Day two. We end up crossing the Ohio river into Kentucky. It would be nice if every state border could be divided by something so finite and visual as a river. A concrete division, muddy, deep, and moving quickly from someplace way up north, probably LakeErie, and ending up someplace way down south, most likely the Gulf Of Mexico. But until it finally pours out into the salt water it keeps the citizens of Ohio and Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia, Ohio and Kentucky, Kentucky and Indiana and almost certainly several others, safely separated and in their place. It just makes things neater.
It is almost amazing the difference crossing a bridge will make. Southern Ohio, is still Ohio, certainly, the landscape is different, and the architecture is more restrained, but you drive through little towns almost constantly. Highway 52 is dotted with small towns, Highway 125 is so littered with small towns you might assume it was the suburbs on medium, unseen urban area.
Not so in Kentucky, drive down Highway 23 and there are houses everywhere. Some ancient, abandoned, decaying and giving off a serious creepy tone that you can feel driving past. Others new, with shiny exteriors, swimming pools fed by long, winding slides. Some trailer houses, parked on a flat spot on the side of the hill, surrounded by cars, pickups and all terrain vehicles. Most of them are a long way from the nearest town. A trip to the grocery store is a serious undertaking.
When they get to the store, (at least the one we found) it is small, really inexpensive and filled with food that has lasted beyond it’s expiration date. It is an ingenious idea, they probably get this stuff for very little, sell it for slightly more, and people were hauling it out of there by the armload. There were hundreds of things that were just beyond the date, it might have been a month or two, that were ridiculously cheap. All of it was stuff that was so processed it should probably have a half life, stuff people eat all the time. We bought enough to fill a large box, and it was less than fifteen dollars. Of course, my wife said those stores were plentiful and she saw several in Ohio, too. And she does have an eye for those things.
And the people in the store all had the most charming accent. It always seemed to me that people in Kentucky drove too fast, too aggressively, but they talk so peacefully, so placid. Lilting through the “You alls,” and the “Pardons” and every word that came out their mouths. It was enough to make me want to start a conversation. “Let me buy you a cup of coffee. And we’ll talk.” I am a sucker for accents. On one side of the river they talk like me, on the other side, I suppose, they think I have an accent. It is difficult to believe an imaginary line, represented by a dashed line on a map, and dreamed up by surveyors hundreds of years ago would have the same effect as the mighty Ohio River cutting the states apart, dividing peoples whose differences are so noticeable, but maybe I am just a romantic.
Of course, it would be an easy matter for people from South Shore, or South Portsmouth to drive across the river and go to Walmart (though I probably would not cross the street to go to Walmart), or Kroger and do their shopping. They will be paying Ohio sales tax which seems a little treasonous to me. But, maybe I am just a just a little bitter about Governor Kasich’s tax plan.
And the Kroger in Portsmouth was insanely busy. The parking lot was packed, filled with cars, circling, sharks, or carrion birds, looking for a feast, or the closest parking spot. Mad Max goes grocery shopping with cell phone plastered to the side of his face. Ever vigilant, never slowing, just moving, wary, or unaware in some cases, it was almost surreal. Walmart might have been the better choice, it might have been worse, if that was possible.