Saturday, November 13, 2021

Deviating From The Track

The chance encounter is what makes travel interesting, so in these days of plague traveling with an immune compromised partner the chance encounters tend to be inanimate. "Let's go back," my co-pilot said as we swept past this disused tobacco warehouse at 55 mph. So we did.

There was no one around, so while Rusty walked I looked up the sign to see what Google had to say. I discovered something new to me: tobacco growing subsidy fraud.  I know nothing about tobacco growing but I stumbled upon a story from last May where growers were encouraged to present poor crop samples to Federal agriculture agents who would increase the size of financial support subsidies for apparently distressed farmers. Presumably the good stuff they sold through the warehouse getting paid for good and bad crops simultaneously; apparently the feds aren't too happy about being taken for mugs. I had no idea tobacco farming could be so dramatic.

Who knows what stories there are to be told and you never know what conversation a chance encounter roadside might lead to... However it's tricky to engage in chance conversations when you are avoiding people like...the plague.

For the time being we are left with the scenery for company, and happily this country is blessed with a great deal of stuff that delights the eye. And often saddens the heart because rural America has been taking it on the chin for a while.

At one intersection in the middle of nowhere in particular my wife read one of those brown point of interest road signs: "Goddard Covered Bridge - 9 miles." Sitting at the stop sign we looked at each other and it took but a second for her to say impulsively "Let's go!" So I switched direction after a check of all mirror and windows showed not another vehicle in sight, and we drove in a direction that Google maps considered to be totally irresponsible and incorrect and kept bleating about it until silenced.

The sign on the bridge said 3 ton Limit which excluded our van, which weighed in before leaving home at 9300 pounds, almost five tons. Had we been on an isolated one lane road with no other alternative I'd have driven onto the bridge and hoped the engineers had overstated the case out of natural prudence but we had no cause to cross the bridge so we reserved the full visit for our feet.

Check the walls carefully as this is apparently a special lattice style that is rare in covered bridges. A sign said so. It is apparently the only example of its kind in the state, called Ithiel Town Lattice design and the structure is held together with wooden pegs, which may explain the weight limit. Pretty brilliant.

Furthermore I learned the bridge is 60 feet long and was restored in the 1960s and weirdly enough no one knows who built it originally. Some farmer in his spare time perhaps!

Rusty thought this structure was perfectly splendid and he took full advantage of the 70 degree sunshine to act like his usual Florida self basking in as many rays as he could catch. 

There was an incredibly suggestive church and cemetery built right in front of the bridge which made me wish we had time to park somewhere near for the night to make a return visit at the golden hour, in the evening, when the light can help improve any composition. I had to make do with mid morning bright blue skies. Such is the lot of the traveler.

It was a delightful spot, though I did have a moment of panic when I heard a loud booming exhaust as a pick up truck on a farm next to the church started up. I started hastily back to the bridge to move the encumbrance from the other end. Happily the truck swept past the church and went up the hill not bothering with bridge, van or me. That was as close as we got to human contact.

If the deal was to make tracks toward family in Chicago then you could say we spent far too long at this roadside attraction. Rusty would have disagreed.

We are retired and have no schedules and we are trying to learn this new way of life. Layne looked at the bridge for a while and remarked that if Covid kept us in the United States for an unexpected time we could amuse ourselves very well exploring these back roads across the continent.

That is the plan in the long run though in the short term while we are younger (marginally) and stronger physically we'd like to take on the more challenging drives first. In a country as ordered and full of resources online and on the ground as the United States a road trip presents no fears and only those challenges we choose to take on. The daily physical difficulties of Third World travel are better tackled when younger. However I was much more impatient when I was thirty which made me much less mentally prepared for the difficulties of road life. So I am hoping that now in sprightly middle age I have attained the perfect time to tackle the complexity of travel in countries less developed than this one.

Places like this will still be here I hope in a few years when I want a relaxing drive and an enjoyable encounter or two along the way. Perhaps then we shall be able to stop and natter with people we meet along the way like one did in the good old days.

You can imagine stopping for gas and instead of paying at the pump and driving on, you might ask about the old bridge and who knows what stories might be told.

I was grateful Layne suggested we take a 20 mile detour for a stop in the sun. I was smart to listen to her!

