The old orphaned section of 210 highway stretches a little over five miles. It’s nearly straight, and very flat – after all, this is river bottoms land. And it’s a popular route for cyclists who enjoy leaving the up and down roller coaster of hills to cruise it’s length before disappearing once again as they climb the river bluffs and hills of rural Clay County. The new highway to the north has double the number of lanes, and there are none of the cavernous gaps in the pavement one encounters on the abandoned route. It’s clean and efficient and completely lacking in character. Down here, a rider can feel dwarfed by the fields of towering corn that flank both sides of the road. Midway, flying enthusiasts have hangared several airplanes, a couple of which appear to be quite old. There are even two or three ultralight outfits. Most days, I can ride past and see them working on the planes, taking off, and flying around the area.
The local farmers market has been smaller and less populous this summer than in previous years. The pandemic is largely to blame for this. I’ve noticed, however, that as the months have passed people seem to have learned to be more comfortable wearing masks and keeping their distance. The Saturday morning market has begun to feel a bit more lively, albeit cautiously sedate and with fewer greetings, nor any of the familiar slaps on the back, handshakes, or similar forms of greeting. It’s all done from an equally cautious distance.
A flower vendor looks formidable. Arms crossed, she watches me sketch from many yards away, a look of wariness on her face. She stays well back until a customer has made their selection.
I also notice that fewer people are picking up the fruit and vegetables to check for ripeness. There’s a lot more pointing than in the past. The farmers confirm a selection and gloved hands bag the produce. Rarely, actual money changes hands – the only actual contact that I see taking place. Most of the tables and truck are accepting cards now, and avoiding the possibility of touch.
As I type these words, I feel a certain melancholy. We’re learning to live with a new normal. I wonder if we’ll ever truly return from that.
Who doesn’t love exploring new places? I’ve passed by Blue Mills Road many, many times over the years, yet never turned north on that path until recently. I learned that the trailhead for Little Blue Trace Trail is accessed via Blue Mills Road. The trail is wonderful, in fact, and I regret having waited years before riding it. It meanders through woods that border farmland, eerily green backwaters, under a highway overpass, and over various hill and dale. I traversed the road only as far as the park, which it passes along the way. I love the remnants of an earlier time, like this farm house, and I imagine there’s more to be seen if I were to continue on beyond the park and further into the unknown-to-me rural places that only an unexplored road can share.
Summer evenings, about once a month, the local car club gathers on and around the town square. Classic American muscle cars line up in the diagonal parking, grills toward the street. Stirred into the mix are vintage restorations and gleaming hot rods. The engines are often clean enough the owners could eat off them. The rods, built up from a 1930’s or 40’s chassis, sport decidedly unoriginal paint, sometimes with airbrushed flames. The equally vintage restorations seem to be a mix of gently untouched originality – “beausage,” an amalgamation of visible usage and original beauty – along with those lovingly sourced and restored vehicles that look as if they just rolled off a showroom floor.