Our route across the midsection of Alabama cuts through the rural Black Belt, a name that comes from the richly fertile but often swampy lowland soil. Prime cotton-growing country, central Alabama was feverishly supportive of slavery and secession—Montgomery, the state capital, was also the first capital of the Confederacy. Central Alabama later became a crucible in the civil rights battles of the 1950s and 1960s.
Events of both of these historical moments provide most of what there is to see and do in the state. The intimate scale of things—even the biggest city, Montgomery, feels like a sleepy small town—makes for an enjoyable tour, as does the fact that for most of its 230-odd miles (370 km), US-80 alternates between old-style two-lane and newer-style four-lane freeway. It is far away from the interstates, passing through some of the South’s most interesting places.