We had a hotel stop in Indianapolis to make as Layne had committed some Hilton points to take a room to spruce ourselves up before our next mooch dock.

Winter is a coming, most leaves around here have crisped and fallen and sunrise is at 7:30 in the morning which means it gets dark between 5:30 and six in the evening. There is snow in the forecast for the weekend. This was a moment caught out of time and we took full advantage:

The driving across Kentucky was excellent. We drove Kentucky Highway 11 through rich farmland, a part of the state that looks very different from the hills and hollows of Appalachia. This was typical, rolling fields small towns and an air of prosperity not enjoyed in the more scenic mountains.

We rolled across the countryside  on our way to Cincinnati a town we have visited a couple of times previously on our way to and from places. Its a city worth visiting for its museums and eateries and a splendid riverfront park but when Layne is unable to get securely vaccinated and she is vulnerable it seems silly to put ourselves at risk in what we hope are the closing stages of this seemingly endless plague.
We take our pleasures where we find them, in landscapes and scenic vistas.
People will tell you the fruited plains are boring to look at, and certainly they lack the drama of Yosemite but I wasn't bored as we rolled along at 60 miles per hour on the open road and 35 mph in the towns where we occasionally saw cops parked and ready to pounce. 
The winds were fierce and I enjoyed feeling Gannet 2 sway to the blasts, no stress just a reminder of the world outside our heated tin box.
Traffic was light, not quite as light as shown here because where there was traffic I wasn't spraying and praying with my small camera obviously.
Call me shallow but I had a great time watching the clouds build behind these neatly managed farms and miles of productive fields and occasional tree windbreaks.
In a way it was like sailing when I would sit at the rail and spend hours watching an endless parade of waves roll up and under the boat with nothing more on my mind than keeping an eye on the routines that make progress through the water possible. A glance at the speedometer  even when on cruise control, the engine temperature gauge, fuel and range in between watching the road unspool endlessly. This is a great country for road trips among other things. 
Eventually we crossed the Ohio River into that same state, so we left the South and entered the North and nothing much changed. The city was big and busy on a Friday night (I confirmed with Layne what day it was as retirement seems to have that effect), gas was a good bit more expensive around $3:50 a gallon instead of three dollars south of the river, and the wind was making the temperatures feel really quite bitingly cold. There were no customs and immigration checks, the currency stayed the same as did the language and many of the habits of the inhabitants. So easy.
Google mapped an easy blue line to follow and traffic lights annoyingly failed to synchronize so it was stop and go, the worst situation for a slow heavy van as I am eager for long transmission life so prefer not to force performance out my engine. I had concentrate to keep up and then slow down without rear ending someone who thought that van could stop on a whim.
These massive solid buildings remind me of the movies of a bygone era when businessmen wore suits and hats and the world was black and white because color film was expensive.
Even the locals looked cold to my jaundiced eye. Yes I know we can handle temperatures in the 30s but I must say I do miss the balmy winters of South Florida and yes it is too soon for that on a journey that may see snow tomorrow.
Traffic was heavier between Cincinnati and Indianapolis not least because there was some massive snarl up on the freeway which I suspect pushed people to the surface roads. I had thought about getting on the freeway to save a little time but I was happily forced to stay on the main roads. Too many cars equals no pictures of that section but soon enough we arrived at the cider bar Layne wanted to revisit to pick up some samples to go. The place is located in a crappy neighborhood at Ash and Elm streets which is the cidery's name coincidentally.
They were closed for a private function which was a lovely irony and we determined to stop by on our way south next week. Layne was determined to make this deviation happen by hook or by crook.  The good news is that what looks like a dreary industrial neighborhood to you and me looks fascinating to Rusty, so we walked.
We walked in a biting cold wind in our puffy jackets and let Rusty loose in a large field next to the railroad tracks while we took cover behind some landscape (!) bushes. We had our first human encounter of the day, a homeless guy walking the tracks came by and I got a terrible hit off him as he asked for a cigarette. Normally I'm happy to give a few dollars and engage in conversation but there was something not right, perhaps only in my imagination. I called Rusty who popped out of his explorations and gave the man the stink eye. End of encounter. It didn't make me feel better to walk past someone's bedroom our way back to our home.
Duty done with another long day under his belt the Chief Security Officer took off his bra and passed out. Barely any dinner, no cuddles, just sleep. He deserved it.