On the Interstate – Part 4

On I-20 West somewhere in Mississippi. Notice the little red Ganesha. Click to embiggen.

This is the final part of the set of posts related to my road trip from Newark, DE, to Dallas, TX. (Previously, part 1, part 2 and part 3.) I was slightly apprehensive about the drive not because of the distance — around 2,500 kms — but because my car had a roof-top bag. I’d never done such a thing. It turned out fine.

Let me tell you why all my road trips turn out fine. Notice that little red Ganesha on my dashboard? In exchange for him removing all obstacles, I give him sweets. He never fails to deliver. Honest.

The first part of the journey was due south to Atlanta, GA. I had previously passed through all of those states: Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. Then heading west from Georgia, I drove through states that I had never been through before: Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana before entering Texas. Those southern states were new to me.

Delaware to Texas, via Atlanta, Georgia.

I stopped at a rest stop at Alabama for about 10 minutes. Here’s a picture of the rest stop.

A rest stop on I-20 West in Alabama

As I was walking back to my car, a car pulled up. An elderly man got out of it, and we chatted for a few minutes. Southerners are very friendly people and are always ready to offer help and advice. I told him that I was passing through and headed to Texas  and that, yes, I planned to get to Dallas before nightfall.

Click on the image to embiggen. My car is the one on the right.

I got back on the road. Next came the first fill-up that I did in Alabama before crossing over to Mississippi. I, like most people in the US, go to the cheapest gas stations along the route. Gas prices have come down in the past couple of months. Before starting from Atlanta, I had filled up at a Costco gas station @$2.899 a gallon. Not too bad.

This is a peculiar thing about the US. Gas is priced at dollars, cents, and 9/10th of a cent. Always. Why?

In a country where people can’t buy anything for a penny anymore, it seems odd to pull up to a gas station and see a fraction of a cent included in the price. So what’s the deal?

The practice of tacking 9/10 of a cent on the end of a gas price goes back to when gas cost only pennies per gallon and was a tax imposed by state and federal governments. Gas stations added the fraction of a cent on the end of the price instead of rounding up the price. Back then, a full penny would have been a budget-buster for customers. The federal tax was implemented in 1932 as part of the Revenue Act of 1932 and was supposed to expire in 1934 — except it never did. [SourceHow stuff works.]

Welcome to Mississippi.

After a stop at a gas station in Alabama, I entered Mississippi.

I have a pretty big collection of songs which I call “Road Trip Songs.” As I drove through Mississippi, I listened to the song Mississippi by Pussycat. Part of the lyrics:

Mississippi, I’ll remember you,
Whenever I shall go away,
I’ll be longing for the day,
When I will be in Greensville again,
Mississippi you’ll be on my mind,
Everytime I hear this song,
Mississippi rolls along until the end of time.

Now the country song forever lost it’s soul,
When the guitar player turns to rock’n’roll,
And everytime when summer nights are falling,
I always will be calling,
Dreams of yesterday.

One of my American heroes is Mark Twain. He is closely associated with the Mississippi river since he was a riverboat pilot on the river for a bit.[1]

I next crossed into Louisiana.

I associate the state with the Louisiana Purchase, which was “the acquisition of the territory of Louisiana by the United States from the French First Republic in 1803. In return for fifteen million dollars, or approximately eighteen dollars per square mile, the United States nominally acquired a total of 828,000 sq mi (2.14 million km2; 530 million acres).”

My journey was coming to a close. I crossed into Texas early evening. The sun was low on the horizon and as I was headed west, shining in my eyes. I was finally feeling a little tired and looked forward to reaching my destination — which was still a few hours away.

I like wandering around the world. One of my best-loved songs is “I was born under a wanderin’ star” from the Western movie Paint Your Wagon. Aside from the wonderfully gritty voice of Lee Marvin, I love the words. They define me to a very large extent. Here are the words:

I was born under a wandering star

Wheels are made for rolling, mules are made to pack
I’ve never seen a sight that didn’t look better looking back

I was born under a wandering star

Mud can make you prisoner, and the plains can bake you dry
Snow can burn your eyes, but only people make you cry

Home is made for coming from, for dreams of going to
Which with any luck will never come true

I was born under a wandering star

Do I know where hell is? Hell is in “hello”
Heaven is goodbye forever, it’s time for me to go

I was born under a wandering star`

When I get to heaven tie me to a tree
Or I’ll begin to roam, and soon you’ll know where I will be

I was born under a wandering star

Snow can burn your eyes, but only people make you cry. Hell is in hello. Home is made for coming from, for dreams of going to — which with any luck will never come true.

I hope you liked the song. That’s it for now. End of my trip. Bye.


[1] In fact, born Samuel L. Clemens, he took the pen name Mark Twain. He maintained that his primary pen name came from his years working on Mississippi riverboats, where two fathoms, a depth indicating water safe for the passage of boat, was a measure on the sounding line. The riverboatman’s cry was “mark twain” meaning “according to the mark [on the line], [the depth is] two [fathoms]”; that is, “The water is 12 feet (3.7 m) deep and it is safe to pass.” [Edited from the wiki entry.]


Author: Atanu Dey


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