I meant (and promised) to write about my travels in the Deep South while I was still in Chapel Hill, but for various reasons I never got to it. I’m back home in Finland now though, and I’m hoping to entertain you with a series of travel-related posts; I’ve got a lot of pretty pictures to show you!
Talking about pictures, I’ve got a selection of 50 shots from this road trip in my gallery. They’re mostly wild life shots, since that was one of the most interesting things to photograph down there.
We set off on this road trip with Elizabeth and Pekka in early April when Pekka was visiting us in Chapel Hill. The route went through North Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Florida, and South Carolina, making a loop of nearly 3,000 miles in just over a week! This is roughly the route we took:
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from the trip. We had been subjected to some of the Republican/right-wing/religious/anti-gay/anti-abortion/anti-everything propaganda already in North Carolina, but Chapel Hill and its vicinity are something of a Democrat bubble in the midst of it all. What would, say, Alabama bring? That’s where we stayed the first night: Montgomery, Alabama — after driving through Atlanta, Georgia, and deciding that it was too early to stop. First impression was exactly what I feared: a crappy motel in the middle of nowhere, right next to a shiny ‘Hooters’ sign. But imagine our surprise when a quick search produced a promising hit, El Rey Burrito Lounge, which turned out to be a rather nice restaurant with a good beer selection and some vegan burritos! Judging from the number of customers, it may just have been the only decent place in Montgomery, but a pleasant surprise nevertheless.
We continued southwest via some fairly unimpressive cities, such as Mobile, Alabama, which was effectively a ghost town; even the Subway was closed. Taking a wrong turn towards a dead end in downtown Mobile, we discovered a police car hidden away. The officer inside was sleeping like a baby, not even noticing us. So much for Alabama! We got to one of the main attractions of the trip that evening: New Orleans, Louisiana. It was a strange mixture of abandoned buildings, tourists, and hidden bars. An interesting experience for sure, but it was difficult to get an impression in just one night. In any case, I knew that there’s a d.b.a. in New Orleans — their NYC location is one of my favourite bars — and I was excited to check it out. The New Orleans location was pretty good as well, although not as great as the NYC version. Well, it’s certainly not the only interesting bar in New Orleans, we checked out a few others too. I’d love to go back there some day to explore the city more thoroughly, but we had a long way to go yet!
Driving through a corner of Mississippi, we ended up in Florida the next day, staying in Tallahassee. Nothing worth mentioning there, but we saw some funny buildings built on stilts on the way in Mississippi and stopped at a random nature trail which we had all to ourselves. The idea was to take it a little bit easier in Florida, so we rented a boat just outside Tampa on the following day. It was a pretty cheap boat: after an hour or so it broke down and we had to call the rental company to come and pick us up — they said it would take an hour. Oh well, we were at a nice spot so we just threw the anchor, had a beer, and went for a swim, awaiting rescue. Not quite as planned, but we got what we wanted out of it, and it ended up being even cheaper…
Next: Everglades. The bulk of the photography of the trip was probably in the Everglades, where we spent two days, with a night in Miami in between. I lost count of how many alligators we saw, some of them very close by, but there was an abundance of other wildlife too. We took a walk on the first day and an airboat ride on the following day. I’ll let the photos do the talking. As to Miami, which was the southernmost point of the trip, it was pretty horrible. Maybe we should’ve researched it better beforehand or something, but our mutual impression was that it’s a shithole. Our hotel was one of the most horrible places I’ve ever stayed at, almost right in downtown Miami. But there was nothing there: not a single decent bar or restaurant, just ugly buildings. The only places that were even open were in the marina, which was effectively a shopping centre with a handful of overpriced tourist bars and crap music. Perhaps Miami Beach is of more interest — we didn’t venture there — but I highly doubt it.
Given the disappointment with Miami, we were surprised to discover that Jacksonville, Florida, where we stopped the following night, was actually a rather decent place. We had a good meal (even if it was burritos, once again), and a looong night of drinking at the Kickbacks Gastropub, which had a very impressive beer selection (although the atmosphere was not quite ideal). The rest of the trip was mostly driving again, although we did have a nice lunch at the rather pleasant town of Savannah, Georgia. We stopped at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina for the night, which was a mistake: it’s a pretty horrible beach resort. After that it was a short drive back to Chapel Hill via Wilmington, North Carolina.
One of the most memorable things on this road trip, sadly, are the numerous very disturbing anti-abortion and anti-gay road side banners. Not disturbing in the sense that they would convince me of the views of their fundamentalist sponsors, but disturbing in the sense that if they do convince someone, I hope I will never meet that person. It’s fine to laugh at them when you’re just passing through, but I feel sorry for the (few) sensible people who actually live down there.
So, that’s Deep South for you, but I’ve also been travelling extensively on the West Coast and will report once I manage to go through the photos!