Sunday, October 22, 2006

Dragover Campground on the Ouachita River, Arkansas

Outside Elvis' "Graceland" home

Overcast and chilly this morning. Across the Midwest, a big weather front is descending from the north. For nearly two years, I've carried a balaclava in my gear. Just recently I started using it. It's quite a help in cold weather - really helps eliminate the bite of icy air.

I'm looking forward to camping again. I’ve been lazy and wasteful, too readily staying in hotels. Back out on Interstate 40 this morning, I find the driving experience very unpleasant, crowded as it is with trucks and motor homes, all jockeying for position.

I sympathize with the truckers, who have an essential job to perform. This country needs to eventually separate commercial and private vehicle highways. I could see I-40 as being one of the first to be dedicated to commerce.

To reduce truck traffic on the nation's highways, one thing American consumers could do is reduce their use of "disposables". Big bulky items such as paper towels, disposable diapers, napkins, paper bags, paper and foam dish ware (plates, cups, bowls, plastic flatware, etc.) These items occupy an enormous amount of volume in interstate hauling.

And think of how much trucking volume has been added in recent years with the "fashion" of drinking bottled water. It's an enormous waste, and in most cases, an unnecessary redundancy. The idea of putting water into plastic containers and shipping it cross country to communities that have plentiful supplies of high quality water is an absurdity. We have simply fallen for a highly-profitable marketing scheme.

I saw lots of motorcycles out on I-40. Most have been eastbound, packing gear and some with trailers. (Is there another rally in Florida?)

Skies began to clear a bit near Memphis, but the cold northwest wind persisted.

Inscriptions adorn both wall and sidewalk

As much as I enjoy the east, I was happy to cross the Mississippi, (what I consider) the beginning of the West. Space! Even if I have no right to step onto the land beyond the highway right-of-way, there’s a sense of the wide open.

Entering Arkansas, across the Mississippi from Memphis, it's a very different impression than entering the state through the Ozarks in the north. Eastern Arkansas appears more impoverished, and I-40 is a mess. The concrete slab pavement is patched with asphalt, which makes for quite a rough and jarring ride.

I hit the Cracker Barrel on the east side of Little Rock. This store seems poorly maintained, understaffed. At 3:30 p.m., a normally quiet time of day, there is still a 15-minute wait for a table. Do they have trouble finding workers?

I'm disturbed by the faces I see around me - many fat, unhealthy looking. What I'm seeing is not just a normal cross section of humanity, with it's "variety of shapes and sizes". It's a sickly corruption that reflects a lifestyle we are inured to in this country.

A few nights ago, I saw an "ABC 20/20" report on Mindless Eating, a recent book by Cornell University food psychology professor Brain Wansink. From his research, he concludes we eat with our eyes, not our stomach. The size of the container has a great deal to do with how much we eat. A larger plate, a wider cup, a bigger spoon - these will determine how much we eat. (Of course, marketers know this, hence the super-sizing of recent years.)

These reflections don't in any way interfere with my ordering the "Country Chicken", which is quite delicious!

After 5-1/2 hours on the road, my body is thoroughly chilled. I didn't notice the degree of hypothermia until I stopped.

State boundaries are so curious – such as Oklahoma’s panhandle, Arkansas “missing corners” or West Virginia’s northern horn. What brought them about? (And there's those states bordering the lower Mississippi River. The borders follow where the river once flowed, even though it now has meandered miles away. As the river moves states gain or lose territory.)

Prisons are clearly a thriving business across our nation. It’s an enormous industry. Aren’t we in fact using "slave labor" here? (I need to look further into what products are coming out of our prisons, and what compensation is received. We accuse the Chinese of using prison labor for production.)

Ran the tank down to less than 10 miles' range before happening upon a gas station outside Hot Springs. I was just beginning to wonder if I would run out for the first time.

Camped tonight at Dragover campground, on the Ouachita River, near Sims, and northwest of Mt. Ida, Arkansas. In the tent at 7:00 (sunset was about 6:30.) Cold here on the forested riverbank. Camping is free. A sign notes that due to budgetary cuts, they’re no longer charging! (I don't understand the reasoning, but I won't protest.)

Arkansas is my kind of place: no state police to be seen!

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