The Road To Remembrance

20 August 2010

Interstate 65 South is the artery that connects my Chicago birthplace to my ancestral roots in Alabama. There are 784 miles between me and my destination.

The road to remembrance starts in Indiana and, as soon as I hit Highway 65, the speed limit increases to a more efficient 70 mph and the fuel prices plunge to a more economical $2.50 per gallon. The accents also change. From here on out, my ears will be treated to the musical lilt of Southern twang.

As I pass through Indianapolis, I tune my radio to CMT. It’s time to indulge my secret love for country music. Upon hearing favorites, I serenade Nemo with faith, family and somebody done somebody wrong songs.

Just past Indianapolis, I see the sign for Whiteland. In the past, one had to beware of towns named for colors. They were notorious for being “sundown towns” — unwelcoming to Black people. When I was a kid, I didn’t really understand why, when we traveled by car, we had to carry our own food (yummy fried chicken) and pee in the bush. Now I know and hope that caution doesn’t apply anymore. I don’t have the time nor inclination to find out tonight.

In Kentucky, as I near Louisville, I am reminded that “The Great Emancipator” Abraham Lincoln was born here, not in Illinois, which claims him as a native son.

Upon hearing the news that flash floods are possible in Nashville, I decide to bypass Clarksville and push onward to my destination.

By midnight, I am whooped and looking for a place to sleep.

To my right, a giant sign admonishes “Prepare To Meet Thy God.” It’s prescience becomes clear almost immediately. I hit a foggy bottom and can’t see six inches in front of my face. A semi was close on my tail. I prayed.

The singular rest stop in Tennessee is closed. That means I have to drive another 160 miles to the welcome center near Atmore, Alabama. (At this point, I regret my decision to bypass Clarksville.)

After what seems like forever, I finally see the Alabama welcome sign.

Two miles further on, the Huntsville welcome rocket lights up the sky.

Gratefully, I pull over, water Nemo and settle in for a few hours of much needed sleep.


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