The Dixie Highway is past history, unlikely to be revived again; like the old soldier, it faded away across the River Styx of human memory. Unlike last year’s Route 66 which is living history, remembered and treasured by those who do and who don’t live on it. No status of frontier American mass transportation icon for DH. Except for the very, very occasional street name, no tangible tributes to the pioneer North-South route remain. It adds to the value of the hidden brick, sand and gravel sections I was able to discover.
Where did the 3800 mile trip take MS and me over the (mainly) old 2 and 4 lane highways and country roads?
Southbound. From Bloomington Indiana via Evansville, the Kentucky Land between the Lakes, to Nutbush City and Memphis Tennessee – basically a detour from DH. Then on across Tennessee to Lynchburg to rejoin DH. Georgia came next, Chattanooga, Atlanta, Albany – entering Florida near Tallahassee. Gainesville, Orlando (brick section), Fort Myers, Miami Beach and southern-most point in Key West.
Northbound from Key West up the Atlantic coast, Vero Beach, Cape Canaveral, Daytona and across the Occala Forest to Gainesville. Up north to Jacksonville, Savannah and Augusta. Greenville South Carolina, Ashville North Carolina over Lookout Mountain in the Smokys up to Knoxville for the closing chapter: Lexington, Louisville, Paoli, back to Bloomington.
A journey across 9 different states.
This back-country riding shows the USA to be an impromptu archeological site. Not by design, but by attitude. Fortunately and rightfully so, there is a serious sense of history. The rehabilitation of the early 20 century main streets / down towns in the rural towns. The historical markers. However, it is the attitude of waste that offers impressive historical perspectives. Old houses left to fall apart. Rusty cars dotting the landscape. (Flash: guy is riding his large lawn mower, steering it around the junk cars in his yard he seems to be treating like precious flower beds.). Rather primitive housing conditions in the outback woods. Dilapidated neighborhoods which bring up visions of the Depression. What onetime was, still is. An outdoor museum, vastly more interesting than the modern big city high-rises, the zillion gas-guzzling new cars screaming in hundreds of dealer lots to be purchased, the endless miles of repetitive commercial zones dominated by national chains, huge empty parking lots and inefficient traffic lights.
The spirit of DH is there to be found when riding at your ease with your eyes wide open along DH’s itinerary. The people along DH’s itinerary are a major part of it. The farmer with Frisian cattle (originated from Holland, my grandfather was farmer) with whom I can comparatively discuss the economy of farming and average milk production per cow. The many pro-life billboards in bible belt areas which take on a new meaning for me now that Clary and I will be first time grandparents mid-August (”What if you had not been born?”, “Heartbeat starts at 18 days” to quote a few). The shout from across the street: “Been traveling?” – followed by ‘Waw!’ upon hearing the answer. The many, almost daily narrow escapes inherent in long distance traveling. The magic of the country cafes and diners. The absurd encounters in hotels.
Writing impressionistic accounts of what is to be found along DH creates a continuous, real-time ’save as’ experience on the rider’s brain discs. The many known and unknown readers who travel with me. Essential parts of living the road.
The backbone of it all: the amazing symbiosis with 28 year old MS. Flawless performance of MS on riding days usually from about 8.00 to 18.00 hours or later with very little stops in between. No discomfort at all for the lone rider, easily riding 10 hours per day.
P.S. Both MS and I are (reluctantly) ready for MS to transfer into the hands and care of someone who appreciates her qualities and is certain to take her onto the road next year again. Details will be (shortly) in the buy-sell forum.