Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Highway notes

There is something brutal about this hugely democratic movement of people across America’s highways. It’s morning, I am at a Holiday Inn in Batavia, New York. Not one of my readers will have heard of Batavia. Or maybe they will have been here, for it is well represented by a clump of motels at the foot of an entrance ramp onto Highway 90.

The Holiday Inn has a lobby that smells of swimming pools. They all do. When I was young, motels had outdoor pools and you drove up to the door of your room in most every roadside inn (for the handful of years that I lived in the States then, my family was big on road trips). I’m thinking that the pools should have stayed outside because chlorine is only slightly better in smell than stale tobacco. (Thank God for nonsmoking rooms.)

We are looking to have a Bob Evans breakfast. Me, I have been won over by Starbucks counters with great coffee and boring but serviceable baked goods, but there isn’t one here in Batavia and so we are likely to order the traditional Bob Evans plateful of foods that do well with maple syrup (pancakes, French toast, etc). With weak coffee on the side. In thick mugs.

Then we will enter the stream of traffic. Pick up a ticket for the thruway, point the nose of the monster car west and push the pedal down. And I will stay in that position for hours, watching the sun move from behind me to in front of me.

My eyes will focus on truckers whose vans ask me to call random places to report on their highway behavior and on highway patrol cars that chase random sinners in the speed lane. I will count down miles to the next service area and then the next one. We will not stop at hardly any, by they are markers of progress. Nothing else gives me the feeling of movement. I am stuck on a highway that looks the same in Batavia as it does will in Toledo and Elkhorn.

Like millions others, we are off, ready to be sucked into the westbound lanes. To be spit out tonight, in Chicago.