It has been a long time since I have looked at America, looked directly from the street or from the seat in a diner. Sure, I've been watching what is filtered to me from the TV set, computer screen and written page, but that is just it, filtered, all filtered.
This trip will be hotter than any I’ve taken before. Just looked at the weather for the first day out; 104º F (feels like 115) across north Texas. And I am discovering that it will be different in other ways.
I used to travel across country – 30-40 years ago – going places and collecting images and stories about how life was going, sensing out the differences between Valdosta, Mobile, Jackson, Longview, Wichita falls, Dumas. I could point and go, camping at night and stopping at local diners and restaurants as needed.
Not so today. I’m told that reservations are required for campsites – made over the Internet. The Mom and Pop diner is either gone or only serves crepes. It’s almost impossible to get more than a passing sense of place from the interstate lined as they are with homogeneous gas stations and Chinese trinket stores.
I remember sitting outside an eating place in a small Louisiana town watching the children get out of school; so different from west Texas. Talking to a Waitress in a restaurant, 4 AM, in southern Tennessee; she telling me that she had never been more that 20 miles away from home. I will never forget the way she carried herself, closed off tight like a pouch with a psychic drawn string.
I am hoping that my initial frustrations and hesitations are overcome by the actual experiences of the travel. I’ll let you know. I will be, first, making my way to the Gulf coast to see what there is to see.