TBT: Road Trip!

Note—when I first scheduled this post, I was still scheduled to go to Florida.  Due to The Virus afflicting one of my girlfriend’s sisters, we’ve postponed that trip.  So, instead, we’re going to do a little road-tripping around South Carolina this weekend.  We’ll be getting down to Florida in December, though, so while my return to Florida is delayed, I’m looking forward to visiting down there later this year.  Just pray for my sweet girlfriend—while we will have fun this weekend, I know she is heartbroken that she won’t get to see her family as planned.  —TPP

Tomorrow after school I’ll be riding down with my girlfriend to visit with her family in Florida.  After The Year of Universal Studios back in 2020, I haven’t made it back down that way in awhile, and I’m looking forward to a few days over Labor Day weekend in sunny central Florida.

We’ll be taking the Interstate Highway System most of the way, and I doubt there’ll be many backroads, but I’ve always enjoyed cruising the less-traveled pathways to see what little bits of Americana are out there, waiting to be discovered.  There’s still plenty of what John Derbyshire calls the “old, weird America” out there, and I love finding it (and, perhaps, living in it!).

Well, even if we aren’t hitting many backroads, I’m excited to be out and about on another footloose adventure!

With that, here is 22 July 2022’s “Road Trip!“:

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Revisiting Walking Across South Carolina

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post entitled “Walkin’,” in which I detailed the pleasures of short walks around town.  In that post, I also mused about long-distance walking, and even about its popularity in the 1960s and 1970s.  One of my readers and subscribers even noted the construction of The Palmetto Trail, a five-hundred-mile trail that cuts diagonally from the Upstate (the northwestern corner of South Carolina) down to the Lowcountry (the southeastern side of our State’s triangle), of which roughly 380 miles are completed.  That trail wends through State parks and towns, offering a variety of landscapes and scenes.

In listening to John Taylor Gatto excessively over Spring Break (and nursing a bad foot-and-ankle sprain), he frequently mentioned stories about famous individuals who completed massive, almost absurd tasks, often with little training.  For example, he frequently told the story of a six-year old Richard Branson walking home in London after his mother drove him around for a few hours, and then asked, “Richard, do you think you can find your way home?”  When the child responded yes, the mother told him to get to it, booted him from the car, and drove home.  Branson (per Gatto) said that after that experience, he was never afraid of anything again, and could face any challenge.

I’m not advocating we drop six-year olds off in the middle of nowhere and make them walk home (my niece is six, and while she is brave and confident, I shudder to think what might become of her if my brother pulled the same stunt).  But there is a real need for adventure in our lives.  There’s also something to be said for the benefits of taking on and conquering—or even just attempting and failing—a large-scale undertaking.

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TBT: Wayback Wednesday: Airlines; Back to the Grind

I flew to and from Indianapolis, Indiana this past weekend (as readers are wearily familiar by now), and it gave me another opportunity to interact with that most loathsome of institutions, the American airline.

Honestly, I was blessed with two easy, uneventful flights—no delays, no missed connections, no overly officious airport functionaries.  I even got two Coke Zeroes on my flight up.

One jarring element of flying was the abundance of mask propaganda at the airport.  Living in South Carolina—free territory—I seldom have to wear a mask anywhere anymore, so wearing one on the plane was a bit shocking.  A friend reminded me that I would need one, and that gaiters are not allowed, so I begrudgingly took a pack along.

In the Charlotte, North Carolina airport, one guy asked me, as I got into the security line, if I had a mask.  I started fumbling for it in my pocket, and he said, “You’re good.”  Apparently, he just wanted to ask make sure I had one so they wouldn’t boot me off the plane.  I did put it on before passing through security (where you have to pull it down so they can check your face against your ID), but ripped it off again as soon as possible.

I’m still blown away by how many folks wear them, but especially at the airport.  Out of the hundreds of people I saw, I was probably one of five people in the entire Charlotte airport not wearing a mask.  In the Indianapolis airport, there were even fewer facial nudists.

