Friday, March 20, 2009

Forces, natural and otherwise

I got a later than desired start for MATS, missing the preshow press day and much of Thursday. Motoring up the familiar and usually boring stretch of I-65 between home and Louisville, I saw stark evidence of the massive ice storm that shut down much of the Bluegrass State earlier this year. The storm left tens of thousands of people without power for days and weeks, prompting the first-ever calling up of the state's National Guard to deal with such a widespread emergency. Naturally, traffic came to a stop for several days until the ice melted, causing further hardship on cold, isolated people.

About halfway to Louisville, the interstate begins to literally cut through forested hills, and the rock walls bracket the roadway. Many - most - of the hardwood trees on both sides are snapped at the top or at least have branches dangling from threads. They haven't leafed out yet, so the damage is clear. The split ends are still new enough that they are the color of toothpicks. Not a few trees were completely uprooted. Evergreens - countless small cedars, many clinging to the thin soil on the slopes - have been felled or permanently bent by the weight of days of ice. I couldn't help but think they were bowing to the inevitable power of Nature.

At the Kentucky Expo Center finally, it was clear that even the mighty MATS was bowing to the pressures of the times. Usually crowded on the first day, the halls were busy, but far from jammed. Exhibits were more ... open is the only word I can think of, and many of the big truck and trailer builders present seemed to have fewer products on display and smaller exhibit areas for them. Large sections of the exhibit halls were empty, screened off by stanchion-mounted curtains.

I had only a couple hours to view parts of two halls, and it was Thursday, so maybe the end of the week - the first day of spring - will produce a bigger crop of attendees.

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