Frum Outdoorsman: Rare but Possible

The wanderings and adventures of an orthodox Jew

Super lightweight backpacking

Posted by Frum Hiker on July 14, 2010

After a recent 3 day backpacking trip to Yosemite, I realized the joys of packing less. For years I have struggled with what I would call “into the wild syndrome” in which I pack everything and more because I think that extra fleece or battery is going to save my life. Ever since buying my smaller pack an Osprey Atmos 65 I have been able to go longer with less. Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Road Trips | 4 Comments »

I have moved to Northern California

Posted by Frum Hiker on July 7, 2010

This blog doesn’t get updated enough, which may be a good thing considering it’s an outdoors blog. I originally created it because the weather on the east coast sucked much of the time, so I figured I might as well relive my experiences of the great outdoors. Now that the weathers been great it’s tough to write about all the fun I’ve been having.

I have been living in the Bay Area for close to 7 months and it has been amazing. Although I never really have to drive more than 45 minutes from my house to get anywhere, human nature kicked in a couple of months ago forcing me to wander further and further from home. I went to Yosemite twice, up to Eureka, Shasta wilderness area, a coastal drive from LA to San Francisco and have a greater knowledge of California geography and roads than most natives. Its been fun and although I am lonely some of the time, missing my friends back home, I have made new one’s and the wilderness is so good that it keeps me coming back for more.

I hope to keep you all updated, although I have no idea how many people will actually read this.

Posted in Road Trips | 2 Comments »

Heshy Fried is the author of Frum Satire

Posted by Frum Hiker on March 1, 2010

If you would like to read more of my adventures, thoughts and wanderings please check out my regular blog Frum Satire by Heshy Fried

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Wandering around Buffalo

Posted by Frum Hiker on November 18, 2009

Buffalo, NY has a bad rap, it is one of those cities that evokes negativity whenever spoken about by people who never even set foot onto its wide tree lined boulevards, or grimy ghetto streets with wood paneled housing and shaky porches. I don’t know what images fill your head when I mention Buffalo, maybe the grazing Buffalo of upstate New York or the abandoned mills of Bethlehem Steel, maybe you think of the western terminus of the Erie Canal or of Buffalo as a suburb of Niagara Falls, that place you drive through to get to the falls, which you visit for about 15 minutes before retiring to the fast food and tourist establishments along Lundy street on the Canadian side of the falls.

I didn’t realize how much I missed Buffalo until I drove down Elmwood avenue today and marveled at the abundance of art stores, organic food establishments and hip funky music/coffee houses.

I then drove down a wide boulevard with a small park in the middle and wondered if the Buffalo haters had ever seen the houses here. Had they seen the color, the ornate woodworking attaching the roofs to the upper story windows? Had they seen the tal spires of the brown stoned churches? Had they seen the traffic circles with fountains in the middle?

Texas doesn’t have what Buffalo has, Buffalo has charm and character, it has beautiful old buildings, of the red brick industrial warehouse variety and of the art deco spires and gargoyle variety. Buffalo is one beautiful city, even the ghetto has charm. Rows of houses just stop for the random railroad tracks all leading to some abandoned grain elevator.

Don’t get me started on the grain elevators, Buffalo has more abandoned and unique grain elevators that Topeka, its quite beautiful to see the different designs and the peeling white paint. General Mills still has a large operation, but there are many more, smaller and larger grain elevators that appear to have been abandoned for 5 decades, weeds grow at the bases and railroad ties are scattered around. The Buffalo river and frozen canals leading all over the place past these behemoths create quite the scene, add the hundreds of railroad tracks and you get a n industrial photographers paradise, it doesn’t hurt that there are no neighborhoods around, which means safe wandering and no bums with syringes sticking out of the arms annoying you with change requests.

Downtown Buffalo is quite impressive in terms of architecture, only a few bland new skyscrapers compete with the countless older beauties. Old advertisements, neon signs and the trollies mix together to bring Buffalo alive, even though it is mostly abandoned. I think I thrive on the desolation and solitude of downtown Buffalo. It is quite cold out and a few stray people are walking around hands shoved deeply in their pockets heads down against the wind, with scarves fluttering about their faces, I drive by oblivious to the cold but thankful for it, the cold paints Buffalo as it should, an old city left over from an industrial heyday that has embraced its funky artsy citizens who need to have a way to escape the negative feelings that the media and non-residents feel toward them.

