Just got home from the Dirty South on Wednesday, and I’ll tell ya… I was never so happy to get out of a moving vehicle. That bridge to Sarnia couldn’t come fast enough, and doesn’t it figure that the last day is the longest day. I love my father dearly, but we should not be in a truck together longer than 8 hours. We had two big nasty scraps because we’re both stubborn assholes… but I learned it from him, so he gets the blame.
Fights aside, I have to say… I enjoyed the southern United States a lot more than I expected I would. I’m an agnostic liberal (well probably more of a “libertarian”, but you know), so one would think the Bible Belt is a leftist’s worst nightmare, but some parts of the trip were beautiful and the southern folk are the friendliest I’ve ever come across. Yes, I saw a lot of yokels from the back country,but the sarcasm-provoking stereotypes were a big part of the south’s charm. I wouldn’t recommend getting lippy with them or tailgating them with your brights on when they’re being dinks on the highway (like I did at one point) because as has been pointed out to me numerous times, you never know what they’re packing… but if you can get past the “backwards” points of view and the churches, it’s a great place to travel through.
Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky – those are the states we traveled through. Not much to be said about the first four (Indiana is the WORST state to drive through because it’s so flat and uninteresting, until you get to Goshen/Mishawaka/Shipshewana where the Mennonites are). The tail end of Missouri and Arkansas is when it started to get interesting. That’s when the decrepid trailer park legends started to come to life; I actually saw one with a beat up old car jacked up on cinder blocks in the front yard, and it was just so stereotypical and photoworthy, but I was laughing too hard and we drove by it too fast that I wasn’t able to capture that magical moment on my phone. We drove past Bill Clinton’s hometown of Hope in Arkansas, and of course they have a sign outside the city mentioning that it’s his hometown, but it was full of bullet holes. Didn’t get a photo of that either (I was REALLY upset about missing that one).
We left Sarnia around 6:30 am on Saturday and got to Sikeston, Missouri at about 7 that night, where we stopped for the night. Dad wanted to go to this restaurant there called Lambert’s because he kept seeing the sign out front that said, “Home of the throwed rolls” and thought we’d give it a try, but it was Saturday night in hick town and every Tom, Dick and Harry from five square miles was there and it was an hour and a half wait, so we went to this family diner right next door that obviously gets Lambert’s spillover. It was hysterical because the inside of it looked like someone’s living room. The curtains were about 30 years old and there were family photos everywhere, and typical granny nicknacks all over the place… needlepoint projects in frames on the wall. Rooster tablecloths. Our waitress was a woman in her mid 50s wearing an oversized, faded white t-shirt and blue jogging pants tucked in to Uggs (let’s be real; probably not the NAME BRAND ones) who smelled of chicken fried steak. Everyone in the joint was staring at us. I guess I can see why… I was wearing a hoodie and windbreaker track pants. They were likely wondering who the classy broad was in the designer clothes. Was it that obvious we weren’t from around there? Anyway, the food was good. The rolls were worthy of mentioning, even though I’m sure they were no Lamberts and the weird butter sauce they gave us with it was kind of gross. Really good people though, despite how typically midwest they were.
The next afternoon we crossed over in to Texas, and the grandiosity of that state is astounding in more than one sense. You can see the wealth just by looking around. Huge ranches everywhere with wrought iron fences around the properties and big mansions sitting on the hills. Driving through eastern Texas reminds me a lot of driving through Alberta. Everything is big and open. Everyone owns a monster Dodge or Ford. Every house and business bears the famous lonestar, and I’m not kidding. I couldn’t believe how every square inch of available surface area was used to emblazon the Texas logo. Every freeway overpass had a lonestar on every pillar, and every ranch had either longhorns on it or a star, and every car had some kind of stencil or sticker on the back window of the star, the flag or a gun… or something to do with Jesus (I actually saw a pickup truck with a giant Virgin Mary on its back window haha – again, lost photo-op). I think the wonderful people of Texas are more proud to be Texan (and Baptist, for that matter) than they are American. The state flag is more popular than the American flag.
