The Atlanta Saga – Part 2

April 7

I was hoping to get out of the hotel by 7:45 with the idea I’d be at the Truman Library when they open. As it was, nature and technology threw up some roadblocks and I didn’t hit the road until a bit after 8.

Because I charge the phone all day while driving, I didn’t bother to plug it in overnight. When I got to the car, it was down to about 17%. When I fired up the car, I plugged both the phone and the iPod into the charger. The iPod told me it was charging, but the phone didn’t. The cigarette lighter port is a bit janky. Someone on Lotus Talk replaced the cigarette lighter with a dual USB charger. It looks like a simple mod that would mean I would no longer need to fiddle with the stock one, and I’d not have to worry about it not charging when I assume it is. So, naturally, I at first thought I just needed to “jiggle the handle”. But there was no joy.

By the time I arrived at the Truman Library, we were down to 8 or 9%. I grabbed the plug-in adapter and went inside looking for an electrical outlet. The guard pointed me to one in the corner near his station and I plugged in there. Still no joy. Now I was wondering if it was the phone or the cable. Everything worked fine yesterday. Why does it fail now? What have I done to anger the godz?

I often complain about the fragility of our technological times. This is a perfect case. I have very little battery in an unfamiliar city. What do I do with a dead battery? It’s a sort of range anxiety. Drive around randomly looking for a Verizon store? Sheesh.

The Truman Library

The Truman Library was the first of the presidential libraries. This is the second presidential library I’ve visited. Hoover’s was first. They’re very similar: a museum that covers the man’s entire life and is open to the public, and a library that is used by researchers that the public doesn’t get to see. And, naturally, there’s a gift shop as well. As with the Hoover library, Truman’s also includes the grave site.

I made my way through the place a bit more quickly than I anticipated. I’d allowed as much as three hours (cut a few minutes short by my late start) but was done in about half the time. I didn’t spend a lot of time reading about Truman’s history as I’ve read quite a bit about him already. Rather than reading all the material, I concentrated on viewing the various artifacts.

I think it’s a very nice museum. Anybody who doesn’t already know his story can learn all the important bits. There are quite a few videos to watch and a large number of text-heavy exhibits. There is quite a bit more in Truman’s museum than in Hoover’s. Here, there’s a reproduction Oval Office in the basement. Hoover didn’t have one.

The Cable

After enjoying the museum and the garden, I went back to the car and dug through my “bag of tricks”, a heavy-duty quart-sized ziplock bag full of cords and adapters. I sadly neglected to bring another phone cable, but I was pleasantly surprised that the cable for the GoPro Max fits. Plugged it in and it started to charge.

However, the GoPro cable is much too short for me to have the phone charging when it’s mounted on my dash. That’s just not going to work. I need a longer cable. I went to a Verizon store where I knew for sure I could get something that would work but also knew I’d spend two or three times what I’d pay at a Best Buy or equivalent. I am now the proud owner of a new 6’ cable that cost $25. The whole cable thing stressed me out more than it should have.

By now it was lunchtime, so I stopped and grabbed a sandwich for the road.

The Drive

I’ve gone on about the options Google gives us for navigation. For these cross-country trips, I always check the boxes for “No Tolls” and “No Highways”. “No Tolls” is pretty straightforward and unambiguous. “No Highways”, on the other hand, isn’t so simple. In Colorado and points west, it is my experience that “No Highways” is functionally equivalent to “No Interstates”, which is actually what I’m after. Google’s idea of “No Highways” isn’t very clear to me. It could mean that it avoids any multi-lane road with limited access, but I think it’s rather more restrictive than that.

In any event, knowing I’d be directed on roads often smaller than strictly necessary, I kept the “No Highways” option on and set out. I also knew that the drive time difference between highways and no highways would be significantly greater than it was yesterday. But I didn’t have far to go, so I wasn’t in any particular hurry. I’m much happier getting away from the big trucks and the traffic, getting off the beaten path, and getting (I think) a much better view of the countryside.

