Discovering America

Yes, America still exists. The real America. Recently, mariner and his wife travelled across the Southwest sector of the US. Mariner’s wife put together a passage with ports of call and waypoints that avoided large cities, and as much as possible the Interstate highways. Our intent was to travel the forgotten routes to the villages, towns and history that are the true fabric of the nation. Referencing a recent post, we were intent to not drive a bus but actually travel the byways of culture and diversity that compose this fine nation.

Many travelers cannot put aside a vain, judgmental attitude; this attitude leads to a trip that misses the richness of diversity, the strength of freedom of choice. One must brush the dust off unused attitudes similar to sympathy and acceptance.

Up front, mariner wishes to correct any presumptions that small independent motels, small towns and villages and one-owner restaurants lack cleanliness, full-functionality and professionalism. Nonsense. They are five-star in their own right. Not five star like the plastic, sterile world of chain motels and machine-stamped restaurants but like the responsible humanness of unbleached reality. Quaintness is not another word for unacceptable.

Mariner and his wife visited several distinct cultures. One stop was in a town of 547 residents. It was on an original strip of Route 66 and the town remains as it was in the heyday of that highway in the 40s and 50s. For those who have traveled the Southwest, they know it is a vast region of little change in terrain. Deserts are common. Through this long, wide open region, Route 66 became the only road to transverse from the Midwest to the Pacific coast avoiding the travails of Rocky Mountain weather. It started in 1857 as a collection of Indian trails and sporadic wagon trails. Nothing was paved. Today with modern highways and speeds hovering around 75 or better, it still takes three days to travel the distance. Even the Santa Fe Chief takes two nights and three days by rail.

Mariner visited an American Indian neighborhood by the highway. There was very little in the way of a village, just travel services, Indian tourist items and a handful of small homes. (Most live out on the desert flats in very small shacks.) Mariner estimates that the economy on Indian reservations is about one-tenth the income per person of what the general economy represents. Bound by vindictive treaties, many established more than a century ago, American Indians largely are poverty-stricken but still very proud of their heritage. America has not treated American Indians very well.

Mariner visited a town whose economy was based on transportation – an immense truck stop and shipping center with all the retail and commercial resources that support this small city. At another stop the motel was managed by Hindus. As different economies and cultures were experienced, mariner and his wife became aware of the strength of diversity. At the same time, they felt the unity that gives the US its power. The two together are what made the US the wealthiest and most influential nation in history. It is sad commentary that US citizens and its governments have forgotten, even rejected the democratic engine that unites diversity and unity into a powerful alloy.

Ancient Mariner


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