Driving through Western Alabama on my way to Mississippi, I passed through the area that was hit hard by the tornadoes of 2011. The signs are still everywhere: twisted trees, new mobile homes, new roofs, and the rotting hulls of buildings not yet cleared away by bulldozer or time. I don’t know how wide the path of destruction was, or if more than one tornado had hit the area. The decimation seemed to go on for miles.
I was reminded of the tornado season of 1974. I was living in Huntsville Alabama when the largest outbreak of tornadoes ever recorded to that point (148) hit Alabama and 12 other states, killing over 300 people.
I am taking a little trip this weekend back to Mississippi. I haven’t been in almost 25 years and am really looking forward to it. It sort of seems strange that I spent a great deal of my youth in Alabama, but never went to Mississippi until I was out of high school and living in Tennessee. This will be only my fourth time there.
I don’t remember anything about the first time I went. I took a friend back to school in Oxford and the passage of time has erased everything except for the memory that I went.
I remember a few more things about the trip I took to Greenville. At the time I was a Navy A-6 mechanic stationed in Virginia Beach and was “chosen” to go retrieve a plane that had not been flown in years. The aircraft’s manufacturer had a rework facility there and the plane had been flown there to serve as a facilities planning tool and then forgotten. The facility was closing down and the Navy wanted its plane back. It took us a week to get it flying again, and I remember the Master Chief telling us “If it clears the Mississippi, it belongs to the West Coast.” It actually made it to NAS Coronado before we had our tools packed up and loaded for the trip back home. I remember Greenville was flat and there wasn’t a whole lot going on there.
Of my three trips to Mississippi, I remember the last time I was there best. It was the most recent, and it was the most significant. My wife and I took a train from Birmingham Alabama to New Orleans for our honeymoon. Mississippi was flat along that route as well. There were lots of fields, rundown shacks, swamps and (presumably) snakes. We made it back alive; hopefully we will retrace our steps soon.
On this trip I am traveling by myself and, since I have almost a whole day to get there, the possibilities are endless. I have been spending the last several days planning my route. I like taking the backroads to see the “real” countryside as opposed to the sanitized version you get from Interstate highway travel. This is the kind of rambling that drives my wife crazy. She believes that when you go somewhere, you get in the car and drive until you get there, taking the fastest and most direct route. You can only go to the bathroom when you stop to put gas in the car and most meals are taken in the car. On a previous family vacation, logistical circumstances forced us to take two cars. We left about the same time, but she arrived hours before I did; I took the scenic route.
Hopefully I will see things that I have never seen before; I will definitely be going places I have never been. The anticipation is almost as much fun as the journey!