This is my favorite part of the country and where I have done most of my traveling:
Virginia- a little something for everyone here. You’ve got the big city in DC, where my sister used to live, along with the growing Hampton Roads area. The first vacation that I remember with any clarity was VA Beach. There’s also Chincoteague Island on the Eastern shore. I’ve also been to Norfolk, Williamsburg, Richmond, Roanoke, Charlottesville and a few towns in the SW portion, all of which have their highlights and plenty of history. The western edge of the state is rural and mountainous much like eastern Kentucky. I’ve been to the highest point, which is Mt. Rogers at 5723 ft. Ran the Blue Ridge half in Roanoke in 2014.
West Virginia- Used to live here. Not much in way of big cities here but you’ll find a lot of friendly people. I went to undergrad here in Wheeling. The northern tip is a hybrid of the Midwest and northeast while the rest of the state is southern. Roads are winding and very hilly but well maintained. Ironically, the Marshall Univ. marathon in Huntington is one of the flattest in the country and was run in 2013 as well as local 5Ks. I’ve been all over this state including interstates and country roads with memorable times in Wheeling, Charleston and Beckley, Morgantown and Huntington. I’ve also been to the high point, Spruce Knob at over 4700 ft.
Kentucky- I’ve been all over this state as well including Lexington, the capitol in Frankfurt and Louisville, which has a nice entertainment district. I also saw the Louisville Slugger museum. The Kentucky Derby race in Louisville is high on my list to do in the future. The eastern third is largely Appalachian country with very friendly down to Earth people but unfortunately there is still quite a bit of poverty. The terrain becomes less hilly as one travels west and while both areas are solidly southern, western Kentucky is very much different from the eastern third. Ran the Bluegrass half in 2015 in Lexington.
Arkansas- I’ve been here three times and have seen much of this state. The negative is lots of poverty in the Delta but once you travel further west, there’s a lot to like here. Toured Little Rock in 2014 and stopped for a meal in Pine Bluff. The best part is the Ozarks in the northwest region. The elevation may not be as high but the landscape is still striking nonetheless. Saw the high point, Mt. Magazine at 2700 ft with a nearby lake. Ran the White River half in 2011 near Mountain Home.
Tennessee- I’ve been all over all 3 distinct regions of this state. I prefer the mountainous eastern third and if I could not live in Birmingham, Chattanooga would be my next choice. Enjoyed the Scenic City half here in 2011. I’ve also had some good times in Gatlinburg/Knoxville. The highest point is Klingman’s Dome at over 6000 ft just across the NC border. I’ve also been to Nashville for the Grand Ole Opry, prolotherapy and the Country Music half. I’ve also toured Memphis, set a PR in the Memphis St. Jude half and did well in the Elvis 5K at Graceland. Saw the Rock n Soul museum and Sun Studios too.
North Carolina- Being on the border of my old home state, I’ve been here countless times, mostly in the Charlotte and Asheville areas. I’ve driven the Blue Ridge Parkway and have seen Mt. Mitchell and Grandfather Mountain as well as great scenery near the Smokies. I’ve also been to Winston-Salem, Chapel Hill and Carolina Beach, just outside of Wilmington. Ran the Charlotte Thunder Road half in 2012.
South Carolina- lived here and have probably stepped foot in every county. I spent many happy hours at Hilton Head, Myrtle Beach and Isle of the Palms. Again, the low country (Charleston), midlands (Columbia) and upstate (Greenville) are 3 distinct regions. I like them all but the upstate is my favorite with the beautiful lake country, foothills of the Blue Ridge and proximity to big cities. However, when I couldn’t get a job here, it was time to move on. I attended Clemson Univ. for my MBA and have mixed feelings about it. This is where I met the doctor who officially diagnosed me with adrenal fatigue. In terms of racing, I set a 10K PR here that was not bettered until 2008. Ran the Greenville Spinx half in 2015 to cap off the Half 2 Run challenge.
Georgia- best friend Nick lives in Atlanta so I’ve been there countless times for various events. I’ve run a local 5K here as well as the ING GA half marathon, Silver Comet 10K and Peachtree. There will be more races here in the future now that Nick is a runner too. I’ve also had plenty of good memories in Savannah touring the city and surfing the waves on the coast. I’ve also been to Augusta and Columbus. There is also some nice scenery in the north Georgia Mountains including Brasstown Bald at 4784 ft.
Florida- I’ve been all over here as well except for the keys. Miami and Pensacola may be in the same state but are more than 12 hours apart and worlds away culturally. This really should be 2 states if you ask me. North of the Orlando area and some isolated areas around Lake Okeechobee are still predominantly southern while the rest of the state is almost all tourists/transplants. Some of the places that I’ve been include Miami, Tampa, Orlando, Jacksonville, Tallahassee, Okeechobee, Panama City and Pensacola. My debut half marathon was at Seaside on the panhandle in 2007 and also ran the Fiesta 10K in Pensacola in 2013.
Alabama- my home since 2006 and Birmingham is the right place for me. I think I’ve been to every county. I have been to Mobile, Gulf Shores, Montgomery, Auburn, Tuscaloosa, Birmingham and Huntsville. This state has a mix of flat lands and rolling hills with surprisingly mountainous areas in the northeast including a high point of 2407 ft. My first trip here came in 1992 for the Junior Olympics in Mobile. Since my comeback, I have also raced in Montgomery, Mobile, Birmingham and Huntsville. Many PRs were set on Alabama soil. Big races include Mercedes, Montgomery and the Rocket city full in Huntsville.
Mississippi- With the exception of the gulf coast, this state’s terrain is rolling throughout with plenty of pine trees. Unfortunately, there is still quite a bit of poverty in some areas. Still, there are plenty of nice spots around Jackson and Tupelo. Natchez and Vicksburg are also worth seeing. I've raced here twice with disappointing results (Run For Life Half and Gum Tree 10K)
Louisiana- New Orleans and Shreveport may be worlds apart but are part of the same state. I have been to New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Alexandria and Shreveport. I PR'd a half in Baton Rouge and I also did the Crescent City Classic in New Orleans, where I performed poorly.
Texas- I’ve been through the northeast corner and spent a night in Texarkana. I returned in 2012 for a PR in the 3M Austin half and got to see San Antonio and College Station along with the Houston airport on the way. I've also visited Galveston and Dallas/Ft. Worth.
Oklahoma- I stopped at a gas station just across the Red River in ’04 and returned in 2006 and saw a fair amount of the northeast portion and stopped in the town of Miami for a meal. Ran the Route 66 half in Tulsa in 2014.
Question that was asked of me:
How far north/south/west does the "southern accent" extend?
While there are many different varieties even within the states, an identifiable southern sound can be heard in the following towns:
-as far north as Morgantown, WV. Yes, there is a clear difference immediately after crossing from PA into WV. Also, the far southern portions of OH, IN and IL sound much like Kentucky.
-as far south as Clewiston, Florida (south side of Lake Okeechobee) though Ocala is generally considered the last southern town with a sizable population.
-as far west as Odessa, Texas, which is very close to the New Mexico border. I've been told that it starts/end at the Texas border but does not extend further west