Spells of the Deep South

The United States is a really big frickin' country.  When you move across it, meeting the people who inhabit this place, it becomes apparent why our political climate is so confusing.  There's A LOT of us.  And we all have such different priorities. 

How'd you like to live in Greasy Corner, Arkansas, USA?

How'd you like to live in Greasy Corner, Arkansas, USA?

As I followed the Mississippi River Bicycle Trail through the rural communities along the Mississippi River, I felt like a foreigner.  People spoke strangely, cooked strangely, and, it seemed to me, thought strangely. It was like entering an entirely different world.

One of the things that added to the eerie alienness of the deep South was the kudzu vine.  Kudzu is a plant native to Asia, and it is wrecking havoc upon the ecosystems of many places, including the Southern United States.  I've never seen anything so terrifyingly invasive: the leafy vines grow at such an alarming rate that they swallow whole trees and buildings in a few years, leaving only a box-shaped mass of greenery where a plantation house once stood.

Entire forests are being swallowed by kudzu vines.

Entire forests are being swallowed by kudzu vines.

One night in Mississippi, I woke from a nightmare that I was being smothered by kudzu.  Sweaty and shaking, I made myself unzip my tent and peer out into the dark with a flashlight to prove to myself that the vines weren't growing over the nylon walls of my tent.  Yet.


Kudzu Vine

Along the Mississippi River

Another otherworldly plant is the native Spanish moss that hangs from trees throughout the South.  The grey tendrils hang languidly in the humid air, swaddling tree limbs like delicate lace. To my surprise, I learned Spanish moss isn't a true moss at all:  it's a member of the bromeliad family, which are the category of flowering plants that include pineapples and succulents.


Spanish Moss

Near Live Oak, Florida


As an intrepid international adventurer, I wasn't prepared for the spells that the deep South would cast upon me.  Throughout my ride along the Mississippi River to Louisiana, and then all the way to Florida along the Gulf Coast, I was mesmerized by the secrets contained in these far reaches of my home country.