Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Blackhawks and Boiled Peanuts

We crossed the 1,000 mile mark just west of Walthourville, GA (in front of Coastal Auto Parts) on US-84 W. We have been on the road for just over a week, and as we trekked across the back roads of southern Georgia, we were heading west for the first time on our adventure.

Our first stop yesterday, after a seven hour car trek, was Enterprise, AL, home to Rebecca's cousin Lara and her husband Michael It was a treat to stay in an actual home filled with familiar faces after a week in hotels. As we were driving in, Lara told us that "all the houses looked the same" and that we could find her house by the ribbon on the door. We weren't really prepared for the overwhelming sameness of the houses in the neighborhood. The houses were built quickly and cheaply, and provided much needed and relatively inexpensive homes to soldiers and their families. After seven hours in the car, we were looking for a little motion, so we toured the neighborhood, and saw the same houses over and over and over again. There was something disorienting about the sameness (Lara told us stories about strangers walking into the wrong houses and nearly getting shot and about accidentally parking in her neighbors driveway many times), but there was also something sort of...pretty about it all, the incredible orderliness. We went out to dinner that evening at The Mellow Mushroom and had damned good pizza with even better beer.

The next morning we got up well after Michael had gone to the simulator (at something like 4am). Lara made us a delicious breakfast, and Rebecca ate turkey bacon. She is one step closer to eating real bacon, thus making her the perfect woman. I had been told that turkey bacon, when cooked long and crispy, takes almost exactly like real bacon. I am not ready to support that claim; I will say that the texture was very close to real bacon, and it had that pleasing, salty crunch of the genuine article, but it did lack a certain je ne sais oink that I can't quite put my finger on.

After breakfast and a quick visit to the Boll Weevil monument we took Brick (Lara and Michael's confident little dog) to the park for a long walk in the sweltering heat. Now the Boll Weevil is a very important creature in Coffee County, AL. As the story goes, cotton was king in that part of Alabama for a long, long time. And then the Boll Weevil came in such great numbers and ravaged the fields so thoroughly that the farmers all had to switch crops and began growing peanuts. The peanut crops thrived, and an era of (relative) prosperity took over the region. So grateful were the people of enterprise to this swarm of insects that they erected a monument to it in the town square. In peanut related news, we had boiled peanuts as part of our lunch today. Rebecca spit hers out almost immediately, mostly because of the texture. I ate a few, but I'm inclined to agree with Michael who said: "Maybe I'd like 'em if I'd never eaten a roasted peanut. But having had one roasted, why would I ever eat one boiled?"

Enterprise, AL is also home to Fort Rucker. Many things happen at Fort Rucker, but one of the most important is the training of the US Army's helicopter pilots; Michael, Lara's husband, is in training to fly helicopters. Fort Rucker also houses the US Army's Aircraft Museum, which contains quite a few interesting flying machines (from a Wright Brother's plane to a Sopwith Camel to Vietnam-era Hueys and more modern Blackhawks and Apaches). The Air Force handles most of the flying in our Armed Forces, but they leave the helicopters to the Army. And I was surprised to learn that quite a few of the things other branches of the military do (like rescue people from the ocean) were done first by the US Army. Michael gave us what he called the "fifty cent tour." But it was worth at least 10 bucks to me, possibly more. It was nice to get a sense for the fascinating machine from someone who actually flies them. According to Michael, the helicopter is a machine that does a "really good job trying to kill the pilot." I left with a renewed appreciation for the complexity of DaVinci's flying machine--and with a deep respect for the young men and women who fly them every day. Rebecca and I got to sit in a cockpit (the cockpit wasn't actually attached to a helicopter). Those things have lots of nobs and levers and buttons.

We drove south through Alabama, drove across the Florida panhandle and along the gulf coast back to...Alabama. We're staying in Orange Beach tonight. Tomorrow we'll go check out the beaches (we've gotten many requests for Tar Balls), and then on to the Big Easy.


  1. When I grow up, I hope to be as observant as you.

  2. It's quite amazing how much R. and Lara look alike- but maybe it's just the sunglasses - Deb/the Mom of R