Thursday, September 30, 2010


Left Gulfport after another nameless fat breakfast... gassed-up and headed for the Alabama line. I'd started using my special little FM radio that I'd bought for this trip, and was picking up a lot of interesting Country channels.
Lot of crazy Redneck stuff going on Out There. Across America one thing became clear to me: THE PICKUP TRUCK IS KING. Bigger the better. I thought we had a lot up in the NY area... Zheesh.. anywhere south of the Mason Dixon a man DOES own a pick-up truck. Total Waste of materials... pick-ups seem to be mostly used (in REALITY) for pulling horse and / or people trailers. I rarely saw another legimimate usage... the rest were simply empty.

I'd had a fun night the eveining before over in the Bucksnort Grill or whatever it was. That place was heavy with real Southern Crackers and recently-retired Gulf Vets. Across the South from Texas onwards I've overheard lots of anti-"Liberal" cracks... and, well, far be it from ME to interfere with the Yucks... heh heh... not the best time to be waving my New Yawk Yippie viewpoints.. Met one jovial Gulf War vet who gleefully told me jhow he'd been shot four times and has a plate in his skull. He was a cheerful sod; I bought him a shot and he gleefully jumped out into the Karaoke stage that was blaring classic C&W music, and started yelping out Hank Williams at Volume 11.  Happy seeming bloke... drunk like a monkey before I left.

On the Road...
After an hour or so of smooth sailing I came up to Mobile... lots of signs and indications of Air Stations and Naval Bases. Mobile looked ... neat.. as I was passing through. Just modern corporate office buildings visible from the road... wonder how much the Armaments industry is keeping this part of the country alive. Lots of signs of poor blacks in shack houses and trailers with broken machiunery in a scruffy yarrd.. also high percentage of toothless-whites babbling GAWD and FOOTBALL... many Mexican/Latinos who seemed to be sort of avoiding attention. ENDLESS PICK-UP TRUCKS.

Country-western tunes coming in .. sort of broken wisdoms about how "Grandpa taught me God is Great, Beer is Good, and Life should be lived without trying the be very clever. Or Educated... or something. Definite strong signs of Ignorance in many places... but much more "modern" than  I'd perceived.. like, even farmers have computers these days... and cable TV and mobile phones... but still need to believe in SIMPLE solutions... answers that, Wellsir... just seem right. No need for thankin' too hard... Granpda had that wisdom now, didn't he?
More songs about chasing the local tan Farmer's Daughter.... weepy tales of Love Gone Away and happy tunes regaling whiskey fun and an occasional dust-up...
Then we get to the AMURICAN patriotic songs, and lookout, brother... IF YOU DON'T AGREE WITH THE SILVER AMURICAN EAGLE, BOY, THEN YOU GONNA FEEL UNCLE SAM'S BOOT UP YOUR ASS.. Yes, that's an actual song, (if not a perfectly duplicated).

On into Florida. The run was failry long.. the air getting warmer and more humid... I stopped at a Florida Welcome Center and it was mid-Nineties and 86% humid. Sticky... so much different than the desert heat I'd experienced for weeks.

Pensacloa... wanted to run down to the beaches there, but was warned that two militairy bases were about to let out.. and it would be traffic murder. I took a short off-highway trip up a state highway and foiund a giant bike shop... all Japanese brands.. met the owner by coincidence when pulling in... he was magnanimous and told all his staff to take good care of me. Unfortunately I had just bought four quarts of expensive synthetic oil at another shop... needed a p-lace to dump the old.... unfortunately not possible either place... worried about EPA sting ops, supposdely... so I glumly pulled behind on of many boarded-up hulks down the road and, looking boithe ways, cracked my drain plug and let the old hoit oil piss into the scrubby, pebbled sand and weeds. It disappeared from view within moments... I rapped the fiuller bolt back in and using a newspaper funnel drained 3.5 liters back in as fast as possible. Hot... I was sweating profusely.. I hated to do that, but no one wanted to offer me a drainp-pan and dump can... and the place I left it off was certainbly no prisitine parkland.. just hate to do that,. last time was in the desert parking lot by Santa Fe Downs for the Dead in '83.

By Talahassee it started getting dark... I had to decide where to stop... looked at my map and decided to head southwards .. even in the direction of Sarasota, where my MIA buddy lives (supposedly)... hoping somehow that he might wake up out of his boozie revery long enough to check his phone messages; this wasn't to be the case and I sadly had to shallow-up my Southern Dip and plan on doing a Tampa-Key West run someday in the future.

