Monday, 22 August 2011

The Deep South

Two bold yellow lines guide us south through Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi, towards New Orleans. The contrasts and juxtapositions of American culture become ever more prevalent as adult superstores are followed by billboards quoting commandments from the bible followed by adult superstores. People become more and more amiable whilst the violent crime figures rise. Endless unassuming cotton fields belie their direct influence on the industrialisation of the world.

The states of Kentucky and Tennessee sit like strips of streaky bacon on the giant turkey that is America and we drove across both, gobbling up everything in our path. We explored the Mammoth Caves, the largest mapped cave system in the world that also provided a great setting to re-enact various scenes of Scooby-Doo, Yoinks!

As the odometer ticked over 2000 miles our schedule forced us down to Nashville and onto Memphis where every shop or restaurant plays rock ‘n roll out into the street, slightly surreal for a Sunday morning. The cotton exchanges of downtown are a reminder of the source of so much wealth yet suffering in the South. The tensions of America’s racial problems are explored in incredible depth at the National Civil Rights Museum, built into the motel where Martin Luther King Jr was shot dead. There was enough time to stop off at Gus’s before we set off following the Mississippi as it oozes out of Memphis and down toward the Gulf of Mexico.

As I write this we are driving down I 55 south, passing through sections of heavy rain and bright sunlight, crawling towards New Orleans and at every stop the TV is showing diagrams of Irene on repeat. This area seems to be where some of the most aggressive forms of nature meet the most stubborn of people.

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