Our trip to the Type A Mom Conference in North Carolina involved driving through 8 Southern states in 6 days. Since we literally dropped out of the sky into Houston 2 years ago and haven’t had the chance to travel since, this was my first ever journey through this region of the U.S.
I was grateful to have my husband’s Blackberry with us, since it provided a valuable wifi resource for answering the many questions that popped up. Here now is an overview of what we learned, thanks to Google and Wikipedia.
Boudin and Cracklin: Once we crossed the border from Texas into Louisiana, we started seeing billboards for “The Best Boudin You’ve Ever Tasted” and “Tasty Homemade Cracklin.” A search revealed that boudin is “a white sausage made of pork without the blood” and crackin is “a fried piece of pork fat with a small amount of attached skin.” Based on that…er…interesting bit of information on Louisiana cuisine, we thought it was hilarious when we then saw a billboard that said, “If you’re gonna eat in Louisiana, ask first.” (presumably about WHAT the food might be!)
Laurel, Mississippi: This location doesn’t have anything to do with Google, but it’s worth mentioning because it’s where my maternal Grandmother was born. I never figured I’d drive through her birthplace, but sure enough – we did! And I took some video of the small, lovely town.
“Stars Fell on Alabama:” This phrase appears on many Alabama license plates, and we wanted to know why. Basically we found out that it’s a very old song that has been recorded by many, many artists over the years. (I’ve never even heard of it!) We also saw many “Sweet Home Alabama” license plates. They apparently like their songs in that state.
The Kudzu vine: We started seeing the strangest vegetation on the side of the road as we headed out of Alabama into Tennessee. Seriously, these part tree/part vine growths looked like something otherworldly! It took a bit of research to dig up the truth about the kudzu vine – a rapidly spreading vine first introduced from Japan into the South to control erosion. No one knew at the time how invasive the species would become. It sure makes for some interesting roadside attractions during a drive through the South!
Chattanooga, Tennessee and Asheville, North Carolina: I could live in either of these cities, and happily. I’ve had to resist the urge to search job opportunities and cost of living. They are both beautiful cities, not too large, with friendly people. I ate at my first Cracker Barrel in Chattanooga (I had pecan pancakes and fried apples…yum!) and at Frank’s Roman Pizza in Asheville (a fabulous local joint!).
Roger’s “Pit-Cooked” Bar-B-Que in Hogansville, Georgia: OH. MY. WORD. My first real, authentic, down-home, local bar-b-que. It was crazy good, and the tiny little place was so cool. We stuck out like a sore thumb – especially with all of our oohing and ahhing over every detail of our meals – but it was a great stop and a very lucky find.
We also had a lot of fun trying to remember which college was where as we saw a number of people on the interstate with their team’s flags flying. We’re sure there were a good deal of games going on during our journey, and it made me wonder if anyone else in the country loves their college teams more than Southerners.
We went straight through the heart of downtown Atlanta and were completely dwarfed by the gigantic city (we were also terrified by the intense rain/thunder/lightening storm we had to drive through). And we decided that Mobile, Alabama was, well, not much to look at. We did go through a slice of South Carolina, but honestly, it was just the first leg of our second-to-last day, and we buzzed through as fast as we could. We encountered aggressive semi-truck drivers, lovely rest areas, dozens of public bathrooms (and not ONE of them had seat covers!), easy to manuever interstates, and lots and lots of new sights. We realized that once you get away from the flat coastal plains off the Gulf of Mexico, the South is really quite a gorgeous area of the country. It was an amazing trip.