Wednesday, April 8, 2009
Notes and observations
There's a town in southwestern Virginia named Groceclose. That doesn't touch Bucksnort or Birdsong, Tenn., but it's close. Groceclose. In Tennessee, I crossed through the Nolichucky River Basin.
The highways themselves create their own microclimates, at least this early in the year. I kept seeing beautiful foliage budding, and kept getting off the road to paint what I was seeing. But when I'd leave the highway, I'd find that the foliage I'd seen there was at a different stage than the foliage I was seeing here. Off the highway, everything was back a week or so. Finally, it dawned on me that the open space of the highway, and the heat absorption of the pavement make a climate that's warmer and sunnier than what's off the road.
The colors of spring, I've realized, are just like the colors of autumn, except that they're lighter, much lighter. There's lots and lots of white in them.
In Virginia and eastern Tennessee, the soil is full of clay. Where it's turned, it's orange, it is so rich with clay. In western Tennessee, the land flattens out and dries out. It takes on this white color, like the color the soil is in Oregon - it looks like it's leached salt, though I'm pretty sure it hasn't.
The bridge over the Mississippi, from Memphis to Arkansas, is truly horrifying. It's high and narrow and old and loooong. Chunks are missing from the pavement, and about halfway across the bridge, all the trucks pull to the right for a weigh station. They do so without even looking, it seems. I don't remember being happier to get off a bridge in a long time.
I passed through Brinkley, Ark., which bills itself as "the home of the ivory-billed woodpecker, rediscovered in 2004."
At the Roadside Barbecue, you can get a barbecued bologna sandwich. The woman behind the counter told me that they call it "round steak." I just got regular barbecue, and it was delicious. All over all the walls, people had signed their names. And the bathroom, which was nearly as hot as the kitchen (my guess is they share a wall) was absolutely spotless, with a no-nonsense cleanliness-checking schedule posted on the wall.
I'm dieting while traveling, which has its tough moments. In Virginia, I went to Subway, ordered a salad, paid for it, and then was told that there were no forks. I got my money back, he got his sandwich back, and the woman at the next Subway looked at me a tad askance when the first thing I asked was whether they had forks here.