It is early Sunday morning (3:00am) and our first scheduled appointment is Monday morning in Newnan, Georgia. We load the car that Saturday for the long 11-hour journey. By the time we hit the Georgia line we are all ready to have a little space to ourselves. We need sleep. So why then, you might ask, is it that we still can’t seem to get away from each other – even for a short break, once the soles of our shoes hit the pavement? Because we are one and we started this damn (depending on the day) journey together, and we are going to finish this damn journey together. Being the only child, I have to keep the ship afloat and keep my parents in-check as much as possible. Sometimes the rental cars are small, so being whirled around by a bloodshot-eyed man in worn out white socks – named dad – can be rather nauseating. All the while trying to keep his patients as the tiny woman next to him – named mom – chides him for the 100th time about losing weight. She has a Southern Living magazine in her lap and her cell phone is blasting an old Leonard Cohen song on Pandora. And here I am, giggling clumsily not only because of the ridiculousness of the situation, but also, because it’s the only thing I can do to keep it together.
By this time, we have just reached our stopping point for breakfast, shortly off the Atchafalaya Basin bridge (just kidding) but we do stop for breakfast right outside of the Mississippi state line. Our stopping point is none other than Crackle Barrel. We have stopped right here, every single time, every Sunday morning while on our way to Georgia, from the very first time we went. It’s “our thing”!
Crackle Barrel: 6:30am – an order of coffee and a biscuit for me, a slice of ham and a biscuit for my dad and a round of everything off the menu for my mom, including a bag of clearance items here and there.
We enter Mississippi, passing over several bridges and we always look for this one particular bird’s nest that to me, looks like something off Dr. Seuss. But my dad always points and says, “Osprey nest”. My mom and I usually just look at each other and roll our eyes, but it’s these little things that I will always cherish from our travels. Mississippi is only an hour of travel time so nothing much more than a pit stop for gas and an Osprey nest nestled on the top of the tallest, broken tree in the swamp.
As we enter Alabama, we always stop by a rest area called, Grand Bay Welcome Center. It’s the cleanest rest area ever. From there, it is a nice stretch until we hit Spring Hill Avenue off I65. Spring Hill Avenue is a major motorway that runs through downtown Mobile, Alabama and takes us directly through the lined streets of the Monastery where my grandmother resides. We usually get there around 10:30-ish, giving us a quick opportunity to visit with the nuns. They always send us off with a tight squeeze and with their voices so soft and soothing – a prayer of blessing.
Moving on from Spring Hill Avenue, we cross over twin bridges that connect multiple rivers and streams from the Tensaw River and Mobile Bay. We usually make serval stops through Alabama that include Atmore (they have the best buffet in town), Yellow Hammer for fuel, Loves Truck Stop, because who doesn’t love a Loves Truck Stop, and Priester’s Pecan House for the best ice cream on I65, all this located in and around beautiful Montgomery.
I65 is the longest, most boring drive, but I can’t tell you how many nights I have stayed up with my dad, helping him watch for deer outside of the Tuskegee National Forest, as we pass through Opelika, Alabama. The last town that we pass through is LaGrange which is right on the Georgia state line. By the time afternoon falls on us we’re all eager to get to the Cancer Treatment Center. It may sound peculiar to be excited to arrive at a cancer treatment center, but it genuinely eases our souls, knowing their goal is saving my mom.
You can literally see the top of the Cancer Treatment Center on the horizon 15 minutes before our exit. In fact, it’s the most beautiful site of all the landscape along our entire trip. Sounds silly, but to my mom, the skyline is pierced by the Heavens looking over the town of Newnan. There is some degree of method in our traveling madness. We’re determined to breathe in the last few minutes of our time on the road, and we are determined to finish this damn journey together!