Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Road Tripping USA Part Four


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Author’s Note

I belong to Angels Abreast, a breast cancer survivor dragon boat race team in Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada. Every four years the International Breast Cancer Paddlers Commission IBCPC) holds an international festival somewhere in the world. In the spring of 2013, my team received a notice that the IBCPC had chosen Sarasota, Florida, USA, to hold the next festival in October 2014.
     We decided to attend and while the other members were going to fly down, tour around some of the sites and head home I wanted to see more of the country and meet some of the people. My husband, Mike, and I drove from our small acreage at Port Alberni, British Columbia, on the Pacific Ocean, to Sarasota, Florida on the Atlantic Ocean.
     Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the people I would meet nor the beautiful places I would see nor the adventures I would have on our ten week, 18,758km (11656 mile) journey. On the thirteenth day of every month in 2016 I will post a part of my trip that describes some of the excellent scenery, shows the generosity and friendliness of the people, and explains some of the history of the country. The people of the USA have much to be proud of.

Road Tripping USA Part Four

We crossed a long cable suspension bridge over the very wide Mississippi River and were in Mississippi, Birthplace of America’s Music. We passed through Greenville and reached Leland which was established in 1886. It is the heart of Blues Country and has the US 61 Blues Museum. Jim Henson, who created Kermit the Frog, was born in Greenville but raised in Leland.
     We drove past fields of cotton and huge cotton bales and reached Greenwood, which bills itself as the cotton capital of the world.
     We needed some money so we stopped at a bank in Louisville. I walked in and was told the ATM was a drive through on the outside. I went out and around to the side. I decided to ask for more than I normally took out. As usual, I followed all the instructions and when I was asked if I wanted a receipt and I pressed yes. The next question was if I wanted to pay the extra charge for getting the money. Again I pressed yes. The words, ‘Thank you, your transaction is compete’ showed up on the screen. I waited but no money came out. I pushed buttons, nothing. I checked the flap for the money, none. I looked for the receipt. There wasn’t one.
     I went back into the bank and told a woman in an office what had happened.
     “That’s weird,” she said. “There must be something wrong. Maybe you should call your bank and find out if the transaction went through.”
     I grimaced. “I’m from Canada and I didn’t bring my cell phone.”
     She pushed the phone on her desk towards me. I dialed the number on the back of my bank card and was immediately put through to a person. I explained everything. He checked my account and said that the transaction hadn't gone through.
     “The cash you wanted plus the exchange rate put the amount you asked for over the withdrawal limit you had set,” he added.
     Problem solved.
     When I was leaving I thanked the woman for her help and gave her a hug. She told me to wait a minute and left. She came back holding two mugs with the name of the bank on them. A souvenir of our meeting. I went to the ATM and this time got our money.
     We passed many fields of cotton and entered Alabama, which got its name from an Indian tribe that once lived in the area. We were enjoying our drive down the back highways through the smaller towns and the tall trees. We saw some big old houses and entered historic Eutaw which was established in the 1830s. There are over 25 antebellum (before war) structures in town that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
    We saw a sign for Kirkwood Manor. The hours were 9am-4pm. We parked but when I knocked on the door no one answered and the door was locked. We tried to look in the windows but curtains blocked the view. We took pictures of the house and yard and went to the tourist information center which was in the old law courts.
     I walked inside and was in a large room with tall shelves holding rows of dusty old law books. I walked over to them and looked at the dates: 1883 and 1884.
     A woman entered the room. “May I help you?”
     “Yes. I wanted to tour the Kirkland Manor but no one was there.”
     “The person who looks after the manor is at a fair and will be there all day.”
     “Are there any other mansions that are open to visitors?” I asked.
     “I’ll see if I have a booklet on them.”
     She left the room and I went over to the books again. At one time I had thought I would like to be a lawyer and I was itching to look through these old books. I was just reaching for one when the woman returned.
     “I’m sorry,” she said. “I can’t find any booklets on the historic houses in town.”
     “That’s okay,” I said. I pointed to the book shelf. “Those books are sure dusty.”
     “That’s because no one is allowed to touch them.”
     The woman gave me directions to some of the old mansions and we drove around the town just to see the outside of some of them. When we left town we were on the Martin Luther King Memorial Highway.
     At 10:00am it was already 87F (30.5C) and humid. Just as we arrived in Greensboro we saw a sign for the Magnolia Grove. I like magnolia trees and we have one in our front yard. I wanted to see the grove. We found a place to park and I walked through the huge magnolia trees to the mansion.
     “This house was built around 1840 as a town house,” the guide told me. “The original owner wasn't a fancy type of guy so this wasn’t a very fancy home compared to others. He had a bigger house on his 4000 acre plantation twelve miles outside of town.”
     The town home had antique furniture such as a red velvet couch, a piano, and a commode in one of the bedrooms. The front verandah had six columns holding the roof.
     I asked her about the magnolia trees.
     “The southern magnolias is a large evergreen tree that keeps its leaves all year round,” she said. “Their blooms are all white and fragrant.”
