The Adventure Continues

For starters, I’ll offer just a brief addendum to yesterday’s post. If you haven’t read it, you might want to as I’m not going to explain it today. We hit a category that almost stumped us yesterday. We started by trying to come up with songs about Paducah, Kentucky. We didn’t come up with one was we were driving. There are a couple, however. Here’s the chorus to one:

Paducah, Paducah, if you wanna,
you can rhyme it with bazooka,
But you can't pooh-pooh Paducah,
That's another name for paradise.Paducah

The search for the song brought up the category of words that rhyme with Paducah. Our list was pretty short: bazooka, Luca, and hooka. I guess it depends on how narrow and precise you want to be with your rhyming. I think babushka, palooka, mazurka and Topeka work pretty well. Alaska, Africa, and Jamaica might work in a song, but you have to put the emphasis on the correct syllable. Hanukkah has to be mispronounced to make it work.

We have some interesting, if not very world-changing, conversations while we are driving.

In the part of the country where we now live, Seattle is the city where we encounter traffic. For the most part, we don’t have to go to Seattle very often, but it is a major hub airport and we’ve made the trip to pick up and deliver family and friends to the airport. We also encounter a bit of traffic when we drive through Spokane, which we do when heading back to South Dakota or to visit family in Montana or to go to N-Sid-Sen, one of the camps of the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ. Based on our experiences with this trip, however, I would say that neither of those cities has traffic that is as bad as cities we have been through or around on our journey. Columbia, South Carolina, Asheville, North Carolina, Knoxville, Tennessee, and Nashville, Tennessee all had crumbling roads with huge potholes as well as traffic that slowed to a crawl at times. I cut my teeth on urban driving in Chicago, so feel that I can deal with traffic, but these cities slowed us down. We have two major ones ahead before we return to what I call the wast: St. Louis and Kansas City. Both of them are on the agenda for today.

We are camped in the woods in southern Illinois, having crossed the line from Kentucky near Paducah. The frogs and crickets are singing in the woods and we are able to sleep with the windows open. The humidity isn’t as intense as it was in South Carolina and the temperatures are just a bit higher. So far our travel is going very well. Today we’ll cross into Missouri with a major urban center at each end and we plan to camp near St. Joseph tonight. That makes Sioux Falls an easy destination for tomorrow and then on to Rapid City the next day where we will take a break and stay for a little while to visit friends and attend church on Sunday.

Part of what makes a city intimidating is not really knowing your way around. When you are driving in a city that is familiar, you can select an alternate route based on traffic or construction or other factors. When you are just passing through you often have planned only one route. In some ways navigating by GPS makes it a bit easier as the device will seek alternate routes when you get off track. In another way it is a bit harder as when we studied paper maps, we had a more firm sense of how our route went through our around a city. For this trip we’ve been entering the address of our destination for the day into the GPS and allowing the device to choose our route.

I remember the first time we allowed the GPS to guide our travel on a big trip. We were attending the General Synod of the United Church of Christ, held in Hartford, Connecticut, in 2007. We decided that if we drove hard for 2 1/2 days, we could have our camper and a kayak back east, attend the meeting and explore a bit of New England up towards Nova Scotia and then camp our way back across Canada on our way home. We went to AAA and got trip kits and maps for the adventure, but we also had a new GPS unit. The GPS was fantastic for guiding us through urban areas. When we got to Hartford, it guided us right through the traffic to the front door of our Hotel. When we missed an exit earlier in the trip, it recalculated and gave us an alternate route. I decided that the device was a real asset for urban driving. At the time, I still didn’t trust it completely for back country navigation and there were some big mistakes in the database in rural areas. The accuracy of the devices has really improved and the inclusion of them in our cell phones has made us really dependent upon them for navigation. We have a good atlas in our truck, but we haven’t been referring to paper maps on our trip except to record our route after each day’s travel. There is no stack of state maps or AAA trip kit in our truck.

Another difference in this trip, compared with other cross-country trips we’ve made over the years, is that the condition of the nation’s roads and bridges is worse. The creation of the interstate Highway System was a part of our growing up and young adult years and we got used to roads that were in pretty good condition. But the years have passed and maintenance has been deferred. Concrete highways are crumbling and the nation needs another major effort if we are to maintain our highway system. While congress delays and debates infrastructure bills, it is easy to see the need as we drive. The roads simply are not in as good shape as was the case when we made trips decades ago.

The journey, however, has been a grand adventure and the adventure continues.

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