“Thanks to the Interstate Highway System, it is now possible to travel across the country from coast to coast without seeing anything.” – Charles Kuralt.
Driving over 800 miles last week from St. Petersburg to Vicksburg Mississippi, only 27 of the miles were on interstates. Seven miles were on I-275 (the Howard Franklin Bridge), and 20 miles were on I-10 in northwest Florida.
I drove up the west coast of Florida, along the panhandle, and then north and west through Alabama and Mississippi to Vicksburg, located on the east bank of the Mississippi River. The drive was very scenic and much less stressful than driving on the interstates. The Interstate Highway System seems to have become concrete railways for 18 wheel trucks. There are just so many large trucks on the interstates.
Driving on the two lane country roads I did see many logging trucks. The number of cemeteries I saw really struck me. Seeing all those grave stones made me think that under each gravestone was someone who once had a life here and a story. All the cemeteries reminded me of a game that my mother had us play when my parents drove us cross county on summer vacations. She would have us count the cows on our side of the road, the person with the most cows after arriving at the destination won. However, if there was a cemetery on your side of the road, that meant all your cows died, and you had to start over again at zero. Usually by the time we arrived at the destination, interest in the game was long over.
I also drove through many ghost towns. The long ago forgotten towns consisted of a few rusted and crumbling buildings. People once filled these tiny roadside towns many years ago, some of them are now probably buried in the many cemeteries I passed.
The GPS Navigation System made driving on the back roads much easier. I would have missed some of the back road turns in the small towns. Getting lost in a small town is easier than one would imagine. The only problem with the NAV system is the display was almost impossible to see while wearing prescription polarized sunglasses. To see the NAV display I had to keep switching over to regular glasses. Driving the back roads is also kind of lonely. I started to take a liking to the female voice on the NAV system giving me directions. She was even polite while saying, “Make a u-turn as soon as possible.” I can imagine a passenger saying, “Where the hell are you going?” While playing around with some of the settings on the NAV unit, I found out that her name was Samantha. I suppose you can choose different voices, but I was starting to bond with Samantha, so I didn’t look at the other options.
Getting good diesel fuel is a challenge on back roads. Many of the abandoned buildings in the ghost towns were gas stations. Getting a load of sour diesel fuel would be a disaster. I tried to get fuel where there is a large volume of fuel dispersed, which mostly means around interstates if possible. Several times I crossed over interstates and would refuel there.
I’m going to rest for a few days in Vicksburg, there is a lot of history to see here. While driving the rig is a lot of fun, the driving can also be a little stressful and tiring. I can easily drive a car 500 miles – 700 miles in a day. I only feel comfortable driving the coach 200 miles – 250 miles a day. The rig is slower, requires more concentration, effort, and more anticipation of other drivers on the road.
The following quotes are also from Charles Kuralt. I used these quotes in a post back in May, but the quotes seem worth repeating and even more appropriate now after the last week’s adventures.
“The everyday kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the acts of greed in the headlines.”
“There are a lot of people who are doing wonderful things, quietly, with no motive of greed, or hostility toward other people, or delusions of superiority.”
“It does no harm just once in a while to acknowledge that the whole country isn’t in flames, that there are people in the country besides politicians, entertainers, and criminals.”