     “I have a magnolia tree at home and it loses its leaves every fall. Its blossoms are a pinkish/white.”
     “The tree you have is a Japanese magnolia. It is the offspring of two Chinese parents and one of the most widely planted magnolias because of its hardiness.”
     As I was leaving she said we were lucky to be passing through the area today because the weather had just changed. It was a lot cooler than it had been.
     We had been looking for a place to sample a restaurant meal and in Eufaula we saw a sign for Cajun food. We pulled onto a side street and parked in a lot. As we walk along the sidewalk we saw the sign for Barb's Country Kitchen. We decided we should wait for Cajun food until we reached Louisiana so we entered the restaurant.
     It was a long, narrow room with a counter, kitchen, and buffet to the left and tables on the right. We figured it was a popular place because most of the tables were full. We paid for our meal and found a place to sit. I took my plate and went up to the first section of food. There weren't any signs to tell me what each dish was, so I asked the cook who was replenishing one of the pans. He pointed and said. “Catfish, jambalaya, three different types of chicken, baked beans, meatloaf, and corn bread.”
     I tried a little of each and went back to the table. The cat fish and chicken were delicious. I can’t eat spicy food because it burns my mouth and I’d heard that jambalaya was spicy. I took a small forkful. It was spicy but I found out if I didn't eat the sausage pieces I could handle it.
     When I’d finished my plate, I went to the next section that looked like it was mainly vegetables. This time I took some of each then went to the counter and ask the woman behind it what each dish was. Collard greens, lima beans with ham, corn, and rutabaga.
     When I sat down the waitress came over.
     “Where are you from?” she asked me
     “Canada,” I answered.
     She turned to the people behind the counter and announced in a voice loud enough for everyone to hear, “They’re from Canada.”
     I recognized peach cobbler as the dessert and didn’t have to ask.
     As we drove through the town we saw large pink ribbons, the sign for breast cancer, stuck in the grass of the medians and beside the sidewalks. I wasn't able to find out why the ribbons were on the lawns. I did learn, however, that a Eufaula high school student restored an antique tractor for her American Degree. In order to make it stand out she painted it pink. Along the way she learned how much breast cancer impacted families around the country. She now hopes her pink tractor's new life will inspire those battling the disease to look forward to their renewed life post cancer.
     We stopped at the Shorter Mansion Museum, a huge two-storey masonry home built in 1884. The mansion was passed down in the Shorter Family until 1965, when it was bought by the newly founded Eufaula Heritage Association. Inside, we followed a winding staircase that led to the centre of the upstairs. Around the staircase were the bedrooms. Each room had a door leading to the next one. There was period clothing and furniture to give the visitor an idea of how the people lived back in the era.
     Compared to the Magnolia Grove town home’s front verandah with its six columns, the Shorter mansion has a wrap-around verandah with 18 columns holding up its roof.
     I talked with a man at the mansion and asked him how to pronounce the name of the town. He told me that at one time the town had a large mattress factory and he gave me this saying: You falla sleep on our mattresses. Eu-faul-a.
     We crossed the Chattahoochee River into Georgia and at the town of Cuthbert we drove around a large traffic circle. There was a fall fair going on in the center. We parked and walked by an antique car display on our way to the fair. There were tables of jewellery, hats, knives, clothing, and food. I ordered a chocolate sundae while Mike had a root beer float. We came to one table where a 17–year-old young man and his mother were selling hand crafted knives. He explained that when he was fourteen he began working for a farrier looking after horses. A couple of years later the farrier gave the young man his old propane operated forge.
     He started fashioning railroad spikes into knives. On his table there was a tomahawk head that he had forged from a piece of one inch axle. We wanted to buy our neighbours something as a thank you for looking after our place. They belong to a Black Powder club and everything they wear or use has to be handmade. We thought the tomahawk head might be appropriate. The price was $60.00.
     “I don’t know why he puts a price on anything,” his mother said. “He’s willing to barter.”
     “What’s your lowest price?” Mike asked, as he looked at the piece.
     The young man thought it over. “I guess I could go down to $40.00.”
     “How long did it take you to make it? I asked.
     “It took me a day to forge it and then a week to polish it.”
     “I’m an artist,” I said. “And I know that we never get back the price of our time on anything we make for sale. It’s worth more than $40.00. We’ll give you $50.00.”
     The mother, the young man, and Mike all stared at me in surprise.
     “You don’t understand bartering, do you?” Mike said to me.
     We bought the tomahawk head for fifty dollars.
     Ever since we started this trip everyone we met was very friendly and helpful. They answered all our questions, however stupid they may be. A lot of them hadn't heard about dragon boating or its relationship to breast cancer. But it didn't matter who we talked to there was someone they knew, whether a family member or a friend, who had had some form of cancer. The grandmother of the young man had lymphoma. The doctors had managed it for a long time with medication then suddenly it doubled in size and she was on massive therapy.
     At another booth, the mother of the young woman there was an eleven year breast cancer survivor. When the people we talked with found out that we are going to Florida for an international breast cancer survivor dragon boat festival they always told us to have a safe trip.

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