Friday, May 12, 2006

Heading South: May 6, 2006

Because of a couple of technicalities and minor issues I won't go into here, the roadtrip I had planned for driving from Cincinnati to West Palm Beach happened in an abridged form. No trip through the Carolinas, no Dylan concert, no visiting my old pen pal from junior high and high school in South Carolina. But no worries; I have plenty of time for road trips this summer. Instead, I took the direct route from Cincinnati, straight down I-75, through Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and into Florida. And from there, over to I-95 and straight down the coast. It's a great drive, and I haven't done it since early college, so I enjoyed it thoroughly--for the most part.

I sort of held my breath all the way through Kentucky and sped past Lexington to avoid any emotional residue from my recent breakup (she lives in Lexington, and over the past year and a half, I've spent a lot of time there and fell in love with the whole area). Throughout that stretch, I focused on the road and tried to pretend Kentucky isn't actually as beautiful as it is. But there's no denying it; central and southern/south-eastern Kentucky are gorgeous. The hills which slowly become mountains calm me like few other places. Fortunately, this extends to eastern Tennessee and western Carolina as well, not just Kentucky. So if/when I ever live in southern Appalachia, I'm certainly not restricted to Kentucky. Asheville and Knoxville are currently competing for my top spot.

Which brings me to this blurry, though loaded image (emotionally loaded for me, anyway):

However, I soon enough entered Tennessee and was so relieved. As I said, the southeast does something to me, which I can't explain or understand. Why do I love it so much? That whole region has always--since I was a kid--created some incomparable peace within me. Right now is honestly the most tumultuous, confusing, unsteady time of my life. Yet the tension in my head and neck relaxed for the first time in weeks as I drove through the foothills of Appalachia and into the Smoky Mountains. I don't get my love for it, since it's such a conservative area, where I might not be such a welcome transplant. But I've stopped questioning my affection and just accepted it. Being there makes me happy, so who cares why.

I believe I could easily live in either Asheville or Knoxville and have a life I love. I'm not sure what I would do at either place, but I'm trying not to care about that right now. For now, I think environment needs to be more important to me than my career. Being in flat areas, like St. Louis, makes me anxious and exposed; I've always been uncomfortable about that aspect of living in St. Louis. It's more than simply aesthetics for me. Yeah, I think mountains are more attractive than flat land, but it goes beyond that and affects my well-being. Hills and mountains feel secure, protective.

To totally switch gears now, I'm going to display some human-made things I saw from the road that got my attention:

First, it's another creepy-ass cross, just like the one in Effingham, Illinois! But this one's in Tennessee! This one doesn't look quite as big, but it looks to be made from the same cheap aluminum sort of material as the other one. I wonder if they're affiliated in any way, or if two people or groups of people miles from one another had the same tacky idea simultaneously.

The Git 'n Go Market. Name says it all.


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