Notes from a Bus Ride to Birmingham

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Gadsden, Alabama Greyhound Bus Station

Because I had time, but no personal car, during my trip home, I rode Greyhound to visit my cousin and his wife in Birmingham, Alabama one weekend. Below are notes and questions about this area of the South new to me, typed looking out a big bus window. These are drive-by notes, immediate and not reflective. 

On the Greyhound bus to Birmingham this Friday afternoon. We left Chattanooga around 4 p.m. and have since passed through Trenton, Georgia and Fort Payne, Alabama.

The bus is empty. Just me, a driver inside a plexiglass booth, a woman behind the door, and two other men, one in front of me leaning into the aisle and the other in the farthest seat in the back.

Because the promised WIFI does not exist, I am enjoying looking into cars and trucks as they drive beneath me. A large, round woman passenger holding a small blond dog. A passenger seat filled with rumpled towels. A man in a Bama-red convertible mustang. Lots of single, elderly drivers in shiny, clean American-made cars.

I guess 59 is a small highway through Alabama, just two lanes in each direction cutting between low hills, the tops of pines and maples like green cauliflower.

I just realized that this part of Alabama, and Birmingham, is one hour behind Chattanooga, so the three and a half hour drive is actually four and half hours.

Right now we are mid-way to Birmingham.

We are now driving through Gadsen Alabama, seeing lots of single-story houses, brick buildings, a low jail stretching wide behind a barb wire fence.

There is a Mi Pueblo supermarket, a huge Latino grocery store, now empty in a strip mall next to the also vacant Big Lots store.

The Gadsden Greyhound office is in a small brick building with its metal sign, above the door, turned upside down, as if a gust of wind had come down the highway and flipped the square sign around.  The Greyhound silver dog is on its back in rigor mortis.

We are crossing Coosa River, two men are standing in an unmoving motor boat flipping their fishing poles behind them and casting their lures.

Driving by Shoney’s Restaurant and the Coosa Town Center, this must be the new area of town. Yes, it is. There’s a Panera Bread next to a Dental Office.

Red Bank (Tennessee) use to have a Shoney’s with a huge salad buffet and a prize-like hot fudge sundae made of two dark brownies sandwiching a square of vanilla ice cream with whipped cream and a cherry on top. ¬†It eventually closed down.

If a city can support a Shoney’s for four decades, what does that mean?

We are driving past the Goodyear Plant that looks like a penitentiary.

Driving by the Center of Hope Thrift Store adjacent to Dollar General. Church-related resale shops are everywhere. Do churches open thrift stores instead of publishing cookbooks now?

Driving by a factory.

We entered Glencoe, and passing its elementary school, library, First Baptist Church, Senior Center, all in the span of a few blocks.

Now on the highway.

Passing estates with large fields, many fenced in, one named the South Wind Plantation, seems odd, out of place since they are the kind of houses you would expect more isolated, not with their driveways leading to a four-lane highway.

We apparently entered Alexandria by the signage on all of the buildings.

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