I should save this non-political post for the weekend, but for various reasons, I must publish now.
This photo-essay documents how a family of economic refugees (two adults and one Hell-Hound) crossed the United States of America in the dead of winter. We packed all of our possessions into a seriously over-burdened minivan purchased from the post office for well under $1000. Despite our lack of license plates, the constabulary of fourteen states never assailed us.
The protagonist of our story is Bella, the fearsome Hell-Hound who functions as mascot to this blog. Here she is in sunny California, snoozing contentedly, unaware that she is about to undergo the adventure of a lifetime. She is eleven years old.
We named our minivan the Hippo because we got it for Christmas. Bella, now fully awake, sits in the belly of a fully-packed hippo. That seat will be her domain for the next week.
Riverside, California. This is what the San Bernardino mountains looked like on the day we left.
We crossed the San Bernadinos and made our way toward the California desert.
The Hippo, parked in front of our motel room in Flagstaff , Arizona. (The shooting in Tucson was still some days away.) This was the morning when Bella first discovered snow. She agreed with Carl Reiner's assessment: "A lot of people like snow. I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water."
We weren't the only ones doing the "Ma and Pa Joad in reverse" trip.
In New Mexico, Bella met Native Americans.
A friend to this blog graciously offered to buy us dinner when we got into Albuquerque. Alas, we entered that town far too late; our deepest apologies. The next morning, we had blue corn enchiladas at a place called Joseph's in Santa Rosa. Man
, were they good!
Texas. We liked everyone we met there. Even so, we would prefer that they never give us another president.
Oklahoma. Bella knows she belongs to the land. And the land she belongs to is grand. However, she did not say "Yeeow! Ayipioeeay!" while pooping.
Both Oklahoma and Texas are big on massive roadside crosses.
The splendor that is Mulhall, Oklahoma. We stopped here when we realized that we had wandered onto the wrong highway. Fortunately, righting our course took us through the town of Stillwater, which may be the nicest small town in all of America.
In magnificent East St. Louis, Bella posed with the famous arch. Having heard that East St. Louis can be a tough burg, she tried her best to look intimidating.
The small town of Trenton, Illinois. Bella had a grand time romping through these fields. We stayed with my ladyfriend's aunt, a former free spirit from Seattle who -- oddly enough -- knew Mia Zapata
rather well. In fact, she had been out drinking with Mia on the night she mysteriously disappeared.
In Trenton, our dining companions included a female liberal and a male conservative. They both agreed that no-one should ever
trust a politician from Chicago, regardless of party affiliation.
Indiana. I have nothing to say about Indiana except that it was beautiful and frozen.
Bella inspects a visitor's center in Kentucky, located between -- I kid you not -- Simpsonville and Shelbyville.
On the Ohio side of the Ohio river (where the temp had dropped to two degrees
the night before!), Bella directs our attention to the Silver Memorial Bridge, which crosses into West Virginia. This bridge replaced the one which fell in December of 1967. And that brings us to...Mothman!
Now we are on the other side of the river, in the lovely town of Point Pleasant, West Virginia. According to local lore, the wave of Mothman sightings in 1966 and 1967 heralded the bridge disaster. I've long been a big fan of the Mothman legend.
Intrigued by the Mothman mystery, Bella goes undercover to conduct further investigation.
We're still in Point Pleasant, WV, which is now the site of a major art project. The new Silver Bridge, in the background, bypassed the town, harming local business. The old Silver Bridge came directly into Point Pleasant -- at the spot marked by these snow-covered steps.
The Mothman statue (barely visible behind the Hippo) looks through this gate toward the steps pictured in the image above. In other words, Mothman continues to haunt the spot of the great tragedy. On either side of the gate is a massive wall which faces the Ohio river -- and on this wall will be the largest mural in the United States.
Some sections of the mural are already completed -- and as you can see, the work is not bad at all. In fact, it's awe-inspiring. The paintings depict scenes from local history, including one of the great evils committed during the Revolutionary War period: Chief Cornstalk, having come to the British under color of truce, was taken captive and then slaughtered.
More of the mural. The artist is Robert Dafford, of Louisiana.
Bella inspects Dafford's work.
Bella, having finally reached her destination, explores her new home -- Baltimore. As you can see, she has made a new friend.
In Baltimore, the houses are mostly up-and-down affairs, designed for use by Peter Parker and no-one else. People in this city quickly get used to dealing with stairs. Lots
of stairs. Narrow, twisty stairs without handrails. In fact, they're more like ladders than stairways. Getting to our attic pad is a bit like mounting an expedition to the summit of K2.
The yuppies in Canton take a perverse pride in the narrowness of their domiciles: "My house is only fifteen feet wide." "Fifteen? Pheh! Our
home is twelve
As I write, Bella is taking a well-deserved rest.
She informs me that I am supposed to end this chronicle with the words "Go Ravens!" -- a phrase which apparently refers to some local sporting fraternity. Since I don't usually keep up with such things, I can only express the hope that the wittily-named Ravens will continue to do well whatever it is that they do.
Many thanks to the Cannonfire readers who made this adventure possible.