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Sunday afternoon rides that fueled my love for the outdoors

Posted by Frum Hiker on March 20, 2009

I can remember lying on the shaggy gray carpet of my living room on cold Sunday mornings watching the weather channel, even as a kid, before my love of jazz kicked in, I can remember being drawn to the funky yet soothing music of the weather channel. Sunday mornings where always started with H and H bagels, philly cream cheese, lox and red onions with the weather channel turned up and my father asking my brother and I if we wanted to take a ride.

A ride was not just a ride, a ride meant multiple things, it meant that we would leave the city behind for a short period and search for snow in upstate, I remember my father driving us over 2 hours north just to see some snow once, he truly loved the adventure of wandering the back roads of upstate, NY.

A ride could also mean going to the restaurant in the park, which was a small cantina Mexican restaurant located just off the Saw Mill River Parkway in Westchester County. It could have been in the middle of nowhere as we were concerned, for we would walk on this abandoned railroad track and look for old pieces of coal and rusty spikes. My father instilled the love of all things old and abandoned at this small county park just north of the city.

A ride could also mean a little farther drive to Harriman state park, where we would wander around, knocking over dead trees, checking out the ice fisherman and go sledding. In high school we would go shoot my BB gun and cross bow and later my .22 rifle. We never actually hiked, we parked and went into the woods, nothing was official. I don’t remember actually taking water with me into the woods until I got into my later teenage years.

We always ended up falling asleep on these long rides into the country with my father listening to the news or nothing, as we wondered why it was taking us hours to get home. He always took the “scenic” route, which sometimes meant going 80 miles out of the way. He would stop at the oddest of attractions. Old cemeteries were high on the list, as were abandoned railroad tracks, flea markets, main streets filled with old Victorian mansions and any time there happened to be a 57 Chevy in any condition sitting on the side of the road. I could tell my father longed for the days when he would own one of these beauties again, have a barn to store it in, in some off the beaten track barn in Vermont, and be able to walk out of his front door, with a piece of long grass in his mouth, humming Carlebach classics as he hobbled down the road in the dead of winter.

My father was what you would a call a four seasons man, but he loved the crisp cool air of winter. He would tell us random facts like, the clearer the night the colder it would get or how to tell how old a milk bottle was based on the way the glass was formed at the edges. He seemed to be a bottomless pit when it came to information and looking back on it now, it really formed who I am today.

Everything that he loved and that he shared with us, I took and went more extreme then he would ever have done. He instilled something I have grown to accept and this is what John Steinbeck has called Insatiable Wanderlust.
After those rides we would inevitably wind up at the Chinese Restaurant in Teaneck or at Ratners on the Lower East Side, with a warm bowl of French onion soup and melted butter dripping off of those incredible onion rolls they used to have.

Posted in general Outdoors, Harriman State Park, NY metro area, Rural America | Tagged: , , , | 10 Comments »

Railroad bridges

Posted by Frum Hiker on March 12, 2009

Western New York is full of old railroad bridge abutments, if you don’t know what to look for you could miss these often times beautiful stone piles that are often jutted up against the back road you may be barreling down. I can see these stone piles that once supported railroad trestles from a mile away and they always evoke the same wonderment.

I always think about trains, constantly, when I am driving, I try to pick roads next to abandoned train tracks with the thought that I may come across an old roundtable, or water stop, or maybe an old abandoned bridge with a nice stone arch, quite rare in upstate New York because the stone is brittle, mostly limestone from Syracuse to Buffalo and Limestone crumbles easily, you cant climb the walls of the abandoned quarries of Leroy and Batavia, it just doesn’t work.

Sometimes I stop at these bridge abutments and wonder what the bridge may have looked like, I dream about the passenger trains that used to service every town in America, how the population must have felt when the train “came” to their town. I try to see if the old telegraph poles are left, maybe I can even find some stray insulators lying around?

Often times the bridge supports will have a date, 1924, I seem to recall as being carved out the top of one of these stray stone structures that sits on the side of Route 31 around Lyons or was it Newark? Why was the bridge removed? Did it collapse? Was the line decommissioned and the bridge sold for scrap? Why are the tracks still visible on the elevated earth embankments? Shouldn’t they have been sold for scrap as well?

I especially like when the bridge supports are visible in water, evoking images in my head of a huge bridge. Harrisburg, Pennsylvania has some of these as you cross the Susquehanna. What about the bridge supports visible on the Genesee River in Rochester right near the point of High Falls? They are so low and I cannot for the life of me figure out why a bridge would be all the way below the street level? Was there a tunnel? Its all a mystery to me.

Sometimes the stone supports are there and only half the bridge is there like that of the bridge near Avon, New York, just south of the original east west highway known as US highway 20, there is a stone arch bridge which is magnificent, I wish you would check it out sometimes, very impressive, although its hard to figure out where on earth the tracks came from.

Am I the only one fascinated with railroad bridge abutments and supports, that contain no bridge, only the memory of the bridge, for romantics like myself to imagine what was once there.

Posted in Abandoned Sites, Rural America | 5 Comments »

The mills of Hamilton

Posted by Frum Hiker on March 3, 2009

Every time I come up over the bridge I slow down to gaze at the beautiful expanse before me, I like to stop on the shoulder, but the high winds and crazy Canadian drivers deter me, and force me off the road to take a closer look, to gaze intently at the smokestacks making artificial clouds, the fire pouring forth from what I can only guess to be burn off stacks, buildings, piles of gravel and ships fill in the scene.

I am running across the street camera in hand, I am excited, the sky is bright blue, but it has that winter slanted light feel, it is dreary for most, but for me it holds some special qualities, qualities missed since moving south. The late day slanted light with tinges of orange and pink, reflecting off of the frozen inlet.

Ships are docked off in the distance, and the looming steel mills and oil refinery create this beautiful scene of industry and darkness. The light cannot penetrate this scene, the light can only show me the smokestacks and the looming buildings, with out of proportion triangulated roofs. Camera in hand I run back across the street, cold, numb hands and unsatisfied, I want to see more, I want to see the pipes and gangways and railroad tracks crisscrossing throughout these industrial complexes.

To most, Hamilton, Ontario evokes an image of blazing smokestacks and a huge portion of the Queen Elizabeth Way that is elevated, they merely glance at these smokestacks polluting the sky with their waste, as they hurry on to Toronto. I wonder who else stops to take in the sites and sounds of the industrial areas of Hamilton.

Very few places I have traveled to paint such a picture as the port of Hamilton does from the Skyway. People probably visit the museums and zoos and main streets, but who would get off and wander around the old and new steel factories, I would hardly call it a tourist district yet here I am going up and down side streets that dead end at guard booths with large signs telling me to KEEP OUT!

It not that disappointing for everywhere I look, railroad tracks snake off into the plants creating good romanticized shots for people like me whose lives revolve almost solely around the romantic idea of the long forgotten train.

Tracks embedded in cobblestone do it for me, the industrial areas of cities not yet paved with those common found materials of asphalt and concrete,. Cobblestone, evokes never actually remembered memories of trains, horse drawn wagons and grimy men with their lunch pails in hand off to another 12 hour shift at the plant. The Jungle describes what I want to remember but never actually experienced. I imagine ten ton buckets of molten steel being poured while men in overalls and hard hats scream above the din. The danger and the mystery all combine in my head, I wish I could see the inside, not have to dream about it.

I pass by an amazingly redone art deco entrance to a train car company, it is almost too good to be true, I snap pictures quickly as I begin to think of art deco and why every town from upstate NY to south Texas has an art deco movie theater, no idea why, maybe movies were the invention of the roaring 20s and to show the progress every town had to have one and they all had to have the art deco lines that ran along the big vertical sign hanging from the buildings façade.

I begin my journey east back on the highways with thoughts of factories filling my imagination.

Posted in Abandoned Sites | Tagged: , , , , | 3 Comments »

Funny how things turn out

Posted by Frum Hiker on December 3, 2008

I was definitely not a nerd growing up I just wasn’t liked when I got in group situations. There were several causes of this, some of it was my having to deal with people who talked about what their moms had made them for dinner- basically I couldn’t get around being the kid with a dead mom which is a terrible embarrassment for any kid. I was also real crappy at sports, until I discovered I had a knack for “extreme sports” I was always that kid who wasn’t necessarily the last kid picked, but I wasn’t the first either. Finally there was the fact that I stuttered, in fact I couldn’t really say anything without breaking out into a stutter- which always caused kids to make fun of me.

These three things attributed to the fact that I grew up an outcast. I couldn’t talk, had no mother and sucked at sports- life wasn’t too great for me. I don’t really remember much about these years because they have probably been blocked out of my memory, but I do remember several things.

First off I was a terrible student in school, by being terrible, I was not only a poor student academic wise, I was also very poorly behaved. Poor enough in behavior to have gone through 4 elementary schools each one being less frum then the last. I commonly answer that I attended Manhattan Day School for my grade school years, but I started out in Bruers, then yeshiva katanah of Manhattan and finally I had to be shipped away to Providence Hebrew Day School where I finally did ok.

My behavior patterns were interesting because I wasn’t really a bad kid, I was just doing it for attention, now I blog and do stand up comedy for attention. Back then I cursed out anyone of authority, broke things and caused all sorts of disruptions that got me in all sorts of trouble. Attention was needed for several reasons, first I stuttered, so I wasn’t that eloquent, second I had no mother and third I was bad at sports.

By bad at sports I should say I wasn’t that bad, I just hated getting up there and having all the attention focused on me. When I say get up there I mean during the upper west side Jewish little league known as Sunday Softball where every kid was guaranteed a trophy and hence the only trophy I ever got was from the Sunday Softball League. But I always struck out or did something that meant I would not get on base or get on base only to get caught off base. To this day I dislike sports probably because I was kind of forced into all these after school sports programs by myself who wanted to be like all the cool kids. I am sure there are plenty of kids who dislike major sports today because of their experiences as kids.

Of course somewhere along the way I actually became good at something and that something was very popular at the time so I started to become cool in my own way. I remember my first rollerblades, they were Zetra 303 and you could not detach the brakes like so many of the more advanced roller blades, so I sawed them off. I remember when we got our first skatepark in Manhattan on 108th street and Riverside drive. I used to hang out there and in central park and downtown and all over really- in a way rollerblading gave me this sort of freedom and independence I never had before.

I was also good, good enough to be one of those guys doing the cones backwards by the band shell in central park, good enough to always be the best Jewish kid through on rollerblades throughout high school.

Of course that never changed the fact I had a horrible stuttering problem. Any chance that I may have to get up and speak in public was greeted with a horrible knot in my stomach, I remember during 5th grade I had to play Lyndon Johnson in a school play, it was the shortest line of any character 2 sentences, I held my breath while I said it, I couldn’t breath anyway. The next time I had to get up publicly was when I said without trup the hafotorah at my bar mitzvah- it was pretty intense and I remember getting stuck on one word for about 15 minutes or so- painful as well and probably one of the reasons I do not get up at the amud ever- never have as of yet unless it is for an aliyah.

Its funny to look at my youth and wonder how I developed into something of an opposite figure of what I was growing up. As a kid I wanted to be cool, as an adult I want to lead and do my own thing. As a kid I couldn’t speak without stuttering and now I love to speak and talk publicly, I think I am making up for all the times I couldn’t speak as a kid. As a kid I hated sports and as an adult I have come to enjoy sports immensely, just not those sports that are popular. Sports like rock climbing, mountain biking, skiing, wind surfing and kayaking are what I love to do with me free time.

I have no idea why I wrote this post, maybe as a little insight into where I come from or just for myself- who the hell knows.

Posted in general Outdoors | Tagged: , | 7 Comments »

Wanderlust Rant

Posted by Frum Hiker on November 23, 2008

Edited by my new fan and inspiration Eli Perlow

My hand is out the window making waves in the afternoon sunlight, the free flowing air moving about my fingers as if they were stuck in the white sand along the Mexican coast, swishing and swooshing and enjoying the warmth. It’s so warm; I have shorts and a t-shirt on and it’s November. I am in my happy place, Grateful Dead blaring from my speakers as I meander on some forgotten byway, lost in time, devoid of other travelers because they prefer the sing-song of concrete and the fast windows-closed-motion of their box of steel hitting super sonic speeds that make all the fast food billboards look like a picket fence.

