DriveBy

driveby
" … hoping to make some real progress today."

Much of The Great American Road Trip involves driving by places. Stopping slows progress and progress might be the most important product of any American road trip. Distances seem vast but only because they are genuinely vast. A day's driving might barely get one through a region. Crossing some states require more than a day of concerted progress. The roads have become increasingly anonymous. With Interstate freeways, one can travel from coast to coast without once leaving the numbing pattern of essentially identical lanes, exits, and signs, with guard rails carefully positioned to block any view of any unique or unusual sight. Yet we insist that we've visited a place when we've probably only driven by it.

Driving up and out of New Orleans, the interstate travels along a causeway over an enormous spillway pushing an alarming current of muddy brown Mississippi water into a huge basin, a line dividing sparkling blue and murky brown. No Stopping, signs insist.
Exits invite visits to the usual suspects threatening with insistently anonymous fast food. We happened upon a small diner in Baton Rouge where we were served what might have been the freshest-tasting salads we'd ever consumed before resuming the drive through bayou country. We took the slightly slower road so that we could get a closer look at the place, stopping at a roadside stand for the sweetest-tasting strawberries. By the time we reconnected with the Interstate, we felt well-rested and ready for the high-speed coma again. I can now say that I've been through Shreveport, though we only drove by it.

We pulled into the motel for the night, recognizing most of the signs surrounding it, each familiar from everywhere. We decided to walk to a roadhouse and found no sidewalks in the gathering dusk. Tromping through rough grass, avoiding the red ant hills, we entered the place to immediately recognize that it was not the unique statement of East Texas' culture, but another example of modified authenticity which could have been designed by Disney or Kellogg's. We chose lightly from a menu mostly comprised of obviously deadly choices. My chili was terrible, a derivative of what actual Texas chili might have once been, a drive-by version of a now perhaps imagined classic. We stumbled through the grass in the dark back to the motel. The crosswalk timer counted three before blinking red to stop. No dawdling allowed!

Today, we'll zoot further across this vast state, perhaps stopping twice to touch something nearly ubiquitous in nature, hardly different besides the humidity and ant hills surrounding it. We might DriveBy an armadillo up towards Amarillo and feel just that much more well traveled for the experience. I've never driven across Texas before, it being positioned along the southern sidelines of any two places I've felt the need to travel between. In this DriveBy culture, my having driven it once will give me some license to claim that I've been there, albeit suspended upon four tires spinning at blinding speed. I will hardly remember the passage unless we encounter heavy weather along the way. The same mindless drivers performing the same predictable stunts trying to get nowhere ever faster. I will be in the middle of the fray, hoping to make some real progress today, an experience so familiar that it feels just like home.

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved









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