Thursday, November 15, 2007

Stars Fell on Alabama

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We've started exploring our surroundings!! We are South-east of Mobile, Alabama towards the Gulf of Mexico.

On our first outing we headed down towards the water on the local back roads. The houses that line the shore roads all sit on pillars about 10 feet off the ground and many of them are spectacular and have cut off any access to the water.

The nearest place of any size is Foley. Foley's major claims to fame seems to be 'The Tanger
Outlet Center - a 120 store factory outlet mall; there are an incredible number of medical services; and Lambert's - the 'Throwed Bun' restaurant - that will feed you till you get sick (After 2 days, I'm still suffering from overeating or a reaction to too much MSG). We brought home enough for at least one more meal. This could put me off food for a while!

The area is VERY flat and has vast fields of growing things we aren't all that sure about. We did find out that they are just now harvesting the soy bean crop, got some pictures of peanuts being harvested and saw fields and fields of cotton growing.

Peanuts grow like potatoes, underground. They plough them out and leave them for a time so the peanuts can air dry. Then they are gathered up – we’ve seen the windrows sitting in the fields but are yet to see what they do next.

Foley is the next town up from the Gulf. Gulf Shores is right at the water. Apparently Katrina took its toll on the area and most of the older buildings were either destroyed or badly damaged. They are now replaced with new high apartment buildings and condo complexes. There is very little public access to the beaches but the public beach we did find was absolutely empty - too cold – they call this winter down here (it went up to 75 F that day).

As far as we are concerned, the weather is great. Mind you, the TV is warning people to make sure to bring their animals inside because it might go down to freezing - dah! The daytime temps might go down the mid 60's but will return to mid 70's by the end of the week. Tough, eh?

The Naval Aviation Museum

Everybody we talked to here at the Park said the Aviation Museum was incredible and that we just had to go see it. I kind of took this with a grain of salt knowing how military Americans are BUT I have to agree with those folks – it is pretty spectacular.

It looks to me like it covers about four football fields and they say it houses about 150 aircraft and covers every war where aircraft were involved. There is even an IMAX theatre in there. We spent the most part of a day there and still only scratched the surface. I still want to go to the IMAX to see a film on Hurricanes and Katrina so we’ll go back again.

Food and other Interesting Places

Of course a fair amount of time is spent finding places to eat and eating foods we’ve only heard about before. Some we’ll try again and others – well I just don’t think I’ll bother. The other night we went to an Asian
Buffet-type place where we managed to fill up on Crab legs and Crawfish. They’re O.K. but geez they’re a lot of work before you get to the good stuff!!

The other day, we went out to a small village (Fairhope, AL) that used to be primarily a fishing village but got hit pretty hard by the hurricane. It completely took out their pier and wharf. They have since replaced it with a pier that extends out over the water for about 1/3 of a mile.

We did manage to talk to a few of the local fishers and watch them catch a 27 pound ‘Red Fish’ – whatever that is. I was funny; I was trying to eavesdrop on what they were talking about. I could hear them O.K., but their accents were so heavy I couldn’t understand a word they were saying.

Like so many other places along the Gulf, with the destruction came all the land developers. Apparently Real Estate prices have increased triple-fold and there is house construction everywhere.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Going from Tennessee through Georgia to Alabama

We left Tennessee early Friday Morning - about 8:30, I think, heading down some back way so we would miss the traffic and Knoxville completely.

It was the kind of road that I love and Fred hates to drive - lined with big old trees - winding - occasional clearings where you can see the hills that surround the valley - but travel speed is slow - the road is narrow and has no shoulders - but it's pretty! We wound in and out amongst the hills and trees until we finally hit a semi-big highway that had traffic lights, I swear, at every other intersection and then onto the BIG (Interstate) highway heading for Chattanooga, TN.

Then came the fun!

The gal who suggested what road to take neglected to tell us to change from highway 27 to highway 24 before we got onto the major south-bound road - so we managed to go right through the centre of old Chattanooga and we finally ended up in a War-type Museum in a place called Ft. Ooglethorpe, Ga.

No room to park there so we pulled into a Church parking lot down the road to figure out exactly where we were and how we were going to get out of there and get going on the right road again.

Aha! Highway 2 meets up with the BIG Hwy I-75 so we could easily get back to Chattanooga, TN and get onto the right road to get through Georgia and into Alabama.

So, back we went - everything went well until we encountered BOTH Road Work and an accident.

I bet it took us twice as long to get through there as it would have going back through the town - but by this time we really had no choice - we kept going and finally got into and out of Chattanooga, TN (again) and into and out of Georgia (again), this time on the right road - quite a trip!!

Georgia has never been a positive experience for us. It was that great road through the centre of Georgia where we encountered those funny little "grease monkeys" when the van broke down on the way back from Florida - some 30 odd years ago.

So, we've finally made it through Georgia (all of 18 miles two times) and into Alabama.

The next day, Saturday, was the day of learning how to set up the GPS so it would work for us and we might be able to avoid all the wrong roads and colourful language.

We set in the supposed route and were so proud of ourselves!! Now, we THOUGHT it was set for this innocuous female voice to come on and tell us where we were, when to make a turn and when to take a different route. Yeh, right!!

The computer is secured on the shelf above the driver so we can have it running when we're driving. The radio is set on an off frequency that matches the frequency on the GPS thing. All set!!

Well, the system worked really good but no voice!! So there I was with the usual collection of maps, books, directions (all having different sized scales) having to totally disregard the GPS cuz the voice thing wasn't working.

Needless to say, we made it to the park but with the usual blame thing about the GPS system not working and taking the wrong turns.

Rainbow Plantation Escapees Park

This park - it's called the Rainbow Plantation Escapees Park - is much larger than the last one in Tennessee and that creates a whole different atmosphere.

It's big, flat and there is a enough space between the sites for at least three RV's. On one hand, it is less crowded but on the other hand, more isolated and less likely to meet your neighbours.

This park has house and leased lots - that tends to change the character of the place but there are some standard things that happen at all Escapees Rainbow Parks - like the 'social hour' at 4 every afternoon, 'ice cream social' on Sundays and things like that - what differs is how well these activities are attended. It seems the bigger and more diverse a park, the lower the attendance at the 'social' activities.

It's a beautiful setting with 'living oak' trees lining the roads and dispersed between sites.

We're about 10 miles from the beaches at Gulf Shores, AL to the south and about the same distance east from the west side of Florida - Pensacola.

We expect to be here for almost a month and have so much exploring to do.

We are on-line the whole time we're here - that makes me happy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Cumberland Gap

Another place our fellow RVers recommended was the Cumberland Gap - a National Park that straddles Kentucky, Tennessee and Virginia.

It is considered the first great gateway to the west. The buffalo, the Native American, the longhunter, the pioneer... all traveled this route through the mountains into the wilderness of Kentucky. Daniel Boone’s trek exemplifies the hardships and experience of the new settlers.

I couldn’t help but wonder how those pioneers felt when they looked out over the miles and miles of hills and forests wondering how they would ever find a place to settle and survive.