Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Each of us woke up one moment, and here we were in the darkness.

(This title a line spoken by the ballerina in The Twilight Zone's "Five Characters in Search of an Exit"; click to watch via IMDb/Hulu.)

I'm in a rather bizarre place. It's loaded with trees, and the ground is doing this crazy up-and-down business. I think I've heard that referred to as...hills? A while back, there was a stretch of civilization or something like it. I think it was called "Oceana". It had these gas stations I've never seen before: "Chevron" and "Sunoco". Since then, I've seen occasional dwellings amid the trees and neighboring creek over which there have been little, rickety, wooden bridges through which I'd think a car would bust but perhaps not. A "Logan County" sign was legible not too long ago. I've momentarily pulled into a driveway off this road which has only been labeled with an eerie "10" in a box — to write this "journal". So, what I know is this: I'm on State Highway 10 in Logan County, somewhere in the United States. And I figure I'm in the United States because every other country that has Street View has nice, clear, high-definition, where I can actually read signs (unless they're auto-blurred) and occasional license plates (that should have been auto-blurred). We only have some of that.

This is just one of my "hobbies" that I've taken up in my nights and often days with the computer in the corn and soybeans. I put on some good music, zoom the Google Map all the way out, move it around a bit, switch to label-less satellite view, center it roughly around the eastern States — eyeballed, y'know; sometimes I miss. I haven't tried this in other countries yet, although this low-resolution imagery in this country is rather persuasive in that direction. Anyway — I click on the zoom scale to go directly all the way in, drag around until I find a road with Street View, drape a thing over the upper left of the monitor so I can't see the informative pop-up that Street View provides, and proceed to "drive" until, through recognition of highway signs and other clues, I've sufficiently figured out where I am.

I've gotten to know some of the States: Indiana and my state of Illinois have square-shaped state highway logos with their names in them. Kentucky puts their state highway numbers in circles. Tennessee mixes squares for the thruways and triangles for the more "roots" roads. Ohio has Ohio-shapes, Arkansas has Arkansas-shapes, and Missouri has Missouri-shapes (with lesser "letter" highways in squares). But I've yet to pick out this state, which is crazy hilly and wooded and only uses plain squares with plain numbers. And I've yet to hit a US highway or interstate, which would help me gauge how far north/south/east/west I am. I'm tempted to say I'm in Appalachia, but I really don't know.

By the way, a quick tip for American travelers, be they in real life or, like me, on Street View: For interstates, lower numbers within two digits are generally farther west (for odd-numbered roads, which primarily go north/south) and south (for even-numbered roads, which primarily go east/west). For the old US highways, it's the opposite: lower numbers are north and east compared to higher numbers. Triple-digit interstates are specific to one metro or otherwise not so long. And state routes seem to be total chaos. As can be the occasional diagonal US highway. (Where is 52 going?) So, New England gets US highways 1 and 2 and interstates 95 and I-don't-know-what-even-number, while Cali gets US's 101 and who-knows and I's-5 and 10. Florida gets I-4, and the rest of us get numbers in the middle somewhere. Me, I'm physically at the intersection of US 45 and 150, and I 74, 72 and 57. And virtually, I'm in a delightfully bizarre place (except, too many churches). And I'm fixin' to see more.

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