Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

AT LARGE: Coming of Age at 105 MPH in a Blue Plymouth

Newspaper article The Tuscaloosa News

AT LARGE: Coming of Age at 105 MPH in a Blue Plymouth

Article excerpt

Since my retirement from full-time duties here at The Tuscaloosa News 15 months ago, I have spent a lot of time in Scottsboro with my brother, sister-in-law and 91-year-old mother, who moved in with them earlier this year.

As a son of a Methodist minister in the north Alabama conference, I grew up in more than half a dozen towns, most of them small ones all over the northern part of the state. But I always consider Scottsboro, where I came of age and graduated from high school, home.

To get to Scottsboro, in the northeast corner of the state, and avoid crossing Sand Mountain to its east, the best way to go is up the mostly two-laned U.S. Highway 79, which connects Birmingham to that area of the state through Tarrant, Pinson, Cleveland, Locust Fork and various other hamlets.

Somewhere along the way -- I have never been able to pin it down - - you leave the Mobile Bay watershed, the largest east of the Mississippi and enter the Tennessee Valley, itself part of the vast Mississippi River watershed that drains half the country.

Rain that falls in Buffalo, N.Y. and in Minneapolis, Minn., eventually makes its way to New Orleans, just as does rain that falls in the Tennessee Valley. Rain that falls in Tuscaloosa enters the Gulf of Mexico through the Mobile Delta.

My favorite part of U.S. 79 is its nearly 30-mile shot from Guntersville and across the wide Tennessee, through the massive backwaters of Lake Guntersville to Scottsboro, hard by Sand Mountain, along which the main channel of the Tennessee River runs.

As I came of driving age in Scottsboro in the mid-'60s, my father knew better than to buy a Pontiac GTO, Olds 442, Dodge Charger or any of the original "muscle cars" my friends had; he knew what the many sports car and hot rod magazines I subscribed to indicated about my youthful attitude toward driving.

Instead, our preacher's family car was a modest Plymouth with the now-legendary Slant 6 engine in it. That blue Plymouth could certainly not keep up with the monstrous V-8s my friends tooled around in at the Dairy Twist every night, and for good reason in my father's way of thinking. …

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