Thursday, September 1, 2011

(3) Road trip to Pennsylvania: Day 3 (blog) of day 1 (trip)

Just recently someone made the comment to me that they wish they could be where I am and see what I see. So with that in mind I set out on this road trip to take pictures of things that you wouldn't usually see in travel magazines. On the one hand I very much enjoy seeing the pictures that provoke a "oooh!" and "aaah!" response, but on the other hand I also enjoy seeing some of what is to the left and the right of that moment that is frozen in time. Does anyone else ever wonder that?

So to some a highway is a highway is a highway, but to me it is seeing what is to the left and to the right of the famous image that is always portrayed in magazines or on television. It is a taste of "real".

What strikes me often as very fascinating is how other countries are portrayed in a way that makes them look so much better than the place where you live. When you're marketing some place as a tourist attraction it makes a lot of sense, but what is beneath all of the glamour? Is there also "ordinary" the same as what we get bored with where we are everyday, or take for granted? Is there also crime and poor areas or dirty areas? No one likes to show those, huh? But when you get your head out of the cloud isn't that some of what you see everywhere in the world - even if in varying degrees?

Anyway... where were we?

I completely agree: wearing safety belts are wise. How some people drive without them I really don't understand. I feel almost "naked" without it on; so vulnerable. In some other places there were signs that said, "Seat belts for the next million miles"! I kind'a enjoyed the creative way of saying "always" instead of boringly spelling it out. Almost as if saying everyone should know it by now.
Well, well, what do you know: the same BP sign. I've seen this before!
About 350 miles into the trip (560km) it is time to refill on gas and check oil and tire pressure. Garett is being very responsible. Note the little device in his left hand: the gas station does not have a pressure guage for you to measure the air in your tire. You actually need to drive around with your own tire pressure guage. If you don't have one you're either someone who don't care about the right pressure or you're pretty darn good at sucking your thumb. You can either view this as something new to learn - yay! - or you can feel it as a big inconvenience. I think especially the ladies in South Africa often count themselves very privileged to have someone at the garage to help you with this kind of thing. For me the missing guage is rather annoying when I try to put air in my bicycle tires.  
HYUNDAI! One of the popular car brands here (although not exactly taking over the market), especially in the bigger cities I've seen more of them, and especially the Tuscon.
Approaching St Louis, Missouri - This is what a lot of the highways look like around the bigger cities. St Louis is also where Joyce Meyer lives. I love her ministry and what they do across the world.

One of the things that took me a while to get used to in the US is not just driving on the other side of the road, but that everything else that we take for granted so easily is also opposite, like the on- and off ramps on the highway. It is still - or was anyway until before this trip - quite odd for me to take an offramp to the right, or to watch out for traffic flowing onto the highway from the right hand side. Driving on these big highways (interstate) is not too hard because all the lanes on one side go in the same direction. Oncoming traffic is not really an issue - less that confuses your mind - and rather the same as driving a left hand drive vehicle on a South African highway. It sounds odd but it is almost easier driving on the big highways instead of a smaller road with two way traffic, believe it or not - for me anyway. What it helped me with a great deal was that the highways didn't scare me at all. I felt rather at home - just always having to remind myself that I need to move over to the right for an off ramp, that the fast lane is on the left (instead of on the right) and of course that the gear stick is also on the right in case I need to respond quickly. What I also liked about the bigger highways was that you could do a moderate speed that you felt comfortable with and there was room for other "Schumaghers" to overtake you with ease on the left or the right. I'm still only a "Schu" so far and working on it (*wink*)
There we go: St Louis, Missouri - officially
...the same kind of concrete divider in the middle like we're used to in South Africa...
...same kind of fly-overs and bridges that I know... The reason why this is so interesting for me is that such a big deal is made of South Africa being a third world country vs some larger countries in the world, and yet what are all the cool stuff that we have to enjoy and to be grateful for that is the same in the first world countries of the world! We're not that far behind in all regards. Or maybe the concept of third world country is often used in the wrong context.

Sometimes those who seek to "escape" the country to some place better make it sound like other places are heaven compared to what we know. I've often wondered just how true some of those stories are, or is it purely the perspective of someone desperately seeking greener pasture and through their eyes they only see the impressionable opposites of that which they are running away from.

