Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Two Lane Black Top Highways

Two lane highways were once considered the lifeline of our country, but today people would rather drive the interstate. Most will go out of their way to avoid a two lane highway, which might explain why people have a hard time interpreting the yellow lines, that mark the no-passing zones and crisscross the Carolina Low Country.

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Passing a tractor trailer full of pine logs is art form that few people seem to have mastered as well. Even so I prefer the deserted back roads of my Carolina countryside to the crowded and fast paced interstate.

I like to put the windows down, open the sun roof and let the country air swirl around me as I cruise past homes and businesses that time has forgotten. Old towns like Harleyville, Holly Hill and Union Crossroads that haven’t changed in fifty years.

I’ll take Highway 176 and 601 from Charleston to Columbia. Out there you’ll find the time honored courtesy of the two finger wave, the steering wheel salute and the tip of the hat. My God for all these people know, I could be a serial killer, yet they take the time to say hello before disappearing in the rear view mirror faster than I can say “have a nice day”.

Out there they have sign posts that point to towns I’ve never heard of, and roads that all end up at the same place. In our hurry up world back tracking is a sin, but in the countryside it’s a chance to repeat part of your life again, a do over, a mulligan and a chance to spot that 1957 Chevy on the North Side of a dilapidated old barn you just missed going in the opposite direction.

I once pulled over and watched two combines race a thunderstorm, with each turn at the end of the field the darkening squall line gained ground. Lighting flashed in the distance and its brightness reflected off the cab windows of each John Deer tractor as the thunder echoed across the field.

The air became silent and though they were nearly ¼ mile away I could hear the farm hands yell that the storm was coming on fast. Then dust started to spin in circles and the leaves danced across the two lane black top ahead of the green rolling mass of angry sky.

Out on I-26 traffic came to a halt as the rain came and with it the wind hard and fast as cars slowed to a crawl in both directions, perhaps a thousand cars in a mere ¼ mile of interstate. While down the two lane it was only my car, two combines and a truck against mother nature.

The combines slowed and pivoted to a stop in a low valley away from the tall tress and the far from the crest of the hill. While lighting jolted the ground, they emptied their loads one on each side of the truck and as the soybeans poured into the bed so did the rain.

And when the storm passed I moved back on to the open road with not a car in sight while over on the interstate the back log of traffic wouldn’t clear for another ten minutes.

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Photo By The Author

The road twists and turns and then straightens for as far as the eye can see and at the top of the hill in my rear view mirror I can see a thunderstorm fading into the dusty redness of the late evening sky as another day comes to a close and I thank Henry Ford for cars and my South Carolina ancestors for two lane black top highways that time has forgotten.

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