the Gulf Coast
i headed out of New Orleans early that morning, thinking it would be an uneventful day. boy, was i wrong… i had just crossed the border into Mississippi when all of a sudden the cars in front of me started slamming on their brakes and pulling to the side of the road. miles before, i had noticed a couple police cars and one of them stopped and putting something on the road. i didn’t know all of this was for the guy running from the cops, now coming in the wrong direction in my lane. i pulled over with everyone else, still confused. then i saw him driving erratically in a large ram truck. he knew he was trapped and yet he still tried to get through all of the cars to keep going. we had kind of blocked him in so first he drove around my left side (almost running into my car) and then he turned and came down my left side…and straight into a ditch. a deep, muddy ditch. he was stuck. so what does a man on the run do when he loses his mode of transportation? he sets out on foot. he didn’t make it far before the cops with their guns drawn and german shepherds pulled him to the ground right behind my car. i got in a quick pic (okay, a couple – my hands were shaking) and then sped down the road and out of the way of the forty police cars. it took awhile for my heart to calm down, but after a call to my bff and mom, i felt like i could laugh about it. what are the odds of me getting caught in the middle of a major police chase?
so after i wound down at an outlet mall, i decided at the last minute to go see Beauvoir, Jefferson Davis’ last home. you had to go on the tour so i joined the other sweaty tourists to hear stories about the Confederate president. we all had to wait on the front porch until the tour inside was finished. i had to sit there in a rocking chair and look at the ocean just a few hundred feet away lapping the shore. i just wanted to run down the steps and jump in it. but then the guide opened the door. as we all gathered together inside, i seriously thought i was going to faint right there in the “receiving hall” in front of everyone. it was air conditioned inside, but just barely. i was completely unprepared for the amount of humidity and the effects of the heat. i felt almost like i was going to suffocate. after growing up in west Texas all my life, it was terrible. i could barely concentrate on what the guide was saying. but it was a great place. they’re still rebuilding from Hurricane Katrina, which was a whole other layer to the story. i wouldn’t mind going back when they are down with the renovations, but the climate may keep me back.
Montgomery and Tuskegee
it was a pretty uneventful drive to Montgomery. gorgeous drive though. i loved Alabama and my time there. everyone was so nice. exceptionally nice. and the scenery was amazing. rolling hills, lakes, rivers. beautiful. there was a definite difference between the classes here though. the drastic change in houses on the drive from Tuskegee to Auburn was shocking. in the morning, i woke up in my awesome hotel (i splurged a little for this one), hit the in-house gym, grabbed some breakfast, and headed out. i decided to see downtown Montgomery before finding Tuskegee. it’s a beautiful downtown. i wanted to go to the Rosa Parks Museum but it was unfortunately closed due to a down A/C. so i walked over two blocks to the Freedom Rides Museum. it was closed too. weird hours. but there was a lot outside to look at. and it was housed in the old Greyhound Bus station where the Freedom Riders ended their journey. i’ve always been fascinated by the civil rights era. there were so many pivotal changes during that time. there are things that still need to be resolved that all of those brave people started. i tried to go to the Fitzgerald Home Museum too, but it was closed as well. so on to Tuskegee…
my grandparents, aunt, uncle and father had lived in Tuskegee in the early 1960s in the middle of the civil rights movement. my grandfather was going to school at Auburn University and my grandmother taught at the local high school. they were poor and were’t able to put my aunt, uncle, and dad into the private schools where all the white kids were placed after the schools were integrated. not that they wanted to. my grandparents are very open about being against segregation. this brought some heat to the family, but they made it work. my dad and uncle were some of the only white kids in their elementary classes. my grandmother got dirty looks from the community and felt fear as she took her mostly black students on a field trip. they were brave people to support integration in deeply southern town. so naturally, i had to see it. i went to the Tuskegee Airmen Museum first. such an amazing museum. i’d go back in a second. so well put together! very interactive and hands-on. the parks service really knows how to do a museum. i learned so much in my hours there.
then, i went ahead and drove into Tuskegee to get some gas. i was not prepared for the poverty i saw. it was so heartbreaking. i stopped twice, once for gas and once for ice and snacks. at both places, the people were so incredibly nice. of course, i was the only white person i saw in the entire town. i got a couple of weird looks, but i never felt scared or nervous. just because they’re poor doesn’t mean they’re all criminals. i think people forget that sometimes… an old man even asked me “girl, do you know where you are?” i told him, “yes, sir. i’m in tuskegee, alabama.” he replied, “okay, just checkin'”. we both laughed about it. after Tuskegee, it was a long and white-knuckled trip through Atlanta to Knoxville. i’m not used to heavy traffic for four hours!