Wanna go on a road trip?
I sent my friend Alicia a text earlier this spring, asking if she had summer travel plans yet. Her response was quiet succinct, three words, to be exact.
Nothing yet, why?
Then I hit her with the real question… Wanna go on a road trip with me throughout the South… in high summer?
I’m not sure I’d even really hit send yet when her answer came back “YES!” followed up with the fine print details of when and where. As we got closer and closer to the trip, Alicia would send ideas of cool things to do, and research that she had done on places that we were going, and ask if I’d considered or planned anything out along the way. The answer was invariably the same.
Nope. We’ll figure it out as we go.
The only night of the trip that I have dubbed (and hash-tagged) the Southern Summer Road Trip, that we had accommodation reservations for was an Airbnb the first night, in Asheville NC. Other than that, I was relying on hotels.com to get us through, using my phone to find us a room in which ever city we were staying in that night. [Pro tip:: if you wait until after 3pm to book your room, you’ll save yourself some money.] After Asheville we headed out to the South Carolina Coast, southwest to Florida, onto New Orleans, then back up through the Mississippi Delta to Memphis, through Louisville, then home again.
In 13 days.
Because I’m apparently crazy like that.
It was amazing.
The dictionary definiton of a road trip is journey made by car or bus, but in actuality, a road trip is SO much more than that.
The first day of the trip was spent mainly driving south from Columbus aiming for Asheville, and as we made our way south, we stopped at over looks, state lines and really anywhere else that we decided we wanted to, it was awesome, and a GORGEOUS drive.
I had said when we getting the route planned out that as we were going to be driving through rural Eastern Kentucky that I wanted to find a Snake Charming Church, and we did. Or at least I’m 90% sure we did, if the hand written in sharpie on white paper sign taped to a barrel in the middle of the road that said simply “church” with an arrow pointing up into the holler was any indication.
Alicia calmly informed me that had I tried to turn the wheel to explore, she would have reached over and corrected me. The nice way of saying grabbing the wheel, yanking it back, and in all likelihood rolling the Xterra in the process. And I have ZERO doubt that she would have done it. With that, we kept on, and ended up pulling into Asheville around five that evening.
Road trips, living in Oregon, (and really, the American West as a whole) look VERY different than they do here. In Oregon, once you’re out of Portland, you are then largely driving through rangeland, and it’s highway driving the entire way. Two lane roads, that go through the center of the small towns you pass through? Nope.
You drive through some of the most gorgeous and desolate rangeland that there is, where as here, two lane roads are tucked into the rolling landscape at the bottom of valleys, the lush green hills rolling up and away, with the remnants of coal towns tucked along the sides, looking like the places that time forgot. It was all I could do to keep myself focused on that days agenda, getting to Asheville, as I so badly wanted to wander off of the main road and see where we ended up. (Side note, Kentucky is going to get it’s own road trip, hopefully this fall, focusing all of my energies to that one state, a fact I had to remind myself of more than once)
As we wound our way South and East, the topography of the landscape that we were driving through BLEW. MY. MIND. I’m used to driving through open rangeland, and this was not that. Not in the slightest, and I loved every minute of it. The lush greens, which are SO different than the greens of Oregon and the Pacific North West were energizing in a way that neither Alicia nor myself expected, and we made the most of it, driving the entire day with both front windows down and the music cranked up.
Arriving in North Carolina, and driving into Asheville both she and I commented on how much it did feel at that point like we were driving into Portland, a parallel that has been drawn before, by friends who’ve lived in both states.
We found our Airbnb, got showered and changed (I am constantly amazed at how gross you can get simply from driving all day) and met up with our hosts, Torii and Eric, two of the COOLEST people you’ll ever meet. We leashed up Harlow, thier pup, and walked up to their local bar, The Brew Pump, and kicked back for a couple of beers in the soft evening air.
Torii and Eric had plans that night, so Alicia, Harlow, and I walked along thier high street, enjoying stretching our legs and the evening itself until stopping at Zia Taqueria for a late meal, again, sitting outside and enjoying the fresh evening air before heading back to the house.
That night, when it had really sunk in that we were on this trip, that it was finally here, we were back at Torii and Eric’s, sharing a bottle of wine with our Airbnb hosts, who had become friends in the instant that we met them, that the reality of what I was undertaking finally hit me, and it hit me big.
I am getting the chance to live out a dream, and the enormity of that was not lost on me. I get to use this platform that I have curated and am constantly developing and tweaking to tell the stories of those I meet, not just on a local scale, here in Columbus, and in Portland while I’m there, but on a national level as well.
The best part of the Southern Summer Road Trip? Easy. The people we met along the way.
The dictionary definiton of a road trip is journey made by car or bus, but in actuality, it was so much more than that. I found part of myself that I didn’t know had been missing on those roads, and in the conversations had with the amazing people I met along the way.
So I’m turning the trip, and all of the stories that I was blessed enough to hear into a combination coffee table book/cookbook and in that, I will be doing my level best to bring these stories that people so kindly shared with me to life, to shine a light on the successes and points of pride of those who took the time out of thier busy lives to sit down and talk with me.