An inauspicious beginning with sheeting rain in places, especially through the north western Pennsylvania forests, still beautiful through the wet with brilliant autumn color, though draped with ragged wisps of clouds snagged on top branches. Getting an early start might not have been the best choice under the circumstances, but eventually
the weather lifted as we moved westward through West Virginia, Ohio, and finally into Indiana. By Spiceland, the weather had cleared enough that the photos taken of the threatening eastern sky were impressive enough, but dry.
The thing about traveling across America via the interstate system is that it is so easy to get caught up in the destination that you will miss the country. The interstate system is designed as a great river of commerce and access, but is hypnotic – the mile markers whip by alarmingly and the exits slip past with small consideration, short of the need for services. Vast tracts of land planted in soybeans and corn, all ready for, or in the process
of harvest meld gold against the blue of the sky, where armies of clouds muster and beckon the traveler further. It is almost before you know it that state after state has past – in this case, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio and half of Indiana. The driving is easy, the view from the interstate scarcely without change.
The following morning dawned (eventually) clear and warm – beautiful weather for stopping in Vandalia, Illinois to see the early Illinois statehouse there where Lincoln worked as a young legislator. We were early to the site so we had the gracefully restored building to ourselves. Again I experienced that thrill of walking in Lincoln’s footsteps, but from a time in his life when he was still studying to become the layer Lincoln who would run for President.
The next stop was in heavy traffic in St. Louis, MO. I was determined to go see the Gateway Arch on the banks of the Mississippi and by the time we arrived at the Jefferson National Expansion Memorial Park, it was noon and we had earned the break. So the flaw in the awesome interstate system is that when you reach a city where traffic can bottleneck, it inevitably does. Sitting there, waiting for my chance to get across the river did however, give me plenty of time to appreciate how the 630 foot Arch dominates the skyline. Designed by architect Eero Saarinen in 1947 and finally opened to the public in 1967, the structure soars
above the river, the tallest man made monument in the United States. Reading about the design competition, the award to Saarinen and his team, the subsequent challenges to the project and the political maneuvering to get it all accomplish makes my head spin, but the result is an inspiring, gleaming beacon on the shores of the Mississippi. We had lunch in the sun down by the docked river tour boats, with blaring Dixiland jazz reminding us that the river was the original interstate route through these parts, then, it was onward to the west.