The Carpet Bagger's Journal — moving from NYC to Mississippi

January 24, 2010

America’s hidden autobahn

Henceforth I ask not good-fortune—I myself am good fortune;
Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,
Strong and content, I travel the open road. — Walt Whitman, from “Song of the Open Road”

America has a secret, all you New York commuters, carefully finding a place in stop and go traffic.  That secret is the joy of a two-lane highway with nothing behind and nothing in front.

I discovered Whitman’s open road in Alabama on my way to Vicksburg — one lane going my way, no smoky to my bandit, and I drove for hours at 85 MPH on an absolutely empty straight shot toward my destination.  I might have hit a possum in my haste, had I hit anything, but in fact I hit nothing.  Not even a leaf was taken  out of its path in the wind by my one-lane drag race with myself.

New Yorkers don’t really believe this American possibility — good, empty road with nothing in our way, not even in rush hour, but I promise you in the deep South, tax dollars have built solid highways where there are no blizzards and no mass commutes.

They are a joy — roads with speed minimums.

However, I discovered a darker aspect of the lovely isolation of these paths last Wednesday night.

I was on my way home — three hours from one place to another, with nothing in between — and it was dark, a dark New Yorkers have never experienced on the road.  The emergency broadcast system interrupted my Mississippi Public Radio “All things Considered” listening.

This was not a test.

I was in an area where I was in danger of golf-ball sized hail hitting and shattering my windshield, tornadoes — As a New Yorker, I have every strategem under my belt about avoiding potential muggers, but tornadoes?  What does a gal in designer shoes do with that kind of danger? — and a definite promise of a severe lighting storm destined to fell trees and wreak havoc, let loose the dogs of war.

If I had been hit by a tree or some golf-ball ice, nothing would have heard me scream before I  died.

Undestand that on this stretch of road, the only settlement of humanity I saw was a bunch of RVs amid the pines hung all of them with the Confederate Flag — yes, I thought it was a KKK compound (Kompound?), too.  Honestly, if they were parked in this mess, they were in more trouble than I was on my way home, now slowed to 50 MPH, despite all emptiness, because I couldn’t see in front of me or behind me except when the sky lit up with dracula-movie lightnihg, only there was no Transylvanian castle in which to spend the night.

I prayed loudly to myself as I drove for the next hour and a half home.  The emergency broadcast system interrupted me several more times to let me know the many ways I might just die right now or in a few minutes,  but I pushed forward, really having no better alternative than to outrun the storm such as I could.

On a clear day, Whitman’s open road is the American dream. There is nothing in one’s way.   As he says, I myself am good fortune on these roads.  However, after some warning signals and dire computerized-voice cautionings, I am my own malediction on this road in stormy weather.

The German’s autobahn links large populations together, and they collectively speed between them.

Our highways with no hindrances are between little places, clusters of humanity nestled together between places, were you to fly over them at night, enveloped in unrelenting shadow.

America is its roadways. The dream is a clear shot wherever we’re headed, but forget about rescue in a time of extraordinary adversity.  Rescue will come too late to save us, unless it descends from God.

I thank God for my safe return home, where my new husband poured me a  glass of Jack and covered me with a blanket.  I was weeping.

I’m looking forward, however, to my next foray on that highway.  The weather report predicts promising clarity.

I am an American, after all.


  1. As always, I enjoyed your prose…

    Comment by Gerald Giordano — January 25, 2010 @ 6:55 pm | Reply

  2. wow a three hour drive. is that like a three hour tour? remember Gilligan’s Island?

    what concerns me is will you get abducted by aliens?

    Comment by Yarrow — February 1, 2010 @ 4:06 pm | Reply

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