Talk about a variety of folks along the road... I've seen license plates from Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado and even Michigan. Add my North Carolina plates and it's easily close to 10 different states all on the road these last couple of days. You can definitely tell the locals wherever you may be because they get impatient with those of us just passing through... I've had several "monster" trucks here in the South come up behind my little Prius C so fast, I didn't even get a chance to see them coming.
Oh, and the speed limits - talk about even more variety. The highways go from 55 mph all the way to 75 mph depending on which state you're in. Surprisingly, Kansas is the one with 75 mph. I imagine it's because the highways really are just passing through amazingly beautiful farm land and you can tell the local residents really don't want outsiders to stop. Some of the exits are just plain difficult to navigate.
I will say, the city police of Cairo, IL was very kind to me. All that know me, know I don't trust GPS, so I carry my trusty road atlas with me, especially on long trips like this one. I pulled off the highway in a very rural area and stopped amongst fields of what looked to be spinach, but I'm not sure. I wanted to check my map to make sure my GPS was still sending me in the right direction. Apparently, when the officer saw me open the big atlas pages, he thought I was opening my hood, so he flipped a u-turn and came around to see if I was okay. Very nice of him. He was surprised I did actually have a road atlas and commented he does the same, but his wife thinks he's crazy with all of the technology in cars and on smartphones.
He suggested I take state route 3 through the farmlands all the way to St. Louis, MO, so I did. It was a beautiful 2.5 hour drive through farms and land I would have never seen had I not taken his suggestion. I crossed the Mississippi River, the Ohio River and a bunch of other smaller ones with this route. Plus, I had a hair-raising two lane bridge experience. I'm normally not a nervous driver, but the bridge over the Mississippi River to Kentucky was a two-lane, very narrow bridge that had lots of semi-truck traffic! Luckily, I drive a tiny car so it wasn't so bad, but had I been in anything bigger than the compact Prius, I would have been very nervous.
Most of the day's drive was just relaxing and soothing. I found I missed driving a lot. When I lived in California, I used to drive at least 300-400 miles every weekend exploring the Sierra-Nevadas and visiting the beach. Since moving to North Carolina, I haven't driven much. Part of it is I LOVE my home and having been in the same place for 8 years now, I've become somewhat of a recluse. This must change...
I visited the Wickliffe Mounds, Popeye's hometown and saw many great beauties along the way. I have to say, most Americans don't get out into their own backyard and I just absolutely adore this country. The more I see of it, the less I'd like to visit other countries. There's so much to see right here if you're willing to tune out technology and just do what folks of the early U.S. did for fun, see this wonderful country in all it's glory. Did you know, the U.S. is the pioneering country of federal lands? If it weren't for Roosevelt, we'd have a bunch of people destroying some of our most precious lands in this country. It's bad enough we're encroaching on the lands we have preserved, but at least no one can build in Yosemite or Yellowstone or the Grand Canyon for that matter! Thank goodness for his vision and gift to the people of the United States of America.
Anyway, I've made it to my destination, Emporia, KS. I'm here for the next week learning what I can from the GRS Training Center about metal engraving and stone setting. It will be a fun week with lots of new ideas and meeting other jewelers, so I'm pretty darn excited. I'll be sure to keep you updated with photos and additional stories of my experiences. From what I've heard from others about this program, it's phenomenal and will definitely be a fantastic way to learn a new art form.