Your portly is hitting the road for sunny (and humid) Florida for a few days at Universal Studios (more details on that tomorrow). I’m convoying down in my 2017 Nissan Versa Note with my girl and my younger brother and his family, with plans to rendezvous with our older brother and his girlfriend at the airport in Orlando.
I am very much a homebody by nature, which has come in handy during The Age of The Virus. That said, I’ve tried to get out more over the past year and see more of my great State, South Carolina, as my various festival trips from last fall indicate. I’ve also developed quite a fondness for taking the back roads, though my desire to get where I’m going usually overrides the romance of driving down barely-maintained rural routes.
Recently, I did take an extended back path from Columbia to Aiken, South Carolina. I was willing to add twenty minutes to my drive to see some nature. The route took me through a forgotten triangle of countryside, bounded by I-20 to the east and north and I-26 to the west (there’s no “bottom” to the triangle, so it’s more of an right angle). That took me through Pelion and New Holland, the latter of which was largely cattle ranches and huge, open swaths of green pastures.
At one point on that drive, I reached a fork: straight was a purely dirt road, right was a barely-paved surface that continued the State road on which I found myself. Not wanting to trespass inadvertently, I stuck to my GPS-mandated trail and eventually got back onto real surface roads.
Taking back roads is slower (and potentially more dangerous, especially at night), but it gives one an opportunity to see sights few others ever see. I always wonder, too, what it’s like to live way out in the country. I live in a small town that’s twenty or thirty minutes from most major amenities, but we have a grocery store, a Family Dollar, and a Dollar General in town—enough to get by in a pinch. Pizza is a forty-minute round trip, but I can always just pick up a Red Baron at The Pig.
But places like New Holland are way far out. What do you do for supplies? Do you make weekly (or monthly) supply runs? Do you just resign yourself to spending a ton of money on gas? For that matter, where do you get gas?
These aren’t meant to be the snarky observations of a doughy city slicker. Far from it. I’m just genuinely curious what the real rural life is like.
Another thought always occurs to me when driving through farmland and small towns: what would it be like to traipse across this area on foot? It’s impractical (and incredibly dangerous) here in rural South Carolina, but people do it all the time: a perennial sight is a disheveled character (often in pajama bottoms and a t-shirt) walking with a couple of yellow plastic bags from Dollar General. I spotted one such character on that drive. I didn’t hit the next Dollar General for miles. Had he visited that location? Was there another one, just off the road, that I missed? Or had he really walked miles and miles to pick up some sundries? I suspect he had.
Today it’s all Interstates and city driving, so nothing too off-the-beaten path (barring some major traffic jam or the like). It’s not the most exciting driving, but at least I’ll have someone riding with me. We’ll also make the obligatory Cracker Barrel stop at some point, hopefully for a filling Uncle Herschel’s (I like the eight-ounce hamburger steak myself).
See you on the other side, Portly Fans.