In the meantime I stopped in a little rest area of sorts off the small state highway I was then running on... stopped at a little lake next to a car with a young couple who began telling me about all the alligatlors in such water and how they put up a lot of fencework to keep them at bay. I was peering at my map when a "Florida Law Enforcement" SUV suddenly pulled up behind me and a big cop dressed in paramilitairy garb lumbered out, peers at me suspiciously through black mirrors. It was then that I noticed a small bag of garbage broken open not far from my bike. The cops and I both looked hard at it at the same moment, and it had obviouysly been rained on earlier in the day.
"HA YA DOOO'N," he drawls in an intimidating way., studying me closely. Marine Corps, all the way, fully armed with the latest Tactical Web Gear and big black .45 automatic.
"Fine. Sir".
Looks around. "Y'all know that this's a state park. We generally don' encourage people to come in here... I can see yer outta state. There's a fee for getting in here, ya know..."
No one had been at the tiny booth when I rode in, and no "fee" signs had been evident.
"How much IS the Fee, Officer?" My years in Asia had taught me well.
He hesitated for a moment and studied me , then glanced quizzically at my custom "AMA1" New York plate, emblem and all.
"Well; we don' always need to charge.. I suppose..."
The  clever guy next to me speaks up and says Thanks, we'll check the rules carefully on the way out... we're all just keaving." Big Cop harumphed and sauntered back to his shiney truck.
Just before dark I crossed the Swannee River... real Dixieland now... cars with giant Rebel flags painted in their dusty hoods.... m,any many Jesus signs... towns where there are more churches than businesses. Sort of scary... lots of heavy Confederate sentiment there.. VERY Right and God-Fearing.
But despite all the ominous trappings people I met were hugely warm and easy to talk to... (though often difficult to understand). I suppose if I had been black or Asian it miught well have gone the other way.

Earlier in the day I'd been on the state road and I rolled 70 mph past an old feller lounging comfortably in the shade and the back of a laoded pickup truck. As I buzzed past he smiled appreciatively and gave me a cool, well-timed thumbs up. A hamdmade sign nearby proclaimed, "TATERS". z
I rode past... continued snother mile or so down the road... said WHY NOT... wheeled around and headed back... pulled up in front of the truck and peeled off my helmet and earplugs.
HA YA DOOO'N, I said with a warm smile. "I'm just a tourist riding past on a cross country trip... and I just needed to stop back and say howdy."
That old boy's face lit right up. Sticks his had out purposefully. "Name's Bobby.... Bobby Fletcher,' says with a fine grin.
"Greg Webb! I'm actually from New York... doing 10.000 miles.."
Bobby was quite pleased and I think we gave each other a gift that few moments of experienceing someone very far outside of our respective Boxes. We talked a little about my trip... about this part of Florida... about potato sales. Shook the old boy's hand firmly and we gave each other a God Bless and Vaya Con Dios.. and I motored off feeling that I'd acually accomplished something... somehow. A kindly fellow.. no signs of susicion or concern. Warm and welcoiming without reserve.

Into the night and ligthning on the horizon as I turned onto oute 27 heading south to Perry. Long, straight runs through the moonlit Dixie pines... bright full moon lighting my way down the beautifully-paved road.. a very smooth, pretty run, except for no one else on the road and a lot of deer-roadkill.

Down through little crossroad towns full of various flavor of Baptists and Pentecostal, etc. churches, now dark. Finally reached Perry.. a tiny town with a handleful of (thankfully) cheap motels and a few eating places, some local some corporate.
Checked into a fine little lodge called the Gandy Motor Inn and sure enough, a nice Hindu innkeeper at the desk, and The Gandy was one of the more comfortable dumps I've excpereinced so far.

Unlaoded my gear and headed back up the road for a tiny dew-drop inn that I'd seen. Now this place was very sketchy... a real tin-roofed, Schlitz-signed good-ol boy joint called the Palmetto Bucket Lounge. Only pickup trucks out front. ... well used ones. Went in and sat at the back corner of the bar; ordered a Budweiser.. big guy next to me about 6'3 and big boned gives me a big grin and a heavy drawl.

"You LIKE this stuff?" he asks me over the din of some cheap metal band playing on a small stage to a crowd of fifty.
"Well," I mumble, trying to mask any traces of Yankee accent, "I'm sort of middlin' on it", Diplomacy, at all times.
'Well, I don' lak it, " he says shaking his head. the he cheers up again.
"Hey.. knoiw what?" he asks with a grin, "I'v been thrown in jail in this town more times than anyone else for fighting. Yep.. jus spent three months in County last time!"
I chuckled softly. "Well, ain't that quite sumpthin'" I offered with a cautious smile.
The situation became m,ore tense when two black men came in, one with (gasp) dreadlocks, and Roundhouse Richie next to me starts to pay all kind of attention.
"Now hwo's going to hire that?" he quizzes me. "I mean, come on.... really! And that basatrd is taking my TAX money!''
Ahh, boy...I started looking for my escape route... but I figured I should give iot at least the Ol College Try..
"Oh I dunno," I says sheepishly, " he may be working for a store or a music shop something, err.."
Pugsly wasn;t buying, and peered at me intensely for a moment. I fidgeted.
"Naw," ha drawls, leaning back. "That boy just taking my TAX money, I'll tell ya?
When he looked the other way I dropped a dollar under my bottle and slipped out the door, half looking over my shoulder as I fired up the bike. On the way back to the Gandy I acttually did go sand dig up a secondary bar deep in the middle of the local area away from the highway. That place was even more scary, and ough no one there gave me any noticeidn;t like the Vibe.... very local.

Returning to the motel (extremely  slowly and carefully) I noticed that the entire town smelled strongly of... wet diaper. Permeated everythiung.. even the lovely Gandy Arms. Right all the way to the outside of town the next day. Swamp Gas, I suppose..

                                                     NEXT MORNING SHOTS


No comments:

Post a Comment