This entry is part of a series recounting our experiences on a two-week RV trip we took to southern Mississippi, Alabama and northern Florida. The goal of this trip was to test ourselves, our two cats, and our rig to make sure we all have what it takes to be full-timers. While we posted highlights of our trip on Instagram and Facebook, these entries are some behind-the-scenes notes on our trip and experiences.
Saturday, April 21, 2018 – The Woods RV Park & Campground, Montgomery, Alabama
This was another one of those days when you just know that you’re where you’re supposed to be at just the right time.
We started the morning with some coffee and refrigerator oats, then we both got showers in the rig. For some reason, this morning it dawned on me just how bad it might be if one of the cats jumped up on the kitchen or bathroom sink and bumped the water faucet while we were gone. The holding tank would quickly fill up and start flooding the RV, and no one would be here to stop it. I mentioned it to Andy, so before we left to go sight-seeing, he turned off the water at the faucet outside. This will now become SOP (standard operating procedure).
Our first stop on our tour today was the Rosa Parks Museum and Library, but first we had to find a parking place. The only public parking we saw that wasn’t metered was a lot that charged $10 for the day. It was covered parking, so we took it, as it was almost directly across the street from the museum.
The Rosa Parks Museum and Library is part of Troy University and is located on the very corner where Rosa was arrested for not giving up her seat on the bus to a white person. There are two main parts to the museum, but we only toured one, the main exhibit dealing with her arrest and the resulting bus boycott (we also toured a temporary exhibit of artwork while we waited for the main tour to start at 11 AM).
The tour was more of an “experience” than anything else. It started with a short movie that introduced the social reality of 1955 Montgomery, setting the stage for what happened. The movie was shown in a small room on three overhead screens. The walls of the room were covered with pictures and descriptions of the main characters in the boycott.
As soon as the movie ended, two double doors opened to the next room and we walked through to find a reproduction of the bus that Rosa was riding. They had it set up so it seemed as though we were standing on the sidewalk looking into the windows of the bus. Inside the bus, the scenes were projected (like a movie through the bus windows) showing Rosa entering the bus and getting seated, then the bus pulled to the next stop and more people boarded, looking for seats. Another stop later, white people were grumbling to the driver because they were having to stand, and then the driver stopped and told Rosa and the three other black people in her row to move.
It was a powerful experience because of not only the truth of the story itself, but also the way it was presented. It really put us right in the scene, as if we were witnessing it as it happened. The scene continued until Rosa was arrested and led off the bus, and then we moved to the next exhibit that replicated the Holt church where mass meetings were held to organize the boycott. They had actual recordings of the speakers, including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the congregation singing in the meetings–very powerful.
From there we moved into the next room where they presented the timeline of the boycotts and how they worked. They talked about the car pools, about how the white employers would provide transportation for their black maids and employees, and how the white power structure tried everything in their power to break the boycott.
I learned so much that I didn’t know about this particular part of the Civil Rights movement, and the day was just getting started!
We left the museum about 12:30 PM, and my plan was to go to Touch of Soul Cafe for lunch, but we found it closed (even though their website said they were open on Saturday). Right next door was the D’Roads Cafe, which I had read good things about, so we decided to go there. From the outside, it looks like a decrepit storefront, but inside it’s beautiful. There were just a few other people there, and the waitress told us we could sit anywhere. Our only complaint was that it was really cold, so Andy had to go back to the truck to get his jacket.
The server showed us the day’s menu written on a small whiteboard (it changes daily based on what’s in season). It all looked and sounded good but wasn’t vegan, but at the bottom of the board was written “Vegan, vegetarian and paleo options available.” I asked the server about those options and she said she would have the chef come out to discuss them with us.
The chef came to our table a few minutes later. She was a short Latina (Cuban?) woman wearing a tan drivers hat, and she was so helpful. She talked about the different vegetables she could prepare. We asked her if she could fix fried sweet plantains, and she smiled a huge smile and said “Of course!”. Then she asked if we were picky eaters, and we said “No, as long as it’s not meat.” She said, “Don’t worry, I’m gonna fix you something beautiful!”
And she did! A little later the server came back with two plates of different vegetables, seasoned slightly spicy, with lots of onion. There was also a small cornbread-type bun, split almost like a pita pocket, that was stuffed with fresh spinach–it was scrumptious. And a little later, the chef came out with the fried plantains, done perfectly.
After our meal, she came back and talked with us for a bit about our RV life, and how she also wants to travel by RV after her daughter gets out of school in a few years. She gave us her business card and told us to keep in touch. Janett Malparlida, thanks again for a wonderful experience at D’Road Cafe!
After lunch, our next stop was the Freedom Rides Museum, located in the old Greyhound Bus station a few blocks away. When we entered the museum, we were greeted immediately by the receptionist, who told us that there two actual Freedom Riders visiting today. She introduced us to Al and Kredelle Petway, brother and sister, who were part of the Freedom Riders movement in 1961. They were in town because Kredelle is participating in a panel discussion about the Freedom Riders tonight, so they had stopped by the museum to visit.
It just so happened that a small group of students and their teacher from Georgia also showed up at the museum at the same time, so they set up an impromptu question-and-answer session where we could all learn about their experiences. Al and Kredelle, along with their father, didn’t ride a bus (I mistakenly thought the Freedom Riders were all on buses). They actually flew on a commercial flight from Montgomery to Jackson, Mississippi, where they were arrested upon arrival (other Freedom Riders also took trains).
I knew vaguely about the bus bombing, and about the mob violence in Anniston, Birmingham and Montgomery when the buses would pull in. But I didn’t realize that Jackson became the focus of the movement when it became apparent that it was too dangerous for all of them to try to continue to New Orleans. Over 300 people were arrested and held in Jackson jails and Parchman Penitentiary. Their treatment was horrendous. It sickens me to think about it.
We felt so fortunate to be in the right place at the right time to meet Al and Kredelle. They were so gracious and generous with their stories and experiences, and the young students especially were enthralled. I know I’ll never be the same because of today.
After we left the museum we walked around downtown some more, looking at the architecture. There are some beautiful old buildings in Montgomery, including the First Baptist Church and the First Presbyterian Church buildings. There’s a wonderful fountain in a traffic circle from where you can see the State Capitol building up the street.
We thoroughly enjoyed our tour of downtown Montgomery, but we started feeling a few sprinkles and decided we had better get back to the RV since we had left windows and vents open. We got home and set up our lawn chairs on our “porch” and enjoyed the afternoon–I eventually came inside and took a short nap.
We ate leftover Spaghetti Puttanesca for dinner, did a little route planning for tomorrow and called it a night.
I checked my work schedule for next week, and sure enough, Julie has me booked up with travel on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, so there won’t be any re-entry recovery time. It’s going to be a huge shock to the system, going back to work next week. 😦