“. . . I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me, because the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones that never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop and everybody goes ‘Awww!'” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road
The next morning I was awoken from a deep, precious sleep by a phone call from a friend whose words made me think, just for a moment, in my half-conscious state, I might be driving entirely in the wrong direction. I was able to start the day pumped with adrenaline and could avoid the thin, stale coffee in the motel lobby. I stepped out into another glorious hot sunny day and saw a car under repair beside the parking lot that made me feel inexplicably comforted. I set off and quickly dispatched the remainder of North Carolina and as the border to South Carolina approached I saw more and more billboards advertising gawdy firework shops in that way every border looks between states that allow firecrackers and those that don’t. The opportunity could not be passed up, even if for just a photo of yellow roman candles.*
The closer I got to the Savannah river and the border of Georgia the more dense and lush the green of the land seemed to be. More palm trees clustered by the roadside, other trees grew taller. I wanted to call my friend who moved fairly recently from Georgia to Maine and ask her if her eyes were starved for green because the green of Georgia is intense and seems to wrap around the highway. But I had another task that took precedence; remember, I needed to find some shoes.
With the help of the my amazing wife, Meghan, back home at Command and Control at The Honey Exchange I plugged in coordinates for the Red Wing Shoe store in Savannah, Georgia, walked in and without hesitation bought myself a fantastic pair of new boots. And as long as I was in town I thought I’d better stop at the AAA office and get a map and a guide book so I could find a place to stay the next night. I didn’t have a map showing anything south of Washington D.C. as I hadn’t been this far south since I was a very young boy. Almost all I remember of that trip was the moss hanging from the trees. I have the clearest recollection of finding it ghost-like and spooky, and terrifyingly foreign. I have since come to appreciate its lazy beauty as it sways in the humid breeze and the triple-A office was shrouded in it. Sadly I needed to keep moving forward and, despite the success of my detour, I entirely missed the majestic old part of Savannah and saw only the side of town cluttered with strip malls and sprawl. I made myself a promise to allow some time on the next trip to take it in.
Finally I was off I-95 and heading northwest toward Mt. Vernon and as I got closer to the turn off the main road I saw signs for nearby Vidalia, Georgia. Then, once off the highway an onto the two-lane that would take me to my destination I began to see grand Southern homes and sprawling fields of onions. At our grocery store back home we can buy Vidalia onions and Meghan and I devour them. I don’t know if there is a season for onions and my timing was fortuitous or if there are always a few farms with huge boxes of onions, full to bursting and occupying whole yards. Along the road I could see once in a while an onion had bounced from a truck, exploded on the hot pavement, and left the air redolent of its sweet pungency. I felt I needed to take this smell home with me so I stopped along the road and bought a 10 pound bag of Vidalia onions from a man who sat proud and content beside a trailer full of his wonderful crop. He sat there in his summery chair, bright shirt, and a wide-brimmed hat that served both to shade his eyes and highlight his broad and genuine smile. I believe he was the happiest looking man I have encountered on this journey.And then, at long last, I arrived in Mt. Vernon. At one end of town stood a stately City Hall and at the other (and it’s the sort of town where you can very nearly see one end of town from the other) is the entirely unassuming Hardeman Apiary. I said hello to warm and welcoming people I only knew as voices on the telephone. They unhitched my trailer and promised to load it up and get everything set for the million bees and our journey home. I had been worrying and wondering about my plan for the trailer. For me this is the second such roadtrip in as many years. For the guys at Hardeman though, I am just one of countless people who have moved these packages in every direction, in every weather, for years and years. They know what they’re doing; they’ll set me up. I hope we have some time tomorrow the morning when I can get some better photos.
Now I’ve got to get a good night’s sleep. It’s a long way home and the bees don’t like it when we stop.
*Disclaimer, for all my overweening Yankee neighbors with jittery dogs: I searched the entire giant warehouse for roman candles without report. They may go “Pop” but they don’t whistle or go “bang!” This hunt took quite some time as I could not very well ask, at a store whose motto is “So loud it hurts,” where the un-loud roman candles were kept. I need to retain at least a small bit of my dignity.