Roadtrippin' the deep south, snapshot 1.
The drive to Charleston was long, well, by UK standards anyway. Nashville was now just another memory in the sunshine filled rearview, another dot on the Trucker Road Atlas splayed across my lap. My buddy, Pat, sat content in the driver’s seat, as did I pleased to be back on the road and en route to, “’One of Merica’s gu-reatest cities, y’all.” At least that’s what we’d been told by Anthony, a mountain of a man outlaw country singer, who we met on our last night in town. Everytime he hurled out a snippet of information to us on where to go, he followed this with a drag on his cigarette and then a gulp of whiskey; he kept up this routine for the rest of the night that we spent talking.
The monotony of the never-ending straight highway ahead of us was helped considerably by the XXX strong coffee we had fuelled up on at a gas station just north of Chattanooga, TN. Like every other small town gas station we passed, the choice of coffee, and everything else, was insurmountable and somewhat paradoxical given that we were the only people in sight. With a hysterical smile, the shop attendant seemed outright pleased that we’d decided to stop at her establishment, as if we were the first people she’d seen this week, or year for that matter. Still, buoyed on by the significant doses of caffeine to our bloodstreams and the soul tinged country radio seeping through our speakers, we sped on, south-east through the heart of Native American territory. Winding Appalachian hills and waterfalls turned to shaded gravel roads and eventually gave way to lush green highways as we approached the South Carolina state line. Like every good tourist I had the camera ready to get a shot of the SC state line as we hurtled towards it. ‘Smiling faces, beautiful places,’ is what the state sign promised; one which, in hindsight, I’d have to unambiguously agree with.
Entering the state for the first time I felt a jolt of expectation and awe as we blasted Jo Dee Messina’s ‘Heads Carolina, Tails California’ and any other song we could locate with ‘Carolina’ in the title. My mind began to flood with the history of this magnificent state; The Hernando De Soto expedition of 1540, The Battle of Sullivan’s Island and the countless other clashes it witnessed during the War of Independence, the outbreak of Civil War on SC’s doorstep at Fort Sumter… I was startled awake from my daydreaming, though, as a spluttering eighteen wheeler let out a prolonged howl as it chugged on by. Sitting in a compact rental car it was hard not to feel a sense of vulnerability as scores of mean looking trucks escorted us for the length of Interstate 26 to Charleston.
Five coffees, two tanks of gas and 600 miles later we’d made it, just as nightfall began to engulf this stretch of the Eastern Seaboard.