Category Archives: The Big Trip

New Orleans Mile 4355.4

The view from our “villa” on Dataw Island

We woke up at Dataw Island SC and got to New Orleans 695.3 miles and 14 hours later. In between, we drove through rural Georgia on back roads, mostly on two-lane state highways, then through the northern Florida panhandle, southern Alabama, southern Mississippi, and the south-eastern corner of Louisiana, the last three in the dark on Interstate 10.  Almost all the following pictures were taken by Michele from the car.









Next to a very ornate County Civic Center, was a plain County Jail where family members, presumably, waited to visit inmates on a Saturday afternoon. Driving by at 25 miles per hour, in air-conditioned isolation, it seemed especially sad. 
This was the only Civil War statue we saw during the trip, so far, and we only drove by one Confederate flag. 
We stopped at the world’s largest Peanut Statue to have a lunch of barbecued chicken, Carolina style, and coleslaw.

Passing through both Tennessee and Georgia on back roads, we passed a church about every five miles – maybe less – and searching the radio, in the neighborhood of 88.5, we got either NPR, Gospel Music, or a sermon. Every sermon, without exception, was anti-government. Some were rabidly anti-government and some were mild but the constant message was “trust and rely on God, not the government”.


For some reason, completely unfathomable to me, every time I type in the caption and hit update, both the picture and the caption disappear. The caption should read something like Crossing the Perdido River and crossing from Florida to Alabama. 

Same caption problem. Crossing from Alabama into Mississippi in the dark with a camera that insists on focusing on the windshield.

And finally, we cross into Louisiana having crossed the entire State of Mississippi in the dark. Driving into New Orleans, we are in the first big city on our trip. We are staying with Gina and Courtney in a four-story home in the French Quarter. On Sunday morning, Michele sleeps in. 

A couple of thoughts and pictures on/from Chattanooga TN

Now that we are at Dataw Island ensconced with Michele’s cousins, busy with familial activities, our impressions of Chattanooga are starting to fade even though we left it less than a week ago so I’m just going to post a couple of comments and pictures and let it go. Chattanooga was an almost complete unknown to us; it is on a bend in the Tennessee River, it was listed as one of 45 Places to go in 2012 by the New York Times, and it was the site of General U.S. Grant’s luckiest battle, other than that, it is a blank. Now I can add that it is a lovely small city – I guess it can be called a small city, it has a population of a little less than 178 thousand souls – in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains with the Hunter Museum of American Art at the center of an Art District. When we first got to Chattanooga for our two-night layover, we really liked it, by the second night, we felt it was a little too polished with not enough rough edges for it to be interesting for an extended period, but, by the time we left, we were starting to come around to our first position.

In September 1863, the Confederates, under General Braxton Bragg, soundly beat the Union Army at Chickamauga and then drove the defeated, disorganized, and despondent Army into Chattanooga where the Confederates laid siege from the surrounding mountains. The Union Army, under by General William Rosecrans, who Lincoln said was “confused and stunned like a duck hit on the head with a rubber mallet”, was pinned down and floundering, cut off from their supply lines, starting to starve. General Grant, who had been convalescing in New Orleans was given command and ordered to Chattanooga by Lincoln. Two days after he arrived in October, Grant established a new supply line, started bringing in food and ammunition, and then additional troops. In November, Grant went on the attack. First by taking the high ground on the Union right, under Major General Joseph Hooker. As an aside, folk etymology says that the term hooker came from calling the Washington prostitutes Hooker’s Battalions while Hooker was the general in charge of the Army of the Potomac but this is not true, people who know those kinds of things say that the term hooker had been around for 30 years before the Civil War. End aside. However, the Union troops were still pinned down from Missionary Ridge and Grant sent his friend, General William Tecumseh Sherman, on a flanking movement to roll up the Confederates from the Union left. Sherman bogged down, so Grant ordered the pinned down troops, now led by General George Thomas, to distract the Confederates by making “a demonstration”. But as the pinned down troops made their demonstration they started taking even more intense fire; one by one, then small group by small group, and finally the entire of Thomas’s Army, completely on their own, charged up Missionary Ridge to get away from the fire raining down on them. They had been humiliated at Chickamauga and now they got their revenge, The Confederates were driven back to Georgia and Grant went to Washington to become the commander of the entire Union Army.         

Meanwhile, we were still in Chattanooga and it was First Friday Art Walk so we visited the Chattanooga WorkSpace to see some local artists. The next day we visited the Hunter Museum of American Art and saw a nice show of a local artist. Then it was back on the road with some nice memories.      

