The is the 8th and final post of the road trip series. What an adventure it's been!
After exploring some of South America, and before heading back home to San Francisco, we wanted to spend a few weeks in America's Southern States. We started in Arkansas, drove through Tennessee and Mississippi, and then caught an overnight train from St. Louis, Missouri to Austin, Texas.
This was our first time visiting the Southern states. Coming from Australia originally, and most recently living in California, things felt very different down South. Here are some of the things that surprised me...
Southern hospitality really is a real thing.
Don't get me wrong, I expected people to be friendly. I've spent many years in the USA and know that Americans are generally talkative and outgoing - it's one of the things I love the most about the country as a whole. But in the South, it felt like the cultural norm for friendliness was a lot higher. It sounds cliched, but we were genuinely blown away by the openness, generosity, and warmth of the people we met.
Soul food tastes better in the South.
After having tried Southern food numerous times outside of the Southern states, I’ve come to the conclusion that you really need to experience it in-situ to properly appreciate the cuisine.
Part of it might come back to Southern hospitality - meals tend to be shared, portions are very generous, and food is celebrated - but I also think some of the tastiest dishes we had haven’t really exported. Things like perfectly fried green tomatoes with a crispy crust of golden corn meal, or breakfast sandwiches made with roasted turkey and cranberry sauce in savory Southern biscuits. There’s a lot more to Southern food than fried chicken and barbecued ribs. That being said, even the fried chicken (Gus's hot and spicy is the best) and barbecued ribs tasted better in the South.
I was confronted by gun advertising.
It’s common knowledge that the right to bare arms is a fundamental American constitutional right, but living in California (which has one of the lowest rates of gun ownership in the country) we’re quite insulated from gun culture. Conversely, more than 50% of the population of Arkansas, Tennessee and Mississippi own guns. So, as you’d expect for any product owned by more than half of the population, there’s a lot of advertising for guns and ammunition.
When reading one detailed promotional poster for a type of shot gun cartridge, with Rosie in tow, I did feel out of my comfort zone. I think what made the sensation unique on this occasion was that I was having this ‘foreign’ experience in the country in which I live. It really does highlight how varied America is, and the Dixie states I visited were totally unique.
I started to enjoy Country Music.
This may be the biggest surprise of the whole trip! I was certain I didn’t like country music, but I was completely out of touch with what was being played live in Memphis and Nashville. We listened to some amazing musicians, and their interpretations of country and blues was refreshing and varied.
It was also fascinating to learn the history of how the genre evolved, with its roots in traditional folk music and fiddle jigs. It didn't take us long to develop a whole new appreciation for Country music. Rosie joined us for all the live music we saw, so most of the acts we caught were either during the day or early evening. On this occasion, it was really nice to be wrong!
Phew. After 5 months on the road, we were ready to head home and have a little break :-)
P.S. CONTINUE READING...
This was an epic 5 month, 3 continent, 10 country road trip, with our 9 month old daughter in tow. You can catch up on the other posts in the series here: