Day 1: Greenville, SC to Pearl, MS
As we merge on to I-85 west, while the shrimp and grits continue digesting, we're wide-awake and eager, settling into the X3's leather seats. We're going to get used to them, as we'll be logging 10-to-11-hour days inside the cabin. But before fully acclimating, we realize we need guidance. All epic adventures have it, be it from prophets, sorcerers, or slabs of rock. Odysseus sacrificed a young cow to meet Tiresias; fearing for the BMW's interior, we search for alternatives.
If you don't keep a careful eye out on Interstate 77, you'll blow right past the Georgia Guidestones, which are just south of Lake Hartwell. Often labeled (like countless stateside rock formations) as the American Stonehenge, the monument consists of six granite slabs that tower 18 feet over the surrounding green fields and distant trees. Assembled in 1979, the project was financed by one R.C. Christian, which an explanatory tablet set off to the side proudly labels a pseudonym.
The stones' intention, as inscribed, is to lead humanity to an age of reason. There are 10 rules -- "Unite humanity with a living new language," "Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts," "Avoid petty laws and useless officials," to name a few -- that appear on the face of each rock in different languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, Hebrew, Hindi, Russian, Spanish, and Swahili). An air of mysticism is not uncommon with towering rocks inscribed with cryptic messages in foreign languages, but it's hard to mask our awe.
While the guidelines are intriguing, they don't aide our immediate concern: lunch. With stomachs growling, we zoom past Atlanta and enter Alabama, which might be the slowest state in the U.S. The speed limit drops to 55 mph immediately after crossing the border, and three police cars wait under the first underpass. The Valentine 1 doesn't get much rest here, nor do our hunger pangs.
Waiting is worth it, though, because Dreamland Bar-B-Que lies in Birmingham. One of a small, privately owned chain, the restaurant is a must-visit, if not for the specialty ribs, but for the sign inside that expressively forbids farting. Our appetizer consists of white bread slices and BBQ sauce to dip them in. We opt for pulled pork sandwiches in the restaurant's signature tangy, lip-tingling sauce, but the star is the banana pudding. Creamy and rich, it may be the best on earth.