Sunday, June 20, 1993...
Continued across Georgia and Alabama, winding up in Jackson, Mississippi. The stretch between Macon and Columbus was originally the federal Wire Road, built in the early 1800s and used to carry the first telegraph through the region. The courthouse in Knoxville, GA has an interesting historical marker: it marks the origin of the Texas state flag! The original Lone Star flag was sewn here for a battle regiment that carried it on to Texas...
Was very disappointed that US 80 has now been routed around Columbus, GA, whose four-mile strip of strip joints, pawnshops, tattoo parlors and used-car lots just down the road from Fort Benning makes it a prime contender for Ugliest Road in America. Nice slogan through here: "Beer as Cold as a Mother-in-Law's Love." I continued uneventfully across eastern Alabama to Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington and the site of George Washington Carver's agricultural experiments -- there's a National Park Service museum on the site.
Montgomery drove home just how confrontational the civil-rights movement must have been. The First White House of the Confederacy sits just opposite the State Capitol. A marker placed in 1944 heralds Dexter Avenue, which runs west from the Capitol, as the site of Jefferson Davis's inaugural parade. On a corner opposite this monument, not two blocks from the Capitol, sits the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church where Martin Luther King served as pastor throughout the late 1950s and organized much of the civil-rights resistance....and less than two blocks from that is the National Civil Rights Memorial, in front of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Designed by Maya Lin, the woman responsible for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, it's a black wall and circular fountain on which are engraved the list of civil-rights supporters killed for their beliefs between 1954 and 1968.
Also in Montgomery, Hank Williams, country music's most legendary figure, lies buried a mile or two east of the state capitol. Williams' grave, neatly carpeted for the benefit of visitors, is inscribed with musical notes and the titles of his most famous songs: "I Saw the Light," "Mansion on the Hill," and others. As if Williams didn't suffer enough from decades of back pain caused by spina bifida, or the alcohol and drug abuse that killed him at age 29, he's condemned to spend eternity buried next to his shrewish exwife Audrey. His mother, for whom Hank sang some of the most maudlin ballads ever recorded, occupies the adjacent plot.
Between Montgomery and Selma, US 80's labeled the Jefferson Davis Highway as well as the DeSoto Trail. It's four lanes across Alabama as far as Demopolis, then reverts to two-lane status. At least Alabama has upgraded its roads over the past 60 years -- in Mississippi, most of the pavement looked like it hadn't been touched since the original paving. In particular, Mississippi hasn't widened the road to more modern standards, with the original narrow bridges proving especially troublesome to the modern traveler.
Shortly after crossing into Mississippi, the rains came. They stayed the whole way to Jackson and long into the night, the remnant of a tropical storm that hit the Texas coast yesterday. Reached my motel in time to watch the Mets blow a ninth-inning lead....
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