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What Google Said

Sun, 30 Jul 2023, 10:32 AM (-06:00) Creative Commons License

Here is a snippet from the third day of my drive from Michigan to Austin. 

Much of Wednesday morning was spent driving thru the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri. I was focused on taking scenic backroads, and today I got it.

US-160 from Poplar Bluff to Alton starts out innocently enough: a generously well paved two-lane road running west, connecting two scenic routes with an east-west path running thru the national forest. 

Even though the atlas (yes, an old-school paper atlas) doesn’t explicitly mark it as scenic, I figured its route thru the national forest would be a joy. In the beginning, US-160 was a generously wide and nicely paved two-lane road. But with Poplar Bluff receding into the distance, as the road became narrow and the trees leaned over to blot out the sky, the road became a punctuated sequence of sharp turns left and then right that were posted at 35, 40 and 45mph. “You would have been carsick,” I later reported to Trudy. 

Still, in spite of the lack of a scenic designation, in my opinion that stretch of US-160 qualifies. Perhaps it is because the forest is so close at hand. Perhaps it is the trailers and homesteads along the road. Or perhaps it is the individual trees — tall Oaks with glossy, dark green leaves that throw down generous shade.

Slow down. Turn left. Slow down. Turn right. So it went all the way to Alton, which I reached at 11:21, signaling Trudy upon my arrival. An hour later after crossing into Arkansas, I pulled off the road into the Salem City Park for lunch. There was shade. There were picnic tables. At the bottom of a hill there was a lake. And there were clean restrooms.

a picnic table with lunch in Salem with the lake in the background

“Yay!” Trudy celebrated when I told her I was stopping and then added, “Google says four hours to go.”

But here’s the thing of it. Google doesn’t understand this kind of trip. Google assumes you want to go fast. Or Google assumes you want the shortest distance. I wanted neither and so didn’t consult the Google. So despite the algorithm’s estimate, I arrived six hours later at the Corps of Engineers Aux Arc Park on the shores of the Arkansas River near Ozark, Arkansas

campsite #2 in the shade along the river

where I backed the trailer into site #2 in the shade of a Sweetgum Tree.

© jumpingfish by David Hasan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License