Friday, July 11

My Own Red States Tour

Greetings from the road! My wife Betsy and I am out to see friends and family while simultaneously doing some business and attending a national conference. While not intending to emulate Chris Hume's Red State Road Trip 2, I have my own observations of our travails.

Day 1: Drove from Iowa City to Mossy Grove, Tennessee

The road was less congested and I saw fewer license plates from out-of-state than in the past. The big thing I noticed were the number of trucks rumbling along. The cost of diesel along the way varied from $4.31 a gallon to $4.63. Given the amount of trucking that is done and the cost to deliver goods over long distances, it should not surprise anyone that the cost of most everything is going up. My friends who support locally-grown initiatives should be able to make the point that locally grown also means less expensive, as well as healthier. Of course the down side of locally grown is when floods drown your crops.

Our first stop was in a little town in Missouri called Frankford. There are about 351 who live there. My wife needed to use a restroom so we stopped at the only general store there. While I perused the map, she went in and related that she was greeted with Missouri warmth--grunting and figurepointing to the bathroom. She told me that the men there were drinking coffee and griping about George W. Apparently they are not benefiting from high gas prices or uncertainty about their crops.

We went through St. Louis and crossed over into East Saint Louis. I will say that compared to ten plus years ago, East St. Louis is looking a lot healthier; apparently healthy enough for Larry Flynt to have a "Hustler" Club there off the interstate. Road Porn, yee haw!

We stopped in Evansville, Indiana along the way to get a bite to eat at a restaurant called LA--so much for eating locally--right? Evansville borders Kentucky and is the largest metropolitan community in the tri-state area.

From there we trapsed across a couple of "parkways" and found ourselves in Bowling Green, Kentucky--home of Western Kentucky University--the Hilltoppers, I believe. I saw a bunch of guys in hard hats with coolers walking along the roadside. The looked hot and dirty and so I assumed they were miners, at least until I looked across the road and saw the WKU football stadium which apparently they are working to enlarge--so much for stereotypes!

I will say that the natural aspects of Kentucky are amazing--rolling green, green, and more green. Some of the small towns along the way have seen better days, but rustic seems to fit the landscape there.

As we got into Tennessee, my sense of direction took leave of me and we wandered a bit off the track. Eventually we got to Wartburg, where my friend Charlie met us at the local Sonic drive-in restaurant and got us back to his place, which entailed going up and down steep, gravelly, one lane "roads." We ate late, but the blackberry cobbler was worth the wait!

Charlie and Phyllis are our great friends that we have known since our days in Texas. Charlie works for Big Guv'ment and Phyllis is an artist. They live in a great log house--to call it a cabin does not do it justice. They have a garden and raise chickens and their home faces a mountain range--though, perhaps technically, they are hills. With their own well water and five acres, they could be self-sufficient. But, they kind of like electricity and haven't harnessed wind power--yet.

Day 2 and 3: Drove from Mossy Grove, TN to Washington, DC.

Betsy's plans were to stay with Charlie and Phyllis while I made my foray up to DC to deliver a report to the National Career Development Association and do some networking there. The drive was pretty straight forward up north interstate 81 to US 66 (yes, I got my kicks on route 66) to the outer loop to 270 to getting lost in Maryland. Oh and my car air conditioner decided to accumulate all of its condensation in the carpeting of the front floorboards along the way--not good.

My friend George Wimberly, who I used to work with at ACT put me on the straight and narrow to find his place in Olney and I bunked in with him for my stay. George is the Director of Professional Development and Social Justice at the American Educational Research Association these days. He has become a gym rat and was looking ripped (not LL Cool J ripped, but in the general neighborhood). DC agrees with George, who, like me, originally hailed from the great state of Ohio.

We commuted in on the Red Line to DC and I decided I wanted to get off at K street where George's office is located. Bad move. It was 23 blocks in the mid-morning humidity and rain of DC, meaning I arrived soaking wet and sweaty--perfect... This led to my first observation of DC, everything drips there--whether it is the dripping of sarcasm, sincerity, jewelry, or condensation on the chrome handle of a urinal---there is much dripping. Fortunately conference business went well.

While sitting in a conference lounge, CNN was making a big deal about what Jesse Jackson said "off mike" on Fox. The media loves "Gotcha!" Fortunately, it is likely to help, not hurt Barack Obama that Jackson did it. Oh, and there was a story about what may have been the stone that was used to seal Jesus' grave, but that was not as "sexy"--although the back and forth between biblical scholars smacked of Hannity and Colmes.

George and I reconnected in the evening and I got to see the working class of DC at a local hangout called the Matchbox schmoozing, boozing, perusing, and excusing (typically to crack text on their Blackberries or get/make a cellie call). Many snippets of conversation were mixed with the business of government and business of getting busy--surprise, as the average age of those I was around was the mid-twenties.

More to come.

For Chris Humes latest installment, go here.

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