Ginger, a 1977 Triumph Spitfire, has made many trips throughout the central United States. Because she is not currently happy to maintain speeds of more than 55 miles per hour for very long, we always travel on the back roads and byways. In the more than thirteen thousand miles we’ve driven Ginger since we took on the Drive Away Cancer mission we’ve come to realize there are parts of America that are scarcely seen these days.
When President Dwight D. Eisenhower envisioned the interstate highway system, he likely saw a means of faster, easier shipping to previously inaccessible areas; however, no one could foretell the fate that would befall Main Street America as the interstate system developed. Life, and especially travel, has become fast paced. As more travelers took to the roads the focus has changed from the journey to merely reaching the destination as quickly as possible, giving up the personal touch one once had while traveling and replacing it with truck stops, fast foods and tail lights.
I was several years into my childhood before I ever saw an interstate highway. What I did see were rows of shops, cafes and full service filling stations in every town we passed through. Even the bustling downtown shops had a front porch, a place where people would gather to visit and pass the time.
Now we pass through these small towns and see empty buildings. We see closed storefronts. We see train depots turned into museums or worse yet rotting away like the buildings surrounding them. Buildings that were once the hub of the community are long since abandoned. Ironically, these rails brought the people who developed the towns. These same people who were employed to build the interstate system that would eventually take the buzz, the life out of Main Street.
Although sometimes we are pressed for time, we are thankful for Ginger’s low speeds. We are forced to slow down and see the sights. If we were to travel the interstate we may encounter a few people along the way; however, driving the byways ensures we will encounter special people that have pride in their towns and do their best to keep Main Street alive. We see unusual things.
We see the mountains and lakes of the Ozarks. We see basket weavers, quilt stands and silos. We see ten feet tall cows wearing tutus. We see the full moon rising over the corn fields in Iowa, the sun as it sets on the rice paddies of the Arkansas Delta and the windmills of Oklahoma. We see beautiful and historical architecture, giant animal statues and memorials honoring a town’s heroes. We smell dairy farms in Wisconsin, hear the raging rivers along the way, and smell fresh flowers blooming on every road we take. We experience fruit or produce festivals and county fairs. We see shadows of what once was. We see America. We experience America and we meet real people struggling to keep the American Dream alive.
We challenge you, the reader, the driver, the traveler, to experience America with us through Ginger’s headlamps. We challenge you to skip the fast food joints of the interstate exits and grab lunch at a small town eatery.
We challenge you to slow down and enjoy the scenery. We challenge you to take the back roads. Put the top down if you can, roll the windows down and smell the country. Most of all slow down a little and do your part to keep Main Street America alive.
By Synnova Henthorne