 

Dataw Island on the coast of South Carolina Mile 3235.6

Our drive to Dataw Island started with a long drive through Georgia. We got on the Freeway in Chattanooga and drove about two miles to George where we stopped to get gas. Then ran almost all the way Dataw Island in a sort of tunnel formed by trees on both sides of the road relieved only by a stop at the High Museum to get lunch and a surprisingly nice rest stop to, uhh, rest. Shortly after crossing the Georgia/South Carolina border, we reached Dataw Island, had a late dinner at Michele’s cousin’s home, and went to bed. The next morning we woke to a view of the Harbor River, near where it joins the Atlantic. 

Chattanooga Mile 2779.4

rovide by the We got up in Memphis without rain, the first-day since Flagstaff that it wasn’t raining or threatening rain; it is 80° and glorious. We took a walk along the River at a new park with various exercise apparati provided by the Memphis Grizzlies and overlooked by new condos. It got me thinking about the NBA and how they, as a predominantly Black League, work very hard to be part of their local community.  It also got me thinking about man’s changing relationship with Nature. Ten thousand years ago until sometime after the turn of the 19th century, everything outside of the biggest cities was what we now call Nature and it was less something to be enjoyed than overcome. I remember reading that, when the Spanish explorers first saw the Grand Canyon, they wrote that it was an ugly gash in the land, the ugliest place they had ever seen. Even a hundred years ago, a riverfront or harborfront was for docks, not homes. Now the riverfront is for us enjoy, to watch birds, the flowing water, and the ever-changing sky. 

After our walk, we went to the Central Barbecue for Ribs before we hit the road. The first time we had been at Central Barbecue was in the spring of 2008 and it was in a converted gas station and we overlooked the street – in both meanings of the word overlook – while we ate the best barbecue we had ever had. Now barbecue is a bigger deal with barbecue joints everywhere, and Central barbecue has prospered; it now has three locations and a nice covered outside eating place. I’m pleased to say that we still think it is still great. Then it is time to gas up and hit the road. We start on freeways but get off as soon as possible, driving mostly on four-lane back roads called Parkways through small towns where the speed limit drops from 65 to 40. BTW, almost all the pictures taken on the road were taken by Michele.

We are deep in y’all country and honey country, as in “Y’all want honey with those biscuits, Honey?”, and deep in The Bible Belt with large churches – seemingly – every couple hundred feet. A couple of days ago, Richard Taylor asked me to listen to AM radio as we drove, hoping, I think, that I would gain some knowledge, particularly on why these people voted for Trump, that I could pass on. I tried Richard but everything that is not country rock is somebody pitching Jesus. I didn’t hear much fire and brimstone talk, just Feeling down and despondent? Jesus understands, he was a man, too. The countryside is beautiful, in a pastoral way and as we drive through the Smoky Mountains, we pass some great road cuts with the sedimentary layers on full display.  llAfter 326.1 easy miles, we arrive in Chattanooga and have a nice, late dinner at The Flying Squirrel. 

Memphis Mile 2,444.9

Our plan had been to drive to Bentonville early on Tuesday and visit the Crystal Bridges Museum – the Museum of American Art that was founded by Alice Walton, paid for by hundreds of millions Walmart customers, and designed by Moshe Safdie – but it was closed on Tuesdays. When every day is spent driving to somewhere else, a closed museum throws us off our schedule. We worked around it by going to Crystal Bridges in the morning on Wednesday and early evening – well, not so early, it turned out – then driving to Memphis well into the dark. Memphis was a 346.1-mile drive, much of it in rain, and we arrived beat. 

Crystal Bridges was a revelation, it is a great building, certainly one of the best museums I have ever been to, in a setting that is even better. It is all about American Art  – duh! – displayed chronologically, and it gives the visitor a great overview. The pre-2000 art in the permanent collection did seem slightly second-rate – although there was a stellar Audobon turkey that I fell in love with – and I think that is because by the time Alice Walton started collecting American art, the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art had been collecting American art for 100 years, and the Smithsonian for 120 years, not to mention the Art Institute of Chicago or LACMA or a dozen other museums that had been sucking up all the greatest stuff. They do, however, have gobs of money and great ambition so the temporary shows and the new acquisitions should be terrific. 

There were two shows, or exhibitions if you prefer,  Stuart Davis – which we would have liked to see but didn’t because of time constraints – and Chihuly, who has reached one name status, displayed in the woods. It was raining off and on while we were at Crystal Bridges, with a light and drizzle in between, and we timed our Chihuly viewing between major rains. Walking through the Ozark woods viewing Chihuly in a drizzle was close to magical. 

We had a late lunch in the museum dining room, under a super hanging heart by Jeff Koons and then hit the road. 

  As we got closer to Memphis, the rain got lighter and then we were out of the rain, running on dry roads all the way. 

We crossed the Father of Waters, running unvexed to the sea, to quote President Lincoln, and were in both Memphis and Tennessee. We ended a long day at Beal Street listening to a mediocre cover band playing, among other things, Elvis Presley, The Ozark Mountain Daredevils, and Tom Petty.