Tuesday, November 18, 2014


I have traveled I-10 many times over the years.  It started some time back with road trips between Mississippi and Florida.  I became very familiar with the 296 mile stretch of highway along the panhandle between the western state border and the southern turn onto I-75.  The route is flat. Live oak trees line the highway.  This is a road filled with pockets of radio silence.  I come prepared with CD's and occasionally cassettes (yes, my car is equipped for both!) but I also enjoy catching the small town local radio stations I pick up, though fleetingly, along the way.  The programs are filled with local news, primarily the actions of the local high school athletic teams, and upcoming events such as pot luck dinners and swap meets.  I think of the closeness of the communities and the feeling of belonging. I sometimes 'wish I were there'. Today as I turn onto I-10 I know I am heading straight into a brewing storm.  A major cold front is coming preceded by a storm front.  It is coming in from the west and I know it is better to just drive straight through it than pull over and wait it out.  Visibility became poor and the hazard lights came not.  The speed dropped to 30 mpg and I assumed the white-knuckler grasp onto the steering wheel.  Staying in the far right lane I kept an eye on the white painted line marking the outer edge of the road and just held on.  I could see the sky getting lighter in the distance and I literally just road out the storm.  Not fun, at all.  The rest of the drive across the panhandle was rather uneventful, thankfully.  I stopped for gas at the same truck stop outside of Marianna that I have been to every time I travel this route.  After gassing up the car I went next door to the fast food restaurant for some simple road food.  That's road food for me but for people who live in the area it is a local dine-in restaurant.  Families, couples and workers were all taking the time to sit and enjoy their meals.  Interestingly enough, if you visit the same places over a period of time, you begin to recognize people you have seen in the past.  Even if you don't really know them, it feels like you do.  Vicky took my order.  I've seen her before.  She is in her late 20's or early 30's and has braces on her teeth.  For some reason I tend to focus on people with braces partially because I had braces at one time and I know what they are going through.  Also, adults with braces impress me because they have made a conscience decision to correct a situation that may have been bypassed in their teen years.  I noticed Vicky was in the rubber band phase of treatment.  I had asked her about a food item and she had to admit she had never tried the item due to her braces.  She quietly laughed. She is so sweet!  I asked her how long she has had her braces and she said thirty months.  Not ABOUT thirty months but exactly thirty months.  She knew.  The clock was ticking!  She had had some trouble straightening her teeth but she was in the home stretch.  We joked about occasionally breaking the rubber bands and the surprising snap they make.  Ouch, the memories.  I left the restaurant thinking of Vicky and suspected we would meet again someday, with or without braces.  Go Vicky!  I drove on toward Mobile, my destination for the night.  Just before leaving Florida I passed by Pensacola.  It is known for it's naval base, among other things.  Now highway infrastructure may not be all that special with the basic concrete grey color scheme built into the overpasses but every once in a while you pass a town that treats the driver to a visual art gallery display in unexpected places.  Pensacola is one such city.  The overpass columns are painted a light cream color and emblazoned on the columns are mini sculptures of six jets in the flying formation. The jets fan out across the columns and give them character.  Very nice.  I appreciate that.  Thanks Pensacola.  Onward.

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