We left DC early Thursday morning and headed South with a long day of driving ahead but excited for all that awaited us. As we drove through Virginia and North Carolina we were greeted with steadily rising temperatures and an abundance of brilliant green hues in the form of vast fields and lush forests. Our only real issue in this first 6 hour stint was figuring out how to best dance to the legendary harmonica solo in OutKast’s Rosa Parks while still safely maintaining control of the moving vehicle. Alas, things are going pretty well so far.

Once we started getting hungry, we decided to do a quick Google Maps search for BBQ in the area and were lucky enough to find more than we could have ever imagined. We pulled off the highway and headed towards Shuler’s BBQ in Latta, SC where we discovered this gorgeous wood cabin marked by the largest waving American flag we’ve ever laid eyes upon.

Upon stepping inside we were immediately met with mouth-watering sights and smells and a warm dose of quintessential southern hospitality. The owner and staff (and those lovely accents) were so welcoming and there were nuggets of insight found lining the walls (see featured image above).

We quickly got to work on the all-you-can-eat buffet and made sure to have a whole lotta room for the fixins. Our plates were filled to the brim with collard greens, green beans, squash casserole, the sweetest sweet potatoes in all the land, pulled pork, mac n cheese, perfectly fried chicken, cornbread, biscuits, corn on the cob and more. Not only did this place have the charm and the food, they also had a great lakeside view out back we made sure to take advantage of. After wearing 3 layers around breezy DC just 24 hours prior and then being in the car for most of the day, this whole meal experience was just a spectacular shock to the system. As if the shining sun and smell of fresh timber from some nearby woodwork weren’t enough to complement the food, the sound system hit us with Surfin’ USA followed by Sam Cooke’s Twistin’ the Night Away (thanks, Maria!!) and it instantly became one of the best meals of my life. Going back inside to discover we also had access to the world’s best banana pudding and ice cream was just an added delight.

After spending a few minutes kicking back in the rocking chairs on the front porch and contemplating whether we should wait 45 minutes for the ribs to come out…we decided to get back on the road. We made it smoothly to our resting place for the night of Augusta, GA to stay with our high school buddy Meryl. Despite Meryl and all of her friends either having a med school exam on Monday or a pharma exam the following morning, the whole crew made sure to come out and make us feel right at home. We had a big family dinner with new friends Anjali, Laine, Angela, Janushi, and Katherine and immediately felt like a part of their awesome, energetic, and loving clan. I know I speak for both me and Jeff when I say we were so glad to be included and even happier to see Meryl have all these amazing friends by her side down South. Thanks for the love, y’all!  Keep kicking ass in school and taking care of each other..that’s what it’s all about!

Friday was another day with a lot of miles to cover but another great destination at the end of the road. We left Augusta before the sun came up and, thanks to a solid recommendation from my cousin Monica, immersed ourselves in the soothing sounds of Beck’s Morning Phase album to kick the day off. We continued heading South with a quick pit stop in Jacksonville for a stellar biscuit breakfast (Alyssa you’re a hero for that one).

Accompanying us at the midpoint of today’s ride was this blissful hourlong mix from Kygo which is just good vibes through and through. Highly recommend it for driving, studying, cleaning, running, OK pretty much any activity where a good mood is desired. 👌👌

https://soundcloud.com/kygo/kygo-bbc-mix-for-diplo-friends

By late afternoon we had made it down the coast to my grandmother’s house in Palm Beach Gardens and were warmly greeted by two big meals and plenty of trips down memory lane.

After an amazing dinner, the three of us went to synagogue to celebrate life and honor the memory of my late grandfather. In the six years since his passing, my grandmother has remained a beacon of inspiration and stability for all of us, bringing our family closer together than ever before. She courageously travels to distant lands whenever she has the chance, and keeps herself busy at home playing bridge with friends and taking classes in political science, music, film and more. It’s always calming and enlightening being in her presence and today was no exception. I rarely make it to services these days other than when I’m home for a holiday, but our experience tonight was a special one. Having these two incredibly important people by my side, meeting some of my grandmother’s delightful friends, and joining together in joyous song made for a night I’ll never forget.

Considering the fact we were in the car for 15+ hours the last two days, I’m pretty taken aback by how much I was compelled to write about here. I must say it’s been an inspiring week thus far and I can just feel the momentum of good energy continuing to build. Before I sign off, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite lyrics that always come to mind whenever I find myself pondering life, death, religion, or other such BIG QUESTIONS. They come courtesy of California lyricist Blu from his 2007 masterpiece Below the Heavens: 

But my people it’s time to rise
Realize there’s a heaven whether you think it’s inside or in the sky
Reach for it before it’s gone eternally
And you’re stuck here below the heavens for eternity

A big thank you to Matthew for enlightening me as to that stellar album back in the day and for everyone who’s following along thus far. Happy weekend to all and I’ll see ya soon. And don’t forget, the world is yours.