Saturday, December 1, 2012

"Like In Your Country!"

Leaving New Orleans late afternoon we faced a good few hours drive to Montgomery, Alabama for a stop for the night. I was keen to stop in Alabama as the state fascinated me (don’t ask why!), and I was keen to see if its like the stereotype. The journey wasn't the longest we had done, but had its moments of fun (if that can be the word used), driving up through a another tropical storm, causing torrential rain to come down, causing traffic to come to all of a stop and visibility to like a few meters. However, getting through it and into Montgomery, we arrived at a random motel on the city outskirts late that evening, just in time to see one very sketchy couple rock up and ask for the most expensive room in the place (apparently it had a hot tub in it…). We just crashed...

Driving through the storm
The reason for stopping in Montgomery of all places was due to it being a logical stopping place in terms of getting back to NC, and because I had found online a museum which displayed the history of the South and numerous buildings that were a common design in the past. The next morning we set off early-ish – in part so we could get going at a decent time to NC, but also because of the humidity in Alabama (similar to Louisiana if I’m honest – how anyone lives in that sort of weather seriously astounds me!). After a slight issue of trying to find the damn place, we had to be buzzed into the reception building to pay our dues to wander around the museum. From there we were free to wander around the two blocks of buildings that were across the road. It wasn’t a bad little place actually. It was obvious a lot of care and thought had been put into the way it was layed out, with work buildings together etc, and a few staff members in period costume wondering around answering questions and telling stories. And playing music in one guys case which was pretty cool. 

One of the pioneer houses
A good few hours were spent wandering around the museum, including a very detailed tour of a plantation owners house by an elderly lady. This tour was quite unique as for one when she realised I was from Britain (or Eng-er-land as she put it), she kept comparing things that the plantation owner family would do to what (in her eyes) of British people did. The one comparison that made me nearly fail to keep a straight face was a story about how the wife would take tea with her friends at 4 o’clock. Alright, fair enough… Except for the fact that she then turned, looked me directly in the eye and said “Like in your country”. I had to rapidly look away to avoid laughing in her face… Although really interesting element to the tour was the two other ladies who were with us. They were pretty unremarkable ladies, both middle aged nursery school teachers. The only real difference between them was one was white and the other was black. Now normally this wouldn’t even be mentionable – I mean who cares? But in this instance with the elderly tour guide I was witness to an interesting social situation. The white teacher joined us first (the other was looking after the kids who had come on a trip) and there was nothing out of the ordinary, with the guide taking us around the house, making eye contact and chatting away to the three of us. Then the teachers swapped roles and the black teacher joined us on the tour. This was where it became interesting. The tour guide continued to chat away to me and Lindsay as we walked around the house, however she did not make one comment or even look in the same direction as the black teacher. It was like this woman wasn’t even there. I guess in certain generations segregation is still an issue. Not really sure why I was surprised at it, but I was! 


Leaving Montgomery we faced a rather long drive straight back to Chapel Hill. Made longer by the fact we couldn’t find a damn open place to get some lunch. Or the interstate…. The plan was to power straight through stopping to change drivers. And buy fireworks. Obviously… The buying of fireworks is illegal in North Carolina, but legal in South Carolina (yeah work that one out…) so on the state border there are massive firework warehouses trying to outsell each other. So we pulled into one and spent quite a while trying to get our best bang for the buck (get it?!). This took a lot longer than it should have due to the muppet on the till not having a clue about my British ID despite me pointing it all out to him. Fireworks purchased however we got back on the road North, stopping for dinner at Cook Out (missed it on my travels!), arriving back late into Chapel Hill. 

Our firework hoard
Alabama was an interesting place for sure, and I am glad to have had a chance to stop there, however brief it was. Along our travels (I can’t remember quite when now!) we also stopped for dinner at Crackerbarrel, which is like a centre of all things southern (ALL things southern!). The food was great – deep fried with not much else! The best part of it all was the shop part of the place, of which to note was the t-shirt section. To say these t-shirts were a bit patriotic is a massive understatement. They were hilariously cringey. Gotta love Americans! 

Man, I look so damn American!

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