Truth be told, we might be in Kansas but we are surely not in Silicon Valley.
We are still on the pre-adventure (driving trip to Texas), but already it’s clear that the insular world of the San Francisco bay area does not define America. We’ve always known that, of course, but it’s the little things that impress me.
Connectivity: We’ve spent days (several hundred miles) with zero to very little access to the internet. So far that hasn’t killed us.
Friendliness: People just come up and talk to us. Strangers! We overheard a guy on a bench muttering to his friend because we didn’t stop to chat. Small town folks easily identify strangers. One guy walked up and asked if we’d taken a wrong turn in Albuquerque. I responded “I knew we should have taken a left!” He shook his head: “too much Bugs Bunny.” He went on to comment on Brighton’s usefulness as a hunting dog, said he’d be great at chasing down prey but we’d need a “kill dog” as part of the pack. Gulp.
Dying small towns: Lots of the little towns that we saw, especially in New Mexico and Oklahoma, are not doing well. There are many abandoned houses and stores, and run-down shopfronts. Families are smaller, farms and ranches are more mechanized but still hard work for modest financial rewards.
Some towns are thriving. St. George Utah, which I recall as a bump in the road, is a vibrant city.
Different fast food: Either (or both) Sonic Burger and Subway are in many towns that don’t seem big enough to support a franchise restaurant. I don’t understand the appeal of Sonic Burger, which is modeled as an old fashioned drive-in. Eat in your car? Blech. But it does illuminate why McDonald’s is under pressure as the ubiquitous American fast food. (As an aside: it’s not like we eat at these places, merely observe them.)
Varying scenery: We’ve seen spectacular scenery, and some not so much. Mike Keller steered us to the Oklahoma panhandle, with promises of untouched prairie and quiet back roads. The rest of OK, he said, is not so interesting. I think he was pulling my leg, else my aesthetic sense is too coarse to appreciate said beauty.
Politics is an obvious distinction between the San Francisco area and the heartland. So far we’ve been reluctant to engage anyone in a discussion of politics, in this year of the very strange presidential race. At some point along the way I hope to screw my courage to the sticking place and talk to strangers about their political views.