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  • robertfarago1

Happy Independence Day! (Monticello, New York)

Our country's coastal elites see middle America as "the great flyover." Barack Obama spoke for millions when he declared that small town Pennsylvanians "cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them."

This condescending ignorance isn't just engendered by wealthy Americans' intra-city airplane travel. It's also a byproduct of our interstate highways.

Highway to Hell

Yesterday, I traveled from Johnston, Pennsylvania to Monticello, New York. A 250-mile journey that takes about four-and-a-half hours.

Unless you toggle Apple Maps' "avoid highways" feature. Depending on the number and duration of stops, the trek then requires a good seven hours.

Fritz and I have used this algorithmic addenda to avoid highways since leaving Austin. All the way until I stopped for gas somewhere on the way from the Keystone to the Empire State.

For some reason, Apple Maps changed modes and directed me onto major highways.

Hot, tired and saddle sore, determined to make it halfway to Massachusetts before nightfall, I surrendered to the lure of point-to-point efficiency.

On the positive side, I bypassed Scranton, indicated by a sign for the President Biden Expressway. On the negative side, I saw nothing but groomed, unspectacular scenery.

Overhead directions and chain food, gas and accommodation come-ons were the journey's only drama. Other than playing a 70mph+ chess-game with potentially lethal eighteen wheelers and slower traffic.

This after many pleasant hours spent passing small houses and dilapidated trailers homes clinging to the sides of deep valleys. Blasting through rolling farmland with ankle-high corn destined for rocket-shaped silos. Carving corners through aromatic forests.

Not to mention ambling by Amish horse-and-buggies. Pausing at red lights operated by empty store-fronted towns. Cruising through historic burgs combining austere Colonial with restrained 19th century architecture.

Kind-Hearted Coffee Klatsch

Before Siri screwed the pooch, I'd stopped to re-caffeinate at the Little City Coffee Shop (and used bookstore) in Monongahela, Pennsylvania.

I struck-up a conversation with a 54-year-old man sitting on the couch by the widow. We discussed local and personal history, including my restless soul and his drug dependency (cured by his Lord and Savior Jesus Christ).

The quinquagenarian Monongehelian spent his entire life in a town of 4000. "America's kindest city." Something to do with Swiss-born financier Albert Gallatin's speech on the bluff, calming his tax-averse compatriots, ending the Whiskey Rebellion?

My new friend gave me a hug as I left, wishing me a safe journey and a happy Independence Day.

Just one of many random encounters over 6k miles, through eight states and counting. Adding to my understanding of both myself and my country.

The Land of the Free

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that I know the "other" America. But at least I'm seeing it.

What I saw yesterday: the American flag flying. Atop poles a' plenty (a great stripper name). Adorning the railings of dozens of porches and buildings. Affixed to walls inside coffee shops and restaurants. Literally everywhere.

Whatever you think Old Glory stands for, I saw its omnipresence as proof positive that rural Americans take their role in our country's past, present and future seriously. Both individually and collectively.

I also view it as a testament to the fact that rural Americans don't take their country's blessings for granted.

Back to the Backroads

The multi-lane highway slicing through PA disconnected me from that reverence, on the eve of the Declaration of Independence's 248th anniversary.

So I exited and reset Apple Maps, even though darkness was closing in.

For a motorcyclist, the difference between interstate highways and backroads is the difference between flying a passenger plane and piloting a fighter jet.

As I upped the pace, racing the sun to the finish line, I felt both more at peace and more excited.

A thought occurred: I'm lucky to live in a country where I'm free to go wherever I want, whenever I want, unimpeded by government (radar gun-wielding cops aside). Welcomed, aided and abetted by my fellow Americans.

At least I have been so far. Especially but not exclusively in small town and rural America – where no one who's learned that this blog is called The Wandering Jew batted an eye.

The Road Less Travelled

If you live in one of America's urban conurbations and listen to the coastal-based mainstream media, it's easy to believe rural Americans are violent, ignorant, racist and homophobic.

Some may be. Just as some city dwellers answer to that description.

Regardless, as Polish-American philosopher and scientist Alfred Korzybski warned us, the map is not the territory.

Independent-minded citizens who want a true picture of the "other America" have to go there and experience it. Preferably by motorcycle. But definitely guided by the right map.

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Hmm... President Biden Expressway.

Let me guess; electric vehicles only, speed limit is 25 mph, mile markers are in random order and it's all left turns. 😁


Dave Holzman
Dave Holzman

I went through a couple of thousand miles of that territory on my bicycle back in '75, and met lots of Americans in bars, some in cafes, and some simply in the towns where they lived. And I'm am greatly enjoying following the Wandering Jew through similar places. Wander on!



The President Biden Expressway is, drum roll please, .75 miles long, that’s right three quarters of a mile long. Was Scranton serious or just gas lighting Joe?


Sequoia Sempervirens
Sequoia Sempervirens

Being raised in Santa Monica, I was taught that all small town people were ignorant, kind of like the portrayal of rural folks on the TV series, the Beverly hillbillies. After I got married, we lived in several small towns, and none of the folks living there were hillbillies. They were good, kindhearted people who would give you the shirt off their back. It’s too bad that Obama reinforced the negative stereotypes of country folks.



As for the title, I haven’t left the hotel yet. Too sore and tired. But needs must. Food! Somehow I don’t think fine dining is in the offing…

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