Today we officially pointed Petunia towards the barn. It’ll still take us a week to get there, but I can already see a downward cast in MW’s (Mr. Wonderful’s) demeanor. I, on the other hand, am looking forward to watching my deer and turkeys in the freshly mown pasture, seeing the kids and Boogers, hanging with my BFF Tina, and getting our pond issue taken care of before another rainy season is upon us. I started the day with a hitch in my giddy-up. Occasionally, when I sleep in a bad position, I’ll wake up with a knot or muscle spasm. Today, though, I was fine when I got up. As I was prepping Petunia for departure, I bent down to put the printer (portable and very light) on the floor and stood up (or tried to at least). My back said “Oh no you don’t!” I checked with my personal nurse (Tina Ring) for the max dose of Ibuprofen, stuck on one of those Icy Hot patches, and tried to work the kink out. It wasn’t any better when we finally hit the road, retracing our previous route over to AL-87 north. Options for crossing the Alabama River in the southern part of the state are limited, and as is typical, we opted for the country roads (all together now…take me home, to the place, I belong). Thankfully, most of the route was great, because a lot of bouncing would have been awful. We turned northwest on AL-112 to Bay Minette, then north on AL-59. The morning was pretty foggy and grey, but we were still able to see hurricane damage that was further inland than we expected. Between Louisiana, Florida, and Alabama, there must be millions of trees down! At Perdue Hill we turned northwest on US-84, then headed north on US-43 at Grove Hill. At Demopolis we stopped for lunch at the Simply Delicious Bakery & Eatery. Okay, I’m not exaggerating AT ALL. If you are within striking distance of this place, do yourself a favor and check it out. It is a cafeteria-style bar with two or three meats and vegetables. They also had peach cobbler and a huge variety of baked goods to choose from for dessert. MW and I both had chicken and dumplings and Brussels sprouts. He also tried the jalapeño cornbread and corn casserole, while I had the macaroni and cheese and roll. The portions were very large, and a total deal for $9 each. It was definitely the eatery for locals, and we were very happy with the choice. MW overheard one of the patrons on the phone say that he was at the “Mennonite cafe”. That would make total sense. I’ve never met a Mennonite who wasn’t a fabulous cook.
Back on the road, we continued north on US-43, thankful that the grey was gone. Near Forkland, Alabama, we passed a long row of fields with all kinds of decorations. We couldn’t tell if it was all just for Neewollah (think about it) or just because someone likes to decorate. I caught some of it, but there was much more. (Later I found out that it is mentioned on Roadside America.) At Fosters, Alabama, we zig-zagged north to our new temporary home, Lake Lurleen State Park.
The forecast called for rain beginning Tuesday afternoon, but we got a preview in the morning. After getting a little work done, we headed into Northport to check out the laundromat, popped into Walgreen’s, and went over to Broadway Pizzaria 43 for lunch. The pizza was delicious, but the garlic knots were the BOMB! After lunch I hung out there and worked while MW headed over to Lowe’s and Tractor Supply to look around. The entire day was grey, but after that initial morning shower, the rain held off.
Wednesday was the most interesting laundry day I’ve ever had. First, I headed over to 1 Stop Laundry to get the job done. They did not use their change machines, but the attendant (and resident quarter Nazi) said she had quarters. I asked for $20 worth, and she (with a tone, no less) asked how many loads I intended to wash. What?? With that information, she decided that $12 would be enough. She scooped them out of a 3-gallon bucket that was at least 2/3 full. Really??!! I’m certain of three things: 1) math was not her strong suit; 2) $12 would NOT be enough quarters to finish my laundry; and 3) she was not going to run out of quarters any time soon. She was also very curt, and I could see why some of the reviews said she was a b**ch. Despite the negative vibes, I got it all done, then headed over to the Jack’s to bogart some internet. Parking myself in a front, corner booth, I had a little lunch, then got to work. About 45 minutes later, my attention was diverted to raised voices, followed by screaming and yelling coming out of the kitchen area. Then FRIES. WERE. FLYING! All of the employees converged to stop the fight, but the two girls were intent on destruction. It seemed like a while, but really didn’t last that long. The manager (who was a fairly young woman) escorted them outside and did her best to make them stay there. Before the police had even arrived, a couple came in and set up computers and paperwork at a table in the dining room. I was thinking they must be there to work. Nope. It was the owner and a lady from corporate who owns other restaurants. Turns out they were having some kind of meeting in town, and happened to be staying at the hotel down the street when he got the call. They pulled up the video footage, shared it with the police, then spent the next 45 minutes getting the employees to fill out witness statements for the HR department. They also sat each of the girls down separately and talked about the incident, told them they were both suspended pending investigation, and even told the girl that threw the first punch that chances were good that she probably wouldn’t be coming back. They also sat the manager down and reviewed what she could have done to stop the situation before it escalated (apparently the two girls were trading barbs just prior to the attack). The police, in the mean time, dealt with the girls outside. I don’t think anyone was arrested, although the officer said the punchee could file assault charges if she so desired. I was amazed at the efficiency and mesmerized as this drama unfolded. After an hour or so, the corporate folks packed up their stuff and left, and the employees got back to work, except for the two hooligans, of course. Once the entire show was over, I headed out to get gas and run by the post office. MW requested barbecue for dinner, so I stopped by a little hole-in-the-wall called Hick’s Bar BQ and got take-out. The pulled pork and slaw were okay, but the baked beans were pretty darned good. With so many other barbecue options in the south, I don’t think I’d do this one again. Back at the ranch, we settled in for the projected wind and rain from Hurricane Zeta. I’ll admit to being a bit nervous when the news said we could get 40-60 mph winds. Luckily, as is often the case, they were wrong.
