Today’s drive wore me down. Meghan had convinced me to add an extra day to the Million Bees Roadtrip this year to try to give the trip some semblance of the “vacation” I always joke that it is. So I divided the downward leg into three days instead of two and have added some excursions and diversions. Tomorrow I don’t have any driving to do and I’m going to give Bourbon country the attention it deserves; that should be fun. Today had a mere five hours of driving but it felt endless. I spent a lot of today fretting about Saturday’s 24-hour drive.
The time behind the wheel yesterday and today was fraught with contradiction and it left me feeling unmoored and rudderless. The weather is making me anxious. It’s been very rainy and I keep being reminded of last year’s difficulties. The light through the low clouds and drizzle amplifies the greens of the landscape. Pennsylvania was electric. The breathtaking mountains of West Virginia are more vibrant than ever but navigating tortuous roads in the rain is wearisome. Through long stretches of each day the direction of the sun was barely discernible; it cast no shadows. In know intellectually I am travelling vaguely west-southwest but the sky provides no sense of bearing. The light also gives no indication of the time of day so the road is giving me an unsettling, hypnotic sensation of being removed from time and direction. At some point in Pennsylvania I pulled off the highway to buy a few snacks and soft drinks for the road. I found a mall with a Wegman’s grocery and found myself with a dizzying sense of having been there before. I knew I had never stopped in this part of the state and it wasn’t déjà vu I was feeling. It was a sense of sameness. It’s one of the curses of trying to go long distances efficiently. I don’t have time to browse so I keep finding myself in malls that feel exactly the same. I’ve written before about this sort of commerce being an invasive species. I feel about Home Depot the way some people feel about Japanese Knotweed. Still, you have to admire the two things for their similar ability to out compete the things around them. They are what they are because they keep winning. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t prevent the invasives from destroying your garden.
As the owner of a small local business my need for simplicity and reliability are often in conflict with my better instincts. I am an unapologetic coffee snob and I know I can get a dependable latte at Starbucks. Yesterday I wrote about looking for a Starbucks and coming across a wonderful local coffee shop. I had the same good fortune the day before when I stopped for a tank of gas in Westford, Massachusetts and came upon the most wonderful smelling business I have ever had the pleasure of entering. The Stem and Bean is part coffee shop, part flower shop. It is entirely heaven. If you are ever anywhere near Westford, just go there. Even if you need neither coffee nor flowers, go there. Take my word for this.
I’m going to stop complaining and get some sleep. I’m just tired and there are silver linings in the clouds. Both yesterday and today the day ended with a lifting of the gloom and I was treated to clear skies and a beautiful sunset in both Virginia and Kentucky. I lucked out once again when I found a Mexican restaurant in Lawrenceburg and had the best Carnitas I’ve had since leaving Chicago. (If you find yourself in this part of KY, stop in at La Isla. It’s delicious.)
And I’ll leave you with this thought: Whenever possible, buy what you can from an independent local business. You’ll still find plenty of reasons to end up at Starbucks, or Wegmans, or Home Depot. But believe me, your dollars mean a lot more to a hard working small businessperson with a family to support than they do to some anonymous shareholder.