I did it! I left the house. Now I'm just a man out there with a smile and a shoeshine. Or something. I took the long way to my destination, through the middle of the state stopping in smallish towns along the way. It took me just about as long to drive this as it would have taken my to fly to Paris.
I must admit, I didn't find what I was looking for. In this state, small town America is gone. It is barely a memory. Everybody wants a Walmart and a Target and a whole lot of Dollar Stores. They want cheap fast food. And they want a lot of it apparently. The roads are packed with all of that. Diverting off the small highways, I would go into the "historic" downtown areas. They were all similar, short streets lined with old brick buildings, the ground floor storefronts harboring "antiques," ceramic art," yoga, maybe an herb shop and a local mom and pop style restaurant. Of course, there were small real estate and public utilities offices. There might be a history museum or simply an old railroad car surrounded by a small "park." All the old motels that used to line the highway have been converted into Palm Readers or junk shops or have just been left to rot. A few are open as rundown crack houses, but there is nothing scenic about them. I pulled into a couple parking lots and got the one eye from people you don't care to have a conversation with, people with nothing and nothing to lose.
Once out of the towns, there are a few miles of open highway, cow pastures and woodland, with the occasional river or creek to cross, but soon you hit a new land development with a name like Snapper Creek or River Ranch Luxury Homes. There you'll see big stucco houses without little tree sprouts planted in the yards. Inevitable development to come.
And trailer parks. There are miles and miles of trailer parks. I want to go live in one to see what its like, retirees sitting under umbrellas around a small pool surrounded by a chain link fence. They've come from the suburban outskirts of Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, do escape the cold. Surely there is something to report. Surely there is some intrigue.
There were some miles of orange groves which was good to see, and lots and lots of cattle. On cleared patches of land just off the road, there are modular homes sitting up on blocks off the ground surrounded by old pickup trucks, boats, tires, and whatever other paraphernalia they might have collected. On occasion there is a large stucco home sitting back off a long driveway. There have to be cattle ranchers and grove owners living here somewhere. And in a few miles, you hit a bump in the road town where old slave quarters house the migrant workers.
Toward evening, I hit town. It is a place I've known since I was a kid, but I haven't been here for at least six years. It has grown.
But sorry. . . this is all going to have to wait. My mother and cousin are up now and there is not peace, not quiet. Fox News blasts from a 70" t.v. while the two of them comment everything they do, from how many steps it takes to cross the room to how many people are on the beach in the dark. I can't think. And so. . .