A Lake Lurleen State Park is nine miles west of Tuscaloosa and Northport, Alabama, so there are plenty of options for shopping and dining nearby. The 1,625-acre park offers plenty of picnic tables and pavilions, several playgrounds, a large beach and swimming area, piers for fishing, a boat launch, 23+ miles of hiking/biking trails, a Nature Center, and meeting facilities. They also rent paddle boats, canoes, and kayaks. The campground has 35 full-hookup sites and 56 water-electric sites, plus primitive tent sites. Loops A and B are 50-amp, while loops C and D are 30-amp. Many sites are on or have a view of Lake Lurleen, although loop D is very wooded with no lake view. There are both back-in and pull-through sites. The pull-through sites are set up like parallel parking spaces just at the edge of the road, and several are only large enough for a tiny trailer. There were fairly clean bathhouses on each loop. We were on loop D, which seemed more isolated and quiet (except for the dog left alone all day, every day in a camper across the way). In October 2020, we paid $31.42 per night (Monday thru Thursday). The negatives for this park are: 1) They offer RV storage that campers must drive through to get to the campground. First, that’s a total lack of security for the people storing a rig there when everyone coming and going has access. Second, there are quite a few rigs that look abandoned and are falling apart. The approach is through a beautiful, wooded area, but just before you drive into the campground, you see a partial RV graveyard. I would change that aesthetic. 2) While we’ve seen worse campground roads, there were several large potholes along the way, including right at the gate. You get the feeling that they are just behind in some maintenance chores. Finally, the cool thing for this visit was that someone LOVES halloween and had decorated all over the place. We particularly enjoyed the pavilion with dead bodies on all of the tables, one sitting up.
Thursday morning I expected it to be cooler, but it was in the low 70s and a bit steamy and misty. We headed out about 7:20 AM, following Zeta northeast, so everything was grey. Thankfully, there was very little rain and wind. We went over to Northport and caught AL-13 north all the way up to Russellville. There we stopped at a local grocery store to walk around a bit and grab a few things. The weather had changed drastically, and it was 60 degrees and pretty windy, but the sun was beginning to peak through. It might finally be time to put the summer clothes away, thank God! The terrain had been getting consistently more rolling and hilly, too, as we headed into the first signs of the foothills to the Appalachians. We had breakfast at Waffle House, which we haven’t done in a while. Surely everyone has eaten there or at a Huddle House (same format) in their lives. If not, you are missing a show. I can’t, for the life of me, figure out how those cooks keep up. No one would ever get a correct order if I was at the helm!
Back on the road, we headed east on US-24, then north on AL-101, crossing the Tennessee River at Rogersville, Alabama. It’s amazing how giant the river is here compared to up in Savannah, Tennessee, at Uncle Wyatt’s place. At Lexington, we turned east on AL-64, then north on AL-207, crossing into Tennessee (yay!) at noonish. It is always so beautiful when the clouds clear up from a good storm, especially when it opens up to crisp, clear, fall air. Combine that with the rolling hills and farmland scenery, and it is heaven. (That’s why John Denver added “almost” in the West Viriginia song.) We followed TN-11 up to Pulaski, then hit US-64 and zig-zagged up to Shelbyville. I kept an eye out for the houses of famous country singers. (I’ve heard that a few live in the area.) No luck identifying any, but we did pass a few that were definite possibilities. From there we headed east through the town of Normandy to Normandy Lake and the Barton Springs Campground. When we arrived, the sky was clear and the wind had died down. We set everything up, then I did a little checking in with family and wished our daughter Amber a happy birthday. The wind damage from Zeta was apparently wide-spread and had Mom and Larry over in Rockmart, Georgia, without power and blocked in by trees blown down across Everett Mountain Road in both directions. By the time I was finished catching up (and no, it wasn’t hours), the skies here were all grey and the wind had picked up a lot. We took a good walk around to check out the campground, then settled in for the evening. It rained a little bit, but the wind was the big deal. It was much stronger than the night before, and buffeted Petunia pretty good on a few occasions. Our chairs stayed put outside, but the side table tried to pull a runner, so we had to corral it.
