[photo post] Rev. Harrison Mayes in the Wild

This might sound crazy to some of y’all but this was one of the highlights of my road trip.

Most everyone knows that I’m a sucker for random roadside shtick, especially if it’s strange, in bad taste or is offensively religious (or offensive to the religious!). Given this last point, it may come as a surprise to a lot of people that I’m WAY into religious symbols, artwork and other creative ways people express their belief in whatever god they choose to believe in.

Let me get something off my chest, though — something I DON’T like? When old friends act like they want to get back in touch, maybe catch up, so they ask for your address. When you check your P.O. Box and see two envelopes with their name on them, you get excited about it. But when you open them up? They’re well wishes, but mostly a smug attempt at saying “you’re wrong” because you don’t have the same religious beliefs they have.

This really happened to me last week and no, I wasn’t a fan of it. Also: Their attempt to save my soul didn’t work. My soul isn’t lost. My patience with religion and the religious may be lost, but definitely not my soul. Find something better to do with your time.

Something I DO like — stories about religious freaks that did freaky shit in the name of their religion. Enter the Reverend Harrison Mayes.

Reverend Mayes was a Kentucky coal miner who made a deal with his god that he’d dedicate the rest of his life to him if the deity saved him from a collapsed mine. The Rev survived, and unlike everyone else that makes a deal with god, he followed through with his promise. Mayes spent the rest of his days constructing concrete crosses and hearts that professed his faith — usually with the phrases Get Right With God or Made Right With God. He’d take these monstrosities around the country in a friend’s truck and erect them in various, seemingly random places. Often these places were on private property so he’d include a note that told the landowner that if they were to remove the sign they were at risk of burning forever in a lake of fire.

Mayes built a house for himself in the shape of a cross and even constructed a few signs with instructions on where to erect them after his death (in 1986) — some of them on other planets, even. The vast majority of these signs have since been removed or have been eroded past recognition. There’s a museum in Clinton, TN, that boasts an enormous collection of his work. However, it’s not unheard of to still run across one of his pieces of art in the wild, and that’s exactly what I did while driving through Cleveland, TN, on my way back home. There, on the roadside next to Dalton Pike Baptist Church was one of Rev. Mayes’ crosses.

When I realized what I had just driven past, I immediately pulled a U-turn and went back with my DSLR in hand. I wasn’t about to let such a strange piece of religious gold pass me by and in a strange way I feel fortunate to have gotten to see it.

Anyway, when you’re driving along the lesser-traveled roads in the south, keep your eyes open. You may come across the life work of an infamously delusional coal miner that really loved his god.

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[photo post] Providence Farm

One of my stops on my birthday roadtrip was Greenville, SC, to see my boy Jon and his wife Kaylee. Jon’s story is an inspirational one to say the least, and I’d be lying if I said his story hasn’t pushed me to write my own the way I have. When Jon and I became friends, he was a skinny wiener. Before long, that skinny winer turned into a fit freak. The fit freak turned into a muscle head. The muscle head turned into a personal trainer and fitness model. The personal trainer and fitness model then started his own meal prep business called ELEV8 Nutrition. ELEV8 Nutrition took off and eventually put Jon where he is now — owning his own farm-to-table restaurant in the heart of downtown Greenville — Farm Fresh Fast.

It’s sustainable. It’s literally fresh from the farm. Yet it’s fast food. With a drive-thru, even. I spent an entire day of my trip with Jon that included opening the restaurant, having amazing turkey bacon and fried duck eggs for breakfast, helping set up a catering event, attending a restaurant equipment auction, checking out one of the farms that provide his restaurant with pork and poultry, then helping put a few finishing touches on his most-recent venture, Seedlings – the first-ever farm-to-table kid’s restaurant located in downtown Greenville’s Children’s Museum.

I just happened to have my camera with me at the farm so we’ve dubbed it Media Day for Farm Fresh Fast.

If you want to see more pigs and chickens, check ’em out in high-res on my Flickr account. Otherwise, here are these:

Get social with FFF, Seedlings and Providence Farm

[photo post] South of the Border

Before I went on my recent birthday road trip, I scoured sites like Roadside America and Atlas Obscura looking for oddball stuff to do that wasn’t too far out of the way from my intended route. I found lots of great strangeness in Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia, but when I spotted South of the Border in Hamer, SC, I knew it was going to be a stop — it was required.

To make things better, it wasn’t out of the way at all — it’s right off the interstate. You actually have to drive through it. And you’re actually going to want to.

Tacky, kitschy, loud. Honestly, kind of racist. South of the Border is a tourist trap with a few restaurants, shops, an alligator petting zoo, an amusement park, a truck stop, hotels and a few other strange things. I showed up just after sunrise so only one restaurant was open and I didn’t eat there. Each of the stores seemed like the same store just on opposite sides of the road, the petting zoo was closed and the amusement park looked like it hadn’t been operational in a decade.

But it was still amazing.

Enormous statues litter the quarter mile of Mexican culture stereotypes. Cows, chickens, alligators, cheeseburgers and … Pedro. Pedro is everywhere. When you show up, you drive between Pedro’s legs. Two Pedros flank the entrance to the gator petting zoo. Pedro is on every t-shirt, magnet and souvenir cup. Reportedly, every employee goes by the name Pedro while they’re on the clock despite the fact that all the employees I saw were black women.

Anyway, South of the Border is real and I’m happy it is. If you find yourself crossing the Carolinas border via Interstate 95, do yourself a favor and be drawn in by the 30 or so billboards with Pedro’s mustached mug painted on them.

I also spotted what appeared to be an abandoned restaurant nearby with some great graffiti and grime scattered about and had to take a few photos because that’s just what I do.

As always, here’s a few photos. If you want to see more pictures of the high-quality variety, you can find them on my Flickr account.

Get social with South of the Border: