Ammo Grrrll reports from the raod: WHAT A BEAUTIFUL, GREAT LAND FULL OF KIND AND GOOD PEOPLE! She writes:
Well, friends, that Clausewitz guy said a mouthful when he noticed that “the map is not the terrain.” Heck, the MapQuest is not even the terrain. We were heading toward Alexandria, Minnesota, from Sioux Falls early on in this Grand Adventure – in a sleety snowfall, it goes without saying – when the naggy female voice on the GPS system told us to turn left onto a road that was simply no longer there. Not under construction — gone!
It was not quite as disheartening as the time I saw a weathered sign for Grandma’s Home Cookin’ Restaurant, left the highway and searched for several miles with visions of Chicken and Dumplings dancing in my head. Alas, there was only a broken-down shack whose sign bore the faint ghost-like outline of “Grandma’s” on it. Why in the world did nobody ever take down the sign? “Grandma” must have gone on to her reward sometime during the Civil War. Okay, it’s been about 25 years now, so I’m almost over that. I’m resilient that way.
Meanwhile, back on the border between South Dakota and Minnesota, our “reee-calculating” female voice re-routed us on roads so rural that the instructions included “go about 2 miles as the crow flies, you’ll pass a red barn with a Trump sign, but don’t turn there. Go past where the Johnson’s USED to live – not the Robert Johnsons, but the Herman Johnsons – and turn right on Chippewa and then in 10 miles turn left on 170th Street.”
I may have made SOME of that up, but the last part was word for word. Furthermore, in the trip from Lincoln, NE to Joplin, MO, the GPS predicted it would take just under 5 hours and it took SIX because in the Ozarks the “terrain” frequently allowed one to go only 35 or 40 miles an hour. The people who were used to it, of course, scurried right along much faster than the posted speed and were exceedingly annoyed with the lady with the Arizona plates who insisted on only going 5-7 miles over the speed limit. Isn’t it amazing how a nation of speed limit scofflaws turned out to be so docile in the face of mandatory masks?
Apart from those tiny quibbles and one hotel I won’t mention – which had a wobbly toilet seat (“because of COVID”), no liners in the wastebasket (COVID), no good food (COVID), no cocktail hour in the lobby (COVID), and a freezing room temperature which, for some reason was set in Celsius – the trip was one incredible human encounter after another.
America is, indeed, “the Beautiful.” Switzerland and Austria might rival us for mountains, but we have gorgeous mountain ranges, canyons, deserts, hundreds of miles of lush green tree-lined highways, thousands of sparkling blue lakes, rivers, two impressive oceans, prairies, and people from every nation and culture on earth. No other country or even continent comes close to our diversity of either geography or people.
America is great because of our notorious love of liberty, our Constitution, our Bill of Rights, and the utter BRILLIANCE of E Pluribus Unum: Out of many, ONE. That has served us well for centuries – with lapses and hard-won learning – and will not be improved with the leftist Democrat ideal of “From A Whole Bunch of Warring Tribes — Quotas and Hatred.” America also is great because its people, in an overwhelming majority, are good.
The readers and commenters I met on this trip were from Tucumcari, New Mexico; from Ely, Minnesota (Way Up North); from Burnsville by way of tiny Clarissa, MN; from Elk River, MN; from Tuscaloosa, AL; from a lovely little hamlet which wishes to be anonymous in South Carolina; from Tampa, FL and Boca Grande, FL (on Gasparilla Island). People traveled far to connect with us – in some cases, driving for several hours, including from North to South Carolina, and even flying to Florida from Pennsylvania with hideous connecting flights and long layovers. We were so blessed to have made these connections. Each time we left a place, it felt like leaving your friends in summer camp when you were a kid.
In addition, dear friends from our former synagogue in St. Paul traveled up to Alexandria to fish and hang out with our extended family and, of course, I spent a lot of time in Alexandria with my bestie since age 14, Bonnie, AKA Lotus, and her husband.
Except for the long-time friends mentioned above, we had only previously met one couple (code named Gabby and Len) with the wonderful beach house on Gasparilla Island. We were their guests for two lovely days. You should definitely try to snag an invitation to visit them because you will be treated with love, generosity, homemade breakfasts and a lot of laughs!
And I finally got to meet TonyP and his lovely wife in person after emailing for two years.
It is somewhat overwhelming to meet new couples and individuals every other day or so for the better part of a month. Each time, Joe and I would feel we had really hit it off with someone and that – surely! – THIS encounter would be the standout from the trip. And then the next one was just as wonderful. Except for the relative youngsters in Carolina, everyone ranged from late, late middle age to Early Geezerhood.
I did not go to the first several high school reunions of my Class of 1964. But people told me that at the first two or three people mostly hung out in the same cliques they had in high school and mostly bragged about or exaggerated their accomplishments. By the 50th, which was chronicled in my first year as a columnist here (see Ammo Grrrll Hits the Target), it seemed to me that the superficial differences had mostly disappeared, we had all been through pain and loss, and had grown up. Having lost many classmates, we were grateful to be here.
What struck me about every single encounter on this trip is that people were not just kind and smart and funny, though that would have been plenty. To a person, people were willing to share who they were from the depths of their hearts, souls, and guts. At our age, we don’t have the luxury of taking decades to become friends or to reveal who we really are. Sure, we talked politics and shared our fears and hopes for this great and good land. We laughed a lot, too. We broke bread together and shared adult libations.
But we are all human. We are all flawed and toting baggage. People spoke of struggles with substance abuse, of rifts with family members over politics, of health issues and accidents, of broken marriages, war stories, and bounding back from wretched circumstances. Nearly every person had been to hell and back in one way or another and is still here to tell the tale. America is full of tough, kind people. It inspired me and gave me great hope. YUGE thanks and much love to all of you who know who you are and to all who followed our journey. As you read this, we should be in rural Louisiana meeting the final readers who invited us to stop by. Get out there and meet normal Americans. It will elevate your spirit immeasurably.