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My Trips to the South - Florida, Alabama, & Georgia and Tennessee, North Carolina, & Virginia

Alex has taught at four public schools, been accepted into three honorary societies, and traveled the Americas and Europe. He has his BS.

Beulah Primitive Baptist Church in Georgia, United States


From Maryland to Florida

My southern adventures begins where I have spent most of my time on this planet; in Maryland. Maryland is debatably a southern state, but it will not e the primary focal point of this memoir. Way back in the year of 2014, my uncle drove us to the Southwest airlines Airport. I have to state that this airport was pretty mild in comparison to the one I visited whilst in New York, but it was still enjoyably interesting. We all arrived on July the 17th. What I hated about this airport (and, maybe just about every airport) is how we were treated during inspections. I feel like security views us more like cattle than humans. And, honestly I think that even cattle deserve some fundamental level of respect. Anyway, on a far lighter note - the airplane ride was awesome as always! I love looking through plan windows so much!

Far Above the Earth Near the Southeastern United States


I am sure that some people get all too used to it, but I never tire of the sights from an airplane in mid-flight! After about an hour or so, we ended up in Panama City, Florida. The beach there is gorgeous. As someone fascinated with things like agriculture and ethnobotany, I really enjoyed just being able to meditate on the local plant life and note how different this fundamental part of the background was from my home in Maryland!

Local Plant Life in the Southern United States

So, we took a plane from Maryland to Florida. Then, after enjoying Florida for some time, we road via van from Florida through Alabama to Georgia. I got the wonderful chance to see much of my adopted family, greet my very missed great-grandmother in her cemetery, and I got to see lots of roadside homemade vendors! On that last point, I was very happy to buy some southern jam! I felt like I almost had to seize such an opportunity while we were down there - not knowing when I would be back.

Roadside Vendor in the Southern United States


Seeing all of my extended family was awesome! There are so many of us and I still get an invitation to return every year. I will probably revisit one day, but for now I am involved with too many other projects. And, as much as I love the south, it is way too warm down there for me to consider moving permanently.

Jelly from the South


As far as the family reunion went, I was satisfied by the food alone. I love food, and this was a special treat. I have a lot of adopted family from the south, but southern meals are yet another thing that I never tire of! The family reunion was had once we arrived in Georgia, and I have to state that Georgia has some of the nicest people that I've met in nine U.S. states and four countries! I didn't get a chance to see as much of Alabama as I would have desired, but that simply leaves an excuse to go to the south again sometime in the near future.

Dirt Road in Terrell County, Georgia


I need to rewind to an earlier point. One of the main reasons for my visit was to be near my great-grandmother's grave. She was and still is one of the most important people in my life. As a male I was always taught not to shed any tears. For this reason, I put off mourning her for years. My mourning had passed by the time I arrived in Georgia, but I still missed her. Sometimes we all just need a little bit of closure.

More Natural Plant Life in the Southern United States


Something that may shock some of my readers is the easy access to certain alcoholic beverages in certain areas of the southern United States. The reason by which this may surprise some individuals is because the state of Maryland has very strict alcohol laws and policies. This, of course, is not true for every state. Ever since the end of its prohibition, alcohol sales have become vast and widespread. I haven't drank any alcoholic drinks since early 2014, and my harsh ride to sobriety played some part in my mental state during this trip!

Wines and Similar Drinks in a Store in the Southern United States


After driving back to Florida, we got on a plane to arrive in Maryland once again. On the plane ride, we sat next to someone whose name revealed that we too may be related! Considering that some of my family is Nigerian, some Asian, and some Mexican - I wouldn't be surprised in the slightest!

Far Above the Earth Near the Southeastern United States


Now, let's speed ahead to the year 2017. That's when I decided to go to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee. The park actually extends to North Carolina. My intention was to see the 2017 eclipse from this national park. I didn't get the best view of the eclipse, but I did get to view many worthy and majestic sights!

