Roadside Alabama

We’ve been taking road trips since mid-April.  Here are some shots along the route.


Update for y’all

People have wondered, I know, what has happened to Lifelongnewyorker.  Has she been so busy with her new life as a southerner that she has abandoned her old friends?  Perhaps just too cranked up with work?  Maybe she has a new hobby, like binge drinking.

No, none of the above.  Just got into a rut, that’s all.  But it’s time to catch up.

We’ve had about four solid weeks now of temperatures above 90, and I’ve been advised that it will stay this way until October.  It is different from New York heat in some crucial ways:

  • There is no equivalent to the blast furnaces otherwise called subway stations.
  • It’s humid and hot, but the sky is blue, the clouds fluffy, and the air clean.
  • The sun is definitely stronger here.
  • Pools turn into baths.
  • There’s not a lot of fun stuff to do outdoors unless it involves rivers. 

Like all places with hot weather, t-storms roll across the landscape regularly. They are intense, and local.  We might be lashed with rain from all four directions for 20 minutes at the office, and yet not a drop will fall four miles away at the house.  Driving, a storm rushes up to the car, engulfs it in blinding sheets of water in volumes that just don’t happen up north.  You’re in white-knuckle territory, as surely as you’d be in a snowstorm, because hydroplaning comes with the weather.   And then you drive out of it, and the road is bone dry.  In 15 minutes, you roll into it again.

Lightning is thrust from the clouds straight down to the ground in spectacular displays of brilliance.  The first time we hit heavy rain on the road, a bolt of fire landed on the highway about 25 feet in front of us, and the road smoked.  During a good storm, the cats hide under the bed and Mr. NYer plunks himself  down on the floor in front of the french doors to enjoy the show.  

Like I said, it’s really too hot to do much outdoors.  When the Abandoned One came down for a visit in mid-May we went white-water kayaking on the Coosa, just a short 30-minute drive away.  We didn’t realize that the Whitewater Festival was happening that day and, to provide the best rapids possible, the maximum amount of water had been released from the Jordan Dam, upriver.  The Abandoned One went under once, but we all lived and will return to kayak another day.

When we decided to move here, we vowed that we would take excursions every weekend, visiting interesting places nearby.  In the spring, we were busy getting into the house.  Now that it’s summer, it’s just too damn hot.  But still we have gone a few places.

Highlights were our annual trip to New Orleans for Jazzfest, and a Memorial Day weekend trip to Pensacola Beach (since ruined by oil).  Not-quite-highlights included drives to Tuskeegee National Forest, to the city of Anniston, to Talledega National Forest (and the highest point in Alabama), and to various state parks. 

One phenomenon we’ve noted, sadly, is the same story across the country: the abandoned downtown.  Montgomery has one, with blocks upon blocks of once-thriving commercial district now filled with empty storefronts and office buildings.  Ditto Selma, Anniston, Wetumpka and Tuskegee.  They all have interesting late nineteenth and early twentieth century architecture.  They all have attempted a downtown revival, complete with civic websites that lure you to the “shops, art galleries and restaurants” in the heart of town. 

Lies, all lies.

Three out of four storefronts are empty; the fourth is always closed on Saturdays and Sundays (actually, most everything is closed on Sundays–people are at church).  A dismal assortment of discount furniture stores, insurance offices and goodwill outlets would not lure us in, even were they open.

So, we’ve driven up and through state parks and national forests, emerging briefly from our air-conditioned car to take a short stroll and remark that “this might be a nice place to come back to in the fall.”  When you can stand to be outside for more than five minutes.