To the west

When we drove to Berryville yesterday afternoon, our plan was to gather information that we’ll apply to our work on The Mountain 65 miles to the east. We hadn’t expected to stumble into the lowest gas prices we’d seen since July.

That’s when we added a Jeep Wrangler to our American Life and started buying gasoline again. Back then we were paying about $2.89 around here. In the months since, filling up in five difference states, we’ve paid an average of $3.25. Lately we’ve made a point to patronize a station that’s had regular gas for about three bucks a gallon, which is five to ten cents lower than other local outlets.

Discovering a place selling 87 octane for $2.749 yesterday — the week between Christmas and New Year’s, no less — was a real bonus. It’s also cold comfort. A year ago we paid 50 cents less than that in the Columbus, Ohio area, and here in Arkansas the price was 78 cents lower.

Once the psycho-economic effect of the SPR release wears off — a transparent political ploy — gas prices will go back up. You can count on it.

Inflation is hitting much more than just gasoline, of course. And we all know why.

Deb and I did complete our mission in Berryville. We wish we’d been on The Mountain instead, honestly, but we have much to do beyond the refuge of those slopes and a long list of decisions to make. We’ll go back again soon.

This was only the second time we’d ventured west from here on US 62. Most of the route is four lanes, necking down to two at Alpena and Green Forest. Over the course of 27 miles the highway climbs as high as 1,400 feet, offering glimpses of forested knobs approaching 2,000 feet as it winds toward the Ozark Highlands of northwest Arkansas. The towns along the way — population 300, 2,600 and 5,400 — are humble, full of gritty character just begging to be explored.

It’s on the two-lane stretches that the region comes to life. This is rural America, old-school America, traditional America. Diner after roadside diner. Motels with tiny individual cottages. Behind crumbling storefronts are thriving, third-generation businesses. Only in places like this can you find a livestock auction that incorporates a family-style restaurant.

My kind of America.

For regular readers, an update. Ten days ago I mentioned that a friend of mine was confined to a Columbus-area ICU, battling severe effects of coronavirus. I’m happy to report that he’s improving, enough that yesterday he was taken out of intensive care to begin step-down.

He’s been hospitalized for four weeks now. He’s still being administered high-flow oxygen and has a long way to go, but his condition is moving in the right direction. Many thanks to all who continue to keep him and his family in your thoughts and prayers.

In the wider WuFlu world, our country is fully committed to The Great Omicron Stampede. Media and bureaucrats are doing their best to inflame hysteria. Businesses are reinstituting theatrics, and some have been forced to close or cut back (often because panicked employees leave them short-staffed).

Thousands of commercial flights were canceled over the Christmas holiday. Several college football teams have withdrawn from bowls and four games have been canceled outright. Teams that have lost opponents are scrambling to find someone to play, and bowl organizers have assumed the role of matchmakers.

Let’s be clear about what’s happening here: Teams of fully jabbed-and-boosted players are registering so many positive tests (cases) that they’re reflexively pulling out of games.

It’s called “protocol.” It’s a mess. And there’s no reason for it.

In the face of a relatively mild “variant” — rising case counts show that it’s more transmissible, while declining hospitalizations reveal that it’s far less lethal — we’re reminded that our culture is being scarred not by a virus but by our overreaction to it.

Meanwhile, here in The South everyday life goes on. A few businesses, generally those governed by remote corporate types, have resurrected pandemic theater (albeit half-heartedly). Among the general population I might be seeing a few more masks these days, confirming that there’s a fearful element in any community, but not many.

It’s an attitude that works. It sure works for us.

Take care of yourselves, Patriots. Stay calm. Stay sharp. Stay free.

#WiseUp #LibertyOrDeath

#LetsGoBrandon #FJB