Tag Archives: Interstate people

A good watermelon adds to the pleasures of good Interstate road trip

When traveling all of America’s Interstate highways on a 46,876-mile road trip, a good way to quench your thirst is to buy a watermelon out of the back of a pickup truck.

I bought mine from 74-year-old Kenneth Taylor, who during the summer season parks his melon-loaded pickup just off Interstate 30’s Exit 162b, near Mt. Pleasant, Texas.

Taylor doesn’t raise the melons himself, but buys them from a local grower, currently a retired schoolteacher who has about 35 acres. “Something I been doing since 1956, when I was 14 years old,” he says. He’s been in his current spot since about 1995.

Almost all of his customers are motorists pulling off I-30 for gas or a meal at one of the exit’s half-dozen fast-food restaurants. “Fifteen people is a slow day, forty is good, Labor Day is the best,” he said.

Wanting to encourage Interstate entrepreneurship, I bought a 30-pounder for $6, hoping to use it to make new friends at the nearby KOA campground where I was spending the night.

“These are the sweetest watermelons in Texas, right?” I said, lobbing him a softball aimed mostly at teasing a few more words out of him.

“No sir,” he answered. “You’d have to go to Plainview, up in the Panhandle, for that. “

Sunshine and water, but far less water than you’d think, is what makes a watermelon sweet, he said.

The watermelons allowed him to get by, he said, but it wasn’t like in the old days. “Used to be you just threw the seeds on the ground, and they grew. But now everything has changed. Soil. Climate. A fungus.”

A good thing, he said, is that the season, which used to end at Labor Day, has grown longer. “An early frost can kill melons, but with climate change the frosts are coming later,” he said.

I recalled that Labor Day had been almost two weeks ago, saw from my iPhone that the local daytime high was 92 degrees, and was pleased — for the watermelon world, anyway.

Solar eclipse not biggest story in this small Missouri town

Kingdom City is a small Missouri town — not more than a truck stop, really — just off Interstate 70.  Today, it lies almost directly in the path of the total solar eclipse. But that isn’t the big story in Kingdom City and nearby Fulton this weekend.

The big story is the processional along U.S. 54, the road that crosses I-70 at Kingdom City, held for Marine Sergeant Talon R, Leach, who was from Fulton, and who died in a helicopter crash on July 10th in Mississippi, along with 14 other marines and a sailor.

“Sure, I knew him. We went to high school together,” said a woman standing along the highway in front of Gasper’s Truck Plaza just south of I-70’s Exit 148. We were waiting for the procession of police cars, fire trucks, and motor cycles — dozens of motorcycles — that would honor him.

Leach was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, but it seemed as if  everybody in the area was lining U.S. 54 for his memorial procession. There were hundreds of people. And it seemed that everyone had known him.

“He was a nice kid, a real gentleman;  you gotta feel bad for his wife,” said a guy standing beneath an American flag that he’d hoisted to the top of a crane on the back of a flatbed truck.

A death and its aftermath is not the kind of story you hear every day. But as I suspected when I started Interstate Bob’s Ultimate Road Trip, there is some kind of story along the Interstate every day, at ever exit, with everyone you talk to.

Now, it’s time to see this eclipse.

Total Interstate Miles: 46,867

Miles traveled yesterday: 313

Miles traveled so far: 15,083

Miles left to go: 31,784