The South

I’ve lived most of my life in the North and the West. The South has often seemed like a foreign country to me. But when I’m in Germany or Italy, I know it is different. The South is more like through the looking glass for me – similar but noticeably different, so that those differences seem odd rather than expected.

We left Tulsa and headed into the Ozarks and the beautiful hills covered with hardwood forests. We stayed overnight in the small town of Clarksville and watched a group in front of the courthouse preparing for the July 4th celebrations that weekend.

Then it was east through Little Rock and Memphis. We’ve visited both before; this trip we just passed through. On the freeway through Memphis, the overhead signs said “Slow Down Memphis,” but everyone ignored them. Most people drove 10 over the limit, with those in the left lane passing at about 10 over that. And then there were the racers, weaving across all three or four lanes, through narrow gaps, at speeds 10 to 20 above what the fast cars were doing. We felt fortunate to get out of town without mishap.

In Tupelo, we went by Elvis’ birthplace – a small house beautifully restored, surrounded by a museum and statues and gardens. It was the evening, so everything was closed, but it was interesting to see to what extent this otherwise insignificant place was memorialized. It was almost like what is done for ex-presidents of the US, although those are generally administered by the National Park Service. But hey, Elvis was the King, after all.

Then it was a beautiful freeway through forested hills to Birmingham, the sky decorated by steam from a coal-fired power plant. In Birmingham, a central area by a huge highway interchange is full of a new arena and hotels, but the surrounding area is poor and pretty sad. 

A defunct community center.

We stopped to charge the car at Buc-ee’s – another cultural phenomenon, evidently. It was huge, packed with holiday people and cars, and the inside packed with supplies and Stuff.

Around Oxford AL we began to see stands of kudzu, the vines draping – and choking – the trees. We skirted Atlanta and stayed in a northern suburb, an area evidently wealthier than some, with lots of food options.

We left the next morning in fog, heading up through South Carolina to Chapel Hill, NC, where we had dinner with my brother. I hadn’t seen him in quite a few years, and it was wonderful to spend time catching up.

But by the end of the evening I was feeling quite poorly, with my sinuses filling. The next morning I tested positive to Covid. OK, what now? Andrea tested negative, so we got the adjoining room in our hotel to try to separate ourselves. And so it went. She ran out for takeout food and I stayed in my room. Then, two days later she tested positive. By then I was feeling a bit better and took over the food supply.

Each of us has had four Covid shots, the last of which was less than 90 days ago. Neither of us got terribly sick. I’ve had worse colds. Still, neither of us felt well enough to travel. And we didn’t want to spread what we had to any others. We cancelled the rest of our trip and are waiting it out. If this had to happen, we were lucky to be where we are. Our rooms are comfortable and there is a wide variety of takeout food easily available. It could have been a lot worse.

Our view for the last five days.

We’re mostly better now. I feel fine, although a little wrung out. Andrea is a couple of days behind me. We expect to leave here in another day or two. We’ve lost our yen to travel for now and will just head home.

It seems like a long trip. We have not had a single day without at least some rain since leaving Utah. We’ll be glad to get into more familiar territory.

5 thoughts on “The South

  1. So sorry you both got sick! Hope all is much better now! I lived in Virginia for 21/2 years and loved the old farm house we rented on Chain Bridge Rd in Oakton, VA. I have lots of fond and some crazy memories from those years! Safe travels back to Oregon. Have been following your travels just haven’t found time to comment!


  2. So sorry to hear about your misfortune. I have enjoyed the story of the trip. My hope for you is that the trip home goes smoothly.


  3. Sorry your long trip has ended this way. But you have one another, relatively mild symptoms, and a safe space in which to recuperate. May you bounce back soon for the long ride home. “Home” must sound pretty good.


  4. Have been following your travels after reading your memoir and watching Strictly for the Birds. Thank you for telling your story. Your blog keeps adding to my bucket list of places to go. Loved hearing your comments on the South. Having lived all my life in VA it is always interesting to me to experience others perspectives on my part of the world. You are correct that Bucees is quite the cultural experience-visited one in Texas several yrs ago


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