It might surprise you to know that I spend a substantial part of each day zipping through the wilderness. I know, I know--I work in the big city in a big city glass building and I have a big city job, but those jacked-up people on I-40 scare the holy crap out of me. The way I look at it, if I want to get all pissed off and mean, I can stay at the office and be paid for my trouble.
So I usually take the quieter, more sedate route to and from work--via a series of highways that snake through three counties and several sleepy bedroom communities (which is what we call those tiny little towns that make one want to die of having nothing to do).
It's a lovely drive, and only one mile longer than the more "direct" route via the US Interstate Highway System. I drive over Wye Mountain and through its seasonal daffodil fields, and down the middle of a tiny burg called Bigelow, which smells just like 1977 to me. There's a sunflower farm, a donkey ranch, two horse stables, and enough reckless turtles to feed every gourmand in France. And, as Material World Girl has already pointed out, for 25 seconds in the Fall, the foliage will come awfully damn close to taking your breath away.
Sometimes, though, the drive to work is so relaxing that I check out. I may be writing copy or jane jargon in my head, and when I come to, I realize that I've missed a turn and am in a town I don't recognize. I understand that this can be problematic in the big city--take a wrong turn at the wrong time, and you're in real danger of taking a stray bullet or getting your car jacked at a stoplight.
One should not automatically assume, however, that the bucolic South is a safe place for tourists. Or, for that matter, its native daughters. I grew up in the South, but nothing turns my blood colder than a Dixie flag at half mast, a pickup truck with three rifles in the overhead rack, or a pack of marauding coon dogs with no visible supervision. There's no real reassurance either (blessed or otherwise) to be found in the fact that there's a ramshackle Jesus Saves church just a scant mile up the road.
When I've managed to lose myself that deeply into the forests of Oz, I make time getting me and my little orange, feminist-carrying car back to civilization as quickly as I can.
If I have to take out a couple sawmillers and a mule or two to do it, so be it.
photo, John Nyberg.