Friday, August 09, 2013

From Colorado to South Carolina and Back, Part 4

You can’t afford to lose too many minutes with a 12-hour day ahead. We already stood to lose an hour by default upon crossing over into the Eastern Time Zone. Yet here we were, running two hours behind. 

We had a good breakfast, and my daughter and son smuggled some yogurt and bananas and muffins from the hotel’s outstanding breakfast bar. I knew I wasn’t going to be any good if I didn’t get that extra cycle of sleep. As it turned out I felt a lot better, my anxiety under control. I had no problems staying awake behind the wheel.

It did seem to take a while getting out of Missouri. Of course, there was the rain. Not that it slowed us up that much, but it seemed that way. It was a long two and one-half hours, and then there was the matter of navigating the change of Interstate over the Mississippi River at St. Louis.

It’s never quite as spectacular going east as it is driving west. This is especially true as we change from
I-70 to I-64 over the Mighty Mississip, where I’m too busy minding my lanes and the traffic from the spaghetti of highways converging south of the Gateway to the West, to even see the most storied river in all North America.

This is how you know you’re in East St. Louis, of “East St. Louis Toodle-oo” fame. Funny how you never hear about this place anymore. Last I heard it was a dangerous ghetto city. I’ve never driven through to check it out. You hardly see any evidence of a city from I-64 East. This sign is the only thing I register of it.

My daughter has a natural talent for shots like this.

It was cold and blustery where we stopped for gas in the nameless, albeit very busy town 20 or so miles east of East St. Louis. I marveled at having to put on a jacket in July while I fueled the minivan. The rain wasn’t torrential, but there was enough of it to cause considerable ponding in the fields that seem to comprise much of the southwestern corner of Illinois. 

The skies cleared by the time we found I-57 South and then I-24. The Fort Massac rest stop just across the Ohio River from Paducah, Kentucky had a good bit of water in the creekbed for a change, yet was a gorgeous sight in the sun.

The Fort Massac rest area is of the best I’ve seen anywhere in the country. It’s a very large area with a good walking path. I’ve made many circuits along this path to restore circulation to my legs.

This cutout, which wasn’t there last year, is a promotion for the Superman statue in nearby Metropolis, Illinois. I think there’s a museum, too. Yeah, it’s cute and all—“We have the same name as Superman’s home base of operations in the comic books, so let’s capitalize on that!”—but it’s also pathetic when you think about it. We used to be a country that made things.

Thoughtful author looks thoughtful. You should buy his books.

Once the break was done we began our journey into the South. Crossing the Ohio River into Kentucky felt even more monumental than crossing the Mississippi. It helps that the I-24 crossing is at a very broad point and you can sometimes see the huge barges and container ships working the river.

We didn’t get photos of the cops and the fire truck and the ambulance in the northbound lanes as we crossed, but judging by all the faces looking down into the water someone had jumped. God only knows what all these people expected to do about it, but I’ll warrant a lot of them were happy for the distraction and something to talk about. As for us and everyone else on the road, we had somewhere to be. Just another day in Wild America. 

Looking towards the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

This is from our first stop in Tennessee. I forget the name of the actual town. No, it wasn’t Tiny Town. This street sign did make me laugh, though. Then again, I’ve been on the road for a while by this point.