This year I drove through Alabama, from east to west, only stoping at a welcome center. The welcome center was nice, and the folks running the center were absolutely wonderful and enthusiastic about their state, as they should be.
While Alabama might seem flat, and boring to drive through, know that Alabama holds the richest diversity of wildlife in all of North America. According to the Encyclopedia of Alabama, Alabama has 85 species of reptiles, 70 amphibians, 433 birds, 62 mammals, 450 species of fish, and of course plenty of insects and other invertebrates. It is, as an friend says “the Amazon of North America”, and like the Amazon in South America, it is just as in danger of over-exploitation for resources.
Next time I’m in the state, I’ll spend more time outside of my car.
The road can be lonely and monotonous. It is a real joy to step out of your car, and see a smiling human face. The experience of going from the road to foot can be like walking out of a dark tunnel into shining light; like leaving a cave and walking into the midst of a tribal celebration; like walking out of a dark theater, into a bright & busy shopping mall (that last example sucks).
Upon entering the Alabama welcome center I was greeted by the cheerful voice of one of its employees. She looked like a young Sally Field, and was dressed in a ranger uniform (the welcome centers are parks, after all). My mind can’t handle going from darkness, to amazing beauty so quickly. Combined with the guilt of knowing I would not stay long in Alabama, I ducked behind the shelves of pamphlets, found a few, and politely thanked her and exited.