Saturday, October 13, 2018

Across the Mason-Dixon Line

The Mason-Dixon Line was originally the boundary between Maryland and Pennsylvania in the United States.  In the pre-Civil War period (1861 - 1865) it was regarded, together with the Ohio River, as the dividing line between the slave states south of it and the free-soil states north of it.  Between 1763 and 1767 the 233-mile line was surveyed along the parallel 39°43'N by two Englishmen, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon, to define the long-disputed boundaries of the overlapping land grants of the Penns (proprietors of Pennsylvania) and the Calverts (proprietors of Maryland).  Today the Mason-Dixon Line still serves figuratively as the political and social dividing line between the North and the South although it does not extend west of the Ohio River.

When we left Maryland early this morning it was less than 10 miles before we were beyond the tiny western limit and into West Virginia. During the remainder of the day we travelled through Virginia and North Carolina into South Carolina where we are now perched for the evening.  The highlight of the journey was unquestionably the drive through Shenandoah Valley (at the northern end) and the Blue Ridge Mountains (at the southern end).

Initially we were treated to autumnal views but progressively as we moved southerly the landscape returned to summer greenery.  In North Carolina as we wended through the heavily treed caverns the late afternoon dappled sunshine was magnificent. Regrettably there were constant reminders throughout North Carolina that religion is a highly marketed product. It did however explain the seeming paradox of the alliance between Donald J. Trump and the Evangelicals.  It also excused the recalcitrance of the so-called "liberals" in society.

At the risk of displaying a narrow absorption with food, I am anxious to report the outcome of putting on the nosebag this evening. Once again we booked into a modest hotel accommodation (Holiday Inn).  After asking for suggestions from the front desk we were encouraged to walk to nearby Shoney's restaurant (categorized on the web as "American traditional" - not exactly a compelling reference). Nonetheless we were armed with that ideal sauce for any meal - an appetite. By applying a degree of reserve and selection to the buffet we succeeded to compose an entirely satisfactory performance - homemade soup, fresh vegetable salad, southern fried chicken or baked chicken with hot veggies then fruit for dessert. In the interest of full disclosure I should also reveal that this morning for breakfast at Perkins we each had a sticky bun (an appropriate introduction to toasted pecans and caramel glaze). When in Rome!

Precedent to arriving at the hotel late this afternoon we sought a convenient gas station and car wash - a design to prepare us for the drive to Florida tomorrow and to clean the dust and debris from the fender cameras.  Because our hotel is located in a highly urban part of town (Columbia - Fort Jackson, SC) there were a collection of gas stations.  One in particular attracted me because it was on the convenient side of the 4-lane highway adjacent our hotel. When I parked at the pump it became unmistakably apparent that the station was primarily frequented by African Americans, not whites.  This is an experience which I first acquainted when we formerly stayed on Hilton Head Island, SC.  Remarkably the disparity between whites and blacks in the Confederate states is apparently so pronounced that they even have segregated gas stations. While I certainly did not sense any discomfort in being the token white on the premises, it was clearly a potential trespass on my part. If nothing else it was a reminder of the persistent division in this part of American between members of the population.

Just as we were leaving the gas station I noticed what appeared to be an automatic car wash - though it was noticeably dilapidated.  I stopped the car and went back into the cashier to enquire if there was a car wash - "What?", he asked.  "A car wash", I repeated. "No!", he retorted. That was the extent of his intelligence.  When however we were driving off the lot I spied a sign just down the road - "Car Wash" so we drove to check it out.  It was a self-service mechanism, which I reasoned would be sufficient for my current purposes.  Payment was by coin or credit card.  The credit card worked by activating the machinery which then continued to emit water from the hose (and to increase the charge commensurately with its use) until a button was pushed to terminate the water and the credit charge. It ended costing $3.75 which was acceptable in spite of its qualified efficiency.

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