I'd arrived to the event just as most of the folks were setting up, and met a guy from Minnesota named Monte. He does custom lettering and pinstriping on bikes and travels around the United States, going to bike shows and painting peoples rides. Neat way to make a living, and his work was spectacular. My bike's name is Bertha and this seemed like a perfect souvenir.
As I got closer and closer to Panama City Beach, I passed lots of pick-up trucks towing motorcycles. Seemed strange to me, to drive your bike to a bike event, but I'm not sure how comfortable or easy to ride these bikes are. Not my thing, but maybe they make someone else happy I guess.
There are some symbols that will forever be associated with the antebellum southern United States. These symbols will never fully go away, they may not be statues but they seem to represent many of the same things. Maybe we don't need them to go away, maybe we need them to remind ourselves of what we were, and what we hope to never become again. I'm a white male, born into incredible privilege. I can't apologize away or change this, but I can be more aware and I can be appreciative that other people have not had it so easy, and I can dedicate myself to always making decisions in my own life with these fundamental truths in mind.
I was enjoying my ride so much that I didn't notice that I was running dangerously low on fuel. The nearest gas station was in a small hamlet called Pittsview, and this father and son arrived to eat some lunch as I was filling up. To be honest I didn't understand half of what they were saying, their accents were so thick yet we still managed some friendly goodbyes and I was back on the road.
Crossing into Alabama, I pulled onto the Martin Luther King Parkway just as the Drive-By Truckers came onto my earphones. Fitting. This decommissioned gas station was formerly a pawn shop but had become a latin american grocery store. It seemed incredible to me, that in the fifty years since some of the most pitched battles of the Civil Rights movement were fought, how much had changed and how much will continue to change. I believe the future will be brighter than the past. It's great to be alive.
Tried eating as southern as possible a breakfast as a vegetarian can get at a Waffle House. Pecan waffle with a side of jalapeno and onion grits. As someone with a fair bit of experience in hospitality, this was one of the most well-run operations I've seen in a while. The staff was working together as a team and food flew out of the open kitchen. The service was great as well, and Dominique my server had never met a Canadian before. I told her to look me up if she ever made it down to Toronto.
As I left Lithia Springs on my way to Panama City Beach, Florida I drove by a couple of Waffle Houses where I'd noticed that bikers had gathered. As I was feeling both hungry and curious, I finally decided to stop into one and ask the folks what was going on. It turned out that there was a big biker rally called 'Thunder Beach' that was ironically happening right where I was headed. I found the guys kind of obnoxious so I said my goodbyes and went inside for some waffles.
Don's awesome arcade had a Harley Davidson pinball table. I'm on a pinball trip riding a Harley Davidson. You better believe I stayed up much later than I should have to drop some initials on this table.
Donald runs an Air BnB with his partner, which happens to house one of the most impressive private arcades I've ever experienced. Originally from New York, he and his partner moved to the Atlanta area when a job transfer was offered. He described being gay in the south as "not that big of a deal", in that "I don't advertise it, but everyone knows and no one cares." I liked Donald.
I wasn't enjoying the traffic on the outskirts of Atlanta so I turned right. I'm glad I did.
Of the entire trip, this was the only photo that I took of a subject without asking for permission first. The symbolism, of an older white man wearing a Confederate army hat sitting in a Mexican Burrito restaurant, owned by a family that had recently immigrated to the U.S. in the heart of Dixie was just too good of a shot not to take.
Sure they've gutted medicare, but who needs that when you have the 'Health Mart' in the Men's Bathroom.
As you pull through the Rich Mountain Wilderness state park into Ellijay, Georgia you might look up at just the right moment and see a sign that says "El Burrito To Go". Something about the sign made me hungry and immediately turn off the road, and boy was my gut right. Veronica, one of the owners was doing brisk business at the cash register, taking orders, giving change with one hand firmly on Pedro at all times. The burrito was great, and I'm just disappointed that I couldn't come back the next day to the shops tenth anniversary party that she invited me to. She told me the business had originally started in the back of a gas station and has been growing ever since. In gone with the wind country, this is the American Dream.
On my way towards Lithua Springs, GA I drove past these friendly folks burning a couch and a bunch of other stuff. Language was a bit of a barrier but they were cool with me taking a photo.
Asheville is pretty open about its left of center culture and politics despite being in the heart of the Confederacy. To quote a popular bumper sticker and slogan I saw around this town; "namaste y'all".
I feel like a dummy for misplacing the slip of paper that had these two guys names on it. They were my neighbours at the Sapphire Inn and worked in the mines during the week before returning to their families on the weekend. When I arrived they were sitting out front of their room, listening to classic southern soul music and drinking cheap beers. We talked about bikes mostly, and Canada's more progressive marijuana laws and subsequently their plans on immigration north. I liked these guys.
Sami is the owner of the Sapphire Inn, located in Franklin North Carolina which is the 'gemstone capital of the world'. Most of the folks who stay with him are either miners, hikers or gem people. Sami travelled all over the world with the US Navy, before settling down with his wife and two daughters. "I like being here, as we can walk to my kids school, and we get all of our produce across the street from the Mexicans, although I'm planning on starting a garden this year."
John is the owner of the Appalacian Pinball Museum, we ran into each other just before the Asheville Pinball Museum opened when he was loading a Simpson's pinball into his truck. He's still amazed at the resurgence of popularity with pinball, and sometimes wishes the machines wouldn't break so damn much. When I asked him about politics 'things are too divided right now, and I try to stay away from it as much as I can'.
Sure there was a room with over 40 tables, but I spent most of my time on this one. Awesome game that I hadn't played much, and I was determined to leave some initials before I left.
Was in pinball heaven for a few hours. Great selection of machines and well maintained. Rocked a few games with the longhair on the left, who was visiting from out of town. He worked in a call centre and wishes "that people wouldn't think we're stupid or backwards just because of the way we speak, the condescending thing bothers me sometimes."