Sunday, July 3, 2011

Georgia to Mississippi or Lessons We Learn

After we left Charleston, we realized we were in a bit of a time crunch...aka get yer asses to Texas. We made the executive decision to put off TN and New Orleans for another trip. Our friends Tim and Mandee live outside of Atlanta so we headed there to shack up for two nights, replenish, refuel, hang out on the water in the boat and spend some quality time with our friends. Good food, cold beer, great friends...cant wait to go back.

We left GA on July 2, slightly fearful of the housing situation because of the 4th holiday, and decided to get as far through Alabama and Mississippi as we could, avoiding interstates as much as possible.

Alabama, as far as we could tell, consists of massive swaths of green puncuated by small communities with dried up, dying Main Streets. Not all but most. We took Highway 9, a scenic route according to Rand McNally, from I 20 out of GA, down to Birmingham. Our favorite things to point out are the abondoned, over grown gas stations with the old school pumps that once probably a thriving center of rural social life, now bake away their last years under the hot sun. I also wonder about the history of those old buildings. Not the big history but the small history, snippets of people's lives that are intertwined with the life of that old gas station. Who worked there pumping gas, who drove through on lonely highway 9, who met there for coffee or a cold bottle of coke, who fed their children from the small profit it brought? Lesson 1: Highways make you think the way interstates never can.

We took a right at Montgomery on Highway 80 toward Selma, the reverse route of Martin Luther King, Jr's famous and pivotal marches for civil rights in 1963, I believe. It was cool and dark and felt as if ghosts of marchers past came out to greet us with the steam rising up from the hot road. I tried to explain to Julino the significance of Selma, the ugliness of racial segregation, the stain those times left on our country and the power of organizing but I just couldn't do it the justice it deserved. Our conversation turned to Brazil and its similar struggles in terms of race, with perhaps fewer atrocities at the hands of a mob.

Unable to reconcile my limited deep understanding of the times, I turned the best all knowing source I had available by phone, Wikipedia. By the light of my phone, in the dark of the Alabama night, speeding down highway 80, I regaled Juliano with histories of Selma and the Freedom Riders, their tragedies, their triumphs, the horror and the determination, the ugly side of this country and the change that keeps coming...just in time for the 4th of July, an irony that wasn't lost on me. Lesson 2: Know your history and remember why it is important.

We drove til we hit Meridian, MS just over the Alabama border and pulled over at the first crappy hotel we saw, Blanks Motel. It was run by a small Indian woman and cost a flat $35 for the night. What luck, within our budget! It had a king sized bed, smelled like smoke and the shower head flew off as Juliano started the water...but hey it had tv and ac. We slept sound, woke up at a decent hour to head through the rest of MS and on into LA. As we drove through the town looking for Highway 11, we passed no less than four other better motels for less than $29.99. BAH!! Of course....what is a mere $5 you say? Well we've figured out how to eat for an entire day for $5 so it is not quite as mere as one would think. Lesson 3: Crappy motels come in bunches so don't always go for the first one. If all you need is a bed and a shower, $22.99 will do.

Bye for now from hot highway 11 in the backwoods of Mississippi.