Everything looked so misty and magical when I crossed the border of Georgia into Tennessee at dawn in early October and encountered the picturesque Tennessee River. It was all Sleepy-Hollow-like but not exactly spooky. Mysterious, that’s what it was–a much more evocative word isn’t it? If you love a mystery, that is.
I failed to get even one single photo, though. In lesser known locations, difficulties arise when figuring out the best spot to stop to get good photos. I realized too late that the best place to take shots of the Tennessee River would have been several exits back. Having a long road trip ahead of me, turning around to go in the opposite direction for any reason was just unthinkable.
And dagnabbit if the same thing didn’t happen when passing though Nashville. I’ve driven by on the Interstate several times but never stopped to explore. So, I set my GPS to arrive at a specific location in downtown Nashville.
To make a long story short, the GPS f*cked me over… or maybe I just didn’t set it right. One of those two. So, I didn’t get to stop there either. It just wasn’t in the stars–the country stars that is.
Eating the second of three peaches I bought while still in Georgia helped a wee bit. The sweet peach juice ran all over my fingers and having previously sanitized my hands, I was good to go as far as licking it off.
Defining The South
“The South” generally encompasses an area more or less beginning in eastern Texas and stretching to the Georgia shores of the Atlantic Ocean, and as far north as Kentucky, the Virginias, Maryland, and even Delaware. The Census Bureau considers the whole of Texas to be included in The South but I know I’m not the only one who has surmised that a dividing line could be drawn with East Texas staying with The South and West Texas being awarded to The Southwest.
One could argue the same about Northern Florida. I say this for many reasons but to point out just one, this is where The Bible Belt (an area that is often synonymous with the The South) seems to unofficially start given all the religious and pro-life billboards that start cropping up well before crossing into Georgia. I’d like to say that these billboards occur every half mile or so but then that may in fact be a conservative estimate.
The billboards alert travelers to the existence of various churches along the way, Jesus Saves Radio, sources for help when it comes to choosing Pro-Life, etc. Soon after crossing the Georgia line I saw this billboard: “Bibles for Sale–Lowest Prices.”
As far as terrain goes, Florida is the flattest state in America and so is much of Georgia until getting to the southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains in Northern Georgia. After that it’s game on for hills, mountains, steep roads, and sharp curves–not to mention all the busted out fragments of tires to be found discarded along the roadside–casualties of the mountains.
One billboard at a time…
How many billboards are to be found along Americas highways and Interstates? Millions. Only four states prohibit billboards and none of them are in The South. Some large cities, like Houston, have moratoriums placed on erecting any new billboards, while numerous smaller communities have prohibited them altogether. Even so, there are still plenty to be found.
There’s a vibrant community of people who are vehemently anti-billboard. I find billboards interesting though and believe that they get way too much of a bad rap–they have the potential to provide a lot of important information to ordinary travelers not familiar with an area.
How else, for instance, would someone passing through Tennessee know that there are whisky distilleries near every Interstate exit. For example, the Old Glory Distilling Co. off Exit 19 on Interstate 24 is merely one drop from a gigantic barrel. Furthermore, there is actually something called a Tennessee Whiskey Trail and passports can be obtained in order to visit as many distilleries as possible. Seriously, even though I’m totally a rum gal, I still think this could be sorta fun maybe.
In addition to this, without billboards how would we be alerted to all the antique malls, fireworks stands, truck stops, hotels, pancake houses, outlet malls, McDonald’s, Harley Davidson, adult superstores, and gentlemen’s clubs. Brothels are not, of course, advertised–at least not outside of Nevada–and I think this is a great mistake. Most experienced truck drivers know exactly where they are though and I consider this to be vitally important as who would want explosive and sexually frustrated truck drivers on the road? Not me. Much better to have them calm and placated, sexually speaking.
You may think I’m joking about this but I’m not.
The best billboards are the ones advertising various kinds of foods–candy, ice cream, and, most particularly in The South, barbeque. For meat-eaters, southern BBQ is the single greatest reason to visit the south. However, I’ve noticed a pattern in that the places advertised on the billboards are not necessarily the ones where you want to stop and eat. A better method is to search out other BBQ joints in the same area via google or some other search engine and read reviews. The one advertising on the billboard typically is trying to steal customers away from the best places–the latter tend not to advertise much as they have plenty of customers already. Get how this works.
Two anomalies amongst the typical billboards that stuck out in my mind: One advertising over 1,000 wigs for sale and a small sign in Georgia, perhaps not an official billboard, that said: “Bulls for Sale.”
An extremely short history lesson: Who is Jefferson Davis?
I kept seeing references to Jefferson Davis, like the Jefferson Davis State Park in Georgia and the Jefferson Davis Memorial just over the border into Kentucky. Who is this person?
Anyone residing in The South will most likely know exactly who this is but outside of that I believe the name rarely gets mentioned and is perhaps hoped to be forgotten. Jefferson Davis is of course the first and only president of the Confederate States of America from February 18, 1861 to May 5, 1865. Ok then.
References to Jefferson Davis and confederate flags are elements a person has to be ready to encounter when traveling through The South. I choose to think of them as a lesson. Anyone who believes that racism is a thing of the past and that certain people just need to forget it and get over it already, as admittedly I myself once thought, need to understand that it is far from over and that there is still an immense amount of work to be done when it comes to educating, healing, and patching up all the gaps and cracks that continue to fester all over the U.S.
And, finally, the conclusion!
I ended up driving through five states in one day! Georgia, Tennessee, Kentucky, Illinois, and finally into Missouri. It was quite interesting and I didn’t fail in stopping to get my fridge magnets to take back home.
I have lots of Diwali photos that I hope to post soon.
Hope everyone is doing well!