Hi y’all. Sorry that our posts have ceased. How’d the rest of the trip go, you wonder? Well, I’d be happy to tell you.
So we woke up the next morning, ready to experience Memphis. Unfortunately, per usual, we only had a few hours before we really needed to be our way to Birmingham and eventually to Atlanta, so we did a quick walk of Beale Street and figured we’d get some breakfast.
And by breakfast, I mean barbeque. It was about 10:30 am. The streets were just starting to get crowded with people in town for the Blues Festival (another festival we happened upon by accident.) and we were hungry for some Memphis BBQ. We found a place that we could take BBQ to go, but they didn’t open until 11:00. “Head down to Blues Street Café,” the man told us at the take-out place. “They open at 10:30, and have barbeque.” As we walked to Blues Street, we heard other folks getting suggestions to restaurants with breakfast, bbq, or whatever their hearts desire. It was nice, this attitude of sending someone along to another local business, even though they themselves were a restaurant.
So we settled down, ordered coffee, and looked at the menu. Corelyn ordered tamales and chili, and I made the sacrifice and ordered half a rack of ribs. This food was so good, that as I write this I yearn for down home cookin’. We ate in about half a second, then savored our coffee, and pointed out things about the kitschy place we found ourselves in: the framed poster of Elvis, the working juke box, and the waitress’s hot pink jeans.
After bringing our bill, our waitress, asked us if we wanted more coffee, “No, we’ve gotta get going, but thanks,” we answered. “Do y’all want me to put some in to-go cups?” She replied. “YES” we both screamed. “Sorry, Yes. Please.” Coffee in hand, bill paid, we headed back down Beale Street to the car, hopped in and headed to the National Civil Rights Museum, which is compromised of the motel that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated. The Lorraine Motel is preserved as it looked when Dr. King was shot, and was crowded by school children.
We didn’t have time to stop and go inside, much to our disappointment, but we were on a schedule. So we hopped back in the car and headed to Arkansas. And yes, we know that Arkansas is in no way on the path to Mississippi, Alabama, and finally Georgia. But we needed to step into Arkansas to help with my goal of visiting all 48 contiguous states. I have now, I am happy to report, been to all except Kentucky and North Carolina. Luckily, Cor’s mom lives in one, and the other is close enough that I know I’ll get there.
After Arkansas and the might of the Mississippi river, we got on the road to Birmingham, our next stop. The ride was relatively smooth through Mississippi and the beginning of Alabama, but as we neared Birmingham and Corelyn started looking up our path to the 16th Street Church, our first civil rights stop in the small city, she knew we were in trouble. “It’s just a red line,” she said. “All the way into the city. Right after the highway ends.” We pondered the reasons for this, and concluded it must be some construction-inspired detour.
We, of course, were very wrong. The traffic was actually a result of the destructive tornadoes that had ripped through Alabama only a few days prior. As we neared some semblance of a city, I saw a tank. And some national guard. And some police. And a whole lot of people. And then, a whole lot of what used to be neighborhood. The devastation was unbelievable. The tornado had ripped houses, business, cars, up and whirled them around the sky before placing them on the ground who knows how far away from where they started.
This sobered us a bit, and was important to see, because although it was hard to see such horrible destruction, it reminds us that our problems, which often seem so large, important, and hard, are actually (mostly) a piece of cake. After that, we were sobered even more by driving through downtown Birmingham, where we saw the 16th Street church where those little girls were killed in a bomb explosion so many years ago, and walked the freedom walk in the adjacent park, which told of the bravery of those young people who fought so hard for what should have already been theirs.
Birmingham was definitely one of the most educational places we went, and we were sad to leave, but we had to press on to make it to Atlanta at a reasonable hour. So we got back on the road, headed to Georgia. The second half of this drive, our second to last leg on the open road, went by quickly as we listened to our Georgia mixes, watched the sun set, and talked about how excited we were to get to family.
We arrived at Corelyn’s brother’s house around 9:00 pm, and were greeted by family and more barbeque – just the way we liked it. I was introduced to Frito pie (I think that’s what it’s called, Laura?)We laughed and smiled and visited for a few hours, before heading back to our final hotel. The hotel, Corelyn’s brother told us, had just been redone, and he was sure was beautiful. Boy, was he right! We had an amazing view of the city, and obviously the first thing we did was shut off all the lights and take photographs of the skyline. After an hour or so of that, we explored our floor of the hotel before heading back to our room to settle in for the night.
The next day, we had breakfast with Corelyn’s sister, brother-in-law, and lovely nieces. Then we headed to Corelyn’s brother’s, where we hung with her dad, step-mom, brother, sister-in-law, and of course, our favorite little boy, Corelyn’s first nephew! It was so fun to be around Corelyn’s family. We headed out to lunch for Mexican and had a wonderful time laughing and lounging on a fine Sunday afternoon outside.
After lunch we made our “good bye” rounds to Corelyn’s brother, then sister, and all their wonderful children. Then we got back in the car. One more stretch to be had. We were Knoxville bound. This part of the car ride brought us Dane Cook, and laughter, and a finally few hours together in the Fit. We arrived to Knoxville around 10, and everyone at Corelyn’s house helped to unload the boxes, bags, and miscellaneous items that had accumulated. Here, I got to meet Corelyn’s step-sister, too, which means now I have met everyone in her immediate family. What a thing to be able to brag about.
After the unload, we started untangling and unraveling all our items that had twisted together in our ten days. Collecting shirts here, CDs there, we managed to sort it out, and get my laundry in the washer. Then we made sure Corelyn and I had all the pictures, repacked my bags, and headed to sleep.
On our final morning, Corelyn gave me a tour of her city. I saw her old house, and her neighborhood, and her school. Then we headed to the first coffee place we found – a Starbucks! We found, about two buildings down, a Dunkin Donuts moments later, and pulled a U-turn to get bagels, a maple-frosted donut for me, and some coffees. The Starbucks was destined for the trash, never to be spoken (although to be written) about again.
Then Corelyn and I drove to the airport, where we were informed that my flight was delayed an hour, thank you very much. So we bought a USAToday and found a bench to plop down on and work on the crossword. After finishing it, we just people-watched until we figured I needed to head through the mini-line to my gate.
“I’m not going to watch you go through security,” Corelyn said. We laughed, although sad that she couldn’t come through security, follow me to the gate, and say goodbye there. That would allow us another 45 minutes. But alas, things are the way they are, and we parted ways. We both smiled, not crying, just happy that we had at least had such a great trip, knowing we’d see each other again, soon.
Our trip had come to an end. We had gone through mixes from several friends, had talked about nearly every topic, focusing mostly on civil rights, Native American displacement, food, and of course, historical landmarks. We had visited eight states (Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia) and been together, not more than 20 feet apart (which Corelyn pointed out in Atlanta) in ten days. We had gotten in no fights, had not encountered any car troubles, nor any reason to use the side of the road as a bathroom. It was the trip of a lifetime. It was everything we wanted it to be, more, as every road trip should be. What a grand beginning to our bi-coastal operation. Here’s to Garlic, My Soul, and our expanding empire.