Archive for Thursday, April 2, 2009

Vacation allows time for reflection, sightseeing

April 2, 2009

Just as the evil that we do lives after us, so does the trash we throw away.

I had reason to reflect on this derivative of Marc Antony’s speech in praise of Julius Caesar a couple of times during a recent cross-country drive.

As I drive, I like to watch for wildlife along the way — birds, mostly, but occasionally you’ll see a raccoon or possum, sometimes even a coyote.

I find it a pleasant way to pass the time on a long drive.

There can be a fair amount to see. But the birds have the least to fear from vehicular traffic, and so they are usually present in the greatest numbers.

In addition to the many birds on the wing, you’ll see a few perching on fence posts or in the trees along the right of way.

Red-tailed hawks often take up their station overlooking an area where they hunt. Their breast feathers are an off-white, and they’re pretty big birds, so it’s not unusual to see one from a distance.

Last week, we drove east to visit our daughter and her family in Virginia. It’s a long drive but in many ways a pleasant one, traversing first the Kentucky bluegrass country, then the mountains of West Virginia and finally the beautiful Shenandoah Valley before turning east to enter the Washington suburbs.

A couple of times as we drove along, I thought I saw the white flash of a hawk’s breast feathers from a distance, only to discover as I got closer that it wasn’t a hawk — nor even a bird or in fact anything living at all — but one of those ubiquitous plastic shopping bags that litter our countryside that had become ensnared in the branches of a tree.

I don’t know that that was the most memorable of the detritus that we came across, come to think of it. At some point driving through the hills of eastern Kentucky there were signs of some recent high winds — several mature trees were blown over, uprooted.

But what impressed me the most was a tree branch that was caught in some power lines, 75 feet or more above the roadway, silent testimony to the power of the wind.

Other notes from our travels:

This morning I had my first (and last, probably) taste of scrapple.

Scrapple is a savory blend of pork offal (liver, kidneys, heart, head, etc.) and corn meal that is native to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia. It’s made up in loaves and then, traditionally, fried before serving, sometimes with syrup.

It’s flavored with many of the same spices used in breakfast sausage, but I guess you have to learn to appreciate its mushy texture.

Before setting out, I’d researched some side trips to view scenery and other attractions off the interstate highways. The interstates are efficient at moving large numbers of vehicles from one point to another across the land, and there’s no question of their relative safety. But you don’t get the same sense of being IN the country, and the roadside amenities are the same mixture of fast-food and franchise choices one finds at home. So, whenever possible, I like to get off the interstate to explore the countryside.

One of the routes I’d picked snakes along a river in West Virginia and the other bisects Shenandoah National Park. Those will have to wait for the return trip. I failed to take into account my traveling companion’s impatience with anything that delays her reunion with her grandson.

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