EAST NEW HAMPSHIRE -- US 2 East
The Granite State and the Pine Tree State blended together smoothly Saturday evening as I headed east to my nocturnal rendezvous with the scorching klieg lights of the Bangor Walmart parking lot.
I cruised into and out of New Hampshire's rugged White Mountains in light-to-no traffic at 60 mph.
The White Mountains are tall and dark and they look tough and mean.
I'm no geologist, but in age they must fall somewhere between Pennsylvania's gentle, smoothed and dying Alleghenies and the craggy, punk mountain ranges out West that are still growing.
Steinbeck traveled the same route half a century ago to get to Bangor and down to the Maine seacoast at Stonington. He would recognize this part of his highway, too.
A short stretch of US 2 is under major reconstruction, but little is new from 50 years ago. I passed the same farms, same houses and same frozen-in-time intersections as he did.
Not that I am especially sensitive to such things, but on the road nothing screamed "urban sprawl" or "development" or "commercialization."
In fact, a few of the Maine towns on US 2 -- Rumford in particular -- could use some old-fashioned exploitation from a few decent national fast-food chains like Bob Evans.
I asked a young Maine state trooper who was washing his windshield at a gas station in Rumford where I could get something decent to eat.
He thought for a second and, being an honest cop, pointed across the road and, with a mix of embarrassment and empathy, said "There's the Subway."