Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mardi Gras

Sunday, time to go to Gulf Shores to meet up with Jean’s old friend, Helen. We had to finish the de-winterizing, which consisted of topping off the fresh water tank and dumping the holding tanks. That completed, we were on our way.

We had direction’s to Helen’s time-share, but we were running a bit ahead of schedule. So we went in search of Gulf State Park. Traffic is confusing on the “island” (actually a long peninsula) so we ended up in the main drag of Orange Beach. To add to the traffic, the streets were from something invented by Lewis Carroll. You can’t turn left at the signals, you have to drive another block and make a U-turn. That’s the rules and the way the streets are arranged.

Eventually we found Helen’s house. We got set up parking in the lot behind her building. After we got set up, we took a walk on the beach. It has the white sugar-sand found along most of the Gulf of Mexico. There weren’t many other people on the beach, just a group of teen-agers trying to play with a stand-up board and a kayak in the surf. They weren’t having much luck.

After a good walk, we went back to the apartment and spent the rest of the afternoon visiting with Helen, and more-so with her great-granddaughter Scarlet. She is about 2 and a bundle of energy. When we went to bed in the Roadtrek, the neighbors were having a loud party next door. Mardi Gras is on full tilt. There are parties and parades for weeks before the actual day.

Next day we went for lunch at Lulu’s. She is Jimmy Buffett’s sister and has an open-air restaurant beside the Intercoastal Waterway. Then Helen drove us down the length of the peninsula. It is filling up with big condos and time-shares.  Scarlet’s mother showed up later and took her home. The apartment quieted down after that.

Tuesday morning (Fat Tuesday) we headed out about 8:30 to get a spot for the morning parade (the parade started at 10:00). A big crowd built up quickly. About the time the parade was supposed to start, there were sirens all around. A short while after 10:00 the news came down the line that the parade was cancelled; a car had run into the lead band (Gulf Shores Highschool Marching Band). Twelve students were injured, three critically. We got updates throughout the day.

There was another parade in Orange Beach at 2:00, so we headed for there. We parked behind a popular restaurant and had lunch --- after a long wait. Mardi Gras parades consist of a large number of floats, as well as other participants. They all throw large quantities of beads, small Moon Pies, candy, and other things. It is great, noisy fun and we caught lots of stuff.

Beads ready for thowing
Our hostess

After the parade we came back to the apartment and relaxed. Later, we watched the news, which was mostly about the accident. The police announced that drugs and alcohol were not involved, and it was not a purposeful act. The car involved was part of the parade and suddenly accelerated. We also did the laundry. I got on-line and scored two nights at St. Andrews State Park in Florida, so tomorrow we head east.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Fleeing Winter

Time for our 2017 winter trip. We got a later than usual start due to scheduling problems with Jean’s son. That worked out okay, since Jean made contact with an old friend who lives in southern Alabama. So we timed our visit to go to Mardi Gras. It had been very spring-like for a couple of weeks before we left. Two days later, Jean’s brother Chillie texted us that there had been two big storms at home. Lucked out once again.

The first day we drove the interstate the whole way to Harriman, TN, to visit Gene’s brother and family. We usually avoid interstates whenever possible, but we got a late start and it was a long trip. Two meal stops and a quick trip to Camping World (no luck) slowed us down, so it was well after dark when we arrived at his local Cracker Barrel. Mike and Heidi met us there for a late dinner and lots of visiting.

That was the last of interstates for the immediate future. Next morning, we pulled out of the Cracker Barrel and just headed south. We had two more days to get to Gulf Shores, AL, so we were in no hurry. We stuck to local roads and enjoyed the scenery. Along the way, Jean noticed that we were going to pass through Soddy Daisy. We both remembered that as the “home town” of Aunt Minnie Pearl on the Grand Ole Opry, so we went in to have a look.

While we were there, Jean looked up Minnie Pearl on her cell phone and discovered that she claimed to come from the fictional town of Grinder Switch. We don’t know where the Soddy Daisy reference came from. A false lead but an interesting side trip. That’s what it’s about isn’t it?

After several false starts using the FMCA atlas, we finally connected with a Walmart for the evening. It was level and quiet, but about 30 miles off our route. All part of the journey.
Back on the road next day (Saturday), we drove through Camden (local roads take you through all the towns). It was about time for lunch, so we kept a lookout for a local eatery. The only thing we saw was a chicken place, but there were lots of cars in the parking lot, so we gave it a try. We caught it just at the end of a big rush, but the food was good.

On the way out, we talked for a few minutes with some other travelers. They informed us that Jackson’s is listed on an app of “100 places to eat in Alabama before you die.” I guess there is an app for everything.

We traveled the length of Alabama. We learned that the state is wooded and hilly in the north (hilly enough that we spotted a long train that had five engines in the front and two more pushing at the back). As you get to the southern part, the land is flatter, with large fields. About half way we started seeing redbud in bloom and Spanish moss. We had definitely arrived in the South. further south the azaleas were flowering.

We stopped to stretch our legs at a pleasant park beside the Alabama River. We need to do that more often.

After three days of heavy-duty navigating, and after struggling with the KOA website to get a reservation, we switched to the GPS to guide us to a campground for the night. We got the last available space, which was lucky for a Saturday night during the season. We needed to check in someplace with full hookups since it was time to de-winterize the rig. That is a long and complicated process, which I did mostly after dark (just to make it more difficult). In the process, the fitting that holds the cover on the water heater popped off and got lost in the grass. Next morning, I found the pieces and put it back together, but as soon as I tried to put the cover on, it popped off again. I was able to secure it with a twist-tie, but I will have to make a more secure arrangement.