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Blog 188 Attalla to Ringgold

14th April


"That even when the country shows its ugliest side, the rest of the world cannot look away. It is the strange soft power of America: even in its dysfunction, it is so often the stage where the world’s dramas are played out. That was true 30 years ago, and it is true now."


Lovely white building across the way from the hardware store, bricks painted a very mute red. I am 60 miles done and somewhere, I have no idea where but there is a cinema called the Tooga Theatre next to the Alarming Truth Ministeries offices est. 2002 and Bobbys Rinky Dink Party Club.


For me I am waiting at the lights. Perhaps for fear of a too fast change of colour whilst cars are crossing, traffic lights in America are cautious. The colour change is meditational. Hybrid cars go into economy mode and the engine closes down. Nothing moves. There is no sound at junctions, only sometimes the sounds of birdsong. It's the same in India where on red taxi drivers switch off their engines and the whole city goes quiet.


The STOP sign protocol is different. At an intersection where all adjoining roads have to adhere to their own sign no one has the right of way. Someone has to crack or be magnanimous. This Main Street has a second hand car dealer, Truck Town selling trucks. The First Baptist Church is next to a building advertising the sale of gold, guns and pawn, all sold at Herbs Trading Company and 'Nails and Hair' and a medical cannabis dispensary all on the same block.


So later I pull up by Central Avenue to get to Dollar General at a small junction in the edge of town. It's still 30 miles to my accommodation. There was a time in my previous trips across America when I had to turn down polite requests offering me dinner but not now. No one offers help like that anymore.


And 70 miles done

Right turn suddenly country again away from the 3 way carriageway. Wind picking up. I am roaring along. And there is a passing stranger theory: people warm to me because I’m not going to stay here but move on, take my stories with me.


An old black lady with long nails is smoking in her car at lights and she tells me she's going to grand daughters baby shower and so excited. And with 15 miles to go I hear chickens, a singular bird call and a response. .


There is Wood station cemetery, there are people called Black and Watts, real like the story about Nickajack Gap in 1776, that was real once.


I got into my room 90 minutes before it got dark, in fact I found a hotel, Circle K, Waffle House, back to my room. But space is feeling denser, places getting closer, and emotionally I am feeling a pull to be home. I have nearly died so many times it is time to stop. Once that flight starts to take place it’s unstoppable.



Map of the Day


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Roger
Roger
Apr 18

Probably your most important journey yet Nick. In a time where the world is changing so fast, the fact that a "mature gentleman" can still do it (albeit with a little motorised assistance) is frankly amazing. Power to your pedals for the journey home!

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