Highway marker for the Highlander Folk School on U.S. 41.

November 23, 2014
by David Ryan
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Wandering Along U.S. 41 to Monteagle Mountain in Tennessee

A little less than two weeks ago while visiting my mother-in-law in Manchester, Tennessee, the dogs and I took a road trip from Manchester and headed south along U.S. Highway 41 to Monteagle Mountain on the Cumberland Plateau.

This stretch of U.S. 41 is perfect for a two-lane road trip. The traffic is light to almost non-existent; most of the traffic now goes on Interstate Highway 24. The Interstate is far enough away from U.S. 41 so you don’t even know it’s there. As a result, you can relax and take your time without feeling pressured by other traffic. This is the type of road that Bill Bryson described while driving around Australia in his book, In a Sunburnt Country.

A road like this rare. A few years ago I read an article in The New Yorker about Jack Kerouac and his 1957 novel, On the Road. The article mentioned that the book was actually nostalgia for driving in the 1940s, right after World War Two, when there were three million miles of highway for 38 million vehicles. Today the number of cars is close to 250 million while the highway mileage has only grown to a little over four million miles.

No wonder so many of today’s roads are too wide, too crowded, too fast, and too disconnected from the landscape for a relaxed and pleasant drive. So when you find a quiet and pretty two-lane highway, drive it.

U.S. Highway 41 south of Manchester, TN

U.S. Highway 41 south of Manchester, TN

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Wouldn't this be a great place to eat lunch if you worked in the office building?

November 13, 2014
by David Ryan

If You Can Wander Here, You Can Wander Anywhere

While traveling to Tennessee to visit my wife’s mother, we stopped in Conway, Arkansas for a couple of days to visit my wife’s sister and her family. Because we were traveling with dogs, we stayed in a Motel 6 overlooking a Walmart parking lot. After having breakfast at the Waffle House next to the motel, it was time to walk the dogs. And nothing says, “let’s go for a walk”, like the combination of a Motel 6, Waffle House, and Walmart.

The only thing better than having a Waffle House next door to a Motel 6 is have a Walmart on the other side.

The only thing better than having a Waffle House next door to a Motel 6 is to have a Walmart on the other side.

But as we started, good things began to happen. We immediately spotted a gap in the motel parking lot fence with a path leading towards the Walmart. Gaps in a fence are always an invitation to continue walking. We followed the path and then headed to the backside of the Walmart. There we could see a wooded area in the distance.

Who knows what you'll discover when you venture through a gap in in a fence?

Who knows what you’ll discover when you venture through a gap in in a fence?

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While this tree is almost at peak color.

November 3, 2014
by David Ryan

Wandering Through the Bosque in Autumn

With game seven of the World Series the baseball season came to an end last week. The week also gave us Halloween and the beginning of November. With that we are now at the halfway point between the autumnal equinox and winter solstice.

It’s not by accident that Halloween, All Saints Day, and the Day of the Dead come at this time of the year. Less developed cultures looked at this transition as a “thin time” where one could pass from this world to the underworld with ease. In Greek mythology Persephone returns to Hades every year when the pomegranates ripen to assume her role as queen of the underworld. And in a sense the transition from the busyness of fall to the dormancy of winter is a symbolic passing to another world.

Conversely the midpoint between the winter solstice and the spring equinox, too, is also a time of passing. And again, not by accident, it is celebrated by the tradition of Groundhog Day and Candlemas. They are an acknowledgement that winter cannot last forever and that it will soon be time to get busy again. Ironically, the first awakening of the baseball season occurs a little more than week after Groundhog Day when pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training.

The bosque (cottonwood forest) along the Rio Grande in Albuquerque, too, is not immune to laws of nature and is in a period of transition. Here is some of what I noticed while wandering through it this past week.

The summer flowers have long turned to seed, but the fall flowers are still hanging on.

A summer flower along the Rio Grande in the autumn.

A summer flower along the Rio Grande in the autumn.

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