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Route 20 Report #3

In a coffee shop in Canandaigua, New York, at the top of the Finger Lakes, I ask the guy behind the counter where I can buy a yellow highlighter pen. I’ve lost the one I’ve been using to mark our cross-country Route 20 journey in the huge Rand McNally atlas I keep wedged between the seats. Yes, of course, we have GPS. But the map is a cartographic diary. I love inking our way across the country. I feel lost without my marker.

The guy gives me complicated directions to a distant Walmart that I know I will not be visiting. The fact that there is a Walmart around here is disturbing enough. We’ve been 16 days on a Walmart-free road, the road not taken, because why would anyone travel coast to coast on a two-lane highway that goes through hundreds of one-street towns (slowing down to 30 mph) when you could just zip through on a freeway.

Why? Maybe the little story below helps answer that question.

I go back to the counter to get my coffee, and an older man comes up to me. He apparently overheard my query about the highlighter. He tells me there’s a stationary store just down the street, but he isn’t sure they sell pens. We laugh about that. Then I sit down with Tom and enjoy the first cup of espresso-style coffee I’ve had since we happened onto a Starbucks inside an Albertson’s back when we were re-provisioning in somewheresville, Wyoming.

Ten minutes later, the older man walks up to where we’re seated and places a yellow highlighter on the table. I hadn’t noticed that he’d left the coffee shop. But he had. He had walked down the street to the stationery store. As he thought, the store did not sell pens. He left. He was halfway back to the coffee shop when the storeowner caught up with him on the street, brandishing a yellow marker. “I found this in the backroom for you,” she told him.

And that’s how I got a new yellow marker.

And that’s what route 20 is all about.

2 comments

1 Steven Finster { 09.19.18 at 4:57 pm }

Now that – is just cool. It might be described as how to build community. 🙂

2 Lauren { 09.19.18 at 5:03 pm }

Yes, indeed. I will write/post a few more of these encounters–there were so many–that made the trip a true “re-discover America” trek for me.

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