We covered more territory in the last several days, than we have this entire trip. Top day was 300 miles and 6 hours of driving. . . it was the one day Woody “let” me drive. Now, driving the beasty Thor means having your drive-game on: manual transmission, no cruise control, sitting higher than a conventional car, and trying hard not to strain your toes (or put your foot through the floor board) in order to reach top speed, 61 mph.
Miles swallowed up before we even realize what we’d seen. As such, I can only report on the brief observations I’ve had from the lookout of the van. Stereotypically, Illinois was a blur of cornfields. Apparently, this is the time of year when the spent, brown stalks are digested by giant, Transformer-like tractors. Dust wildly jets behind them, as if that is the source of their power.
When we transitioned into Kentucky, hills begin to take shape and churches dot the landscape. A church can be anything from a small double wide, to a grand scale temple with digital reader boards and acres of parking. I see kitschy souvenirs representing the Native American culture and monuments identifying the Trail of Tears. If you haven’t heard Susan Vowel’s account of her experience touring this tragic part of our American History, maybe you can make time here.
Tennessee’s memory for me are rolling landscapes with funeral homes and hair salons at every turn. There was the Long Gone Hair Salon, Cut it Up, and the Doo or Dye, to name just a few. The homes we drove by were tiny salt boxes, so small their occupants loaded front porches and yards with the overflow: exercise equipment, dog kennels, vacuums, furniture, rubbermaid tubs. I saw refrigerators on front porches! In Tennessee we start to see the taste of fall breaking through.
Next up: Alabama, and we’re in to the agricultural scene again. Cotton. White puffy clouds dance along the highway. I’m guessing it’ll be pickin’ time soon, as the little puffs are brilliant white and clinging to weathered stems. I have to pull over for a closer look. Really, I just had to feel it. Soft and fluffy.
We linger just a little longer in Alabama – Montgomery specifically, and do a whirlwind tour. I learn Helen Keller, Jesse Owens, Hank Aaron, Robin Roberts, Mia Hamm, Hank Williams, Willie Mays, Jim Nabors, Nat King Cole, and Condoleezza Rice, were all born in Alabama. I found this list surprising, and I probably should be embarrassed to share that. . . Of course, there’s Rosa Parks and her Alabamian story of the Montgomery bus boycott. I find a certain beauty that today, they bring busloads of people right here
to see a church service in the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, right where the boycott was organized, and where the Reverend King pastored for six years. After our afternoon and night in Montgomery, we charged off again, and made it to Florida.
It seems as soon as we cross the state border, I see the memorable Spanish moss dripping from tree branches. We spent a night in the dog friendly beach town of Destin. It was great to find several places that welcomed our four-legged family member. We walked the boardwalk, found an outdoor restaurant with live music – which randomly happened to play songs from the very playlist we had been listening to. We could’ve easily stayed another night, but our sights were on getting to Winter Garden.
However, we were just so close to a tiny strip of land on the Gulf of Mexico which we heard had incredible camping and beaches – so just one more night, at St Joseph Peninsula State Park.
In our short stay we were welcomed by a bald eagle,
slept under an almost full moon, stirred up phosphorescent sand, and encountered a foraging armadillo.
It was well worth the stop, but I think Carlos is anxious to get back to some sort of routine.