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Thu Jun 12, 2014, 03:28 PM

Biking the TransAm through Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas - sure does not look like a recovering economy

We are finding lots of the motels/minimarts listed on the maps are closed. Many downtowns (which clearly were gorgeous back in the day) are mostly ghosttowns now.

We just got back from walking over to a mall to see if we could find a bookstore - almost 2/3rds of the stores were closed. And even tho it was lunchtime (summer) there were maybe 20 - 30 people shopping, including us?

Is this what you see where you are too?

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Reply Biking the TransAm through Kentucky, Missouri, Kansas - sure does not look like a recovering economy (Original post)
peacebird Jun 2014 OP
hatrack Jun 2014 #1
peacebird Jun 2014 #2
hatrack Jun 2014 #4
elleng Jun 2014 #3
Warpy Jun 2014 #5
jwirr Jun 2014 #6
malaise Jun 2014 #7
hatrack Jun 2014 #15
ChisolmTrailDem Jun 2014 #8
lunatica Jun 2014 #9
madokie Jun 2014 #10
Art_from_Ark Jun 2014 #16
madokie Jun 2014 #17
spinbaby Jun 2014 #11
LiberalLoner Jun 2014 #12
Sentath Jun 2014 #13
LiberalLoner Jun 2014 #14

Response to peacebird (Original post)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 03:31 PM

1. Not new in this part of the Midwest (from a small town myself) . . .

Many of the little farming towns, even some county seats depending on location, have been in trouble for some years. Depopulation, farm consolidation, job loss, the list is long.

It's definitely getting worse, though, since 2000, and what farm prices give, meth takes away.

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Response to hatrack (Reply #1)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 03:33 PM

2. It has been eye opening for us. It is nowhere near this bad in towns. I have traveled on east coast

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Response to peacebird (Reply #2)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 03:46 PM

4. I checked your route, and what you're saying definitely makes sense

From Pueblo to Girard, you're definitely in the Empty Quarter of the southern plains, and it only gets slightly less empty once you're past Wichita. Whole towns out west of Great Bend are losing 10, 15, sometimes 20% from one Census to the next, and the plains most definitely aren't for everyone.

Some towns aren't even officially "towns" any more. Slightly north of where you were, along US 36 in Colorado, there's a string of unincorporated villages (I guess) with 20, 30, 50 residents, broken windows and all the paint chips in the world. Were they ever towns, or did they "disincorporate" when that day came?

It's also hot as hell in summer, cold as hell in winter and windy every damn day - and some of the counties are already approaching the limits of groundwater withdrawals. For some landowners out there it's more profitable to plant for wildlife and rent the place out for hunting than it is to try and raise cattle or corn.

Beyond that, the course across Missouri is going through the northern third of the Ozarks. Beautiful country, but it's always been hardscrabble, and what was a marginal farm economy even fifty or 100 years ago has only gotten more so since the 1980s. Still some creative people out there, trying to make a go of it with a winery, heirloom ranching or seed saving, tourism-related business or even a nice small-town coffee house or cafe (and I've visited many) but it's a really tough row to hoe.

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Response to peacebird (Original post)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 03:35 PM

3. Rough territory.

Drove DC area to Dayton recently, returned scenic route Ohio and West Virginia, looked OK, found decent 'cheap' motels, inexpensive (and expensive) restaurants, malls with fair number of patrons.

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Response to peacebird (Original post)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 04:04 PM

5. Parts of this city are recovering

The newer areas north of me are recovering a little, although closed stores in strip malls still give them all a gap toothed appearance. In my part of town, whole strip malls are now closed. The malls are getting light traffic, but that light traffic is shopping, not looking. Strip malls with a Dollar Store or Big Lots as an anchor tend to do a bit better around here.

Housing here never saw a bubble so having people underwater on a huge mortgage is unusual. The fallout around here has been due to rapidly falling purchasing power on wages that have been stuck below subsistence for far too long.

Shit wages kill business.

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Response to peacebird (Original post)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 04:28 PM

6. That is enlightening. I saw some of that when I was home visiting my brother in NW Iowa but was

more impressed with the wind machines. Never dawned on me that I was seeing what was happening to America. Up here in NE MN we are do not have a lot of that and in the last few months we are seeing signs of growth - remodeling businesses and fixing roads and infrastructure. Malls are busy and stores are booming. That is not to say that we do not have empty houses and businesses failing but they are not in the majority.

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Response to peacebird (Original post)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 04:30 PM

7. Thanks for posting

Enjoy the biking

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Response to malaise (Reply #7)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 08:11 PM

15. Jeesh, forgot to mention this myself - sounds like a great ride - have fun!

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Response to peacebird (Original post)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 04:32 PM

8. North Texas (DFW) is firing on all cyliners...like a Jag on the Autobahn. nt

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Response to peacebird (Original post)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 04:53 PM

9. Have you been taking pictures?

This country is in the midst of a major change and taking photographs of how it's happening could be at the very least interesting. Ever since the internet became so ubiquitous in all our lives I've realized our society is changing in as big a way as it did during the Industrial Revolution which also killed small towns and farms and created larger cities and life simply changed.

Maybe it's time for localized big industry to be replaced in some way. At least in it's present existence. We are living in interesting times. Not always pleasant, but interesting.

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Response to peacebird (Original post)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 04:55 PM

10. Going pretty good around here

Northeast Oklahoma

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Response to madokie (Reply #10)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 08:21 PM

16. I wonder if that's the "Tulsa effect" where you are

I wonder about towns a little to the east of you, like Kansas (not the state), Locust Grove, etc., that were bypassed by the Cherokee Turnpike. Or maybe towns along the I-44 corridor, or places like Vinita, Westville, Colcord. I also wonder what kind of effect the casinos are having on West Siloam Springs.

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Response to madokie (Reply #10)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 08:45 PM

17. Locust Grove is going gang busters

you need to stop and take a look around the next time through. check out the new Schools, series of round masonry buildings with concrete round roofs. Pretty impressive to say the least.

LG is where I graduated and most of my family lives

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Response to peacebird (Original post)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 05:04 PM

11. Cincinnati

I was in Cincinnati last weekend and stopped at what looked to be a big, fancy shopping mall--Tri-County Mall, if I remember correctly. There was a shocking number of empty storefronts and very few shoppers on a Saturday afternoon.

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Response to peacebird (Original post)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 05:07 PM

12. A really great book that explains a lot of things is Methland.

It's about a town in Iowa but it could just as well be about any of the small towns you've seen.

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Response to LiberalLoner (Reply #12)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 05:33 PM

13. I've heard good things about it

But, it was just way too depressing to contemplate reading it while I still lived there. (South-East Kansas)

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Response to Sentath (Reply #13)

Thu Jun 12, 2014, 08:04 PM

14. I hear you.

Too many sacrifice zones in the US these days. I'm from Montana which is one of the states with a big meth problem.

The Montana Meth Project is awesome though. Good at fighting back at the problem.

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