It is late on a Saturday afternoon in mid-June on Alabama’s Gulf Coast. Dan and I say our goodbyes to our hosts for this two-day fishing trip on Dauphin Island. With fresh red snapper and grouper fillets packed on ice, we ease out onto the gravel drive and head toward home.
Less than thirty miles north of Mobile Bay, we make our way west from I-65, leaving Alabama behind us. Soon, we turn north again, finding US-45, which will guide our route all the way to Kentucky.
The coastal flats turn into the gently rolling fields and forests of Mississippi. In sharp contrast to the compressing rush of the interstate, Forty-Five seems almost deserted. In an hour, we meet fewer than twenty cars and only a couple pass us.
I cannot say with certainty, but am all but certain, that this is but a shadow of the traffic that would have been on this highway before I-65 was built. Even on a Saturday evening, the many miles from Mobile to Chicago would have seen carloads of families on vacation and, during the work week, a throng of commuters and commerce. I suspect that the fates of some small towns turned downward when the traveling changed. I can’t help wondering about how the shift shaped places like Buckatunna, Chicora, Quitman, Brooksville, Artesia and Okolona.
Dan and I speculate as to how much of our serenity is owed to the timing of our trip. Regardless, we are sure about how fine it is to practically have the whole highway to ourselves. Every now and then, we see a deer in a field near the road. We talk about Indians and arrowheads, Reese’s baseball game and whether or not kids play better when parents aren’t around. We talk about family history and future plans, about grilling fish and favorite catches. At some points, we share the sort of things that neither of us wants to see in print, things that hinge on a deeper trust.
Pine trees and hardwoods stretch along the road and sunshine passes into dusk. Miles pass by and fade into the growing darkness. We will stop in Tupelo and spend the night, sleep beneath tall magnolias and sweet white blossoms. In the morning, we will rise rested and ready for renewing our travels, grateful for the grace of these moments and the hand that guides us. In the best of our travels, visits such as this become the destination.