I just completed a 4.5 day road trip to Texas and back. 2 and a half days there, 2 weeks in Texas, and then 2 days back.
My early conclusions: America is great; Springsteen writes with truth; you can plan road trips around music; and family is great. This may be a post in many sections, so I’ll probably add in the comments as I go along.
Let’s deal with America is great. To give you a sense of the trip, we left Virginia on Saturday morning. West Virginia by midday to collect my son. Then Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas and finally Texas. They’re all very different states. Coming back was Texas to Louisiana, then Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, WV and home.
So what leads me to the conclusion that America is great? Part of me thinks that you have to do a road trip like that to get to the conclusion. It’s a sweeping epic that just unfolds in front of you. I’ve been interested in American history for ages, and I never shook the feeling that every inch West we went had been explored and carved out by someone in a bygone and forgotten time.
From mountains, to flat farm land, to rolling hills, to swamps, the third largest bridge in America….so much to see if you keep your eyes open. Place names that tell you the history of a location in one or two words.
Gas stations that change from two pumps to (and I shit thee not) 200+ pumps. All of them serving coffee, and some of them with cooked to order food (Buc-ees, I love you).
And the humanity. Just….everyone. It was like living through a series of Hopper paintings. Great big truckers; impoverished janitorial staff. But the image seared in my head is when we stopped in Waco. We got out to get our licence, and as Sharon walked the dog, I watched as an older gent eased himself out of his car to his walker. Stiffly erect, smart trousers, white shirt, bolo tie, and a ten gallon at least hat. And a half mile from there to a BBQ place where lawyers, truckers, cowboys and everyone was waiting in line to order their food, as the brisket was cut expertly by a man with a Very Sharp Cleaver who didn’t look at the meat as he cut it. Exquisite food, two great sides, white bread….and no fingers. It takes me as long to cut a carrot as it took him to slice 5 pounds of meat. Artistry.
As I’ve said before, America is a complex country. But we got back and I realized it’s just a country. Filled with people who have hopes and dreams and problems all of their own, and most of them just want to get by. And most of them just want to be decent to their fellow man and recognize that we’re all in for the same ride.
We went to a place in Lake Charles to pick up lunch. Rickety tables, chairs with burst seats. The Yelp reviews were looking misplaced. My accent in Louisiana clearly picked me as not from round these parts, and I’ll be honest, I was struggling with the menu. I settled for asking about the Billedaux Special, and the advice from the rest of the cafe was…just the right side of the line between gentle mocking and helpful. It was inclusive, and, well, just made me glad that we picked there for lunch.
There’s a bunch of asshole politicians. And a bunch of loudmouths. And they’re on both sides of the aisle. But your average American is a good person, and made me glad to be here.