The next destination on our US road trip is Atlanta, Georgia. This is a long drive requiring an overnight stop somewhere yet to be determined. We have a total of 5 nights accommodation over the trip open due to some of the large distances between our destinations. Tonight will be one of those nights where we’ll stop when Ty has had enough driving.
No matter what research you do on driving distances between cities no amount of research can tell you how long it will take to drive out of a city so whatever the driving hours are if it’s a major city, such as Dallas, add an extra hour. We drove out of Fort Worth at 11.30am and crossed the Louisiana State Line at 3.45pm after a 20 minute hold up due to an accident, a 30 minute lunch break and a fuel stop. There are no rest areas on the freeways on the section of Texas we drove through so if a loo break is required or even a break to stretch and walk around you need to go off the freeway and to the outskirts of a small town to a service centre.
It was time for a fuel stop and when purchasing fuel at most US garages it’s a pay first then fill up so Ty went in, paid $30, came back with his receipt, filled up the car and was just closing his drivers’ door when the girl from the garage came running out pointing to him and saying ‘Y’all have to pay for your gas’. He had paid for the gas but she wasn’t listening, receipt in hand he followed her back into the garage where he was again told he hadn’t paid for his fuel. He showed the receipt and it turned out the cashier didn’t understand his accent and he paid for pump 5 instead of pump 4. No apology for their mistake just quite rude as they now had to reverse transfer the $30 from pump 5 to pump 4. Another customer waiting at the cashier apologised to Ty for the rudeness of the 2 staff members saying it was well known in the area that these particular garage cashiers are very rude to customers and she felt embarrassed given he was a visitor.
We had stopped at a small town named Terrell for lunch, options were Granddad BBQ house or Starbucks….we opted for Starbucks. We had sandwiches with a cheese and fruit platter. A healthy option I thought and goodness knows in some of these places healthy options are hard to find.
After lunch we drove on with the only scenery, mile after mile, being large leafy trees. We crossed the State Line into Louisiana around 3.45 pm. We had been told to be very careful driving through Louisiana because the police highway patrol would book a driver if the car was travelling 1 mile over the State limit so to be sure and drive within the limit. Ty set the cruise control once we hit the freeway.
By 5.30pm the trees were becoming monotonous and I needed a reprieve from this repetition of greenery luckily a billboard noting the eateries available at the next exit came into view…the round green Starbucks logo was on the list. Right turn Ty, break time. The name of this little town was Ruston. Starbucks was quite busy and we’ve found so many younger generation sit in Starbucks using the free wifi but not drinking or eating anything. Guess wifi is expensive in the US but if I owned a cafe and people took up space for customers to use the wifi I’d be more than a little annoyed.
Sitting to have our coffee and share a slice of lemon cake (the best thing about Starbucks) we were chatting when a black* woman at a table across from us looked up from her book and asked where we were from. This lady told me she had met an Australian before at New Orleans airport when the airport was snowed in. She was very happy to now be able to tell people she had met 3 Aussies. It seemed a little like me saying I’d seen a meerkat up close, I love meerkats. The charming lady then told us that her daughter married an Englishman and they live in Zurich,Switzerland. She visited for a few weeks every year. As we were leaving this lady asked us what we did for work and told us she is an English professor and was very interested in languages and accents…..’Oh bugger’ I said to Ty in the way many of us Aussies do ‘she probably thought we didn’t speak well at all’
*As far as I’m aware it is not offensive in US to describe someone as being black or white it’s the way they describe themselves. We in Aus are way too precious.
Just as we were leaving Starbucks a grossly overweight couple were also walking out with 2 large frappes loaded with cream EACH. I said to Ty ‘surely they’ve got others in the car they couldn’t drink 2 of those each…I couldn’t even drink one that size’. ‘Perhaps they are taking them home to someone’. No, there was no one else in their truck as they sat there drinking them.
