A Changing, Harsher World Out There
By James Donahue
It has perhaps been no secret to regular readers that my wife and I have been on a pilgrimage back to
our roots, and back to the place from which we were driven nearly one year ago.
In our travels we clearly saw the effects of the rising cost of fuel and its painful transformation
on the way Americans now live and . . . if lucky. . . still work..
We noticed that the usual summer glut of campers, motor homes, and cars with bicycles, water skis and
canoes was not to be seen on the open highways. In their place were trucks, a few luxury motor homes pulling sub-compact cars,
and high priced sedans . . . the type used by corporate executives scurrying from one place to the next. Some were operated
The trucks are still out there. They pack the Interstates by the thousands. But we noticed that most
of them were running at slow speeds, holding it way down below the speed limits in western states that allow up to 75 miles
per hour, obviously trying to coax the most miles possible between fill-ups.
In states where it is allowed, trucks were towing as many as two trailers, thus pulling as much cargo
as possible with each trip. It is comparable to the early steamship days on the Great Lakes, when smaller vessels had to carry
so much coal they lacked much cargo room. To compensate they took barges in tow for those long hauls between Buffalo and Chicago,
or Duluth to Erie.
We crossed the Mississippi in Southern Minnesota, where the river is not as wide and we escaped the
effects of this year’s massive flooding farther downstream. We ducked south of busy Minneapolis where state and local
dignitaries were marking the anniversary of the collapse of the I-35 bridge in 2007 that left 13 dead and hundreds hurt.
Indeed, America’s infrastructure is crumbling and we are squandering trillions of needed tax dollars
on two senseless wars overseas.
On our way we noticed windmill generators, hundreds of them in the open plains of Northern Nebraska,
and in other places where the wind blows free. It is a clear sign that Americans are responding to the energy crisis and seeking
alternative power sources where ever it can be found.
On arrival in Michigan we were happy to find that the tourist industry is still alive and well in our
town, where folks come from miles around to enjoy the beauty of the Lake Superior shoreline, the trees and historical places.
The main difference I find is that tourists are not driving as far these days. Most of the license plates on the vehicles
are from Michigan or neighboring Wisconsin.
Consequently the motels and restaurants are filled, the shops are all open and operating, and the traffic
is heavy as people rush to and from their jobs on weekdays.
One sad difference is that few, if any vessels pass through the Keweenaw Ship Canal. Since our arrival
over two weeks ago I saw one sailing vessel and one freighter call for a raising of the bridge. Other than that, and a few
small power boats, the water has been relatively silent.