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What's on your mind (and how's your barbecue)? 

The South is ... Stone Mountain -- a shrine to the Confederacy and a city now dominated by African-Americans. It's Auburn Avenue in Atlanta and Selma in Alabama. And it's Freedom Tower on Miami's Biscayne Boulevard, the symbol of the flight by Cubans from Fidel Castro's tyranny.

The South is ... crawfish etouffee and beignets in New Orleans, black beans and rice in Tampa's Ybor City, and barbecue as only Southerners can do it, just about anywhere from North Carolina's coast to the Mississippi Delta.

The South is ... bluegrass, blues, zydeco and hip-hop.

The South is ... Appalachian clans whose ancestors hailed from Scotland and Ireland.

It's the rich Cajun culture of the bayou. It's burgeoning Latino communities all over. It's the tragic and heroic history of black Americans from slavery through Jim Crow and into the current era where they hold political sway in many small towns -- and in Dixie's economic capital, Atlanta.

The South is ... high school football games, thousands of suburban neighborhoods, traffic jams, acres and acres of kudzu, a landscape of scattered retirement communities and golf courses. It's metropolises peopled by migrants from throughout the nation and the world, and hamlets where families measure time in generations.

As the Nov. 2 elections approach, Democrats and Republicans alike are plotting their Southern strategies -- especially in key swing states such as Florida and North Carolina. Politicians all claim they know what you think and want -- but do they?

Staff photographer Jim Stawniak and I are taking off on a 4,000-mile odyssey to find out what's on the minds of Southerners -- and which team is going to win the Southeastern Conference. We aren't interested in preaching, but we expect that we'll be preached to.

The trip will take us from the hurricane-battered shores of Florida to Elvis' Graceland, from the North Carolina mountains to Gulf fishing villages. If we listen well enough -- and are a bit lucky -- we'll gain insights to where the South is going. At the very least, we hope to meet many fine folks, perhaps you.

Senior Editor John Sugg can be reached on the road at john.sugg@creativeloafing.com or at 404-625-7930. Invite us to dinner.

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