I drove out of Atlanta on a drizzly Thursday morning. The picture I posted on Instagram received the comment, “I see zombies”.
Didn’t know it then, but this would be an epic travel day.
My plan was to drive to Montgomery Alabama.
And I did.
When I got there (back roads, natch), I saw a sign for Selma.
Selma! I’m going!
I drove out across SR-80, in the opposite direction of the March led by Dr. King, from Selma to Montgomery.
It is a long road. Quite rural.
And then, there it was.
The Edmund Pettus Bridge.
This bridge became a symbol of the momentous changes that took place in Alabama, in America, and in the world.
It was on this bridge that voting rights marchers were violently confronted by law enforcement personnel on March 7, 1965, the day that became known as Bloody Sunday.
The bridge is a gateway into an historic downtown.
I slowed way down before driving over the bridge and into town.
I took a short driving tour around several blocks, reflecting on the lives and history I knew about there.
I parked the car and got out to stretch my legs, walking the length of sidewalk. I crossed the street, looking back over to the storefronts.
Passing the Rexall Drug store, I crossed back to my car.
I had made good time and thought I could make the next leg of the trip, to Mobile AL, and possibly to Biloxi MS for the night.
I drove out of town to the gas station I’d seen on my way into town.
I pulled in and filled up the tank and used their loo. I bought a newspaper and three chicken strips and got back to the car.
That’s when I noticed the thick, black clouds rolling through Selma, headed straight for my path.
I quickly headed toward SR-22, bound for Mobile.
Just then, big rain drops fell. Within 5 minutes I was in the middle of a deluge of Biblical proportions.
My phone was mounted on my dash and the map was up, thank goodness, as that was my visual of the road.
The wipers, on the fastest speed, were ineffective for clearing the windshield.
There was no road shoulder to speak of, thus no place to turn off and wait out the storm.
My hazards were on.
I was going about 20 mph.
No other cars were on the road.
No one passed me.
That’s the way I drove the back roads into Mobile.
The rain had let up quite a bit by the time I got onto I-65.
Several texts from my mother-in-law came in just then, now that I had cell phone reception. She had been following the weather and knew where I was headed. I called her for a quick check-in, describing to her my driving ordeal and that I was now on my way to Biloxi Mississippi, which wasn’t too far.
Right then, the rains started again and I abruptly said good-bye, so as to concentrate on the drive — with the 18-wheelers!
Fortunately the rain didn’t last long and when I drove into Biloxi I had gained an hour (entered Central Time Zone) and the sun had broken through!
I stopped at the Mississippi Welcome Center to check how far to the Louisiana Welcome Center.
The map showed Slidell LA’s Welcome Center was about 30 minutes away.
With clear skies and a dry road, I pulled into Slidell LA Welcome Center. It was big, well-lit, and clean.
I asked the security officer on duty if the facilities would be open all night. He said yes. I got my toothbrush and toothpaste and soap and towel and cleaned up.
Then, I went back to the car and set up the back seat with pillow and blanket. I also had a little fan to keep me comfortable. I set the alarm for about 5:30, just in case I hadn’t woken up by then.
I put in my earplugs and pulled down the eye-mask.
It was about 9:30 and I was exhausted.
I was in a good place to make the drive over Lake Pontchartrain first thing in the morning.