A weekend after my spring break, Caroline showed up for hers. Because nothing screams SPRING BREAK like tropical drinks in the Michigan snow. And Bloody Marys.
The week after I got back from Spring Break was busy. After I dropped Maki off at the airport on Monday night, I had a 52-hour grading extravaganza in which I turned around all of my students’ midterms, which meant by the time I got to Friday night, I was utterly exhausted and ready for a break. The perfect time to be greeting a friend! Caroline flew in that evening, and words cannot express how excited I was that she chose to come see me on her spring break — I guess the prerogative for a warm spring break somewhat falls aways when you live in LA and it is 80 degrees. Needless to say, it was a lot colder in Michigan.
So we made a nice weekend of it, which involved hanging out, a few cocktails, and lots of catching up. It was wonderful. Saturday, we hung out in Ann Arbor — taking in the campus (above) and keeping warm with Bloody Marys (first picture). Sunday, we headed out to Detroit.
Various views of the RenCen. Caroline was NOT impressed with the shape of the US around southern California…
And what’s a trip to Detroit without the People Mover, perhaps the saddest excuse for public transportation EVER. Though, admittedly, it’s really more intended as a parking-to-venue transit.
Most importantly, we made sure her trip came complete with a tropical drink!
But mostly, we had to keep bundled up. It was a cold weekend. But all the more lovely with a friend!
A wonderful trip in numbers. Admittedly, this would have been best to do before I wrote the posts on the whole trip. But this was what our whole trip looked like:
And the odometer, missing some 100-150 miles: 3089.9 miles.
And the time log: 57:11. A lot of hours to drive in 11 or 12 days!
And finally, what was home to greet me when we got back: 73 midterms, with 2 days to turn them around.
Goodness, it would have been hard to imagine a better trip!
New Orleans to Ann Arbor, still back in March. With (very brief) stops in Meridian, MS; Birmingham, AL; Mammoth Caves, KY; and Columbus, OH. All within a couple days.
After a pleasant jaunt through New Orleans, it was time to be on the road, with our grand hope to make the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute before their 5 pm closing. Our only stop before Birmingham was a quick lunch in Meridian, the only city of any real size very close to the highway (Hattiesburg is bigger, but it was further away). Our lunch was fine, and it was nice to get out and stretch the legs. Next up: Birmingham.
The museum (photography not permitted), was excellent, and we only regretted that we had to hurry through (we had about an hour, which made for a tight visit, though we decided it was definitely our best option). The museum is notably located across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church, where the four young girls were killed in the 1963 bombing, a solemn reminder of the many killed during years of struggle.
Birmingham was on our list in part because a friend of mine — a fellow PhD student at Michigan — is currently writing her dissertation down in Birmingham where her husband has a job. It was definitely on my list for a visit! So after our museum vist, we headed to Jessica’s place, and from there, headed out for a lovely dinner. Read more…
A day and a half in New Orleans.
And suddenly, we were there. Our destination, of sorts. The City of New Orleans. After driving most of the day (which began, I might add, with a visit to the MLK Center in Atlanta, driving across Alabama with stops in Tuskegee and Montgomery), we arrived in New Orleans around 11 pm, promptly found the place we were staying (thanks, AirBNB, for hooking us up with a place with basically no advanced planning!), and of course, immediately headed out. Because obviously at 11 pm in New Orleans, things are just getting started. So we headed out for a walk, drank some of New Orleans’ (ahem) finest offerings (also called: the grossest drink I have ever had), before slipping to a place with a half-decent jazz band and excellent, though overpriced drinks (also called: most anywhere in New Orleans).
We retired for the evening, and woke up for a slow, uneventful day wandering in the city. The weather was beautiful, and New Orleans is really a one-of-a-kind city, kind of like Venice, where you treasure it all the more because it feels simultaneously old-world and also like it might disappear at any moment.
We had no particular plans, except to make sure we did the requisite things, like a stop by the Café du Monde for our beignets and coffee.
We paid our respects to the cathedral and to the Mississippi.
And wandering down the streets as sunset approached.
And as evening dawned, we headed back for our car for our dinner plans: a delightful reunion with Hallie, a high school friend, and her husband, Kevin, and son, Alan. Read more…
A day drive from Atlanta to New Orleans, with short stops in Tuskegee, Montgomery, and somewhere outside of Mobile.
