It was a car trip I had not taken in many years.
My destination was Walt Disney World in Florida with hopes of seeing the old south even if it would be quarter-mile glimpses from my car windows. We often realize living in the North things seem to stay virtually the same. But that’s not the case in the Southern part of our country.
The Northern states provided me with not much to see except for tolls, traffic, distracted drivers and traffic congestion. Ah, the South. The Southern states had those Confederate flags, roadside stands with pecans and peanuts. The southern states with unique eating places and highways signs warning that Pedro is waiting at South of the Border; those Southern states with large palm trees and moss dangling from trees just feet away from whizzing cars.
But the truth is those nostalgic memories are just memories. The southern states show no Confederate flags, no roadside stands and I-95 has no South of the Border tacky billboards. What the states do feature is highways resembling airport runways with speed limits so high passing trees look like green slime on your car windows. Exits signs glare at you whizzing bye at 85 to 90 mph.
Hotel chains dominate the landscape replacing those one-floor motels of yesteryear. Gas stations are pumps with no Southern conversation. Restaurants are of the chain variety with Waffle Houses leading the way. Gone are the unusual diners of the Southern cooks, the mom and pop places with pickup trucks flooding the parking lot. Those trucks known for gun racks and the markings of the Confederate flag in the rear window. No, today it’s an exit in the South that looks like Queen Street or the Berlin Turnpike.
State Police seems to have abandoned hiding in the bushes from Virginia to Florida. Motorists own the roads whether talking on cell phones, eating with one hand on the steering wheel. Older model cars have dominated the Interstate with high-powered, flashy styles allowing for an array of colors passing on the left and the right.
I miss the old South. Before entering Virginia, I peeled my hands off the steering wheel after whizzing through the Northern states, even though Route 81 in Pennsylvania allowed a mellow drive with a sacrifice of one extra hour of driving. On the return trip, and visiting Atlantic City, I was forced to slowly enter and exit Baltimore and its endless new rollercoaster-like concrete ramps and construction signs and the boring circle around Washington, D.C. With my wife as my gallant navigator showing the way around Washington, we proceeded to play brake lights thru New York State. The last traffic congestion, as usual, Danbury and Waterbury. Finally home.
I hope the old West hasn’t changed. I miss the old south.