and now for the rest of the story…

So when I last left off, I had spent a few hours in the company of Superman. Still in Metropolis, I decided to take a drive down to check out the Harrah’s riverboat casino in town. Decidedly underwhelming. Maybe I’m just jaded from covering Vegas so much but it just looked like a hotel with a boat behind it.

Leaving the parking lot, I passed by what looked like a manufactured home with tons of lawn ornaments in front of it. Seriously, how many faux deer and bird ponds do you need to dress up a trailer? Then I started heading out of town when I saw the sign for Fort Massac State Park. A sucker for American history, I pulled in and was delighted to find out admission to the park was free.

I drove around the park, checking out some of the nature trails and Drouillard Creek, which actually looked more like a swamp. Then I pulled into the parking lot by the fort and went to check it out. It’s actually a replica of the original 1800s fort, but it was still pretty cool to wander through – also free. I narrowly missed a swarm of hornets, but otherwise, it was an interesting hour spent there and in the small museum/visitor’s center next to it.

I put up a bunch of photos I took in the park at Flickr and I also wrote a more in depth story at Suite101 on visiting Fort Massac. But here’s a couple of my fave photos from my visit:

Fort Massac State Park : Metropolis, Illinois
Fort Massac State Park : Metropolis, Illinois Fort Massac State Park : Metropolis, Illinois

After I got back on I-24, I headed across the Ohio River bridge into Kentucky and drove past Paducah, Clarksville and Nashville, where I connected with I-65 to head south to Alabama. Normally I just keep on I-24 to I-75 and on to Atlanta, but since I was driving a 19-yr old car, I thought it might be in my best interests not to take on the steep inclines of the mountains between Nashville and Atlanta. My route on this trip would take be straight south into Birmingham, Alabama, where I would then head east to Atlanta. A bit more miles on the car, but less hilly. Plus, I’d never been that way, which was actually reason enough to me. LOL

Saturn Rocket : Huntsville, AlabamaI crossed the border into Alabama just after dark and had to pull into the first rest area I saw. Not only for the bathroom facilities, but because they had a Saturn rocket sitting right next to the welcome center. And I don’t mean a miniature mock-up…I’m talking a full scale model. It was so-o freakin’ cool! Of course my main camera’s batteries decided to crap out so I had to resort to taking pix one at a time, shutting off the camera for a few minutes in between to build up enough of a charge for another quick shot. But it was worth it just to have a few photos of it.

And then I remembered I really had to pee…

I finally had to call it a night in Cullman, AL, about an hour north of Birmingham. I picked a Sleep Inn, right off the highway because they had a coupon in a travel book and also because, as a Choice Hotel chain member, they’re supposed to have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. I have to say it wasn’t the worst hotel I’ve stayed in, but it comes close. The HBO was out on the TV and there was still a soap residue on the shower floor, so when I stepped in, I slid and whacked my elbow on the metal frame of the shower door. I still had a sore elbow the next day, so I complained but they refused to honor their guarantee. I’m STILL going round and round with corporate HQ on it.

At any rate, I filled up the tank, checked all the fluids/tire pressure/etc. and ate breakfast. As I was pulling out of the Burger King, I looked across the street and saw the manager of the gas station I had just been at was changing the price on the sign. What?? Two cents cheaper?? Bastard! LOL Oh well…

I headed south on I-65 and when I reached Birmingham, I connected with I-20 east to Atlanta. This stretch of road was pretty in that it was still a bit hilly and full of forest, but not the massive climbs like on the other route. The only downside was the closer I got to the Georgia border, the more road construction I encountered. So much that I actually missed the rest area exit and ended up having to hold my bladder for another two hours until I got through Atlanta rush hour.

I thought I was home free once I got past Atlanta, but just south of Macon, as the sun was setting, I hit massive road construction. Three lanes were forced down to one in areas and at two points we actually came to a full stop. I think from Macon to Valdosta (near the border), I averaged less than 20 mph. What normally takes me less than two hours to drive took almost five.

I was so tired and cranky by the time I crossed into Florida that it actually took a few moments to register that I was in the final leg of my journey. Two full days and north-south cross country journey by myself and it hit me that I was less than four hours from home.

I finally reached our apt complex gates around 3am on Thursday, 54 hours after I left Wisconsin. If I hadn’t stopped in Metropolis to stretch my legs and sight-see, or stayed in a hotel the second night, I probably would have been home sooner. But I think that it was good that I paced myself so I wasn’t driving those last few hours burnt out and not fully alert. Plus I did enjoy the sight-seeing part. LOL I actually would like to go back and visit that area some more — there’s also a wine country area about an hour north that sounds wonderful. I’d like to check out Birmingham sometime, too. Lots of history and an interesting Couchsurfing scene there.

At any rate, I made it home only about 12 hours before Jim and Julie arrived from Fargo for the Memorial weekend. I was so happy to see them. But that is another blog post… 😉

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