After leaving the MLK museum, we headed onwards and outwards, along I-65. Maki took a nap while I manned the wheel, and before we knew it, we had crossed into Alabama. Not long after the border, we saw a sign for Tuskegee, and looking at our atlas, we decided it was close enough to the highway to merit a short visit. And a delightful choice it was. After a quick lunch at Burger King (sign, at least they have a veggie burger!), we headed to the museum at the Tuskegee Airfield, managed by the National Park Service, and a delightful stop it was! The Civil Rights Movement, of course, is a long, triumphant, but often depressing story, and one of the nice things about stopping at the museum there was that this is a truly happy story. It shocks you to think that during World War II, the Tuskegee Institute had the ONLY integrated cafeteria in the entire South. The stories of cooperation and success that emerged from the institute, I think, are one of few feel-good stories of the movement, unaccompanied by the major tragedies that came with each hard-earned success. And the little museum there was surprisingly good — a perfect break from our day of driving. The next stop was Montgomery, where we stopped briefly to pay our respects to the state capital.
The city was largely boring — we expected as much (multiple people told us not to bother), but since the highway was literally just blocks from the capitol building, we figured it’d be worth a short stop. Montgomery was also briefly a capital of the Confederacy, and also there was the Confederate White House, a residence of Jefferson Davis.
But ever onwards and outwards. As night closed in, we scrapped plans of a brief stop in Mobile, realizing it wasn’t going to be worth much anyway, and decided the timing was right for a real Southern experience. Ah yes, Waffle House, an institution that sits at literally every highway exit, and in many cases, on both sides (so that there are two in eyeshot of each other). Amazing!
And, ever onwards and outwards: we crossed into Louisiana, where we stopped briefly at the rest stop for a map and a bathroom break.
A look into the vending machine and I had tangible proof we were in a new universe.
Ah, yes, welcome to Louisiana. Next stop: New Orleans.
This view greeted me when I woke up this morning.
Not quite the spring I had in mind… But at least there’s some sunshine today!
A couple days in Atlanta, caught between the Confederacy and Civil Rights Movement.
Atlanta was always on our trip plans, and for two reasons. First, I have an aunt and uncle who live in the far-flung north suburbs, and second, Maki has a good friend and former roommate who moved their recently. And, it occurred to me as we were in North Carolina, I even had a fellow program participant from my time in Kazakhstan last summer who was in the Atlanta area, too. So, all things seemed set for a nice visit, and we arrived just in time for a nice dinner with my aunt and uncle. Unfortunately, we got no pictures with them, even though we stayed two pleasant evenings in their lovely home — the every day, humdrum stuff is always the hardest to document! Anyway, our plans for Atlanta were largely undefined, and we decided to give it a go with Stone Mountain, allegedly one of its most popular attractions. And for good reason — it’s kind of weirdly horrific that the enormous carving, a monument to three important Confederate leaders, was a work in progress until 1970. 1970! Let that sink in. As civil rights movements were gaining speed, Jeff Davis was being simultaneously carved into the side of a mountain.
And let me just say, much as I hate to admit it, the monument is impressive. While I, like a good liberal from the north, felt at least slightly guilty of the confederate-themed tourism, visiting the monument was actually illuminating. The language of the monument is rather unreformed, with placards commemorating heroic efforts of each state, their leaders acting only as they felt their founding fathers would have done. But I think that most surprised me was the general diversity of the park’s visitors — many of whom were local and not of the general profile one might expect at a monument to the Confederacy. Indeed, as we headed over to the other side to take a hike up to the top, I was actually fairly surprised that the hill seems to be at least locally popular for a good exercise routine. The views from the top are admittedly pretty cool. Even on a cloudy day, we could see much of downtown Atlanta off in the distance.
Mostly, though, I was excited about the opportunity to recreate this shot from my childhood:
And the marker at the top:
From there, our original plan was to go straight to the MLK Center in downtown Atlanta, but as we neared the city, the traffic told us this was going to be impossible, so we cut our losses, decided to move that stop to the next morning, and headed over to a coffee shop in Decatur, a hip urban center within the greater Atlanta area, near Emory University. Read more…