In Missouri it sure seemed that way, the picket fence scenario played out at 72 miles per hour on Interstate 44. I cruised along, paid no attention to much besides for the current song on the Ipod shuffle, another invention of the laziness permeating our society, the instant gratification reflective of the “I want it now not later” factions who control everything.

I don’t want to skip songs I don’t like, nor do I want to appreciate LPs or imports and random tracks at the end of albums which the album cover doesn’t reveal to even be in existence. Nope, I want it now, just like my picket fence of billboards mostly advertising truck stops that have all the amenities of a small city, including showers, casinos, cheap prostitutes and loads of food containing things like xanathan gum and hydroemaciatedemancipatedsomething with weird extracts ending in sucrose or gum. Can someone please tell me why potato chips need to have 89 ingredients – those being the plain ones?

And so I zip past these horrible neon cities in the night with their 40 gas pumps (pay at the pump laziness to boot). I see the moths hovering around these glowing towers of progress, these robots filling their steel behemoths to transport more big box items to the steel structures that hog the strip malls of their once charming facades. I am past that, thank God; I am out of Missouri and Indiana and Ohio. These places make me sick, a tribute to the fatness and uncaring aspects of our society. Even the back roads contain it; hop onto any US highway in the Midwest and they’re not accoutered by the old neon flashing motor court signs and abandoned gas stations with names like Jim’s Service offering full lubrication and tire fixings, or old beautiful forgotten homes on the verge of collapse with some little old lady watering her petunias – nope – the old US highway in the Midwest and mostly wherever you go has become a service road.

I can almost guarantee that if the brakes in cars become good enough or auto pilot in sedans ever comes to light, the Interstate highway system will become one mile after mile choice of strip plazas. You will merely tell your car how fat you want to get that day, or how much life you want to lose and – walla – you will arrive at the fast food destination of your choice. Brilliant, another way to keep the gas guzzling American automobile makers in business – they should have fizzled out 30 years ago. I almost feel as if the big 3 in Detroit are a symbol of everything we don’t want America to be; big ugly pigs who never change, a bunch of liberal hogwash you may say – but seriously, who wants to buy American?

But that’s all past me, I am in the Ozarks, passing by stately looking mobile home parks with names like Breezy Corners or Spring Gardens, it’s great to see nice looking trailer parks. Growing up in NY you hear about trailer park trash, although the only place you see them is on Jerry Springer when you’re home sick from school because before the Price Is Right came on it was Jerry Springer or Montel or Rikki Lake. Jerry was best with his southern drawl trailer park trash, Mandy was fighting with Rick or someone named Ashley, those names that people in the East just don’t have. Then suddenly you see the real thing and there are regular people mowing their small lawns and flower pots hang next to those gun toting cowboy silhouettes that have mailboxes attached to them. It’s kind of odd to think that you can lie down and that’s your whole house, but then again, people in the cities; the cosmopolitan, artsy, cultured, and intellectual humans have even smaller places to call their own, and they don’t even own them.

The smell of fresh cut grass comes wafting through my window and I just want to stop and run around in the small patch of fresh cut grass between the road and the property line marked by a barbed wire fence with posted no hunting signs scattered about; it’s not like the East, in the East posted signs are every 10 feet, here it may be every 10 miles. I love fresh cut grass though, and I ease off the gas to slow down to wallow in its path.

I pass the state highway mowers and give a little nod. That’s another thing about country roads – everyone nods. It’s interesting, maybe it’s just to acknowledge their existence; or is it something more? It brings a personal aspect to the place, something people have lost. Don’t even get me started on the lack of general knowledge people have about their places of existence. Most people run from one place to another without taking the time to enjoy the journey, the road trips of today are destination trips. “Were going to California” brings epic visions of orange deserts in Utah and Arizona, Indian reservations, shimmering sunlight mirages blowing around in the distance. Swimming holes, weird truck stops, rock formations and mountain climbing, snow capped mountains and old broken down abandoned cars buried in the earth next to an old mine. But nowadays going to California means going to Los Angeles with a side trip to Las Vegas, all on blistering fast highways ignoring the beauty around them – not even a trip to Joshua Tree or Kings Canyon is in store and a trip down the PCH brings people to Malibu or something with a stop immortalized by digital pictures in front of the Pacific Coast Highway for proof to say they were there.