As Willie Nelson said in his song…..On the road again………for a few more hours before we stop for the night. The fun thing will be finding decent accommodation for the night and one with a vacancy. At 6pm we crossed the Mississippi State Line and we drove on for another hour and 40 minutes when, just outside Jackson, we decided to stop for the night. Thinking Jackson would be too busy and may be difficult to find a hotel we opted for a town named Clinton. Clinton is the 10th largest city in Mississippi with a population around 25,000. There was a choice of hotels, Holiday Inn, a Quality Inn, Motel 6 and Hampton Inn by Hilton plus a couple of others. We chose the Hampton Inn and luckily they had a room available…a king suite. Michelle, the concierge was very friendly and we were pleasantly surprised as the suite was quite good, very large and roomy. Not what I was expecting from an off ramp/exit hotel. Our next challenge was to find somewhere decent to eat…these off ramps are great if you want a snack or burger but a higher standard of restaurant is rare. So we asked Michelle if she could give us some direction on where to eat and she did. Michelle suggested a restaurant called Pastability in the small shopping centre a short walk behind the Holiday Inn.
By now it was quite late and we hoped the restaurant was still open. It was, well, we saw the sign for the restaurant but it was over a shopfront that was for lease. ‘That sign says the restaurant is for lease’ I said to Ty disappointed “I was really looking forward to a good meal’. Just as I’d said that a voice from around the back of a car said ‘The restaurant has moved y’all need to go down here’ she gestured towards a laneway. ‘Thank you’ we both said as we walked past a group of people chatting by a car.
The Italian Restaurant was huge but instead of reminding me of Italy it reminded me of France with the large vases of sunflowers and pictures of fields of lavender. Of course we weren’t locals and, as we’d been learning, not many travellers visited these towns so when we stepped through a door and spoke people were generally surprised, then asked where we were from and most comments were ‘where’d y’all come from’, ‘we’ve never met an Australian before’ or ‘what y’all doing here’ but the one we heard the most ‘I love your accent I wish I had that accent’. I thought how funny we Aussies don’t really have much of an accent and these people have great accents but they want ours!
Dinner was amazing and the chef (Dave) came out to tell me he would adapt the recipe for me because my first choice had garlic so I was prepared to choose something else. I appreciated that because that’s when you know the food and the sauces are made fresh. The food was distinctly Italian but the chef and, I assumed, his wife certainly weren’t. No down south home cooking here just great tasting Italian with fresh ingredients. So if you ever get to Clinton Mississippi or if you are passing Clinton Mississippi make sure you drop in.
No coffee places in sight…oh, plenty if you want the black bitter coffee but I like my lattes.
We left Clinton at 9.40 am and crossed the Alabama State Line at 11.15am and the scenery was the same thick tree lined motorway as yesterday. I wish I could write in the car on such long journeys, imagine how much writing I could get done, but I have a tendency to get car sick so singing along badly to music is my only option to stave off boredom. A few more miles and we stopped for lunch at a place called Mountville. This was the preferred stop because there was a Wendy’s and Wendy’s does a great salad called a “summer berry salad’ which has the obligatory kilo of lettuce with sliced freshly cooked grilled chicken, strawberries, blackberries, feta cheese with a blackberry vinaigrette and crunchy pieces of dried apple. I was hungry so when I saw baked potato with sour cream on the menuI thought I should have that too! The salad was very good but the baked potato could have been better..I eat baked potato for the dollops of sour cream I can put on it so if the amount of sour cream is measly and doesn’t cover every mouthful of potato I won’t eat the potato…this was the case here. Ty had a burger as usual.
We eventually crossed the Georgia State Line at 3.40pm and arrived in Atlanta 2 hours later.
The people we met along the way in the South were so friendly and helpful we really enjoyed meeting them and chatting to them. Obviously most people visit the well known parts of the US such as West Coast, Vegas and parts of East Coast including New York, Boston and Niagara Falls but the Southern States have much to offer as well.