Friday, July 27, 2007

We awoke relatively early, particularly for me. I'd enjoyed two hurricanes (how odd that they still sell them in New Orleans) during our Bourbon Street strolls last night but felt few effects. Jenny and I enjoyed a light breakfast in the courtyard as birds flitted overhead. Vienna insisted on claiming one more hour of sleep in our room. Once we finally gathered ourselves together, it was around eleven. We eased back onto the interstate and set our path toward the Atlantic coast. Along the way we spotted the undeniable evidence that Katrina's wrath struck more than New Orleans. For miles after we left the city, we saw abandoned houses and businesses, sometimes entire city blocks that were empty, with only foundations left from the storm and the economic collapse that followed. We drove quietly through the rest of Louisiana. Mississippi was a green blur, a mere conduit as we motored toward our first real stop of the day: Mobile, Alabama.

While we always report some guilt at seeing movies on our road trips, we knew that we could not wait one day to see The Simpsons Movie. Thanks to an ever-increasing number of wireless hotspots available to today's motor tourist, I had no difficulty finding three likely spots to catch a flick along the highway. And since we were passing through Mobile at the perfect time for a matinee, we decided to stop in the early afternoon. The theatre was mere blocks from the business route that departed I-10, and we soon found ourselves in air-conditioned comfort, kicking our feet up from the convenience of stadium seating and digging the show (Here are some comments about the movie I posted on my blog). Since Simpsons trivia and dialogue have long helped us pass occasionally empty miles from place to place, seeing the movie while on the road seemed particularly appropriate.

Departing Mobile we decided to take eastbound Route 90 for a while, avoiding the boring interstate. We enjoyed the chance to slow down a bit and motor through small towns in the Florida panhandle, a place that has always possessed a certain mystical quality to me. For Jenny, the detour was a chance to visit places where her aunt and uncle once lived and to relive happy childhood memories of red dirt roads and lazy days at a genuine swimming hole. Occasionally we'd see the relics of old buildings whose businesses had failed or simply left for better prospects, and I'd stop for a photo. I've always felt connected to the stories of those abandoned places, ever since my first solo road trip through the quiet burgs of highway 301 traversing north-central Florida.

Eventually we returned to the interstate, stopping for a meal at Sonny's BBQ. Given the high standards we'd set for this trip, one might think that a Sonny's run would seem odd. But I viewed the visit as a sort of palate cleanser, a culinary transition from Texas-style BBQ to the Deep South varieties we would soon encounter. Plus, the price isn't bad for all-you-can-eat ribs. Thereafter we set our course toward the Atlantic. The rains that had kindly avoided us during our trip to New Orleans returned with electric fury. Sheets of slashing water pounded the car as lightening lit nearby. Since we live near the northern California coast, we found the experience of real thunder and lightening to be pretty cool. I turned on my night music playlist and we rolled along for hours, stopping at last for a much needed rest in Lake City, Florida.

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All text and photos copyright Andrew and Jenny Wood