...Now hold your head up, Mason
See, America lies there
The morning tide has raised the capes of Delaware
Come up and feel the sun
A new morning is begun
Another day will make it clear why your stars should guide us here...
We are sailing to Philadelphia
A world away form the coaly Tyne
Sailing to Philadelphia
To draw the line
The Mason-Dixon Line
- “Sailing to Philadelphia,” Mark Knopfler
Mark Knopfler’s song played inside my head as we crossed the border between Maryland and Pennsylvania - the actual Mason-Dixon line - earlier today.
Mason, an astronomer, and Dixon, a surveyor, had demarcated their eponymous line back in the mid-1760’s in order to settle a boundary dispute arising from conflicts in the land grants that established the Pennsylvania and Maryland-Delaware colonies. But the line came to symbolize the cultural boundary between the Northeastern U.S. and the South, a boundary that still carries weight unto this very day.
South of the Mason-Dixon line is the Land of Dixie; north of the line is Yankee country. That’s where we were headed.
We had started out mid-morning the previous day. Since we would be driving both a truck and a car, I wanted to avoid the usual route up Interstates 85 and 95, a route that would take us through the great traffic-packed megalopolis of the eastern seaboard and cost a metric buttload in tolls. Instead, we went by way of Chattanooga, picking up I-81 just east of Knoxville, Tennessee.
Interstate 81 slices upward through eastern Tennessee and then runs the length of the knobbly spine of Virginia - the Blue Ridge Mountains - through the Shenandoah Valley. After brief segments of West Virginia and Maryland (the borders of which resemble a jigsaw puzzle where the road cuts through), it’s a long slog through the anthracite hills of Pennsylvania until Scranton, where we turned eastward on I-84. It’s a far more scenic drive than the eastern seaboard option, especially this time of year: all rolling hills enrobed in foliage that became more colorful as we continued north. During a brief interlude of clear skies near Roanoke, Virginia, the low mountains practically glowed with leaf-colors lit up by the setting sun. Alas, most of the drive was in varying degrees of cloudy skies, drizzle, occasional light rain, and some terrifyingly dense patches of fog.
Interstate 84 was reasonably navigable, at least until we reached the Connecticut border. Suddenly it was automotive asses and elbows, a dense pack of cars and trucks all jockeying for space and moving at the speed limit. Fortunately, we only had a few miles of this moiling motoring before turning north on US Route 7 towards our destination... whereupon the traffic dropped away and my old memories of living in New England came flooding back.
It was no easy trek, this. A thousand freeway miles, followed by thirty some-odd miles of twisty, narrow country roads, wending through small towns, around steep hills, and alongside chill, rushing rivers. Despite overcast skies, the fall colors were on full display. Red-painted barns and fields of grazing cows could have been yanked out of picture postcards.
There was no doubt that we had crossed the line: This wasn’t the South anymore.
As the first stirrings of dusk began to settle in, we pulled into the driveway of the Mistress’s new home, a little cottage tucked against the side of a mountain. Within ninety minutes, the truck had been unloaded and the long process of Settling In had begun. A lasagna dinner across the way with her housemate’s mom made a fine, warm welcome... and Bernadette was already checking out her new surroundings.
Bernadette checks out her new surroundings.
Today will afford me a little time to explore the area, but I know this with certainty: My daughter will love her life here. She will thrive and sparkle. And if that’s not a reason for her stars to guide her here to the other side of the Mason-Dixon line, what is?