What I Did Last Summer Part 2: Alabama

Alabama Museum of Natural History

The basilosaurus is the state fossil of Alabama.

On day two of our trip, we woke up in Tupelo, Mississippi, hit the road for Tuscaloosa, Alabama, and did our first museum of the trip, the Alabama Museum of Natural History on the University of Alabama campus.

Old Alabama Geological Survey wagon and equipment

Old Alabama Geological Survey wagon and equipment, some of which belonged to Eugene Smith, the guy for which the museum building, Smith Hall, is named.

It’s a really nice museum, and we liked it even better than some of the bigger ones. It’s not a big, flashy one, but it’s classy and has lots of interesting things. It’s a beautiful building, too, Smith Hall, named for Dr. Eugene Allen Smith, an Alabama geologist who also taught at the University. I loved that they had a bunch of his old stuff, personal items and an old Geological Survey wagon and equipment like he used. He dug up a lot of the things at the museum. It was cool to find out about the guy who found the stuff.

Benjamin and Terry at the Museum

Benjamin and Terry at the Alabama Museum of Natural History

After the museum, we headed northeast about three hours to Scottsboro, Alabama to the Unclaimed Baggage Center where lost luggage from all over is collected into a store.

The Unclaimed Baggage Center

Benjamin and Terry head for the Unclaimed Baggage Center.

We found our first geocache of the trip here. I’ll give you a hint. It’s behind that sign out front. Benjamin loved this place. It was one of his favorite places that we went on this trip (along with the Lego Store and the T-Rex Cafe). It’s not just a store; it’s a tourist attraction. We didn’t find a lot, but Benjamin went nuts over their selection of DS games. It was interesting to see what all people had lost, kind of sad. I hoped none of the stuff had sentimental value for anyone, their great-grandmother gave them that purse on her deathbed kind of thing. Benjamin found an unknown object in the toy section for a dollar. We Googled the one word printed on it and found out that it was a small, working replica of a robotic arm, probably a model that a sales rep lost. So, you really can find just about anything there at any given time.

That night we drove to Georgia. We got lost. There was drama. We arrived late at Terry’s brother’s house, prepared to sleep late the next morning…

What I Did Last Summer Part 1: The Crossroads

Four months after our summer road trip, I think I have recovered enough to write about it. Oh, it wasn’t bad, no trauma or catastrophes. The flat tire discovered the next morning at a motel was probably the worst thing to happen. No animals escaped from any zoos.

The Crossroads

Where the devil tuned Robert Johnson's guitar

We set out July 12, 2013 at 8:00 am from Greenland, Arkansas.

I had been wanting to drive through Clarksdale, Mississippi for some years. Ever since I had heard about Robert Johnson and his late night trip down to the crossroads where he met up with the devil who tuned his guitar so he could become the best blues player ever. Or something like that. I read all up on it, found out it was the crossroads of Highways 61 and 49, and they met up in Clarksdale, Mississippi. I read how Robert Johnson took his guitar down there and saw the hell hounds snarling and rolling around in the ditch before the devil showed up. And how anyone could do it, go down to the crossroads and have the devil make you prosperous. I thought about taking a pencil down there for the devil to sharpen, to help my writing. But I figured I would always have to write with that same pencil for it to work. I thought about pianists dragging their pianos down to the crossroads on flatbed trailers and wondered how long it took the devil to tune a piano. I read that the usual story was a little off, that you don’t go down there at midnight, but around three or four in the morning, and the guy who shows up isn’t the devil, and he won’t take your soul. He’s just a helpful sort.

I like to see places like this. I know there’s not much there to actually see or take pictures of, but I just like to be there, to have been there, to know what it’s like to stand there and think about what may or may not have happened on that spot.

So, it turns out enough people were intrigued by the story of Robert Johnson that they built a memorial there at those crossroads, a big sign reading “The Crossroads” with crossed guitars and 61 and 49 highway signs.

A group of people showed up while we were there taking pictures. They were really friendly and had musical instruments. They asked where we were from, and I wound up telling them we were there to see the devil. They told me that they had run him off. Then they proceeded to go into the little grassy area in the crossroads under the sign with the trees and began to play gospel music. We figured it was time to go try try the local barbecue.

Abe’s BBQ is about a block up the street from the Crossroads. It was OK. We got out of there for about $35. I found the BBQ sauce too sweet, tasted like it had lime in it.

Benjamin at the Crossroads

Benjamin waiting on the devil...

After the Crossroads, we headed on down the road to Tupelo, Mississippi to a motel and some Pizza Hut delivery.

Next… Alabama!