Barton Springs Campground is the first Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) site we have stayed at. Located on the Normandy Reservoir on the upper Duck River, it offers terrific lake views and access. The town of Normandy is about 6 miles away, and it is within striking distance of Lynchburg (and the Jack Daniel Distillery), Tullahoma, Shelbyville, and Manchester. Amenities include a couple of pavilions, other picnic areas with grills, and a sand beach and swimming area. There is also a boat ramp just around the corner. The campground has 89 electric (50/30/20) sites with water, picnic table, and fire pit/grill combo. Most of the fairly level, graveled sites are pull-through, although there are 19 back-in sites that are closer together and not as level. Eleven are waterfront, but most have a lake view of some kind. There are three, clean bathhouses spread out, each with one male and one female shower and toilets (1 male, 2 female). We were impressed with the pull-through site layout, which gave plenty of room to park and a large area for individual use. The campground has plenty of trees, with some sites shaded for part of the day and others out in the open. They do offer long-term camping, which we view as a negative. There are a handful of campers that have clearly not moved in quite a while, one or two of which look like they might not even be able to. It was not too full when we arrived (October 2020), but filled up fast for Halloween weekend. Because of the layout of our site, it did not feel crowded. You can hear a little noise from trucks on the adjacent road during the daytime and a train off in the distance. (That doesn’t included the late night jackasses in the campground for the holiday weekend.) Overall, it is a very pretty campground, and we would come back. Normally they are open year-round, but this year they are closing November 15 to take care of some maintenance stuff. Oh, and we paid $36.05 per night (Thursday thru Monday).
Friday morning was very grey and windy. We headed out before lunch time, first stop…a distillery. I know what you are thinking, but not THAT distillery. The tiny town of Normandy (which we had to go through to get to Lynchburg), is home to the Cascade Hollow Distilling Company, producers of George Dickel. The original George was born in Germany and emigrated to the United States in 1844 when he was 26 years old. He began distributing liquor in 1861, and experimented with blending several local whiskeys to create a smoother taste. In the late 1860s the George A. Dickel Company was born. They quickly established themselves as master distributers, even importing whisky, gin, and champagne from overseas. What is now George Dickel Tennessee Whisky (yes, they purposely honor the Scottish spirit by leaving out the “e”) actually began and became famous as Cascade Whiskey distilled at the original Cascade Hollow distillery. George’s company bought into the distillery and was its sole distributor. He was particular about his whiskey and was convinced that making it in the winter months, due to the cold, gave it a smooth finish. The company begin chilling the brew before putting it through the “Lincoln County Process” of charcoal filtration (a LOT more charcoal). The claim that the combination of cold and large amounts of charcoal make their whiskey “Mellow as Moonlight”. Dickel died in 1894 having never fully recovered from a horseback riding accident two years earlier. The Cascade brand continued to thrive until prohibition shuttered the doors. A handful of distilleries, including Stitzel-Weller in Kentucky, were allowed to produce “medicinal” whiskey. Cascade leased space for limited production, purely for medical purposes, of course. (Cough, cough, sniff, sniff…I feel a trip to the liquor store is in order.) Somewhere along the way fire destroyed the original Cascade building, but in the late 1950s, Schenley Industries brought the Cascade Hollow Distillery back to life just down the road from the original location. They changed the name of their product to George Dickel Tennessee Whisky to honor the man considered responsible for making Cascade a top brand. Interestingly, their Distiller and General Manager is a young lady named Nicole Austin, a chemical engineer who hails from upstate New York. The whiskey produced in her first year won “Whiskey of the Year” in a blind taste test. You go girl!!
