December 4, 2019
On Monday I realized that my co-pilot, Clarence Over, had given me some bad navigational advice. He claimed he was distracted by J.J. ("Dy-no-mite") when J.J. was checking the oil in the plane. (Hopefully you get my references to the movie Airplane!)
Nah, I messed up. Last week when I was in Mississippi, I completely blanked on the fact that there is a Paris, Mississippi. It wasn't until Monday when I was going through the "Paris envelopes" that my friends at First Tee had given me that I realized my mistake.
Only one thing to do - head back to Mississippi. So yesterday, breaking my rule of no more than four hours of driving a day, I pointed the Sequoia eastward and drove 445 miles to Oxford, MS which is 14 miles from Paris.
I had a great time on the drive thanks to several towns in Arkansas with unusual names. I passed through Blue Mountain, Blue Ball, Egypt, Needmore, Y City, Acorn, Umpire, Daisy, Friendship, Wabbaseka, and Ulm.
Towns I saw signs for but missed weere De Queen, Pencil Bluff, Arkadelphia, England, Smackover and the one really I wished I had drive into - El Dorado.
Another highlight was getting onto US 278 in Wickes, Arkansas. If you've ever been to Hilton Head, South Carolina you know that US 278 ends there. The other end of US 278 is - yes, you are correct - in Wickes, Arkansas.
The drive also gave me the chance to drive through parts of Arkansas that I had missed. Four words - lumber, cattle, chickens and nothing. Square miles of tall pine trees and trucks carrying the cut pines to the mill (those trucks are intimidating when they are barreling toward you at 65 mph on a two-lane road!). Beautiful pastures with lots of cows. Lots of Tyson Chicken signs and chicken "houses(?)." And space - lots of emptiness. Until I got to Oxford, I think I saw one Walmart. Lots of small churches, Dollar General. I don't think I have seen a grocery store that is part of a chain I recognize in a few weeks (except for Walmart - which actually may explain why I haven't). Once I passed Pine Bluff, Arkansas, I saw almost nothing for the next three hours. I assume I was in the Arkansas Delta but it was dark and I couldn't see anything. There is something very eerie about driving a two-lane road in the dark for that long. I'll admit I was relieved to get to the lights of Oxford last night.
It has been such an eye-opening experience to drive through the South. I knew the people would be awesome and they have been. What has overwhelmed me - and that is the right word - are the "ruralness" (rurality?) and as I have written before the state of almost every small town I have been through. I can tell Oxford is different; driving in last night, I was struck by the busyness and newness. It feels almost inappropriate to be in a bustling college town after what I have seen. The difference are so stark.
Keep on smiling!!