But despite its Republican and dogmatic roots, Texas is great. It’s beautiful, it’s huge and it’s showy. And you can’t beat the weather. It was a dry kind of heat, so you weren’t sweating your ass off until you got around Houston. We stayed in Round Rock that night and ate TexMex food, which was enormous and unbelievably savoury. The next day Dad got the new box for his truck put on. The guys who sold it to him were awesome because they actually took the old box off and put the new one on and didn’t tack on labour costs. They were incredibly sweet; they even drove us to a bank so Dad could get money out, and they told us if we’re ever in Austin again to look them up, so we reciprocated the gesture… but who the hell would ever want to come up here if you live in Texas? It’s cold, the shopping is shitty and people are twits compared to them haha. Our mamas didn’t raise us the way theirs did. They got the real southern respect thing going on; everything was “Yes Ma’am” or “Ok sweetie” (well, not to my dad of course).
So the time spent at the garage was the most boring four hours out of my life, but well worth it. After that Dad decided to fulfill my wish of seeing Louisiana, and I couldn’t have been more excited. So we drove over through Houston and went in to Louisiana via the 10. Of all the big cool cities we passed through, Houston and Baton Rouge were the only two I was sad I didn’t get to actually see. Houston is just so indescribably big, and I would have died to have seen the NASA headquarters. We weren’t far from it. We stayed in Lake Charles when we got to Louisiana and went for Cajun food at Steamboat Bill’s, which is one of the most famous Cajun restaurants in the city. I’m disappointed in myself for not eating more Cajun-style food, as that’s what we went there for, but I took one look at the massive tray of Crawfish that every table of locals seemed to be picking at and decided I’d stick with something safe that the sight of wouldn’t make me want to yak (ie: chicken with rice and beans). Oh the deep-fried roll… I could taste the coronary disease as I was eating it, but it was so sinfully good that I mowed that entire thing down and couldn’t feel bad about it.
Louisiana was definitely the coolest state we were in, but it had the worst hicks of all the states we were in. I saw the longest mullet I have ever seen. Dad pointed out that the table of people that sat behind us looked like they had some genetic disorders going on… but there was something kind of oddly comforting about the atmosphere haha. I can joke about the rednecks, but I know they’re all very family-oriented and they might be a little isolated and archaic, but they’re charming. I shouldn’t categorize them, as I know not every person in the south is a hick, but it was just a bit noticeable in Louisiana that they’re more unapologetic about themselves than anywhere else. The service at the restaurant was great. It was different because you order at the front counter as soon as you come in and you get your drinks, and then your waiter will bring your food to you when it’s ready. I bought some Creole seasoning for my sister there.
Woke up the next morning and headed over through Lafayette and Baton Rouge, and then up to Mississippi. We were on one of the evacuation routes for Hurricane Katrina, which was a bit eerie… thinking about the insane traffic that must have been going through there at that time. Saw lots of petrified gator heads at the truck stops… drove through Kentwood (Britney Spears’ hometown)… saw some bayous, drove over a long causway… heard some authentic Louisiana banjo music on the morning radio. Mississippi was interesting, but probably would have been better had we been on the smaller highways going through the little towns. I don’t think anything too exciting happened there. Tennessee was awesome because we were driving on a smaller highway that went through a lot of small towns, and it has tons of rolling hills, which made the driving a lot more enjoyable because there was actually scenery. Tennessee and Kentucky were two of the best states to drive through because of how beautiful they were. And then we got to Indiana, and that was a drag because… well, it sucks haha. But then we got to Goshen, where Dad picks up his RVs, and we saw dozens of Mennonites. That was cool. I know you’re not supposed to take their pictures, but I did it once and I’m going to post it because it was a good photo.
And then we got to Michigan and it was the longest four hours in a truck I’ve ever had. And then we got home and I made a big mess unpacking, which I still haven’t cleaned up, and now all this typing has made me tired. I’ll include more pictures in the next post.