Regardless, it seems like a lot of the mask hysteria has died down.  Yeah, there was tons of mask propaganda plastered all over the Charlotte airport, and the flight attendants made a big deal about it rhetorically on the flights (especially the one from Indianapolis back to Charlotte), but I got the impression that if I wanted to sit maskless for the entire flight, no one would bother me about it.

The airline industry is probably the worst of all about treating human beings like cattle to be herded mindlessly on board flying metal tubes.  Probably only credit agencies are worse, and at least on a plane you get some pretzels (thanks to the peanut allergy folks for ruining something else for us).  I don’t think TransUnion is going to send me any treats anytime soon.

So if airlines are cooling on the mask hysteria, we might finally—finally—putting that absurdity behind us.

Anyway, I didn’t mean to go on a mask rant, but here we are.

With that, here is “Wayback Wednesday: Airlines; Back to the Grind“:

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Indianapolis Interim

As I noted Saturday, I was in Indianapolis, Indiana this weekend for my older brother’s wedding.  The last time I’d been to Indianapolis was twenty years ago, for a Church of God (Cleveland, Tennessee) Teen Talent competition.

This trip I did not get to see much of the city, as I arrived late in the afternoon Friday and flew back Sunday, and everything in between involved wedding events (and, of course, the wedding itself).

I’m notoriously bad about taking pictures, so I don’t have many of my own to share.  But the wedding was at Laurel Hall, which I’ve been describing to people as “a Gilded Age castle.”  It’s not properly a castle, but it’s certainly a mansion, and was constructed in 1916 as the residence of a wealthy family.  It served many functions, including as a children’s hospital, and a fraternity owns it now.

All that said, it was a very good trip, even if I had to fly to get there.

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More Georgia and South Carolina Backroads

As I noted in various updates about delayed posts, I was back in Athens, Georgia this weekend.  On the way over Friday, my GPS routed me a different way than usual, apparently due to a massive wreck on I-20.

The rerouting took me off I-20 at Lexington, South Carolina, taking me through painfully slow traffic in the bustling county seat before spitting me out on US-378 West, which wended its way towards the Upstate.

I then hit US-178 West towards Greenwood and Abbeville, transferring to various State roads.  I eventually ended up on SC-72, heading through Calhoun Falls at the South Carolina-Georgia border.

At that point, SC-72 became GA-72, which took me through Elberton and Comer, Georgia, before depositing me in Athens.

As many of my readers are not from South Carolina—or even from this country!—let me translate that for you:  I went through a lot of small towns in very rural parts of South Carolina and Georgia.

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TBT: Walkin’

The big “hit” piece (that is, the successful, well-liked post, not a piece attacking some famous personality) this week seems to have been my post about driving to and from Athens, Georgia.  In the spirit of forward motion and scenic trips, I thought I’d dust off this chestnut from 5 August 2020, right before the previous academic year began.

I’d just gotten into walking right before school resumed, and was hoping to get in a couple of miles every day.  That goal sure fell part quickly, and I realized I did not walk nearly as much as I thought I would at work.  It turns out that 10,000 steps a day is actually a lot of steps.

That said, I did manage to get in over 30,000 steps in a single day once in the past year:  when I spent an eighteen-hour day at Universal Studios.  Needless to say, I slept until nearly noon the next day.

But that outlier aside, I did not come close to achieving that dream.  When I dog-sat my girlfriend’s German Shepherd, we took some lengthy, sweaty walks.  I was hoping that Murphy and I would do the same, but the old girl doesn’t go much beyond the yard before she is ready to turn back for another round of water, snacks, and naps, so my dreams of long, energetic dog walks have been smashed on the arthritic knees of my ancient dog.

Or I’m just making a bunch of excuses for myself.  With that, here is 5 August 2020’s “Walkin’“:

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SubscribeStar Saturday: The High Life at Universal Studios

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Last weekend I embarked on my latest Universal Studios trip, and it was truly unlike any other park-going experience of the last year.  It was one of those brief moments where I glimpsed, however briefly, how the other half lives.

