Down the Road

Selma NC-41Some places immediately feel like home and others never do.  We lived in the South for about ten years and I loved many things about it.  But I never truly felt that I belonged there.  It almost seemed as if we were in a foreign country—a place that I had to learn to understand.  While it eventually became familiar and comfortable, ultimately, it was not my country.

We are back in the South now and I again have that sense of dislocation.  If I were to live here the rest of my life, I might—maybe—come to feel to that it was my place before I died.  But getting there would be a process, not an instinctive, in-my-gut feeling of home.

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Home or not, the South is intriguing.  And it’s not bland.  Barbeque, gumbo, mockingbirds, trains, complicated race relations, amazing writers, cotton, tobacco, collard greens, magnolias, gardenias, slow drawls, bible-belt religion, insects, tall pines, hot nights—it’s a far cry from Alaska.  It’s easy to lump the whole region together as “the South,” but that’s like calling everything west of the Mississippi “the West.”  Each southern state is unique and there are regional differences within each state.

Selma NC-12We spent our first southern night in a Charlottesville, Virginia campground set in a patchwork of dense woods and open fields several miles from town.  Unbeknownst to us, an aggressive search was underway for Hannah Graham, a student who disappeared from Charlottesville in September.  A suspect in her disappearance (and that of other women) had recently been arrested in Texas and there was a very visible presence of police, helicopters, and a drone searching the area near the campground all evening.  Apparently, they still have not found her.  It makes me spitting mad and unspeakably sad.

On that somber note, we drove to our destination in North Carolina, to stay for a few weeks while we catch up on things and spend time with our daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren.  We headed into Raleigh soon after we arrived to check out Wide Open Bluegrass, a week-long festival in Raleigh sponsored by the IBMA (International Bluegrass Music Association).  The city did a nice job of incorporating the festival into the downtown, with multiple stages and roped off pedestrian areas. Although for anyone going about their daily business, it must have been a disruptive pain.

IBMA-103There were ticketed and free concerts throughout the week.  We spent an afternoon wandering around.

IMG_3127After about five minutes, it was apparent that this was not a diverse crowd.  Almost everyone was over (often well over) fifty-five and white.

IMG_3129No one was jamming on the sidewalks or dancing by the stages.  People politely set up their folding chairs in front of a stage and sat and listened.  It was genteel, subdued, and a little grim and depressing, actually.  Maybe they should scatter some children and liquor along the sidewalks to liven things up.

Some light fare for easy listening


The sparrows were young.

The sparrows were young.

Our campground was about a half an hour drive to our daughter’s house, and we took several different routes, which gave us a good view of the area.  It was typical North Carolina countryside.  Not the Deep South, but definitely the South.

The cotton looked like it was ready to pick.

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Cotton fields

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Cotton bolls up close

Tobacco was turning golden.

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Selma NC-26Trains were constantly coming, going, and whistling–lonesome and sweet.

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New subdivisions were carved out of old farms, creating a visual juxtaposition of old and new North Carolina.

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Subdivision in soybeans

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Raleigh was booming with construction.


And the sleepy little towns continued to be sleepy.



Antique coca cola

Antique coke and pepsi


No Spam or plate lunches, their specialty was the “Hula Hunk,” a thick-sliced bologna sandwich. We did not try it.

Pine Level water tower

Pine Level water tower

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Selma NC-100We have not seen one Confederate flag since we have been here.  We saw several in Massachusetts.

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8 thoughts on “Down the Road

  1. I hope to make it down south one of these days… ah, one of these days. I’ve been out west once but never too far south. I want the gumbo and jambalaya and swamp boat tours!
    Your first picture instantly reminded me of the Bottle House we visited in Prince Edward Island this summer and made me long for the summer again. It’s getting colder up here in the north.

  2. Yes, you must try to get down here–it’s a wonderfully unique area. And, it’s not a particularly long drive from New England.

    We’re happy to be able to head out of the cold winter weather this year. Summer goes by much too fast. We will be in Louisiana in December and hope to be eating plenty of gumbo and jambalaya.

    I am enjoying your blog!

    • Thanks so much. I hope they give some sense of the look and feel of the region, which is unlike any other part of the U.S. and a far cry from your part of the world in England.

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