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Roaming South…. Part One

January 22, 2015

So I took a trip.   My permanent travel itch is so seldom scratched.  That doesn’t stop me from trolling the internet year round to romanticize over my ideal dreamlike, sun-flared, indie soundtracked, polaroid snapping, american exploration.

We’ll say my epic plan was just shy of realized.

Don’t get me wrong, what ensued was perfect.  The only thing I know about traveling is to expect many unexpected things.  Which is all I really could ask for.

Nonetheless, I took a trip.  Now you couldn’t pay me to go to florida.  Well, maybe if I was actually paid, but anywhere else is fair game.  New Orleans is like a sister I visit often and I couldn’t have headed west with only a week to do so.  Plain old south was the winning heading.  To change things up a bit I decided to leave Nancy Sonata behind.  I knew I could cover a lot more ground and dig deeper if I was to drive but…. it just felt like cheating.

All predetermined notions or hard plans were squashed.  I started with craigslist.  A next day ride-share to baltimore.  Good enough start for me!  Despite my assurances that craigslist killers weren’t trending this year,  my mother was not pleased.

All in all it totaled ten states. Seven cities. Six days. About 3000miles… give or take.  Many, many seedy greyhound bus stations.  One train. One plane.  Only one bed. One very interesting night at the Memphis airport. One pair of broken shoes.  One very sturdy, trusted and dusty pair of Frye boots. A couple pretty good record finds.  Twenty or more cliff bars.  One fabulously superb meal.  About 30 rolls of negatives.  Miles of strange highways.  Miles of even stranger towns.  Oodles of personal information from complete strangers. Two new friends.  Hours of photographic stimulation, and only one real moment of fear.

These are some outtakes that stuck with me…

Sunrise at the land of retirees.

Sunrise at the land of retirees.

I didn’t take a camera out till I hit Virginia Beach.

It was before dawn that the bus let out at a convenience store a few miles from the water.  I have a thing about knowing direction at all times.  It felt rather primal to see the sun trying to climb and know I needed to head right into it.  My scenic, sun-speckled walk was only made better by a street length of stores and signs kindly left behind by earlier decades.

I was matching pace with a man also just off the bus.  His step was much peppier than mine given the current hour and previous night I’d had.  He made point to slow down and make very cordial and very upbeat small talk.  With no hesitation he began into a story of himself.  Today was his first day in seven years he woke up a free man again.  I had now met my first of three parolees for the trip.  He was heading to see his sister who had retired there many years prior.  He hadn’t seen her any of the seven years and thought a surprise at breakfast was overdue.  I got the impression she was the only place he had to go.  I’m still not sure what it was that he was jailed for.  He made no efforts in hiding that he was a bad guy once but seemed to me plenty reformed, at least on this morning.  He only asked if I’d ever been there before, the rest of our walk I was only an audience.  I’m sure based on looks alone I come off as very approachable.  I was also the only other person in sight.  I was very happy to listen for him.  I wondered if he’d already told his story off to other bus patrons on the ride.  I’ve only known a few other people who’ve done real jail time.  I wasn’t about to start judging.  You have to take whatever the road gives you.  It’s easy to remember to keep an open mind when you’re away from your comforts.  I was still working my head around figuring out how he was so quick to advertise his past.  I gathered it was all he had to talk about.  I sort of wanted to be in his shoes.  He seemed so irrepressibly happy.  I thought to ask him for a photo but decided against it.  Regardless how good or bad of a man he was it seemed selfish on my part to ask him for anything on his most elated of mornings in seven years.

VirginiaBeaches

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To lighten the mood I went for coffee at the Log Cabin Pancake House.  If you’d seen it you’d also have known it was necessary! A stone’s throw from the beach and a very strange mix of oriental signs and greek wall art.  The breakfast buffet had already drawn in a crowd of what must have been “the regulars”.  Rows of teal booths with white hair poking above awaiting their orange juice and back pills.

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VirginiaBeach

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Breakfast of champs in any state.

Breakfast of champs in any state.

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I was just off the main drag walking the boardwalk.  A roar of small sized engines and clouds of two stroke exhaust quickly engulfed the walkway.  I shrugged it off as odd until another brigade flew by about twenty minutes later.  I called my dad.  I explained I was in Virginia already and tried to sound reasonable when I asked if he knew anything about lots of older men in funny hats that seemed to belong to an upscale go cart gang.  Even at thirty I call my dad for answers quite frequently.  He just seems to know them all.  He knew the answer immediately…. and minutes later I realized I had stumbled upon a Shriners parade.  He seemed amused in telling me to try and get one of them to let me wear their hats for a photo.  As pleasant and talkative as they all were I was abruptly denied each request.

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Zembo ponies.

Zembo ponies.

TweedleDee

this guy….

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