Thanks to the extreme generosity of my girlfriend’s mother (and the various discounts and perks she receives with her two-park Premier level Annual Pass to Universal Studios), we stayed at the Loews Portofino Bay Hotel, a hotel that starts at $300 a night, and that offers water taxi service to Universal City Walk.

We didn’t spend much time at the room—which, given the nature of it, was a bit like ordering a hamburger at a seafood restaurant—but that’s because our room keys also doubled as Express Passes for rides.  Right now, during the peak operating season, Express Passes go for north of $300 per person, per day.  That means one night at the hotel essentially paid for Express Passes for our entire party of four for the duration of our stay—one of the most compelling perks of shelling big money for the hotel (not to mention riding a boat into the parks is super fun and convenient, and hotel guests get early park admission to Universal Studios).

To add to the decadence—which, admittedly, was a bit of overkill—we had access to both nights of the June Orlando Informer meetup, which grants after-hour admission to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure parks, as well as unlimited food in the parks.

From an optimization standpoint, as my younger brother pointed out, it was not ideal.  If it was one of us footing the bill, and assuming we wanted certain perks, we’d go for either the hotel, with its built-in Express Pass perk, or the Orlando Informer event, which eliminates the need for Express Pass as attendance at the park is limited to meetup attendees.

From a standpoint of going all out, though, it was truly amazing.  I doubt I’ll ever have such a decadent and wide-open Universal Studios experience again, but I am grateful for the opportunity.  So for this edition of SubscribeStar Saturday, I’d like to dive into the eighteen-hour day my girlfriend and I put into the parks, followed by a far more reasonable twelve-hour day last Saturday.

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The Interstate

I made it back from my latest trip to Universal Studios after a long, tedious drive that took up the better part of Sunday.  I’d intended to hammer out a belated Lazy Sunday upon my return, but I was so wiped from the drive, I just watched television instead.

With all the driving on I-4, I-95, I-26, I-77, and I-20, I had ample time to think about the pros and cons of the Interstate Highway System.  I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with the Interstate.  On the love side of the equation, I appreciate the convenience of being able to drive vast distances in reasonable times.  The trip that took us around seven hours to complete yesterday (and that was with terrible traffic and inclement weather) would have taken, according to Google Maps, between nine and ten hours.  In reality, that would have been closer to eleven or twelve hours with stops, traffic, etc.

As an engine for economic growth, the Interstate is probably the best investment the federal government ever made.  It was pitched to Congress as a national security project—we needed broad, interstate boulevards for our tanks to deploy swiftly against a Soviet invasion—an approach that John C. Calhoun attempted as Secretary of War in 1817 (under the strict constructionist Democratic-Republican James Madison, Calhoun’s Bonus Bill faced a swift veto).  But the real benefit of the Interstate Highway System is its ability to move people and goods swiftly, cutting down on shipping and transportation costs, and making longer commutes feasible.

Granted, there were downsides:  the small towns and tourist traps alongside old federal highways and State roads.  Just as the old railroad towns withered up when the trains stopped running—or repurposed into some other form—many small towns died out when the Interstate diverted traffic away from them.  Of course, the converse is true:  many towns boomed when the Interstate weaved their way.

So, one could surmise I appreciate the Interstate for its convenience and beneficial qualities.  So, where is the hate?

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SubscribeStar Saturday: Adventures in Athens

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Last weekend, whilst pitching a fit about work, my girlfriend and I were exploring Athens, Georgia.  I’ve already detailed one part of that adventure, our trip to the Bizarro-Wuxtrey, a downtown comic book store with a great collection (and where I picked up Dracula: Vlad the Impaler, which I devoured liked the Count descending upon one of his victims).

The trip was a fun adventure through the famous college town and its environs.  It has been many years since I’ve been to Athens, and even then it was just to the University of Georgia campus to play in the University of South Carolina marching band, The Mighty Sound of the Southeast.  I don’t remember anything about it other than some vague memories of the buildings on campus, so this trip to Athens was really like going for the first time.

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