Talk about saying they were there – memories mean nothing as long as they are tagged on Facebook in their photoshopped glory, oh how I miss the days of the winding mechanized manual camera. The loud snap to acknowledge you actually photographed something. Setting up the picture, putting in the flash; how I long for days when people cared about the little things. Seems like everyone is lost in the views, views of their Blackberry while they do anything: it must be documented, I am going here or there or feel like this. This is probably because no one spends any time alone, they are always connected, connected to electrical devices or networks.

The Ozarks remind me of West Virginia, they are rounded hills dotted with houses and quarries, I haven’t been here since 2001 when I took my first wandering trip. I remember it quite well, I decided to head west and regrettably (I am not sure why) turned around once I hit the prairies; I know what you’re thinking – I think the exact same thing. Why would anyone put themselves through the hell of the Midwest only to turn around? I was in Nebraska and Kansas for Godsakes and I went down…I think I was scared, that was my first time out of the damned time zone, west would have meant the Rockies, I would wait another summer, but still I look back and wonder why I turned south towards Oklahoma and Texas.

I do remember coming out of Topeka and seeing the most beautiful and amazing site ever. I had entered the prairies and it was unlike anything I had ever seen, until I went to the Rockies for the first time. The grasslands outside of Topeka are endless, you can see for 50 miles based on the highway being above the prairie. I was shocked and awed and just stood there watching the blowing green grass with thousands of cattle dotting the horizon.

I also remember that it was the start of a lifetime of insatiable wanderlust, that’s what John Steinbeck calls it in Travels with Charley, he is absolutely right and it’s something of a curse. You see, I cannot sit still; I always need to be seeing and experiencing new places and people. I am like a professional wanderer, although I like to be in America mostly, I have found I like to experience this country like no other. I enjoy that it’s all the same country, same language – yet so vast and different. I want to experience it all and of course it contradicts my society, my community, my religion, all saying to settle down build a family and wander around your tiny back yard and local grocery store- I sometimes think marriage would be a nightmare for me, literally, homebound, I mean I could grab the car on a Sunday and drive 1000 miles and come back- I have been known for things like that- but it wouldn’t be the same.

I am on a one way road trip, although I just got a call from my dad announcing he was getting married and he needs me back in NY on December 14th. I am not happy about it, he’s been dating the same girl for 8 years and finally I leave for the West to fulfill my dreams and I am told to come right back. But still, I am headed west and it’s a dream come true – although I am not sure if it’s what I truly want or need. You see those truths always evade me, I get carried with the wind, it’s always been like that. I just kind of go with the flow, no plans really. I see my friends settled down or trying to settle down against their wills and I don’t want it – maybe I do, maybe I can handle it – but if my life is anything to go on, it doesn’t appear so. It appears that marriage will drive me insane. I have fallen in love before, but even that was scary, the settling down aspect scared the crap out of me – people always say “its time to settle down” but I just don’t think they understand. They try to and then they say stupid things like “once you get married you will have no time to travel or wander or ride your bike or hitchhike, etc…” and those words – although said with a kind smirk – have the exact opposite effect they are meant to have. Why would I ever want to get married or settle down then?

I am out of the mountains and into rolling farmland and then flatlands with scraggly bushes and dark flowing streams. I am nearing Oklahoma, another state that is interesting because it connects two different worlds, the Plains and the Rockies; it also borders so many states that it makes it interesting. I could probably walk through the panhandle and around so that I have walked through a bunch of states in a matter of a week or so, I think about this sort of thing all the time, just walking, for no purpose except to see or go. I drive, but when the money runs out I can imagine myself walking, kind of like Peter Jenkins in A Walk Across America, one look at my book collection and you could figure me out. My book collection would tell you that I am a solo journeyman with a mind of a businessman and entrepreneur, its true, all I tend to read is social history books on items like coal, gunpowder, cotton and steel. I also tend to read about great American businessmen and their lives, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Watson, Walton. Then I want to read about adventurers, anything really, give me books about polar expeditions, Hudson Bay Company stuff, frontier stories and the general hitchhiking and rail riding fantasies that I may have but never come to fruition. You may even call me a professional American Romantic, almost like a Jack Kerouac minus all the drugs and partying.

