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Entries about history

Sweet Home Alabama

Where the skies weren't so blue

sunny 86 °F

Alabama is also somewhat boring. It's lovely, in the way that many of the other states we've been through thus far have been lovely: Lush, green. But there's less variation. There's no thrill of rising mountains or the illusion seeing forever across flat farm lands. Maybe we've been spoiled. It isn't Alabama's fault that we've already experienced 11 states before it. But there's something very sad and sleepy that permeates the air around here and I don't mean the humidity.
In Montgomery, we head to the First White House of the Confederacy, where Jefferson Davis lived before the Confederate capital removed to Richmond, Virginia. We pay for 36 minutes of parking and successfully tour the entire house in that time span. The tour is self guided with little copy paper printed booklets. The lighting is dim, reminiscent of gas lamps, and the air smells old. The interior of the house is gorgeous, filled with artifacts and relics from Jefferson Davis and family, as well as the Confederacy as a whole. I'm really glad that we went. I think it's important to learn all aspects of history, especially those parts that people are uncomfortable with. I recommend going if you're near Montgomery (which you probably aren't, but if you're in Atlanta, you're close enough). Admission is free and the Civil War was kind of a big defining point of the character of the US.

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After the FWHC, we head to downtown Montgomery. It's almost like a ghost city. Shops are open from 11-2, and are closed for the day. Workers park in the middle of the wide boulevards. A lot of properties are for sale, and look like they have been for sometime. We're near Court Square, where slaves, goods, and land were auctioned off and where Rosa Parks boarded her bus home from work and refused to sit in the back. The march on Selma went through this square. Sit-ins happened at the now defunct cafes and department stores. The Square, devoid of people, is peppered with historical markers. Near the bus stop where Rosa Parks boarded her bus, there is a small park and a bible is a glass case, opened to Psalms.

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Leaving Montgomery, we opt to get off the interstate and onto local highways. The drive is immediately more visually interesting. I-64 has almost no views of anything around in thanks to tree banks flanking the sides. On the local highways, we are routed through towns, can see logging operations, and cattle farms. And several dozen churches. And the occasional Confederate flag. We are well and truly in the Bible Belt and Deep South, and now we can at least catch a glimpse of how people here live. Part of the off-the-interstate operation is to pick up Florida. We stop in the town of Century, at a supermarket just past the Welcome to Florida sign. We have no choice, Shari says. We need a picture with the sign. So we walk through long grass and red clover and take dumb photos with the sign. And then we walk across the highway to the Alabama state line sign, and take pictures with that sign, too. Truckers and other drivers honk as they pass. We get back en route to Mobile, Alabama.

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Mobile is larger than I anticipated and driving over wide waterways is surreal. We stop in the downtown area. Mardigras bead tangle in the tree branches. There's a community garden and a cathedral from 1835. While admiring the architecture, a man stops us and shows us his stab wounds. "Gnarly," I say because I don't know what else to say. Shari and I look at each other and move quickly around the rest of the block to the car.
We are now safe in our hotel room, a good half hour from downtown Mobile. We'll be up early tomorrow to take on New Orleans. Thanks to Central Time, we gained an hour, and I'm tired from this 25 hour day.

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Posted by MiriG 19:48 Archived in USA Tagged road_trip history alabama florida highways civil_war montgomery lower_48 long_day first_white_house_of_the_confed civil_rights Comments (0)

Rockin' and a Rollin' Down to Tennessee

We were also in Kentucky today

sunny 82 °F

There's something to be said for finding just the right combination of driving and touring. The last few days swung between either a lot of one or a lot of the other. Today, we were on the road for about six hours total and walked about/explored for about three hours and even had some down time without being bone tired. This morning I hugged my family goodbye and Shari and I set off, heading south. Ohio is beautiful, in its very Midwestern way. The highway south divides fields and farms, and the green expanse gently undulates. You can see the precise shadows of the clouds overhead, a tonal addition to the patchwork of agriculture, trees, and asphalt.
We stopped in Boonesville, Kentucky, to stretch our legs. The town has a very active artist colony and a huge emphasis on crafts. Berea College sits across from the historic Boone Tavern established 1919, which has little do with the life of Daniel Boone aside from the fact he founded the town so therefore stuff gets named after him.
Coming down through Tennessee into Knoxville was stunning. As we headed further south (and back east a bit) the hills grew into mountains, bold and green and sturdy. The highway is mostly road cuts, exposing layers of geological formations. I'm fascinated by how rock forms and wears away. I am a nerd.
I was super excited to return to Knoxville. I visited there this spring, attending a printmaker's conference. Already having a frame of reference for the downtown area, I knew exactly where I wanted to go: the Market Square. It's historic and trendy, right near UTK. And Tuesdays and Thursdays, there are free outdoor concerts. The weather was perfect, fluffy clouds, bright sun, not overly humid. We hung out in the square, Shari played in one of the interactive fountains, and we wandered around a small section of downtown Knoxville while I took pictures. There's a lot of really cool statues near the Market Square, and many historic buildings with very ornate facades. I'm happy to be in Knoxville again, if only for a short while. There's a very comfortable feeling to the city, not too rushed or overcrowded.

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Tomorrow brings us to our first weekend of the trip, in Atlanta. We're looking forward to spending a few days in one place, just to get our bearings and reorganize and refresh for another week.

Posted by MiriG 21:05 Archived in USA Tagged history tennessee road trip kentucky ohio knoxville lower_48 daniel_boone Comments (1)

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