Sunday, October 5, 2008

1 Oct – Knoxville, TN

Well, sadly, the Natchez Trace Parkway is no more. I just loved it. It was like riding through a 400 mile long botanical garden with mowed lawns, Lewis Carrol picture perfect farms with meadows of newly rolled hay, the odd deer peering out from the trees and the ever present suicidal squirrels never quite sure which way to run to avoid death. They run one way, then the other and finally stop still, arch their back and I am sure they close their eyes and wait for the thump. Towards the end in Nashville the trees are spotting with colour and the roadway is scattered with leaves. In a week or so it will be unbelievably beautiful. Even the Americans, who for the most part seem to be decoupled from their environment, are aware of the beauty to come. Many expressed sympathy that I had not come a little later and last night on TV they showed the spots in the country where you might see the early signs of autumn.

I am pleased to be out of Mississippi. The lower half is flat and featureless and appeared to be depressingly poor. My views of the northern end are prejudiced by what I saw on the Trace. Mostly I am pleased to be back in an English speaking part of the country. Last night the girl at McDonald's asked me a bunch of the usual questions and I swear to God I had no idea what she said and I was no better informed when she repeated herself. I just nodded and took what was given. Tennessee is as pretty as a picture and as broad as their accent is it is pleasing to the ear – I suppose I mean it is refreshingly different from the California accent. It is also getting much cooler. I rode all day with my jacket zipped right up – the first time since arriving – and tomorrow it will be time for the jersey. Tonight I am in Knoxville, Tennessee with only a short run ahead of me tomorrow to the Kickstand Lodge at Stecoah, NC where I hope to get in front of a TV to watch the Palin/Bidden debate. It will be the most watched and talked about event of this campaign.

At the moment the country is all abuzz regarding the 'bailout' of Wall Street. As an economist and given the seriousness of the situation I consider the public debate so far to have been incredibly shallow and unhelpful. I wonder if they attack all problems with such intellectual sloppiness. Equally I have seen only one cautionary voice raised regarding Palin's fundamentalist Christian beliefs. I wager this question will not come up in Thursdays debate.