My Southern Journey From Ocean To Mountain
While I have been lucky to live in four states in the South, I have been even more fortunate to visit many of the South’s best cities. The region has a rich history, even though some of it is embarrassing and tragic. Even with blemishes, the South has become a region with much to offer.
Each place I have lived in the South has been completely different than the other. Both of my parents and grandparents are from South Florida, and I was blessed to experience the great cities of Jupiter and West Palm Beach. The lifestyle there is very different than living in rural Virginia; suburban Olive Branch, Mississippi; and beautiful Asheville, North Carolina.
Born in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, you might assume I had a beach-filled childhood, but because of my parents’ age, my family had to seek assistance from my grandparents in Asheville, North Carolina.
Asheville is one of the most beautiful cities in the whole country. It has a small town vibe with large buildings and mountain views. Leaving the beach for a farm house was quite the change, but the beauty of the Blue Ridge Mountains was better than the sandy beaches of Jupiter, Florida.
I remember living in the farm house and going out in the garden with my father to help him pick ripe vegetables and fruit. I also recall lying in the hammock with my mom under the cherry tree picking fresh red cherries while we enjoyed a beautiful sunny spring morning. I will never forget these childhood memories.
Arguably, the best attraction in Asheville is the elegant Biltmore Estate, the largest privately-owned house in the United States at 178,926 square feet. This mansion provides sights and even sounds of the great Gilded Age in the late 19th century of the United States.
Imagine the smallest town you’ve ever lived in, and I would be willing to bet it’s not as small as Victoria, Virginia. The town started as a booming railroad town for Tidewater Railway where most railroad employees and families lived.
Pieces of railroad history remain. The red caboose #342 is on display in downtown Victoria near the Victoria Railroad Park with old railroad cars and tracks. The town’s population in 2017 was only 1,642. Victoria has only one stoplight.
Living in such a small town made it an awesome place to grow up. My friends and I could ride our bikes anywhere in town we wanted to. I lived one block from the elementary school, and the high school and middle school were less than a mile away. The schools are some of the smallest schools in the state with an average of 80 students in each graduating class.
Living in Virginia meant it was only a short, three-hour drive to the nation’s capital. I was lucky to get a special tour of Washington, D.C. because my father wrote to our district representative, and he allowed us to tour the Capitol building and White House seeing things normal tours usually don’t offer. Since that trip, I have loved politics and history. Everyone should visit Washington, D.C because it is the most important city our nation has.
Transitioning from Virginia to Mississippi during my 8th grade was the biggest culture shock I have ever experienced. Going from small town Victoria with 80 kids in your grade to Southaven with 650 kids in your grade was scary for an 8th grader. My middle school had more students than Victoria’s whole population.
The town size was not the only difference. Every year I lived in Virginia, it snowed, but that was different in Mississippi. The summer heat and humidity are brutal, but the Southern charm is still there.
A 15-minute drive to downtown Memphis provided a quick escape to big city life for a high-schooler. Memphis had a professional basketball organization, a minor league baseball team, and a Division 1 university offering many year-round sporting events.
The famous Beale Street provides delicious food, from traditional American to Cajun, to the world’s best barbecue. And the world-famous Peabody Hotel has elegant old South traditions along with the Peabody ducks.
The South continues to deal with its history, but no matter where you live, the region has a way of shaping you. Whether you live in South Florida; stunning Asheville, North Carolina; rural Virginia, or the suburbs of Memphis, the South has some of the best people and food in the country. With so much history, anywhere you go in the South, you can learn.