Next we headed over to Lynchburg. First stop…the final resting place of Jack Daniels and his nephew, Lem Motlow, the two people most responsible for making Jack Daniels Tennessee Whiskey a world-wide name. The cemetery has whiskey barrels at the corners of the lanes where they are buried. Years ago we came through the area and toured the Jack Daniel Distillery. (It’s a great tour. You can buy an entire barrel, which they will bottle for you as you watch! We didn’t, but it was discussed.) At that time, we noticed the nice little square and put it on our list of things to see on another trip. There are a couple of restaurants and a bunch of touristy shops to browse through. You can definitely tell that Jack Daniels is the life blood of this little community as just about every shop sells their memorabilia and/or trades on their name. There was a cute little shop that specialized in Moon Pies and their memorabilia, too. (Who knew people would buy Moon Pie souvenirs?) I was not aware that there are seven different Moon Pie flavors! We bought a variety of the mini pies to try out. One of the items was an RC Cola in a bottle with a mini Moon Pie attached. There was a cute couple from California trying to figure out what an RC Cola was and why the Moon Pie was attached. I explained that it’s a “southern thang”, and we chatted for a minute. They seemed a little blown away when they found out about peanuts in cokes, too. I just love talking to strangers! (Yes, we were masked and distanced.) They said they flew to Nashville for vacation and took a ride over to Lynchburg. Walking around town later, I heard another group of four talk about their flights home. I guess people are starting to fly again despite Covid. By the time we were finished looking around the clouds were clearing, making for a beautiful drive back. We headed to Tullahoma first to do a little grocery shopping at Publix.
By now you have to know that I LOVE ice cream. Years ago, when we lived in Publix territory, my favorite was their frozen yogurt. I was amazed to see that now, along with froyo, they have several different lines of ice cream, including Limited Edition Flavors. No southerner worth their salt will turn down banana pudding, and they have Southern Banana Pudding ICE CREAM!!!! It is the BOMB! They have eleven other flavors, too, including Eggnog, Hazelnut Amaretto Biscotti, Snickerdoodle, and Deep Dish Apple Pie. I recommend running (definitely don’t walk) to your local Publix to check them out, because they are LIMITED, ya’ll! Curious who made their ice cream, MW did a little research and found out that they do all of their store-branded dairy products themselves in Lakeland, Florida. Who knew?!
Saturday the storms were gone, and the weather was beautiful. We hung around the campground, and I caught up on a work project early in the day. Then it was time to just enjoy the weather. In the afternoon MW got a fire going and grilled steaks while I roasted some sweet potatoes and heated up leftover baked beans. We had a few adorable trick or treaters stop by, too.
Sunday I paid bills and worked on this blog a bit before sitting down to listen to the service from Sneedville First Baptist Church. Then we headed into Manchester to have lunch, drop off mail, and check out a state park. Our first pick for lunch was J and G Pizza and Steakhouse, highly rated on Trip Advisor. It must warrant the ratings, because people were lined up outside to get in. We decided not to wait, so went to the Oak Restaurant instead. Usually a buffet, this restaurant is currently only serving from the menu due to Covid. The main reason I picked it was that the review mentioned chicken livers. Yuck! But MW LOVES them. They were on the lunch special menu along with fried chicken, fried fish, and a few other entrees. Get this…the entree, two veggies plus roll was $6 per person. WHAT???!!! Everything was delicious, and we left stuffed. After lunch, we found the post office, then headed for the park.
The Old Stone Fort State Archaeological Park is a Native American site built between 1500 and 2000 years ago. When first discovered by Europeans, they thought it was an old fort, but archaeological study has determined that it was a place for ceremonial gatherings. The park sits right on the Duck River, and also contains the location of the Manchester Powder Mill (gunpowder used during the Civil War), a printer paper mill, and a pulp mill. The park has several hiking trails with information stations and is home to Blue Hole Falls, Big Falls, and Step Falls. It was a great day to get outside and explore, and the waterfalls were beautiful.
Monday morning brought that thing that MW hates, the final drive to the barn. It was a beautiful day for it, though, and we always enjoy driving through the Tennessee countryside. We headed northeast through Manchester on TN-55 and caught US-70S up to Sparta, crossing our paths from previous trips a couple of times. Then it was east on US-70 to Rockwood and northeast to Oliver Springs, stopping for fuel and lunch at Krystal near Harriman, Tennessee. The fall colors were waning, but there was still a little bit to see. I think the strange fall weather, cooling off, then getting really warm again, shortened the prime leaf time. Tennessee is beautiful any time, though. If you’ve never been, you should check it out. We bypassed Oak Ridge on TN-61, then took TN -170 to TN-33 north, which goes all the way to Sneedville. We were pleasantly surprised to see that Brewer’s Chapel, our mostly 1-lane county road, had been repaved during our absence. No more dodging potholes on the way in! It was also great to see the barn right where we left it in the middle of the freshly mowed pasture, and nothing seemed worse for wear. Thus ended an epic trip. Thanks to Covid, we met fewer people along the way, but still managed to see some great sights.
Stay tuned as we figure out the next loop, do some Yellowstone planning, give you a great campground review list, and I’m sure, a few other things before our next departure. See you on the path!
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