I got back today from a conference in Little Rock. After driving up Highway 167 Thursday and down today, I’m convinced that this has to be among the most boring passages in the land. The north Louisiana stretch crosses rolling hills, but the forest on either side of the roadway make one dreary mile resemble the dreary mile before, and so on and so forth. The Arkansas stretch is not quite as hilly, passing often through bottom lands and river basins, but the road affords no panoramic valley views or breathtaking scenes.
And the towns along the way are mostly small, run-down little places that look much today like they must have looked in the 1940’s. Nothing wrong with a sense of the past, of course, but a sense of the past should have something aesthetic about it. The main street buildings and businesses in these towns are not just old: They’re ugly.
And you can always count on seeing a barrel-chested local-yokel policeman hiding around the curve on the outskirts, peering through the dark tinted windows of a squad car with his radar gun trained on the traffic right where the speed zone drops from 55 to 35. Not much else for a cop to do in a small town, I guess.
Churches are abundant up and down the route, I noticed. I don’t know how many I passed, but they were oh, so numerous. I wish I could ascribe vibrant faith as a notable characteristic of the people accounting for the proliferation of houses of worship, but since I grew up in the rural Deep South, I know that rural churches multiply over the years not because God’s word flourished in new mission fields, but because churches split and multiplied and divided over such silly arguments as which side of the vestibule to place the hat rack, or what color of drapes for the baptismal dressing room.
Anyway, I hope it’s a long time before I have to drive to Little Rock. If confronted with the option, as I had for this trip, I might choose to fly. I may prefer this driving experience to, let’s say, a root canal, but not much else.