Sometimes there is not enough tea in the world. But then, Cesar here is getting ahead of herself. Bozo and I knew we had a challenging day driving-wise ahead of us. But we got an early start, and were zipping over the bridge and the Mississippi River, waving goodbye to Baton Rouge and avoiding the commuter traffic. Overnight rain strayed on the sidewalks and road, steaming the windows that tried to keep the humidity at bay.
Today’s path was more or less a straight shot. I12 to I65, then I565 and check-in to Madison to meet my friend Paula for dinner. The route crossed diagonally through MS and straight up Alabama. There was mostly greenway and trees (did I say NJ???) and two lane highways with a green divider. Talk about a lot of grass to mow, a lot of which was going on as we sped along at 70+ with little or no traffic at all.
Travel Information Centers seem to be our best friend these days, and there are quite a few of them in the southern belt. Mississippi and Alabama offer free coffee at their stops. I was pretty surprised to walk into the Mississippi center and find a sitting room parlor ready for the weary traveller! We chat up the reps as they ply us with coffee, getting the latest state highway maps and recommendations. We only had time to pass through Mississippi, but we planned to stop at Meridian, our friend Earlene’s hometown, since it was right at the midpoint to Madison, and just around lunchtime, too. Earlene lives in Utah with her husband Carlos, and gets to Meridian once or twice a year. Bozo thought it would be great fun to take a few pictures for our pals, call them in Utah to let them know we were checking out their old stomping ground, then visit the Carnegie Library that was built in the 1930’s, and get a bite to eat. It was a bit of fun, even if the library is now a museum. The historic Temple Theater is currently running Buster Keaton films (these are one of Bozo’s favorite, and it was just as well that movie times were on the weekend). We made quick time of it, and managed to find the most recommended spot in town, Weidemann’s. It is touted as the oldest restaurant in Mississippi. Locals pronounce it WY-mens. There we had fried green tomatoes, sweet potatoes, creole cabbage, turnip greens (Earlene’s favorite), the best sweet tea, and homemade peanut butter with the crackers. Bozo had the gumbo, a specialty of the house. Talk about good southern food! Earlene also informed us that the Carousel horses that are situated on the sidewalks throughout the downtown center were painted by her niece! So we took some pictures of them to send along.
Back on the road, and still in great time, the I65 was still good to us. From Birmingham on the sky was threatening rain, keeping in the sky and even allowing the sun to pierce through the gloom. Our GPS was sporting a 45 minute drive to the hotel, and that’s where there was a nasty traffic surprise. Imagine rolling through two lanes of open road, then coming to a standstill because of a collision between a few cars and a semi, just before the closest exit. It must have happened while we switched out driving spots at the rest stop, because by the time we met up with the back-up we were 3 miles behind the pileup, with miles of cars behind us. It took about half an hour to find out what had happened. Engines were shut off, people got out and stretched their legs, talking on their phones and to other drivers to find out what was going on. A helicopter whizzed overhead. A ambulance drove up the shoulder. My friend Paula was checking out the local stations for us, and gave us a radio station to listen to for updates as we texted our compared notes on the sparse reporting. Of all times! I hadn’t seen my good friend Paula since 2006, and having visiting time impacted like that was cruel. Such is fate. Two hours and ten minutes later, we finally got to open road, past the emergency vehicles lining the exit ramp. Paula met us at the hotel, and we managed to salvage the rest of the evening over dinner at the Cracker Barrel that was next to the hotel. The haddock was very well prepared, and the southern style vegetables, as well as LOTS of tea and company with my old bud, erased the traffic nightmare. Like it hadn’t happened at all. Like that two hour time warp was a figment of the imagination. But we knew it wasn’t.
Tomorrow Bozo and Cesar journey on to Weaverville and Asheville, North Carolina. Time to add some fiber to the story….