This vagabond's official highway is Highway 82--specifically a stretch of road between Greenville, Mississippi and Prattville, Alababma. Some of my earliest childhood memories are of traveling down that road and through towns the sight of whose names on signs still serves to evoke those memories. I have always wondered at the origination of some of the names--Winona, Kilmichael, Eupora, Mathiston, Ethelsville, Reform, Gordo.
The Mississippi portion of Highway 82 is very nearly all four-laned now, bypassing the towns along the route. The trip is faster now, but much less interesting. Passing through a small southern town on what often constituted its Main Street was always a treat. Every little town was different in the details, yet nearly identical in the concept of design. I can remember looking forward to the next town so that I would have new signs to read out loud, an activity that at first pleased my folks, but soon enough caused them to teach me to read silently.
There are still portions of Highway 82 in Alabama that remain two-lane, still passing through the heart of proud southern villages, and hemmed in on either side by towering kudzu-draped pines whose monster shapes scared me as a child. My trips along that highway these days would probably be quicker and safer if they went ahead and four-laned it all.
The little boy in me hopes they don't.