenes of palm trees, ocean, and thin women in bikinis sipping pina coladas. Vacation plans don’t usually account for the minutia of travel; on a road trip it’s the highway directions, the stops to pee, snack, and fill up the car, and the differences that demarcate one state from another. Chain restaurants, gas stations, and strip malls have blurred the differences, but nonetheless if you pay attention, there is much to observe on Interstate Highways. Today there were no photos of blue sky meeting deep blue sea. The expanse of cement highway spread out before us, surrounded by the bare bones of trees, their branches rising up to a dishwater grey sky; all devoid of color except for the green pines lining the highway. As we crossed over the border from Virginia to North Carolina, the landscape gave way to a mass of billboards lined up on both sides of the highway, signaling such not to be missed sites as the best hamburger joint in Denton, N.C. Could it be the only hamburger joint in Denton, I wondered? A stream of invitations to South of the Border.com enticed us on both sides of the road for almost 100 miles, with the promise of a good night’s sleep, mini-golf, pork tacos, and free childcare. At the one mile sign, I could barely contain my enthusiasm as I saw the monstrous tower looming in the distance, topped with a gigantic sombrero spreading over this carnival of faux Latino kitsch. I opted not to stop. The large letters that spelled, THE HOBBY SHOP, NEXT EXIT, brought me back to the Euclid, Ohio store where my brother spent every Cent he had made delivering The Cleveland Plain Dealer and frying fish and chips at Arthur Treacher’s on his collection of enamel-painted model trains. I bemoaned the over-abundance of exit signs noting DQs, Subways, and Shoney’s and the absence of any sign of real North-Carolina Barbeque. South Carolina came into view with a mega warehouse exploding with color announcing in thick black letters—FIREWORKS—-Cheap—-all kinds! Had I kept my focus on an audiobook, I would never have screamed with enthusiasm at the sighting of my first palm tree, as we headed into Charleston. Listening to a great book still affords the opportunity to see the wonders of the road: the expanse of marshland spreading out from Rte. 17 South, complete with snowy-white egrets emerging from tall green grasses that the Gulla women weave into amazing baskets that they sell in the markets of Charleston. This was mindfulness, southern style—I was on the Subaru tour bus with the world outside my passenger window, just waiting to be discovered.