In "Driving Across Missouri: A Guide to I-70" we wrote about what travelers can see beyond the billboards. In "Traveling Through Illinois: Stories of I-55 Landmarks & Landscapes Between Chicago & St. Louis" we found stories among the cornstalks. Follow us as we share stories found alongside the roads we travel in the U.S. and around the world.
"The real voyage of Discovery lies not in seeking new lands, but in seeing with new eyes" - Marcel Proust
It was not I-70, but rather G-70 that carried me south into Fujian State. I had entered this Inter-state highway after landing in Nanchang in Jiangxi State. I would be traveling on G-70 for 4 hours – the same time it takes to drive across Missouri on I-70. I immediately was struck be the similarity between G-70 in China and I-70 in Missouri. I imagined what it would be like to do a book like Driving across Missouri for this stretch of highway. If we did do such a book, an amazing number of the stories would be the same for both books. With this thought in mind, I made a list of how many stories would be the same as the ones in the Missouri book. That list of identical topics included:
1) transition areas between urban and rural land use,
3) rest stops,
6) soil conservation,
8) grain crops (in this case rice instead of corn),
10) power plants/cooling towers,
13) major rivers and associated stories (shipping, irrigation, etc.)
14) Interstate Ponds,
15) cellphone towers,
16) rock cuts
17) tree farms
18) wind farms
19) a mysterious brick chimney
More than anything else the most prominent and common link to I-70 in Missouri were the plethora of billboards. In China, as in Missouri, it is a challenge to look beyond the billboards. China may even exceed Missouri with their record number of billboards per mile. Apparently China, like Missouri, doesn’t tightly regulate billboards. Even the first glimpses of the Great Wall as you approach on the highway are blocked by billboards!
Billboards blocking view of the Great Wall of China
I expected to see Missouri-style fireworks stores since all of the Missouri fireworks are made in China. But I didn’t expect to see a lonely brick chimney like the one described in the Missouri book. It seemed the only story lacking was the RV dealers story! Of course, Winnebagos are larger than most Chinese homes and are hard for the rickshaw drivers to pull.
Power lines and Interstate ponds
The drive stimulated more roadwriting questions than answers. Are Interstate highways by their nature universally similar? In China’s strong central (and only recently capitalistic) government are there laws governing billboards? In one of the most exotic countries in the world who would have thought that their interstate would look basically the same as it does here in the Midwest, and that over just a few hours of driving there would be at least 20 stories that occurred in the Missouri book that could be lifted for use in a China highway book. The stories that would differ, of course, are those dealing with history and place names - although this genre of stories is in the Missouri book too. Is there anything new along highways on the other side of the planet?
Would a book “Driving across Jiangxi” be significantly different from “Driving across Missouri”? Apparently not…
Then it occurred to me that a “Driving across Jiangxi” book is exactly what I needed to see the beauty of China beyond the billboards. I needed to know why things were the same, and if indeed they really were the same. So LuAnn doesn’t know this yet, but she better start studying up on rice production and how Jiangxi got its name!