Saturday, April 18, 2009

On the way to Arizona...

I hit the road today, with Reggie in the co-pilot seat and Missy hiding under the couch.

After a slow start, around 1pm, I left Alpharetta, GA headed for Prescott, Arizona for the first Overland Expo ( where BABS and The Greasy Beast will be on display for a crowd of over 300 attendees. But, more on that when I get there.

Right now it's raining, and I'm sitting in a Flying J parking lot near Olive Branch, in the far Northwest corner of Mississippi, just a few miles outside of Memphis, TN (yes, Memphis is right next to Mississippi.

Having lived the bulk of my life in Georgia, it's natural for me to compare every place I travel to my home state. Not that I think my state is better than any of the other 49, but you have to have some point of reference in order for the world to make sense, and Georgia is my reference.

In that vein, I couldn't help but notice how similar northern Alabama and Mississippi are to North Georgia -- or, rather, how North Georgia used to be. I'm talking about the countryside of North Georgia, just south of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where trees and streams and rolling hills define the terrain. A lot of that terrain has been (or is currently being) developed to accommodate the surge in population and the desire to live outside of the city limits.

Streams are being diverted (or destroyed altogether), lakes and ponds are being filled in, trees are being cut down, and houses and shopping centers are being planted in their place. It all happens so fast that we often don't even see it coming.

My drive through Alabama and Mississippi reminded me of how beautiful Georgia used to be. (Don't get me wrong, Georgia is still beautiful, but it's nothing like it was 20 years ago).

These two Southern neighbors are, as yet, untouched by development (comparitively speaking), and therefore are full of grand vistas of trees, rolling hills, and tiny valleys coming together in narrow streams with overhanging trees and an abundance of green.

In my travels, I've only crossed a few streams in my vehicles -- as most of the bridges I travel upon cross over other roads. But in Alabama and Mississippi, as I headed West over the relatively new Highway 78, there were very few crossroads. Almost every bridge I crossed spanned a beautiful stream or pond that would be completely missed by anyone in a car zipping along at 70mph. (Fortunately, my high vantage point in BABS allowed me to see what everyone else is missing. Unfortunately, because it is a new highway, there wasn't any room to pull the bus over for snapshots.)

It was truly refreshing, and encouraging, to see so much untouched Nature so close to a major highway this far East of the Mississippi River. But, it was also bittersweet... for the current Highway 78 is to be the future I-22.

Yes, another major Interstate Freeway is in the works, and I will tell you right now, that the vistas you see along Highway 78 today will be pockmarked with subdivisions, malls, gas stations, and shopping centers tomorrow.

Catch it while you can folks. It's a Vanishing America.

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