Adventure Cycling maps largely avoid large cities for safety and ease of biking. There is less traffic, and that's better for us bikers. So instead we are zigzagging our way through small towns. This has both ups and downs.
One trend is that we see more churches than gas stations, a lot of people in Kentucky are voting for Jesus in the local elections. In Mississippi and Tennessee a lot of places were closed on Sundays, and we were told that many places close on Wednesday and Monday afternoons for people to go to church. We didn't experience problems with the latter, but we do make sure we have dollars as Sunday approaches in case the only place to get cold drinks is a rare soda machine. This past Sunday we were welcomed by the Breckenridge Mennonite Church where we stopped to get water and use the restroom. The only store in town- closed.
Biking through small towns is preferable to all the crazy traffic of big cities, but it also gets me to notice the really small things and I find I have a childlike excitement for really little things. There isn't much going on, so anything out of the ordinary is exciting. One day I was excited to see a horse in the pasture trotting along as if to chase or follow us. It was among the highlights of the day. I find myself tickled to see so many butterflies and moths everywhere, everyday (it must be their season- there are tons of them!). I've been 'run into' by butterflies (as well as some less interesting and likable insects).
One nice thing about small towns with nothing for miles in between is that the people there are as interested in you as you are in seeing other humans. Between these small towns are farms, forests, and state parks, and stretches of rural America with lots of hills. As we approach a town I get excited because it often means we'll take a break. The towns are also a good way to measure progress and I find myself excited when I see signs that say "Reduced Speed Ahead" because it means we're a mile or two from town.
I've enjoyed riding through small towns in the South, especially meeting new folks. I find myself really excited to get to Ohio (we cross the border tomorrow). This is my home state. It's not that great, but it does have a special place in UGRR history- especially Ripley, Ohio (which we're skipping in our shortcut but I will go visit later to visit the home of John Rankin). It's true value is a return to what is familiar. I found myself really excited a few days ago just to see an IGA grocery store (there was one in my neighborhood growing up) and as I belted out the lyrics to an IGA add/song and felt immense relief and joy I realized how valuable it is to be in a place that is familiar.
As we travel through the middle-of-nowhere I have come to appreciate Dollar General and WalMart and Gas Stations. These places have what we need in places where we really need them. I find myself excited to hear there is a WalMart nearby, whereas I used to be morally opposed to shopping there. I probably won't shop there a ton when I return to civilization, but I understand why people shop there. I still wish they would change some of their business practices, but I realize that this opinion is a luxury that those of us with real incomes and many shopping options can afford to have.