Day Three: Chattanooga, TN – Pearl, MS
Mileage: 616 – 1007
Weather: 66 – 48 degrees - clear and mostly sunny
Soundtrack: “O Brother Where Art Thou”
Shortly outside of Chattanooga, we drove through a small corner of Georgia and then into Alabama. Our first rest stop in Alabama showed a marked difference in the temperature and landscape from our first two days. Pulling over for PB & J sandwiches for lunch at the rest area, we smelled the sweet piney woods for the first time. And even though it’s still only early February, there was a pond of frogs croaking in the background and paths through the trees cushioned with dry pine straw. For my husband, these sights, sounds and smells meant home. There was a marked difference in the sights outside the windows from the highway, too, with the piney woods replacing the gray and dormant deciduous trees of Virginia and Tennessee.
|Blue skies and pine trees - welcome to Alabama!|
In Birmingham, we picked up the interstate that we’ll follow all the way through Texas and cut a diagonal line across northern Alabama towards Mississippi. As the first time I’d ever been in Mississippi, I had been excited to visit a new state and see what the real Deep South looked like. It looked like pine trees. The highway is bordered by these forests for the majority of Alabama and all the way to Jackson, MS, with only small glimpses through the trees to cleared areas where it looked like the trees had been harvested. No old men sitting on porches, playing their harmonics with their hound dogs by their side, or grandmothers hanging laundry on the line outside the weathered gray wooden cottages. It was just trees.
Toby joined Dodger and Daphne atop our luggage and boxes in the Captain’s Seat, where all three snuggled down quietly to nap or watch the world go by. Once in a while, someone would climb down from above my headrest to sit on my lap, but quickly bored of it and headed back up the stack. Despite our making it available, nobody used the litter box, ate from the kibble bowl or drank from the waterer that keeps sloshing onto a towel in the back of the car. But at least they’re there… in case they change their mind.
|The modern Beverly Hillbillies and their cats?|
We made it to central Mississippi, just outside of Jackson, by dinner time and pulled into a motel in Pearl in time to settle the kitties, unpack the car (*sigh*) and head out to find a spot for dinner and to watch the second half of the Super Bowl. We each pictured finding some local flavor, some divey fish fry joint with cold beer and a big screen. Instead, we found rows and rows of neon-sign chain restaurants with different themes and quirky decors, but chain restaurants all the same. The local flavor just doesn’t live alongside the interstate anymore; I guess we shouldn’t be surprised by the continued strip-mauling of America. We settled on Logan’s Roadhouse, with bowls of peanuts on the tables and shells on the floor and a sassy young waitress named Georgette. She couldn’t recommend what beer was best on tap, as she swore she only drank tequila and said she wanted to come with us to Mexico. The restaurant was lined with big-screen TVs for the big game, and big groups of big families taking up most of the big tables. And by “big,” I don’t just mean families with many members, I mean BIG families. And how can you not be big down here when it seems that every meal starts with baskets of rolls or biscuits dripping in butter, is battered and fried, is washed down with pints of sweet tea, and comes with a choice of two sides (like mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese or fried okra)? I ordered sautéed (in butter) seasoned shrimp on skewers and a side of cinnamon apples. Let’s be honest here: this is basically a big bowl of pie filling disguised as a dinner side instead of a dessert. Georgette later brought me an extra buttery roll so that she could show me how to make a quickie apple pie. Even stuffed full of shrimp and the first round of buttery rolls already, it would have been rude of me to not try her special recipe. After all, I’ve been burning lots of calories sitting still in the car for six hours a day, right? Urgh. But it was tasty.
Mississippi had two other quirks that peeved my husband in particular. First, they don’t sell beer after 5pm on a Sunday, even a Super Bowl Sunday. Second, the hotel TV was programmed to turned itself off after about 15 minutes. Apparently it’s the hotel’s energy-saving methods at work, and one need only hit the remote to reactivate it, but I thought it would be better if it required the watcher to do some jumping jacks or go run around the block before it would turn back on. Probably just the apple pie biscuits nagging on my conscience.
The five of us piled onto the lone queen bed in the room and tried to get some good sleep before the next day’s long haul into Texas. Unfortunately for me, the lightest sleeper on either side of the Mississippi – this didn’t happen. There’s always tomorrow night.
Next: More MS, LA and Eastern Texas!