Wherever You Go
Trip Start Mar 01, 2012
133Trip End Mar 31, 2014
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The last five capital cities – Tallahassee, Montgomery, Atlanta, Columbia, Raleigh — are in close-together southern states; it was an easy short-day’s drive from one to the next. These states are the land of my familiars; I’ve lived in Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina and even had my babies there; I’ve spent many a happy vacation day on Florida’s beaches and in North Carolina’s mountains. So the challenge here, you see, was to look at these places with fresh eyes; to discover things I hadn’t seen before; to have a new experience.
Did I succeed? Perhaps I did. I found the real capitol building in Tallahassee is the modern high-rise behind the original oldie which functions now as a museum; I didn’t know that when I passed through town before. I explored both Old Alabama Town in Montgomery and the new Freedom Rides Museum, and got the scoop on different phases of the city’s history. I drove Atlanta’s Peachtree Street where shiny sky-highs rise today, dwarfing Margaret Mitchell’s south; I circled the Confederate flag that now flies fenced on the lawn of Columbia’s capitol, instead of on the dome. In Raleigh I took pictures of George Washington sculpted in Roman skirt and sandals, reclining in a chair instead of sitting on a horse. I crossed De Soto’s Trail, and Sherman’s Path; I walked the sidewalks in cities that were burned and in cities that surrendered and in cities that never saw a battle scene; I read the signs that marked the spots of boycotts and sit ins and stand offs and reconciliations and childhood homes where people that someday would be famous started life.
A tight-knit bunch, these five southern states; they have much in common, from earliest days of settlement through wars on homeland soil through social change that rocked the boat through economic shift that repatterned work forevermore. They have much in common climate-wise; hurricanes and thunderstorms; the muggy Gulf humidity that coats the skin with “air you can wear;” the stiff Atlantic breezes that lifted that first human flight. And they are beautiful, from their powdery white-sand beaches across their rolling pine-topped hills to the still rugged old-stage mountains at the northern edge.
What have I loved about the capital cities that center each of these southern states?
Tallahassee – I loved the moss-draped curving live-oak trees, the softness of the atmosphere, the cozy feel of a well-loved college town, the high white modern capitol that still preserved the old, the downtown walking space, the touch of Spain.
Montgomery – I loved the walk of flags on the capitol grounds that honors all 50 states, the wide open parks and the cotton heritage, the telling of the civil war and civil strife; the struggles and the overcoming days, the big broad Dexter Avenue.
Atlanta – I loved the high-rise sparkle and the zillion things to do, the buzz, the moving ahead at lightning speed while dogwood quietly blooms, Clark Gable’s face on Cyclorama scenes, the food, the bragging rights for firsts, Coca-Cola, CNN.
Columbia – I loved the broad wide easy-travel streets, the churches and the pleasantness, the palmettos and the pines and rolling hills, the angst that lingers still about the civil war, the young soldiers in uniform, new graduates, Ft Jackson trained.
Raleigh – I loved the shimmer wall and sturdy oak trees everywhere, the museums and plazas planned so logically for public use with the capitol center square, the pride in education, the taverns and reminders of the colonies, the British touch.
This segment of the Journey included side trips to visit family, I loved that too; Florida to visit son Mike and Brenda, to spend time with grandkids Jeffrey and Jason and Justin and Kaitlyn, so grown-up now; to hear tales of work and school and even play a little putt-putt golf; Alabama to visit brother Craig and step-mom Opal and cousin Emily; a satisfying time, with pictures by the car; the “pose” for all.
That brings me to 21,691 miles traveled in 380 days; the well-traveled cats are still blase about it all; the Scion still draws attention as it should; it’s time for the last half of the Journey to begin. Soon the Midwest, which I know very little about; then the northeast, new territory for me.
What lies ahead? What will the circumstances and surroundings be? I can not answer now, but I promise you, wherever I am, I’ll be fully there, and glad for the chance. Stay tuned.
Follow the entire Journey Across America @ www.capitalcitiesusa.org