For Great American Roadtrip Chapter I, head here!
Just as the weary zombies reached the left side of the car, the light turned green and Ryan stepped on the gas, accelerating the car with a squeal. With a moan of relief the four drove on a few more minutes and turned into the parking lot of their humble “suites” for the night.
Damp, moist, and sexually transmitted disease came to mind as they entered the room, but for $26 a night (split four ways) and with an entire day of state-hopping behind them, they gratefully accepted the room and fell into a Deep South slumber.
Awoken by light slipping through the dingy, black blinds, the four sat up with confusion and excitement; realizing New Jersey was far behind them and the only way was forward. They packed up as quickly as they had unpacked the night before and left the crabs-infested sheets behind them, more in need of food than ever.
Back inside Minty the Car and a little more downtown they went until they found their intended destination, Gladys Knight’s chicken and waffles (since closed). Famous in the south, they ordered their heart out in the form of four variations of the savory and sweet dish. The waffles dripping in hot syrup (judging from the picture, this may have been slightly exaggerated), the chicken breasts and legs fried to a crisp. Exploding with southern cuisine, they entered back out into the blustery cold front that had taken over Atlanta and headed to a museum with local artists before getting back on the road.
Albeit a little rushed, they were cruising south-westward with hopes of getting to New Orleans that evening. That would require crossing three more states, which were a bit bigger than the last. Not far from Atlanta, they skipped into Alabama, and not long after that, they needed gas, so they pulled into a truck stop. While getting gas and stretching their legs, they did a little photo shoot next to an old rusted truck, and discovered a massive antique shop separated into plots that resembled kitschy rooms in homes. Walking around, they stumbled upon old guns and a slew of Confederate memorabilia; and mind you this was 2012, not the 1800s.
Trying on some outfits, Liz, Ed and Ryan were approached by an older man who spoke at a snail’s pace, “You…guys…don’t look …like y'all are from…here.” Dressed in urban winter wear from the North East, they stuck out like a sore thumb. They brought up their roadtrip and how they were just passing through, with the man interrupting a few times telling them they spoke too fast for him. He then went on to say that if they went on to Birmingham, to watch out for “the ..darker…side of town”. This was the first insinuated yet horribly blatant hint of racism heard on the trip, something that plagues America to the day.
Running out of the shop, guns left behind, the three ran back to Jess who started the car and drove across the strange and bucolic state of Alabama. A few times the group took an exit to see what rural Alabama looked like. The common scene was sparsely populated roads with more churches than schools, houses, or people for that matter.
Jess continued on. She had just finished up her degree in university and used the trip as a means to escape the inevitable pain of her and her brother’s parents’ divorce, which had dragged on and had finally reached a breaking point. This trip would be the necessary start of a healing process for both.
The journey further south brought with it drastic changes in scenery as they entered swamp land that stretched for miles and miles with bridges traversing over unusable wetlands. They passed through a tiny bit of Mississippi which had cookie cutter houses straight out of the song “Little Boxes” and finally made it into Louisiana.
Night had already fallen when they pulled into New Orleans. They parked in the lavish French quarters and checked into their hotel; a bit of a splurge and step up from their Atlanta hotel.
Despite another day on the road, they mustered up the energy and went out to explore the areas surrounding Bourbon Street, which was bursting with energy. They ate some local Cajun food over a couple of drinks and after feeling a little tipsy, found themselves in the thick of Bourbon Street, which was more wild than normal thanks to a Michigan away game where Michigan dominated. Bar after bar they went. Since Ed and Ryan were underage, they had convincing fakes to get through the doors. Like little kids in a candy shop, they accepted drinks from every corner, knowing that it was that much more fulfilling being under 21.
At some point the girls and the boys messily split off and the boys entered another bar, obliterated beyond repair at this point. While inside, a barmaid force-fed the boys a shot and then demanded $3 each. Being stubborn and frugal, Ed said that he wasn’t going to pay and Ryan drunkenly muttered the same.
“If you don’t pay, I’m calling the cops!”
Ryan went to the ATM and was unable to withdraw money in his state (probably overdrafting in the process). Upon retrieving the card and no cash, the woman grabbed Ed and Ryan by the shirts and yelled “I’ve already called the cops, they’re waiting for you outside!” Ed wasn’t ready to be deported, and Ryan had never even gotten a dentention, let alone been arrested. The boys, helpless and terrified, were yanked through the exit to await their doom–