Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Annapolis to Austin: Our 5-day journey into the deep south

What does it mean to drive down a long, straight road all day long? A road that extends forever in the same direction, and when you get to the point you've been waiting to reach, it only continues, on and on, teasing you with its endlessness? To drive this road, this taunting road, in a 16' UHaul truck full of the things you've collected your whole life? It means focus. A lot of focus and perhaps a bit of insanity. But we did have some fun along the way.
NS, my mom, and I set out from my parent's driveway at 7:45am on Monday, June 1. It seemed like a good day to begin a journey. An anxious caravan - Prius following UHaul - meandering down the 2-lane country roads of southern Maryland. 

A traffic hiccup in Virginia caused slight delays, but we reached our destination for the night - Seabrook Island, South Carolina - just before 8pm, where we were welcomed into the house of dear friends with warm meals and beds for not one but two nights. The comfort of visiting loved ones to break up a long journey is like no other. We were so thankful for beach wanderings and ball throwing; swimming in the turquoise-colored sea; and gathering together around a table late into the evenings. It was bliss and our imminent departure came too soon.
But the south was calling, luring us in with its Spanish moss draping the trees and its warm temperatures enveloping our bodies. I love the south.

We chose a back-roads route through Georgia to break up the monotony - and danger - of Interstate 95. It was probably not the fastest way to go in the end, but we got to drive through some stunning countryside, where rolling fields close in on proud farmhouses perched beneath tall oaks and willows. It almost made being in the rumbling cabin of the truck peaceful.

Interstate 10 cuts across the US at the ankles, from one coast to the other, and we were dumped onto it in the Florida Panhandle, where the trees are green and life is slow. (Thank you, slow life.) 
The forest lakes we crossed over in Louisiana
In our search for accommodation that evening, we came upon a quaint, funky beach town called Grayton Beach*. There was very little there, but what was there was so perfectly wonderful and I decided that if we couldn't stay there that night (and even if we could), I would come back some day. And I will!

As it turned out, Grayton Beach was not in the cards for us on this particular night. We continued up the coast - thankfully having gained an extra hour crossing to the Central time zone - and settled for a hotel along the highway in Miramar Beach.

Our last full day of driving brought us through:
  • what little was left of the Panhandle
  • the squared-off tip of Alabama (pee break)
  • Mississippi (lunch at Diamondhead's Harbor House Steamer Yacht Club overlooking the St. Louis Bay)
  • Louisiana (gas refill/route- & meat-buying-advice from a local fueling his truck, open beer in hand)
  • and finally, the very start of Texas.
We passed only a handful of the 880 exits that span Texas along Interstate 10 before calling it quits for the night in Beaumont. After settling into a hotel, we found an authentic Cajun seafood and Texas steakhouse called Floyds. Floyds' sweet tea was sweet and its seafood gumbo was spicy. Most everything else was friiiiied.

One of many, many gas stops
Friday - glorious Friday - brought us to our destination by 1pm. Austin! We made it, finally, completely intact and a little bit worldlier in the ways of the south. I guess there's lots more of that to come now that we're Texas residents. Just have to find me some cowboy boots!

*Random fact: Grayton Beach's eastern neighbor is a town called Seaside, which is where The Truman Show was filmed. We didn't make it to Seaside this time.