Sunday Letters
Spring house next to road
16 April 2000

Dear Friend,

. . . Two roads diverged in a yellow wood. If you can tell which one is less traveled, that's the one Robert Frost took.
. . . Do you know his poem about the road less traveled? Barbara has his poem hanging on our bedroom wall, done in needlepoint.
. . . Each morning I choose the road less traveled. Unlike Frost, choosing which road is less traveled requires no deliberation. While nearly everyone takes the highways, I take narrow, slow roads.
. . . Briefly each day I'm on a four-lane divided highway. But at Highway 202, most of the traffic turns left or right. Then, a quarter mile further on, the traffic that had continued straight with me also turns left or right, leaving me alone taking the straight and narrow way, a solitary driver on a solitary road that quickly narrows to English thinness as it descends to Brandywine Creek.
. . . At this point on Friday, my tape finished playing and popped out. I'd been listening to "King Leopold's Ghost," a history of the terrible subjugation of the Congo, the worst perpetrator being Leopold, the king of Belgium. Listening to this book, you might conclude men are naturally sinful, more so when they do not fear punishment but are instead rewarded. Happily, our civilization has moved beyond such greed and heartlessness.
. . . When the tape popped out, the radio came on, reporting to commuters in Philadelphia. "Traffic is backed up fourteen miles," said the announcer just as the center stripe disappeared on the road I rolled along. "There is an accident at the intersection of Conshocken and Allegany. Police are on the scene. There's another accident at . . . ," the radio continued. Me, I watched carefully for cars coming the other way. There weren't any.
. . . However, there was a car behind me. Somehow, they're always behind me wanting to go faster and never in front, going slower. On most roads, driving fast is an exercise in futility. You just get behind some slower car quik. My bumper sticker philosophy on this? Slow drivers lead, fast drivers follow ... until the slow driver pulls over.
. . . Down at the Brandywine River, I pulled off the road to let the fellow behind me pass. I pulled into the park maintained by the Trustees of Woodlawn, a duPont estate. There I found room for two hundred cars to park. It was empty.

Brandywine Creek

. . . It was a fine, sunny morning. I had a few minutes to spare, so I got out to look around, take some photos like the one above. I walked down to the river bank. Looking downstream, I saw a large bird flying towards me. It was a bald eagle. It landed in one of the tall trees at the water's edge and looked down to see what trout might have survived the first week of fishing season.
. . . I drove on, over the single lane of wooden-planked Smith Bridge. It was a covered bridge until it burned thirty years ago. DelDOT engineers have plans to modernize it. They also have the good sense to listen to the public. At a public meeting recently, they showed their good sense by listening to the neighbors, who -- like me -- enjoy the slow, narrow, empty roads. Some want the bridge restored, recovered.
. . . Over the bridge and down the other side, I came upon three turkey vultures. I stopped and snapped their picture. They had been feasting for a week on a deer someone had hit. My presence didn't disturb them. Perhaps they were too fat to care. I always wondered what it would be like to be fat.
. . . Further on I was suddenly confronted with an traffic accident. Cars were backed up. The police were on the scene. Actually, there was one car backed up. The woman in the ranger hat waved us around another dead deer, feet up in the ditch. The car that hit it was up on a tow truck.
. . . Two miles further on, on Old Kennett Pike, I actually found myself behind someone traveling slower than I. It was a pickup pulling a trailer full of landscaping equipment. The trailer was wider than the lane. With one wheel riding on the center yellow line, the other wheel was off the road, a road with no shoulder.
. . . I went off the shoulder a week or so ago in a particularly narrow place with oncoming traffic. I hit a deep hole and my wheels have been a bit wobbly ever since.
. . . Wobbly or not, I'm glad to be off the crowded roads. When I'm on them I become a contradiction -- impatient to reach my destination but not eager to reach it.
. . . All this makes me wonder why the road I drive isn't crowded. Do people driving those other roads find something I miss? A sense of community? A shared experience? Fewer deer?
. . . Perhaps others are serene in conditions that make me compulsively aggressive. Perhaps others find enjoyment in circumstances I cannot. Am I simply peculiar? Maladaptive?
. . . Perhaps there's nothing special about the road I've chosen except that it suits me and others like me who are out of step with speed -- the few, the slow, the wobbly.
. . . This, then, is the turtle gospel. With a click of my mouse, it hurtles across America on high-speed lines of mass digital communication to friends like you -- the many, the quick, the sophisticated.

Driving with one hand

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Slow Drivers Lead, Fast Drivers Follow

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"Just 'cause you're following a well-marked trail don't mean that whoever made it knew where they were goin'." (from Texas Bix Bender's "Don't Squat with Yer Spurs On!")