Right after work on August the 21st, I started the long drive from Maryland to Tennessee. I love these drives, even if I find it nearly impossible to stay awake at times! I remember being very hungry at one point in time, so I stopped by a petrol station located on the side of a highway. They had sandwiches, so I bought one. Now, one should note that these sandwiches were made with a cheese that looked strange to me, and cheap-looking bread. It tasted horrible and wonderful at the same time. That is to state; I was so hungry, that any sustenance felt good to receive, yet the questionable taste of the gas station cheese sandwich was evident even in my tired and hungry haze. I very much felt as though I was officially in the southern United States when I spotted a sign with the title of a highway which was named after the confederate general Robert Edward Lee.

I loved driving through Virginia. Virginia has loads of beautiful mountains. These mountains are, at times, just about everywhere in sight! Even workers at a McDonald's down there can go outside and stand it awe at the amazing sights around them! I will be mentioning this same McDonald's soon, so please remember this seemingly irrelevant point.

Southern State of Virginia in the United States

The drive through Virginia was long, but satisfying. I really love the natural beautitudes that exist all throughout that region of our amazing country. I noticed early on in this venture, by word of mouth and by signs on the road, that I was far from the only person traveling to get a good look at the eclipse. I did get a chance to view the eclipse whist I was in Tennessee, but it wasn't the highlight of my trip.

Video of the Sun During the 2017 Solar Eclipse

What, then, was the highlight of my second trip down south? Visiting the Great Smoky Mountains National Park is my answer; and, it is super gorgeous! Driving through mountains in Virginia was fun too, but Tennessee took the cake! The views from within the forests are just breathtaking.

Video of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee

Just seeing some of the forests wasn't enough for me. I drove through the roads of the park - some of which seem to be still under construction! I remember tall cliffs on my right side and giant cliff drops on my left side! I also recall the absence of railings - I loved being so close to death! The side of the cliffs and the life that was able to cling to it - well, I speak two languages and words still fail me when desiring to describe the majesty and beauty of this place! But, I knew that I eventually needed to start heading home. I was so very tired. It was around this time that I gained the opportunity to see some of North Carolina. However, I was just so very tired. The sights of the American landscapes never disappoint me, but my mind was focused on finding a place to pass out.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee

The roads were hard to drive. Everyone was returning north after coming south for the eclipse. Accidents seem to occur moments after another vehicle accident was cleared; and, this pattern seemed to be the highway norm for quite some time. After many hours of driving, I finally found a rest stop. I needed to just stay awake for a little while longer - or, so I thought! The traffic had been so congested that the normal area of the rest stop was full. Not only was the main part full, but it was so full that there were cars parked on the exit road of the rest stop and even in the truck area! This was not going to do, so I eventually left in search of somewhere else to catch some sleep.

I left the interstate, and I went into a town. I initially had planned to sleep behind a Goodwill. I have donated hundreds of dollars worth of items to these stores, and I thought this would be a good place to rest as I felt I had some right to do so. However, due to the absence of light and vehicles nearby; I felt as if this spot seemed far too shady to spend the night. So, I drove until I came back to that McDonald's I had visited on my first trip down. I left my keys in the ignition so that I may drive away if anyone felt I had overstayed my welcome. When I awoke, I was ready to make the trek home. I turned my keys and discovered that by leaving my keys in the ignition, my car's battery had died! I asked for help inside the McDonald's. A kind manager soon allowed one of their own to help me. Two good samaritans from New Jersey ended up helping me very promptly, as they had a handheld battery charger on them. However, I still paid the promised money to the McDonald's employee as she had extended far more effort than I had expected. Apparently, she hadn't brought money for her lunch that day and I may have been the answer to someone's prayer that day!

The short ending is that I arrived back at my home safe and sound. I love the south. I love the foods and the scenery and the wildlife and the people! Do you like the south? What's your favorite trait of the southern Americas? Do you have a favorite southern food, state, country, or tradition? Please be sure to share all of your thoughts in the comments below!

© 2017 Alexander James Guckenberger

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