I got the idea for this trip from my older sister and her friends back when I was in junior high. They would talk about taking a similar route around the United States, and I would overhear their conversations. For whatever reasons their plans never manifested, and the whole thing just sat in the back of my mind.
In my sophomore year of college I got an idea for a novel, following the adventures of the main character as she wandered around the United States (hiding from her past, unable to go home, that sort of thing). I wrote small bits of the story whenever I got inspired, but never really focused any effort on it.
My senior year I was suddenly filled with inspiration for the novel, and made a conscious effort to sit down and write more. There was one particular section of the story I felt sure was best placed in the Deep South, where things would be hot and sticky and rural and racist. But as I sat down to write, I had nothing. I couldn’t picture any details. Everything looked generic. I realized that my hot sticky rural racist South was based entirely on movies and books. I was setting my story in someone else’s novel.
It’s been pointed out to me before that being in the southeastern United States in July is going to be miserable. That is, generally, the point. If I want to write about that misery I’m going to have to experience for myself. I’ve been accused before of being too autobiographical in my writing, which to me is a silly accusation. Every writer is writing her own story. Every writer is writing the relationships and settings and characters that she has seen inside herself and in the world around her. Some just disguise it better than others. In my experience, the more you disguise it the more like your real life it ends up being anyway, but that’s a story for another time.
My point is, the Deep South is on my must see list so I can see and feel and taste what it’s like to be there. Unfortunately being there is the only thing on the list.
As I mentioned before, I’ve been keeping track of possible U.S. attractions in Evernote. When I go to my notes on Mississippi and Alabama, all I’ve got on the list of possible places to see is the Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro, and I’m not even sure I want to go there. These two states stand as a single, solid block of “I’m sure I’ll find something.”
I can’t help but wonder what this is implying. Is it that I don’t know anyone who has visited either of these states? Or is it just that they don’t have any good news to report? I know I want to spend some time on the Mississippi river, so that’s a start. But what then? On all my maps thus far I take a straight path from New Orleans to Jacksonville. While I’m sure the gulf coast is nice, it seems an awful long way to go just to stay on the edge the whole time.
Perhaps I should just do what my main character does: head towards Alabama and get myself into trouble. I don’t know if it worked for her, I haven’t written that yet. But I suppose that’s true for both of us.
If you really want to experience Alabama. Come to Tuscaloosa during a Bama home game– Ive lived here for a long time and don’t really even care for football. But as an anthropologist and a dabbling writer– bama fans (especially during game weekends) are comparable to religious pilgrims, games draw people who never even attended UA. If you want to get into trouble, just yell “war eagle’ into a tide of crimson. Good luck with your writing and i’d be happy to answer any Alabama-related questions you may have!
That sounds pretty awesome, but do they have games during the summer? I’ll be there in July, and I’m used to football only being in the fall. Either way, any tips on what else to check out while I’m in the area?
yeah… the most popular thing thing to do in Alabama in July is… use the air conditioner. If there’s any way to make it for the A-Day game (when Alabama plays against itself) there would be more than enough to write about. But I think it’s scheduled for April 20th. Summers here typically revolve around water-related activities. Jumping off of bridges, cliffs and the like. If you can handle the heat I’d definitely recommend camping at Moundville.. It’s the largest, best preserved Native American archaeological park, the museum’s great and they have events/festivals a few times a year. In the Tuscaloosa area there’s a lot of gorgeous lakes and rivers, but a lot of the devastation from the tornado that came through two yrs ago has messed that up– Alberta (one of the poorer parts of town) still looks like it was hit yesterday– which says a lot in itself…. I’d recommend just talking to some locals-for many, time is divided into pre- and post-tornado.
Florabama is less depressing, a bit touristy but definitely what you’d expect to see in Alabama… Mobile is pretty fun… I’ll keep thinking about it and let you know! Hope this helps a little! Feel free to ask me anything else!