Our trip from Ocracoke to the Border was something of a job itself.  I suppose
sitting in the car for hours on end doesn’t seem like hard work ... well, I guess it
isn't, but it certainly can be tedious.  I must insert that Abigail and Eleanor were
absolute angels most of the time.  Every once in a while there was a little bickering,
and occasionally we heard the dreaded whine, but for the most part they were quite
a treat.  The hard work part comes in when you’re flying along the back roads,
which we took a good part of the way, and seeing all kinds of interesting things but
not having the time to stop and investigate or even to take pictures.  Oh, and
searching for a hotel that would allow our big stupid dog, dragging everything out of
the back of the car and in the morning packing everything back in.  Now that I think
about it, I suppose it’s not so much hard work – it’s the rush of the whole thing.

So ... after our re-pack at Mom’s in Hertford, NC, we began our trek with a bit of
the familiar, following Highway 17, stopping in Wilmington to take care of a few
things.  We had intended to proceed to Charleston or Savannah, but as the hour was
late I suggested we stop in Georgetown, SC.  The next morning we prowled a
shopping center in Mt. Pleasant for some decent coffee, but all we could find was a
Starbucks.  I’ve been told that it is exceedingly difficult to find good coffee along the
highway, and I can attest that to be true.  The best you can do is to happen upon one
of those convenience stores along the Interstate where they’ve put in one of those
big gourmet serve-yourself coffee bars.

Once we passed Charleston, crossing the new Cooper River bridge for the first time
– and what a change from the last time I went that way, when I had to cross the
really old rickety bridge, with Abi and Elea whoopin’ it up in the back as if we were
on a roller coaster (that bridge no longer exists, I’m happy to say) – we were finally
on essentially new highway.  To us, that is.  We were starting to feel the pain of
traveling with big stupid dog, as his presence essentially prevented us from stopping
for a sit-down restaurant meal.  The PETA police will get you if you try leaving your
dog in the car, which we wouldn’t do anyway unless we had good shade, air and
water for him.  Happily we found a Sonic Drive-in with an shaded outdoor seating
area, and the girls had a good time watching the skating waitresses.

As we headed South on one of our brief Interstate legs, Dave and Abi started talking
about an episode of Discovery Channel’s “Extreme Engineering” about the
construction of a bridge in Brunswick, Georgia.  Having consulted my friend Kristen
in Boulder, Colorado, who used to live in Florida and went to school in Atlanta, I
learned that the stretch of I-10 from Jacksonville to Tallahassee was without doubt
the most boring bit of highway in the Southeast, and I determined we should cut the
corner and see if we could get a taste of the Okefenokee swamp.  So I mapped a
route that would take us by Brunswick to see the bridge, then jump off to the west
to get a taste of backwoods Georgia country.  Unfortunately for us, we didn’t realize
that the bridge was in town, not on the Interstate, so we only saw it from a distance,
but it was impressive nonetheless – a huge white spiderweb of a feat.  

The Georgia highways were not too unlike any country road in North or South
Carolina, and eventually we were sure we had found the absolute middle of
nowhere.  Every once in a while we’d see a trailer or run down house, but mostly it
was just thick green on each side.  Abigail was impressed when we would ride by
stands of farmed trees, how she could look to the side and see down the straight
rows.  Eventually we neared the Okefenokee, another one of the moments when I
wished we had time to stop.  There is no road through the swamp, so we had to
circle the southern end of it, but I would have loved to go in there, maybe take a
boat tour.  Skirting a few miles of Florida, we did experience a swampy sort of feel,
I guess you’d say, as we swooped back into Georgia and crossed the Suwanee  
River.  Out of the sheer kitchiness of it we stopped at a dumpy store called Sissy’s
for a pee break and drinks, where I asked a local the best way to maneuver
ourselves through a web of highways to our destination, Thomasville, which is just
above Tallahassee.  We reached our Comfort Inn just after dark, having passed
through and picked up some supper in Valdosta (an interestingly significant event
that my Pump Boys & Dinettes friends will recognize if they happen to read this).

We continued much of this part of the journey on the historic Highway 90, which
essentially parallels Interstate 10.  Passing through Pensacola was notable, as I’d
never been there.  We stuck to the old 90 route, which took us along the bay where
some impressive neighborhoods perched on hills to our right and in most places
empty forest covered the slopes leading down to the Bay on the left.  There was
some development on the Bay side and many signs promising future development in
that area ... Does anyone realize that this is yet another one of those geographical
features at great risk for hurricane destruction?  Some never learn.  Jumping back on
Interstate 10, we proceeded through a fairly terrifying and windy thunderstorm,
listening to the repeated warnings on the radio, managing to escape the deluge
unscathed and hit Mobile, Alabama by mid-afternoon.

On the back roads again, we prepared to enter the areas of last year’s Hurricane
Katrina damage.  Our first sign of the devastation came when we were halted in our
progress by the bridge to Biloxi.  While it appeared construction on a new bridge is
nearing completion, what is most significant is the remains of the old bridge, which
still stands just to the north of this new structure.  It looks like a series of dominoes
that has been pushed down.  (Dave got some shots of this with his 35 mm, which
we have yet to have developed – eventually we will do so and scan them in to
share.)  Jumping back over to Interstate 10, we passed Biloxi and made our way to
Gulfport, Mississippi.

At first I wasn’t completely aware of the extent of the damage in this Gulf-side town
– just some buildings that looked damaged, something I’ve seen before having been
through hurricanes myself.  Then I started to wonder at the long stretches of
emptiness and pieces of debris still hanging from trees.  Yes, there were houses here
and there, some that appeared to be completed or nearing completion in their
renovation, others that appeared completely gutted, trailers here and there ... But
mostly it was those trees, littered with swaths of mostly blue and dirty white
material, as if some huge force had made a big mess and nobody bothered to clean it
up.  And then the beach, littered with branches, seaweed and driftwood ...
practically deserted at the height of summer.  It was heartbreaking.  Again, I
snapped many photos with the 35 mm.  And again, we were sent back to the
Interstate because of an impassable Highway 90.

As we left the tangled growths of the lower Mississippi sandbar, Elea was
overwhelmed with what she had seen and became inconsolably sad, which naturally
made the rest of us very sad.  The ride across Ponchartrain was rather somber as
we approached the Big Easy, where the girls were fascinated to see the Superdome,
the one landmark they could not help but remember from last year’s shocking

I might consider it a bit of hard work to travel so many miles, to plan interesting
routes from departure to destination,  to lug belongings in and out of hotel rooms (I
might add here that I am particularly fortunate to have children who are for the most
part obedient and don’t require constant supervision and admonishment when we are
performing these kinds of tasks), and to adjust to household tasks in a strange
environment, lacking the familiar, modern and accustomed accoutrements.  But then
I think about the Gulf coast, and the conditions they had to endure for I don’t know
how long (we thought it was annoying to be without electricity for maybe a day
after Hurricane Ophelia).  It exhausts me just to think about it.

#  #  #
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Marching Through Georgia  And Beyond...
A generic Southern highway --
maybe Highway 90?
Pen's Essays - 3
Elea's reaction to the
devastation in Gulfport, MS
Lunch in Savannah