Saturday, May 24, 2014

Coast to Coast: Day 17: Memphis, TN - Cartersville, GA. Saturday, May 24, 2014

     It was still dark when I was packing up my tent, and I was feeling kinda groggy. I shouldn’t have been surprised when I broke one of the tent poles. I was having a really rough morning. I didn’t care. I had dealt with way worse problems on my trip, and this was only a minor inconvenience. The sad thing was that it had only just paid for itself in savings versus a cabin, but I would have liked to have a cabin all the other times I used a tent. I should have bought the two person tent so I could actually sit up in it at the very least. Before long I was packed and ready to go to North Carolina.

     I only made it 50 miles northeast of Memphis when I changed my mind decided to stop in Birmingham, Alabama before reaching Atlanta, Georgia by the end of the day. I had never been to Mississippi, Alabama, or Louisiana, but Louisiana was too far south to include in the day’s trip and still reach the east coast on time.

     It took me about 4 hours to get to Birmingham, but I didn’t see anything interesting. It was really surprising; how uninteresting the city was, in a bizarre kind of way. It was a great looking city, but something seemed out of place.

     I was almost on my way back on the highway when it hit me: the streets were vacant. I have been to a lot of cities; LA, San Francisco, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, Indianapolis and other smaller towns and villages. Some were large and some were small but all of them had at least some traffic. Birmingham didn’t have any traffic. It was rare to see a car on the road. Maybe I was missing something.

All the streets of Birmingham were empty 

     Between Birmingham and Atlanta, the scenery reminded me of South Carolina. I couldn’t put it in exact words, but the trees, grass and just the feel of the environment was exactly like South Carolina, except without palm trees and water.

Alabama and Georgia scenery 

     I put in effort to see Atlanta before I reached Cartersville. I’m not sure why I did. By then I should have known that cities are just as exciting as the country unless I have a reason to be there. The most the city did for me was provide a place for me to take a picture as proof that I was there.

Atlanta: famous for providing places for people to take pictures of the city

     I was at the campsite fifteen minutes before closing time, but I found the office doors locked. I considered going to a hotel nearby, but I didn’t want to spend the money. I filled out a late registration form for a tent spot, dropped it in the registration box, and went to one of the few tent spots that weren’t reserved.

     Since I didn’t get the info packet from the office, I didn’t know what the Wifi password was. I really wanted to catch up on my journal, so I asked an older man who just outside the cabin next to my tent spot. He said they never told him what it was either. Since I had nothing better to do, I started a conversation with him. I was really glad I did.

     I told him about my trip, and he recalled memories of his time after he came back from the war in Vietnam. He and five friends bought motorcycles, and went on an 8 month trip around the entire United States. They saw absolutely everything the country had to offer, from the redwoods in California to the east coast and everything in between. When he wasn’t riding, he gambled and acquainted himself with every woman within reach. He told me the best times to gamble were Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Monday was when the casinos got their money back. I’m not a big gambler, but it was nice to know if I ever went to Vegas.

     Today, he was camping with his sons. He lived in Florida but had a sister who lived nearby. He had a lot of siblings growing up in New York, but none of them stayed there. One lived in Maine, another in Arkansas, one in Phoenix. He said he was going to go camping again because he hadn’t seen his sister in Colorado in a while. We wished each other good luck and I started a fire in what looked like a makeshift fire pit. None of the other tent spots had a fire pit, so I didn’t know if the previous camper just made one and left it or not. I didn’t care if I was allowed to start a fire. I could always say that the pit was there when I set up, so I had a pretty good excuse. I ended up seeing one of the campsite staff and got the Wifi password: “happycamping”. I updated my journal late into the night before setting up my broken tent.

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