It was, in some ways, a different world: not only more desperately hot and humid than I'd imagined, but full of American flag clothing, churches in obscure denominations, shiny white trucks, billboards advertising Jesus, and... surprisingly few Trump signs. That last made me wonder. My kid was at times uncomfortable, nervous that they would be singled out for disapproval or, worse, confrontation, on the basis of their purple hair and unconventional gender presentation. Nothing like that ever happened, though.
The food was different, too.
Things we ate included: at least 3 meals at a Waffle House. McDonald's ice cream cones. Burger King milkshakes. Fried crawfish po-boys. Lots of french fries. Fried catfish. Steamed shrimp and crab. Seafood boudin balls. Something that I ignorantly referred to as "gumbo" but which was actually called "sausage, okra, and shrimp." Crawfish etouffee. An amazing caprese salad at a fancy cheese shop in New Orleans, with real bufala mozzarella. Beignets and cafe au lait at the Cafe du Monde. Actual gumbo. A sort of crawfish etouffee- Eggs Benedict. Pulled pork and more fried seafood, potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans at a barbecue joint in Texas. Caramel apples covered in additional things like chocolate, marshmallows, and nuts. Fried shrimp po-boys. More french fries. Subway sandwiches (twice) and chips. Chicken, fried fish, corn fritters, mac & cheese, mashed potatoes from a supermarket deli in Louisiana (eaten in the car with the air conditioning running). Pineapple soda, Cokes. Several beers. (On this trip my child learned to like both unsweetened coffee and Coke. They were also offered beer at least three times-- they declined-- and made their peace with stopping regularly at McDonald's.) A number of biscuits. Gross bagels from a motel, sausage and egg sandwich from a motel, Holiday Inn omelets. Hot chili and lime Takis. A very nice sushi dinner on a balcony overlooking a river in South Carolina. Endless cups of bad coffee, an occasional apple or handful of baby carrots or cheese stick or packet of almonds purchased in desperation for something wholesome.
Reading back through the list of things we ate-- now almost two months later-- it sounds sort of decadent and amazing. At the time, it was just cloying, overwhelming, like swimming in a vat of fry oil.