The air is even warmer now and the road is empty and flat and lined with strange looking bushes and trees, the brush is thick and the sun is slanting almost to the point where the land becomes orange, my favorite part of the day. I am thrust into Oklahoma and the speed limit becomes 70 miles per hour, this is on a 2 lane byway mind you, the type that has backed up traffic on the east coast going to some tourist destination like Gatlinburg, Tennessee or Watkins Glenn in New York. I am just cruising along windows down – drivers tan beginning to creep up my window arm and thinking about Texas my new temporary home.

Oklahoma slips away and I am in Texas, I stop for evening prayers and notice the sweet smells, I love Texas I proclaim, rural Texas at least. I already know I don’t like Texas cities, but I can’t judge from being in Dallas twice and Houston once, everyone says the same thing, why Dallas, you have to go to Austin. My job is in Dallas I tell them, although I know I will not be there long, all I remember about Dallas was that it is big.

So I hop onto US highway 82 going west towards Paris, Texas and I hit cruise control. My car is running smooth and it feels good because I just hit 309,000 miles in the darned thing. I love reaction of the oil change guys, they hoot and howl for the other greased up guys to over and have a look, swinging their greasy rags they say wow wee, insane man. I am proud of my miles, those miles spent driving up the Alaska highway or down the up to Mount Rainier or across the flatlands of South Dakota, its all there in those cracked leather seats and that noisy engine, miles of a wanderer.

The transition happens all too quickly, kind of like in the East when you get that first snowstorm and everyone talks about how it was 80 degrees a week ago. I hit Paris and my world of rural back roads and trailer parks and abandoned hotels and gas stations ends. It ends with the first neon lighted gas station sign and continues to dwindle with Wal Mart, Home Depot and Sears, it continues to dwindle until I realize I am in the West with WataBurger and Jack in the Box, classic western burger joints. I am spit out onto Route 75 south towards Dallas and already I am wishing for the quaint roads of upstate New York lined with huge old growth sugar maples and ornate Victorian mansions with the beautiful wood carved railings.

Why did I ever come here, I begin to wonder as I pass strip mall after strip mall of continuous never changing offerings, I mean how many CVS pharmacies can you have already? It gets to a point where Missouri and its picket fence of billboards is nothing like this. Nothing I tell you, the whole craziness of the situation makes it a little interesting. Here I am driving 70 mph down a highway with service roads on either side packed with stores. It reminds me of New Jersey, except in NJ the service road is the highway.

I must say the highways are smooth and built for speed, but 50 miles before my new home I hit Dallas – random office buildings with shiny glass and huge parking behemoths, so people shouldn’t walk too far. I almost feel as if walkers are banned from Texas, it is not a walking state, it’s built for drivers. I pass under a huge interchange, in the East space is limited because the highways were built after the cities, not so in the West. The highway interchange I just passed under must have been a mile wide with ramps going everywhere.

I come to my exit and get off, but I am not off the highway, the service road is a highway with stores on it, welcome to Texas I proclaim as I get off and am thankful that at least gas is very cheap at $1.75 a gallon. I drive along another highway with slower speed limits and more stores to reach a side street finally, but once you leave the sanctuary of your newly built tree filled neighborhood you will have to go onto another highway just to get there.

Dallas is stifling and I haven’t even been here in their summer. Not stifling in a heat sort of way – as of yet at least – stifling in a “I need to escape this suburban hellhole but can’t” way. If you want to leave the city, leave the pull of the city or experience rural openness, you must drive and then keep driving on a superhighway until you finally reach farmland at which point it will have gotten dark and you must turn around. It’s already hurting my psyche, you see I find the wandering and I need to get out of this place – but don’t worry – Colorado is next and should provide for endless hours and days of wandering action.

Posted in Abandoned Sites, Road Trips, Rural America | Tagged: , , | 7 Comments »

Technorati is making me do this

Posted by Frum Hiker on September 9, 2008

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Posted in Road Trips | 3 Comments »