I am driving through shallow green hills, under a big blue sky, on a two-lane highway. Ahead of me is a beat-up Ford with a bumper sticker that reads: “I ‘heart’ Alabama.”
It’s been a long time since I’ve taken a road trip through Alabama. Too long. I haven’t been here since the pandemic began some six hundred years ago.
I’m an adopted Alabamian. I married into the family and have spent more time in the Yellowhammer State than in my home state of Florida. I have written more stories here than anywhere else.
And I’ve done many quintessential Alabamian things. I’ve eaten blueberry ice cream at the Blueberry Festival in Brewton. I once hung out with the mayor of Tuscaloosa. I hugged the neck of a former Slocomb Tomato Festival beauty pageant title-holder. I have been in the same room with William Lee Golden.
But it was my Keego-born-and-bred father-in-law, the noted hellraiser and foul-joke aficionado, who made my adoption official. Once, directly before a family supper, he stood at the table, raised a
glass, and said, “I hereby declare you an Alabamian.”
I am lucky indeed. For Alabama is grand.
When I started writing, my wife and I began traveling across this state full-time. We have spent years rolling along these wobbly highways, roaming the backwater roads.
I have driven the length and breadth of the state more times than I can count. I used to do this so frequently that once, I watched the sunrise up in Elkmont, and made it down to Bayou La Batre in time for sunset.
But then a worldwide epidemic happened.
Ever since then our vehicle has been sitting in the driveway, untouched, and our battery started to die.
I’ll level with you. At first, being quarantined drove me nuts. My mind had been in work-mode for so long that I didn’t know how to relax. Nobody tells you that workaholism happens…