Trolling Through The South

When I was a young feller, I read Jack Kerouac’s classic On the Road. I’ll be honest.  I didn’t care for it.  I was much more fascinated by the fact that he typed it on a long, continuous scroll of paper.  I recall that Truman Capote made a humorous, disparaging comment about the book.  Of course, I can’t recall what it was, but I’m sure I agreed with it.  I just completed my own sojourn through the southern United States.  I won’t write a book about it, although I’m certain I could write something at least as interesting as Kerouac’s babblings.  I will, however, blog about it.

I should note that I travel alone for work quite often, but this was my first “vacation” alone.  Unlike a work trip, where my days are filled with productive activities, on this trip I had to entertain myself.  There was a time when I would never have been allowed on a trek such as this, out of fear that I might never get to my destination or perhaps hole up in a hotel like Nicolas Cage in Leaving Las Vegas.  

My son plays high school baseball, and his school played in a tournament in Fort Walton Beach, Florida from April 1 through 6.  He traveled by bus with his team and stayed in a hotel room with three of his team mates.  I traveled alone and stayed alone.  While he and his mates stayed on the first floor of the hotel, I stayed in the separate high-rise in the back, overlooking the ocean.  Very nice.

The view from my palatial room. My son suffered through the week in a ground floor room with three room mates.

I drove from Lexington, Kentucky.  The drive is a long one, taking about 11 hours with the obligatory gas, food and restroom stops.  The first leg of my journey was the Bluegrass Parkway connecting US 60 in Woodford County, Kentucky, to I-65 South at Elizabethtown (known to us as “E-Town”).  From there, you drive due south for an eternity.  Actually, it’s probably 400 miles, but I’m not sure.  Not much to report on that part of the trip.  The only thing that caught my interest was a large sign in Alabama touting something called “The Sons of Confederate Veterans.”  Really, now.  There can’t be any “sons” of any Confederate Veterans left, can there? Because I left very early in the morning, I was forced to break one of my travel rules–I stopped at truck stop in Smiths Grove, Kentucky.  Truck stops frighten me.  I don’t like gas stations with showers, I guess.  Plus, a high percentage of truck drivers are probably serial killers.

The drive gets more interesting just south of Montgomery, Alabama.  This is where you drop off I-65 and drive about 150 miles on the back roads.  There are several things which caught my interest:

Cemetaries:  Alabama was WAY too many cemeteries.  I mean, every town and turn in the road has a cemetery.  When the Great Zombie Apocalypse starts, stay the Hell out of Alabama.

Luverne:  I like this town.  Why?  Because it’s “The Friendliest Town in the South.”  It says so on a sign.   I stopped and bought a Coke in Luverne.  The clerk was friendly enough but nothing special.  So , I’m not sure about it being the friendliest place, but I’ll admit that a one person sample is too little to draw any conclusions.  Luverne is also the home Sister Shubert dinner rolls.  I like those rolls; thus, I like Luverne.

Highland Home:   It has a restaurant called the “It Don’t Matter.”  Good name.

It Don't Matter Restaurant. I'm sure it's my kind of place.

 I didn’t eat there, but I think I’d like it.

Brantley, Alabama:  This is one of those small towns where there used to be something happening.  They have a downtown, schools and houses, but the town looks mostly abandoned.  I’m sure that if I bothered to do any research, I’d find out what used to be there.  But, they do have a one thing:  A big sign declaring it to be the home of Chuck Person.  Chuck played basketball at Auburn and for many years in the NBA.  He could shoot the lights out.  For this reason–and because his full name is Chuck Conners Person–he was called the Rifle Man.  I loved the TV show the Rifle Man, starring Chuck Connors.  It was the story of a homicidal widower and his son in the old west.   Great show.  Brantley is proud of Chuck (Person), so much so that they have this big, nice sign:

Brantley loves Chuck Person.

No matter how badly things have gone for Brantley, they remember Chuck.  Chuck’s brother Wesley was a heck of a ballplayer at Auburn, too, but he doesn’t have a sign.  I’d like to think Chuck comes back to visit from time to time.  The folks in Brantley would appreciate it.

Opp:  Opp is the name of another Alabama town.  I just like the name:  Opp.  Plus, they have something called the Rattlesnake Rodeo.   I can’t imagine what that it is, but I’m intrigued by it.

Whatever it is, the good folks of Opp have had 52 Rattlesnake Rodeos

I came to the end of my trek at Fort Walton Beach, Florida, where I spent the week.  Actually, I was on Okaloosa Island, but that’s just a technical difference, if any.

Fort Walton is not as nice as its newer neighbor, Destin, but still pretty good.  I blogged earlier about eating in Fort Walton, so I’ll spare you those details.  I worked out at Gold’s Gym everyday, which was across the street from this place:

No one does transmission work like a Bigot.

I’m sure he’s a fine fellow, but I’d think about changing my name.  Who is his biggest competitor?  Joe Racist Transmission?

All I did all week was the gym, the pool/beach, baseball games, naps, Starbucks and dinner.  Not too bad.  Substitute work for the pool/beach, and that’s pretty much what I do at home.  The only real downside to my trip was that my beloved University of Kentucky Wildcats won the NCAA Championship while I was there.  I watched it in a restaurant crammed full of UK fans, but it wasn’t the same as being in Lexington when it happened.  We have a tradition of burning furniture when the Cats win the title, but I just couldn’t do it that far from home.

Fort Walton has an inordinate number of tattoo parlors.  I’m sure they cater to the nearby military bases and spring breakers, but it still seems like WAY too many.  I counted 14.  That just seems like a lot.  I thought about getting a “UK” tattoo, but my wife shot it down.  That’s probably for the best.  The next time we suffered a bitter defeat, I’d probably be stabbing it with an ice pick.

Since I ate alone, dressed like a bum and had unkempt facial hair, I was mistaken for a local almost everywhere I went.  As my son would say, I was “rachet.”  I liked that. For four days, my trip was great.  After that, I ran out of things to do and was ready to head home.  I lost one of my credit cards, but no one used it for a bunch of tattooing.

My drive back was uneventful, but laborious.  Two traffic accidents and road construction turned my 11 hour drive into 14.  Plus, I followed this frightening vehicle for about an hour:

Possible tarp-covered corpses.

Oh, I almost forgot, I did this, too:

Your author at his most rachet

I may take another solo road trip, maybe not.  I didn’t get into any trouble (except losing my credit card), so my wife may let me do it again sometime.  By the way, my son’s team when 4-1 in its tournament, and he played well. So, there you have it:  My version of On the Road, only much shorter and only slightly less interesting.

© 2012

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