Thursday, October 3, 2013

The joys of a long, leisurely drive

There's an upside to the transportation technology that allows travel on demand: You can be just about anywhere you wish, when you want. But there's also a drawback: Things you'll miss -- things you might have seen had you made your trip a more old-fashioned way.

Sept. 27, I flew out of CLT at 6 a.m. and by 4 p.m., was sitting in Madison, Wis., at the University of Wisconsin's Memorial Union terrace, with a mug in my hand and Lake Mendota in my view... after having brunch in Milwaukee, and then stopping at a state park en route to Madison.
Two days later, after making side trips to Mukwanago and Edgerton, and tooling around Madison and Milwaukee, I was back in Charlotte.

It was fun. It was also fun-in-a-flash.

In contrast, I made a similar trip in July that took 10 days. Sure, there was more time at my assorted destinations in Wisconsin, but there was also the plus of simply making the drive.

With kids now grown, flying somewhere is easier and less expensive than it was when family travel required mountains of suitcases and additional tickets.  Back then, we would just drive.

This July's drive -- I-77 North to Charleston, W.Va.; northwest on U.S. 35 to cross the Ohio River at Point Pleasant, W.Va., and on to Dayton, Ohio; then Interstates to Wisconsin -- was a slow-motion visual treat. Along the way, I enjoyed

* the morning fog that wrapped I-77 in Virginia, and which parted on occasion to reveal stunning valley views.

* stopping for lunch in Nitro, W.Va., at the Biscuit World, where the sign advertised the "Politician Biscuit"...  made of baloney.

* the rolling hill country of southeast Ohio, which I'd never seen before.

* the amazing growth of wind farms, notably between Indianapolis and Chicago, where 600-some turbines lined both sides of  I-65. An out-the-window shot is at the top of this page. (The sprawling facility, Meadow Lake Wind Farm, has its own page on wikipedia).

* downtown Elgin, Ill -- far enough west of Chicago to sport a picturesque downtown, but close enough to the metropolis to lure slickers to the Grand Victoria Casino boat permanently moored on the Fox River.

There were also serious things to view. Since 2011, Wisconsin has been in the throes of political turmoil not that different from what North Carolina has experienced since the 2012 elections. After two years, the acrimony among Badger citizens is visible on bumper stickers, yard signs (both hand-out and home-made) and -- on the Capitol grounds in Madison -- official signage.

If time is not an issue, I'll always prefer driving to flying. You see the country closer.

After all, car windows are so large and windows on a jet are so small.