For instance, I've heard people quote unemployment rates like other countries don't have any poverty whatsoever - I don't think that is true. There's always rich and poor, even if it is billions vs thousands. I don't think there is any place where everyone is only billionairs (although I did see an article on Yahoo the other day where rich people were/are planning to build their own island in international waters and for it to be recognized as their own country - if I remember correctly)...

I've even heard people talk about other countries saying that they didn't have any pot holes! Really?! Is that a reason to move to another country? Well, people, let me tell you: America does have potholes, ok. In case that is your reason for imagrating, then this is not the country for you! (*giggle*) Or otherwise you'd have to get over here and drive through all 51 states to determine which one you'd prefer living in. Might take you a while... (*wink-wink* *ha-ha*)
Yip! There's the state line. Almost missed it!
Next we have Indianapolis; the largest city that we drove past/through on the way. Garett was convinced that the highway around/through this baby would totally freak me out. Now he had me intriqued. If you want to get me fired up then tell me that something is hard or cannot be done. That's when I really want to do it! Even if just to prove a point to myself. I can be so stubborn sometimes, but in the same way I've done many things that others have said couldn't be done. In my mind I have valid grounds for my suspicion of "impossible". I was going to have to wait and see for myself... Can't say till you've experienced it for yourself sometimes. Unfortunately Garett doesn't know what it is like where I'm  from so he doesn't understand what I am used to or not. I have to keep that in mind. 
Outside of the cities much of the highway looked like this... (One thing that stood out for me are all the trucks on the road. They are huge when you drive next to them in a normal sedan. And they don't play around, I'll say that much. I don't know when last that many trucks overtook me. I don't feel intimidated that easily on the road, but I had a new respect for these trucks when we were done. They don't shlep along in the slow lane backing up the traffic. They motor and you get out of the way! However, I have to add: I came across only one truck driver that I thought was driving careless and inconsiderate - not just toward cars but even other trucks. Otherwise they are actually quite polite from what I've seen. 
Pocahontas..? Wasn't she some native Indian chick living in a forest on an island somewhere that was threatened by modern westerners and then she falls in love with one of them...? Hmm... maybe this is what those woods look like now and her home is just a half a mile from here... (*giggle*)  Most of what I remember about that movie is one of the songs in the soundrack, Colours of the wind sung by Vanessa Williams.
At first the landscape was nothing more than agricultural land; fields and fields and fields of mostly beans, corn and soy, but as we progressed westward the scenery became more luscious - I almost want to say it had more of a tropical feel to it, similar to driving to the Kwazulu-Natal coast. At this point in our trip it was also starting to feel a little hot in the car and the airconditioning was a very welcome cooling down. Don't know for sure if it felt tropical because I was hot and sweaty, or if I was hot and sweaty because it is more tropical...  
On the one hand one of the difficult things about the lush growth right next to the road, however, is that it makes it harder to spot deer running toward the road. "Now you don't see me. Now you do!" Now, maybe if you're driving an 18-wheeler... no problem for you - shame! the little deer :( But if you're just driving a regular car there is no way of knowing.

On the other hand it felt pretty darn intimidating over taking one of these huge suckers! Because of how fast they're driving it took a while to overtake them sometimes. I found that I had to concentrate on the road ahead extra hard or I'd start feeling "drawn" to the truck with it's huge wheels constantly turning in the corner of my eye, the loud noice of the road and the engin - Garett likes to drive with the windows down - and the movement of the road and the scenery on the side from the speed of my own vehicle. A few times I wondered - but just for one second - how it happens that two cars drive "into each other" side by side... Then I'd accellerate just a little and just get it over and done with. 


  1. September 2, 2011 at 5:56 am
    Garret hasn't experienced Galoolies Interchange at peak hour :O(I drive a Hyundai *smile*)

    1. September 4, 2011 at 2:56 am
      Maybe he'll experience it for himself one day; maybe I'll drive (Smaller cars seem to be promoted a little more now that the gas prices have increased as it has, otherwise it almost seems as if a small(ish) car is harder to come by. One thing that does make sense for me though is the snow conditions in winter. Maybe in the cities that element is different from the agricultural area that we're living in right now when it comes to driving conditions and a vehicle that is suitable…