Take a roadtrip through the South (one method to survive a pandemic), and xenophilia vs. xenophobia.
This past winter was the winter of Covid. And here in Connecticut, that meant I faced the prospect of being stuck at home all winter, because there was nowhere else to go. The office had become a weird place to go, either annoyingly unpleasant because you had to wear a mask all the time, or possibly uncomfortable if nobody wore a mask, since we were being told how important it was to wear a mask, especially in an indoor environment with poor to no air circulation, and no way to know whether your neighbor had the virus and was asymptomatic. And Connecticut being an advanced and "educated" Northeast city, Covid was a big deal. Public libraries were closed, Starbucks was not allowing indoor seating, jiu jitsu training was out (at least for me), most restaurants were either take-out only or awkward places to eat, etc. And so it looked to be a bleak winter in one's home pretty much 24-7 all winter long.
And so the only thing I could think to do to preserve my own sanity was to get on my motorcycle and travel south for the winter, so that I could be outside riding my motorcycle all winter long rather than indoors going crazy. At first, my plan was to go only as far as South Carolina, thinking that was "South" enough and would therefore be warm enough. As it turns out, South Carolina is not like Florida. There is still some rain and cooler temperatures in South Carolina in December and January, although it is still much warmer than in Connecticut. Plus having come to South Carolina, I wanted to go further South. So I went to Georgia. And quickly got bored, as well as cold from the temperatures which seemed even cooler than in South Carolina. I went to Florida. And it was spectacular. I went all the way down to the Keys, saw a couple alligators, rode back up through the middle of Florida, which was beautiful farmland all the way, and got a nice sunburn.
But by then, I was enjoying riding my 1980 Goldwing through America, and especially through the genuine "South", and so I kept going, through Dothan, Alabama, through New Orleans (really run down in my opinion and highly overrated), and rode on to Texas. I stopped by San Antonio, which felt like a sprawling huge city, and ultimately ended up staying in my favorite city in Texas, which is El Paso, all the way to the west. I ended up staying there for a month, exploring neighboring southern New Mexico as well, especially La Mesilla. During my stay in El Paso, I had great Mexican food and discovered I loved cats, because my host had cats and I really liked one of them.
But El Paso is high up and has lots of wind and dust storms in the winter, and so I went on to Tucson Arizona. By now it was February, but Tucson in February is pretty good. Mostly 70s during the day, and a little chillier at night, but not very chilly. Great weather to ride a bike. But the roads in Tucson suck! Lots of potholes and other roughnesses in the roads, which they do a lousy job paving over. I should mention by the way, that attitudes in the South and parts of the West about Covid were quite different than they were in Connecticut. I saw more guns out there as well. People are different out there, and in some parts of the South and the West, it was as if Covid never existed.
Well I wandered around out there in Arizona and Texas through April and into May, and sometime in the second week of May, I headed back east. I thought I'd ride the Natchez Traceway through Mississippi and then the Blue Ridge Parkway up the east, but they turned out to be as boring as going on a bicycle trail, and for the same reason. Beautiful scenery just gets boring after about an hour. What I like to see on either a motorcycle or a bicycle is signs of life, human life. I like to see stores, public buildings, human activity on the streets, other riders, etc. Seeing vista after vista, no matter how scenic it may be, gets boring. And then you feel trapped on those scenic roads, because some of them you can't just get off them whenever you want. Once you start, you have to stay on until the next exit, which might not be for a while.
Well eventually I got back to Connecticut in one piece in early May, and the weather was nice again, having left in December for this trip. And for all those winter months, I was out riding a bike every day, mostly in warm weather, and I got to see the deep South and Arizona. And being on a bike all by yourself all day long turns out to be a great way to spend a pandemic. People everywhere were extremely friendly and kind, including the deep South, which is a part of the country that I believe has been unfairly maligned by the rest of the country, based on old prejudices the rest of America harbors, mostly based on crude depictions of southerners on TV shows, just because they used to own slaves down there a hundred years ago. Nevermind that there are many forms of slavery that still exist, including in the Northeast. Well I liked the South, places like Alabama, South Carolina, Texas, and even Mississippi, which is in a class of its own as far as having a reputation for racism and a history for lynching, etc. That history is true and awful, but it's also true that there are many kind and friendly people down there today. It's weird but these qualities can co-exist. And why not? What is "racism" really but just one form of xenophobia, which is an ancient and venerable tradition which will probably remain with us till the end of the human race, or until it is replaced by xenophilia, the love of foreigners, which may already be happening because of Youtube and all the wonderful exposure many people are getting through the internet which they could not get in previous generations. I wonder which is more natural to man, xenophobia or xenophilia? Or are they really the same thing - just two sides of the same coin? I don't know, but I do know this - the word "xenophilia" is far too little used in comparison to "xenophobia", and far too little taught to kids in school. And yet it is a very real thing, and so we should be pointing it out more, talking about it and celebrating its existence.
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