Sometimes It’s the Journey: Observations from a day on the road.

In Gallivan's Travels on March 26, 2019 at 7:39 pm

It was a long drive today, without side trips. We had to make up some time from our unexpected layover in Nashville. We got on the road before 9:00 and reached Lake Catherine in Arkansas about 4:00. But that doesn’t mean there was nothing to see.
— From Virginia west across the middle of the country, the interstates belong to the trucks. Large box trucks, eighteen wheelers, some in tandem, glittering tankers, flat beds with shrouded lumber or great rolls of steel or stacks of concrete forms, or enormous pipes line up on both sides of the highway in long caravans. There are the well-known national carriers, the regional freighters, the independent drivers; they’re pulling well marked, even colorful trailers, shipping containers on rail trucks, and anonymous silver or white boxes; all moving along in the great daily migration of the stuff of our lives.
These are their roads, integral to their livelihoods and their identities. It is they who share them with us, not the other way around.
For some, it could be intimidating, hurry along in the midst of these roaring behemoths, but I find it somewhat comforting in Gallivan. The drivers are, almost without exception, courteous, careful, and professional. They are much more concerned about the stupidity of the automobilers who over-estimate their own agility or speed, or overestimate how much room they need for that lane change or a sudden stop. But if you respect the truckers’ knowledge of the roads and experience with the terrain, they can help you move along on a long drive. I have said before that I like to fall in behind an eighteen-wheeler, far enough back so the driver knows I’m there, and to allow for merging at on ramps and disappearing right lanes. I match the driver’s speed, watch for his reactions to road events I can’t see. And when the wind tear fiercely across the highway, the trucks provide both warning and some protection from the blasts.
— The highway is mostly a steady rumble of McAdam, that ubiquitous black surface that has carried Americans across the continent in all directions for decades now. Occasionally, however, it turns into a segmented road, pieced together from separate sections of pavement that bounce you along to a steady thudding of the wheels against the seams. Less often, especially less often that a New Englander might have anticipate, the road gets ugly, with pot holes and repairs that, at 70 miles-an-hour seem to want to shake you right apart.
— The rest areas out here are reliable and clean. Each new one is a clone of the last. They have a large area for trucks and buses, and a separate area for cars (which is where a Class B motorhome best fits. They offer the simple amenities of a couple of vending machines, clean bathrooms, fresh water, and a place to park for the night if you are road weary or simply want to skip the campgrounds and find Walmart parking lots a little creepy.
— It is important to stay flexible even when you’re in a hurry. We set out this morning for Hot Springs National Park. After all but half-an-hour of our trip, having just pulled off I30 onto US 171, we realized that the NP doesn’t have showers. They have full hook-ups and nice bathrooms, but no showers. We decided that we needed the showers. So we re-routed to Lake Catherine State Park. Our GPS, however, didn’t seem to understand what we were doing. It took us over several miles of narrow, winding country roads through the middle of nowhere, only to dump us back onto I30. Why it didn’t just tell us to make a U-turn, I’ll never know. But the scenery was gorgeous, the roads were old and slow, but they were passable. And just before we got back on the interstate, we rand right into a large truck stop and gas station. Since the gauge had just crept onto the red, it was a welcome sight. And it turns out we might have blown right by it and not seen another before we got to Lake Catherine.
— Now we have had a nice walk, a light supper, and a chance to sit with a drink. Our site sits right by the lake and the night is beautiful. We weren’t headed here, but here is where we have come to. Sometimes it is helpful to remember to pay attention to the journey and remember that every end sets you up for the next beginning. Tomorrow we will find a stopping place somewhere between Lake Catherine and Austin. Don’t know where it will be yet, but I’ll try to enjoy the ride.

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