Early last May I left a soggy Texas Hill Country and drove directly to New Orleans to follow the Great River Road up the Mississippi. The seed for this adventure was planted in 1984 as I boarded a freighter in the dark of night somewhere along the river and spent two days winding down the big muddy and into the clear gulf waters on my way to Rotterdam.
The early roads followed the river. It was the channel for commerce. To trace that winding river was a very long, slow, and not unpleasant, way to travel. And to this day bulk carriers and fleets of barges transport over 500 million tons of goods per year, slowly. Silts from upstream continue to nourish this river valley and for 200 years have supported an agriculture industry with yields of 90% of the nation's exports and almost 80% of the world's feed grains and soybeans, along with livestock and hogs.
At one time over 600 Steamboats paddled up and down the Mississippi and her tributaries. Sadly many were scattered by explosions of boilers insufficient to their task, while others unwanted and unseaworthy met a more ignoble end and are perched at a pier as the entrance to a casino. Apparently you are never more than 100 miles from a casino along the 2500 miles bordered by 11 states that the river feeds and is fed by.
Sadly the small farms and small businesses and small towns are dying or mostly dead. The land is alive and well but it is now Big AgriBusiness. Fleets of giant air conditioned harvesters have weeded the small operators out. Folks followed the jobs and migrated to the cities or chemical complexes or giant refineries along the river. Once past the tourism of plantations and slavery, the little communities are mostly closed up. Schools vacant and punished, now parking lots for yellow buses to transport students to centralized facilities. Old garages and cafes are boarded up between the towns; now the usual suspects of fast 'food' chain gangs have replaced them. They perch like vultures, overpriced fuel and indigestion, around the bridges that cross this wide brown snake.
And as it turned out, I did not want to explore the cities and commercial strips after all: I was happy to meander these old roads.
All Journeys begin with hope; how they resolve is another matter.
exploring back roads
through forgotten places
seemingly empty spaces
capturing the heartland
You cannot depend on your eyes
The Long and Winding Road
Paul McCartney, from an interview in 1994, talking about writing this song, "I like writing sad stories, it's a good bag to get into because you can actually acknowledge some deeper feelings of your own and put them in it. It's a good vehicle, it saves having to go to a psychiatrist."
CamraCarma metal prints are bold; wall displays of a size, to command the space and maybe hijack the conversation.
Everyone has a car story.
May your trails be crooked, winding, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view. May your mountains rise into and above the clouds.