Anne Horrigan Geary: Americans on the move
DALTON >> Take a ride on any interstate highway or numbered state route and you will know for certain that Americans are on the move.
Recently, we traveled for a family wedding and were constantly amazed by how many other car, van, truck, and RV drivers were sharing the roads with us. From Massachusetts through New York, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, and Pennsylvania, we constantly cruised with a convoy. Is anyone minding the store or keeping the home fires burning?
Granted, we were traveling during peak summer vacation times — not our usual choice for trekking — but I was constantly amazed by the hordes at every comfort stop, gas station, and tourist destination along the route. Even in tiny Mt. Airy, N.C. the streets were full of vacationers looking for the perfect "Mayberry" souvenirs. For those of you too young to remember Andy Griffith's role as sheriff of Mayberry, Griffith based it on his hometown of Mt. Airy.
The town has parlayed this into a tourist industry that must be the envy of all other Southern towns. It's right off the highway and provides a welcome stopping point, with the added incentive of providing more Mayberry souvenirs per inch than all of the rest of North Carolina. We bought the requisite t-shirts, ball caps, and postcards, and we were not alone.
Back in the car, we again joined the snaking line of movement. Because I am the official navigator, I get to look around and observe the many details that my husband has to miss. I describe them to him at great length, and we spend a lot of time discussing and conjecturing We always wonder about the drivers who choose to hog the passing lane, and have some choice words for the reckless drivers who pass us on the right or use the breakdown lane for travel.
Not only do people move, but some of their homes do too. Lots of pop-up trailers, campers, and gigantic recreational vehicles — which we call land barges — shared the road. There were also many manufactured homes, traveling in pieces to their final destinations. Other wide-load trailers contained parts of bridges, other trailers, golf carts, and hunks of metal whose use we could only guess at. Some of them were scary travel companions when they started to sway or weave across lanes of traffic.
When we stopped for a quick meal at highway rest areas, we surveyed our fellow travelers more closely. Most were dressed as tourists, but some were in business wear, spending lots of time on cellphones. Truck drivers were easy to spot, often wearing company shirts and caps. They seemed to be at work even when eating, and watching the clock.
I admire their abilities to move such big vehicles with ease. My only gripe is with the ones who pull out to pass another truck while climbing a hill, and eventually slowing down so the two trucks travel side-by-side for a few very frustrating miles.
Every time we cross the Mason-Dixon Line into the Southern states, we discuss those two surveyors. They created an imaginary line, but it demarcates an actual shift in many real ways. Besides the obvious Southern drawl, many people who live south of the line are residents of small towns like Mt. Airy where life is lived more slowly and simply, and everyone drinks sweet tea or Pepsi.
I do enjoy visiting there, and it's worth enduring hours on crowded roads to get there. However, I am never happier than when I read the "Welcome to Massachusetts" road sign that signals the end of a trip.
Anne Horrigan Geary is a regular Eagle contributor.
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