Using “No Highways” in Kansas still allowed me to use national highways (primarily US 36). On these roads, you pass through all the little towns between where you start and where you end. In Missouri and Arkansas, though, using “No Highways” tends to take you around all the little towns. Which also means you don’t drive past any gas stations.

I had a little “fun” trying to find a gas station. I pulled over and searched for gas stations, but none were on my route. The nearest, Google said, involved backtracking 17 miles. The best would be the one not far off my route 32 miles away. I was a bit surprised that there are no gas stations for 50 miles. Truly, these are the back roads.

About 10 miles later I spotted a Casey’s General Store a bit down a crossroad. Does Google not recognize Casey’s as being gas stations? I admit they’re not my first choice, as they don’t sell premium, but I figure low octane is better than no octane, so I filled up anyway. I’ll burn all the low-octane fuel off before lunch tomorrow.

The Geography

The first few miles of road after leaving Atchison follow the Missouri River. Signs along the road identify it as part of the Lewis and Clark Trail. On my Oregon trip a decade ago (!), I followed a significant portion of their travels. Today, it was just a few miles.

Once I got a short distance east of the river, my route was made up of an alphabet soup of backroads: Highway A, Highway H, Highway W, and so on. All of these letter routes were nice pavement (albeit so narrow they don’t have shoulders), 55 mph speed limits, and almost zero traffic.

Much of my route was on the western edge of a plateau. I’d traverse a few miles of flat agricultural land on an arrow-straight road, then drop off the plateau into a valley or ravine. In these ravines, the road becomes a Lotus road: twisting and turning, rising and falling. At times the ups and downs were like bunny hops on a roller coaster. I was tempted to add a little speed in these places, but there were far too many blind crests. There were a number of signs warning me to share the road with the horse-and-buggy set. I’d have hated to crest a hill with a steep descent only to find a buggy.

These bottom lands held other potential issues as well. Not actual issues now, but they probably were when I passed through Missouri a few years ago. These letter routes feature almost no cut and fill. That is, they’re pretty much at grade level. Grade level in the bottoms means “potentially flooded”. More than a dozen times I saw signs warning that the road may be impassable. These are permanent signs, not temporary ones that I’ve often seen when some side roads are actually flooded. In addition to the warning signs well in advance of the potential danger, they had a number of amber-colored signs that would show how deep the water is in the case that it’s actually flooded. All these signs could indicate depths of as much as 5 feet. I wonder how often the signs are totally submerged.

This up-and-down, on the plateau and in the bottoms, continued until nearly the Arkansas border, where the plateau seemed to end. Coincidentally, that’s when even these back roads started to see traffic. I was nearing Bentonville.

I’m not a farmer, and I’m unable to identify most of the crops I drive past, particularly this early in the season. Like any second grader, I can spot corn and wheat but anything else is a mystery to me.

A fair amount of land was devoted to livestock rather than crops. In Kansas, the cattle were all in the typical industrial feedlots, cattle shoulder to shoulder at the trough and manure piled ten or more feet high. Here in this part of Missouri, there are a lot of cattle, but they’re all grass-fed. Not nearly as many cattle per acre, but probably making for better beef.

I don’t know much about chicken farming. I’ve seen some documentaries about it, and how the three or four giant chicken companies have transformed the industry. I think I saw a few of these modern chicken farms. Each had between four and ten long, low buildings with ventilation fans on each end, and all the driveways and buildings festooned with “No Trespassing” signs.

Most of the roadside billboards in Kansas were selling Jesus and advocating against abortion. In Missouri, it’s Trump instead of Jesus and unborn babies. In this part of Missouri, you can’t go more than a few rural miles without seeing Trump flags. It seems no Trump supporter in these parts is satisfied with a single flag. It’s four or five or six at a time: “Trump 2020”, “Make America Great Again”, “Let’s Go Brandon”.

Everywhere I stopped, people were friendly and curious.

One thought on “The Atlanta Saga – Part 2

  1. HI Dave,
    Yes, I’m reading your trip travelogue.

    You’re in the South so everyone will be nice and polite. They will be that way because you are white. How do I know this? I had the misfortune to live in Nashville for 2 years in the late 80s.

    I know you know that.

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