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Day Two: Memphis-Destin-Birmingham.

Posted on Saturday, February 19th, 2005

Dave!When I woke up, the last thing I wanted to do was spend the entire day driving. Some vacation. But I was already committed to the trip, so it was off to the Hertz Rent-A-Car desk to pick up my ride. As usual, they decided to reward my "Gold Club" membership with a "car upgrade" from a nice compact Mazda to a massive Buick LeSabre. I know they think that they are being nice, but I HATE it when they do this! If I wanted a big-ass Buick, I would have ordered one! Not only am I uncomfortable in larger cars, I will be driving over a thousand miles, and would rather have a more fuel efficient model automobile. But I don't have time to argue with Hertz, so I pack up this gigantic beast of a car and take off. And check out that license plate, I'm a Texan now...

Buick LeSabre

The drive to the Florida Panhandle was largely uneventful. Central Mississippi is pretty sparse along highway 55, with the exception of Jackson, so there's just not a lot to do along the way. There used to be the Hard Rock Beach Club out in Choctaw, but it has recently closed, leaving me with nothing but mile after mile of asphalt. About the hardest part of the entire drive through the state was at the very end when I had to make the decision to turn left and head to Mobile then onward to Destin... or turn right and head to New Orleans. Since New Orleans is one of my most favorite cities in the USA, you can understand my dilemma. But I had been to The Big Easy not so long ago, so Alabama it was.

But first I needed to stop for gas. I saw a billboard that said "EASY ACCESS" and "CLEAN RESTROOMS" with the "CLEAN" part underlined, so I figured that must be the place for me. Holy crap! If these were CLEAN restrooms, I shudder to think what a dirty restroom must look like...

Clean Sink

Scary. I think I ran back to the car.

Now, unlike most times when you move from state to state without even realizing something has changed... entering Alabama is another matter entirely. The minute you cross the border, the majestic four-lane highway with a wide median in Mississippi instantly becomes a two-lane country road with no median at all. Suddenly there are Baptist churches popping up every five minutes. You start to see homemade billboards that say "JESUS IS LORD" and businesses with signs proclaiming "IF YOU DON'T BELIEVE, DON'T BOTHER STOPPING." Welcome to the deep, deep South.

Anyway, pretty soon I was in Mobile, then crossing into Florida, so I was making good time and all was well. After eating a late lunch at the Hard Rock and walking along a beach so white that it looked like snow instead of sand, I turned back toward Tennessee and made it as far as Birmingham (802 miles total)...


And tomorrow I am back to Tennessee for a trip into Gatlinburg to visit the only Hard Rock Cafe in the world with a wedding chapel attached, then onward to Nashville... a mere 518 miles, hah!

Categories: Travel 2005Click To It: Permalink


  1. Chris says:

    Wow Nashville. It’s honestly one of my life ambitions to go to Nashville. I’m not a country music nut but I like the more upbeat kind of stuff that the Dixie Chicks, Faith Hill, Trisha Yearwood, Lonestar and others are putting out. Darn I’d love to go to Nashville.

    You take care with your driving Dave and enjoy your holiday (holiday is nicer word than vacation!)

  2. Nez says:

    Consider National’s Emerald Club – at least you get to pick a car yourself from the emerald aisle, but there are still a lot of honkin’ buicks there.

  3. Dennis says:

    Gatlinburg to Nashville isn’t that bad, as long as you don’t get stuck in traffic in the Smokies during peak season. Never come in July. You know, I live 20 minutes away from that Hard Rock, but have never been in for dinner, though I did visit some friends there one day. It’s shameful.

  4. Dave2 says:

    Chris: Nashville is a wonderful, wonderful city. I don’t even like country music and find the place intoxicating! I will make a point to write about the hotel I stay at here, because it alone is an experience to treasure!

    Nez: I’m a member of Hertz Gold, National Emerald, Dollar Advantage, and the rest… they ALL seem thrilled to upgrade you when you don’t ask for it.

    Dennis: You are twenty minutes away from Gatlinburg? That must be a very interesting area to live! The cafe there is one of my favorites. The traffic around Pigeon Forge/Gatlinburg is ALWAYS bad. Here it is off-season, with torrential rains, and DollyWood isn’t even open… yet people are EVERYWHERE. It takes an hour just to get back to the highway!

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