Traveling at Human Speed
It's about 17 hours in a car from where we live in New York City to St. Louis, MO. When Jenn and I were invited to an old friend's wedding in Cuba, MO we decided that rather than fly, we'd simply get in the car and drive there. The journey was approximately 33 hours in the car (round trip) and we spent about 34 hours in Missouri total. For many that would be insane (OK, it was insane) but it was also wonderful, and not just because of the company. We have been conditioned to think of travel as something done by plane. Travel stories are rife with the struggles of security and delays and the cramped seats. I love to fly, and it is certainly more time efficient, but for me there's nothing like a road trip. Sure we could have flown over the corn fields of southern Illinois, but instead we saw them at eye-level. We could have flown over the Ohio valley, but you can't experience it's beauty unless you see it in person. America is a vast beautiful nation and as Americans I think we all should make an effort to see it at human speed, at ground level.
One social media side note - this little road trip was a great excuse to get my Instagram going again after a bit of a hiatus, I was surprised at how much I missed it, I look forward to getting started with it again.
Slowing Down at 70 MPH
I tried to take as many photos as I could on our journey west, but I did the lion's share of the driving and that's no time to shoot. When driving through 8 states at 60-70mph you get the chance to really see things. All of the amazing hand-painted billboards for boot shops and fireworks, the Love's travel shops that dot the interstate through Pennsylvania, all of the miles of corn fields that feed us every single day. They're all out there, really out there and you can drive through them and see them for yourself. It's difficult to put into words what happens when you replace the media-driven image of "a farm" or "the country" for the real thing. It becomes tangible. The hours and hours of corn fields become a stand-in, a gentle taste, of the months and months it took to grow that field. It's not an instant at 30,000 feet, it's a half a day. All of the sudden it's a lot easier to appreciate the food we have, to appreciate the people who grow it and cultivate it. To get a sense for what a hard and beautiful life it must be to be a farmer.
Of course, driving isn't only fun for the cultural observations. It's also a fun way to see the rest of the country as an example of design. I find interstate culture fascinating. Built for truckers and long-road types, the signage is amazing. The black and white sign that declares "LAST STARBUCKS FOR 91 MILES!!!!" or "ADULT SUPERSTORE EXIT 158" or the endless signs for hotels all offering free wifi and a hot breakfast. Emerging from the farmland of southern Illinois is Missouri and with it St. Louis. I would like to tell you that I saw all of St. Louis, but I definitely did not. The trip was just too short. Yet, our brief stay on "The Loop" provided some awesome examples of architecture and lighting design. We stayed at the Moonrise hotel, which was not only an example of great lighting design but of sustainability as a design value. The hotel will get it's own blog post, there's a teaser image below.
In the end, I all I can say is get out there and see this great country of ours. Take your time, stop often and in random places, see the America you hear referenced on the news but have never seen up close. Do it at human speeds. You'll be amazed at the people and places you discover both just outside the car window and deep within yourself.