I Survived the Drive

I think I’ve survived my driving tour of the American Southeast. Not certain yet; I still have a small headache and my lower back may never be the same. Plus there’s a new ridge on my forehead from miles of grumpy squinting that may be permanent. I gained five pounds from car food (aka Cheez-its and raisins) and the smell of boiled peanuts has soaked into the lining of my nostrils. But other than that, I’m good.

And my car is clean now, thanks to the fine hermanos at Jeff’s Car Wash on Nicholasville Road. They must’ve spent 10 minutes just scraping the bugs off the headlights and the Cheez-It crumbs imbedded in the carpet.

The drive was an interesting exposure to life in the south. Let’s face it, you have to drive through it to experience some of it. The Atlanta airport just doesn’t give you the same reality, (even the notorious Concourse D).  If we had flown to Florida, we never would have had the treat of pumping gas from a vintage gas pump that was so old, I think I saw it for sale on EBay as part of an antique Americana package. Goober’s long-lost sister was behind the counter when I went in to pay.

Despite the fact that the gas stations are directly off I-75, they were about 50 years behind the times. Rarely could I swipe my credit card, fill up and drive off without dealing with a local. 

I’m not one to complain about restroom cleanliness (that doesn’t sound good, but sadly, it’s true) but even I was really quite tired of trying to figure out which exit had decent restrooms. Answer: None, at least until you’re north of Knoxville. 

The whole trip was an olfactory cornucopia. The restrooms were just the tip of the iceberg. There was the gas station/convenience store that reeked of worms. And it was freezing cold in there. It was like walking into a refrigerated bait shop. And then there were the boiled peanuts. They were in a big steel pot on an open fire that we had to walk past to get to the restroom “out back” at a station in southern Georgia. My son swore he could smell boiled peanuts until he showered the next morning. 

“Is it in the car? Is it on our clothes? Is it on me?” we kept asking each other. I’m not sure I’ll ever eat a peanut again, boiled or otherwise.

Speaking of peanuts, Jimmy Carter’s peanut farm is advertised on a sign. So is the Al Gore Sr Highway, and the real “Swanee River,” which we drove over. (And then I hadthat song stuck in my head for 100 miles.)  The signs were the most fun part of the trip. If billboards are a dead form of advertising, they forgot to tell the people in the South. We saw billboards for vasectomies, strip clubs, abstinence, repenting for your sins, fireworks, mega-churches, and  one that advertised a store with “Great Food! Adult Toys!” It appears the South has something for everyone.

I used sign looking as something to do when I took a break from my dreadful book on tape - The Body Farm - which proved right my suspicion that only badly written thrillers can keep your attention when driving in a car. You might cringe and groan, but you listen. I tried a Graham Greene book and two classics and I was bored to the point of hysterical, maniacal laughter and couldn’t eject fast enough.

So now I’m home and done with my tour of the South and back in . . . oh, uh, Kentucky. Yeah. Never mind.