Home leave is for a lot of things: eating, shopping, seeing family and friends. But the real reason FSOs have 4+ weeks of paid home leave between assignments is to get reacquainted with America after years of living overseas, to strengthen our bond with the country we represent professionally every day. To this end (and also because I enjoy it) I try to use at least part of my home leave to get out and see America. Last time I went to Yellowstone, which was awesome. This time I was buying a car to take to Ethiopia with me, so I thought why not take a leisurely drive through the South on the way to DC? And I did, with my sister Beth along for company. It was amazing.
Over the course of 2 weeks I drove my spunky new car Ruby more than 2,000 miles with stops in New Orleans, Natchez, Montgomery, Birmingham, Atlanta, Savannah, Charleston, Asheville, the Blue Ridge Mountains, and many smaller breaks along the way. I danced to a swing version of "The Fresh Prince of Bel Air." I saw an alligator eat marshmallows. I toured Native American ceremonial mounds. I ran my fingers through the water at the Civil Rights Memorial. I felt the rain dripping off the Spanish moss on the live oaks in Savannah. I stood on Fort Sumter where the first shots of the Civil War were fired. I soaked in a hot tub surrounded by forest. I bought buckwheat flour ground on a restored frontier water wheel mill. I heard a hymn played on stalactites. It was amazing.
And I ate. Oh god, did I eat. Shrimp and grits. Biscuits and gravy. Po'boys and hush puppies. Bread pudding and buttermilk pie. Pancakes and hash browns. At least three varieties of barbecue. Fresh peaches dripping with sweetness. Fried chicken until I could burst. Modern haute cuisine and traditional fare. Fine dining and "meat and three" from styrofoam boxes. It was amazing.
If you but mention the words "road trip" to me I will tell you all about it in enthusiastic and *exhaustive* detail, but if you don't have time for that check out the map with some of the places we went and things we saw along the way. It was, in case you haven't gotten it yet, amazing.