Thursday, March 3, found us heading out about 8 AM for the trek across Georgia. It was a beautiful day for a drive as we took US-82 back through Nahunta, and continued west. The southern part of the state is mostly flat and sandy and filled with farms and ranches. Although it is called the Peach State and is the largest producer of peanuts (the official state crop) in the United States, the number one crop is cotton. Honestly, as you are driving through some of these South Georgia counties you would certainly think the number one crop is pine trees, though. SIDE NOTE: My favorite little tidbit that you might not know about Georgia…the official state amphibian is the American Green Tree Frog. I didn’t even know states had official amphibians!!! And just in case you were wondering, the state bird is the Brown Thrasher.
At Tifton, it was time to stretch a bit, so we headed to a restaurant in one of the old depot buildings. After finding a place to park the rig, we got temporarily side-tracked at Mi-Lady Bakery on the walk to lunch, and were really glad we did. This place had a bit of everything delectable, and it is all made fresh daily. Take my advice…don’t be stupid like we were and go there BEFORE lunch! We ended up leaving with treats that would last us for days! One thing I didn’t get that haunted me later was what they called a Bon Bon. It makes me totally understand that old saying about “sitting home eating bon bons! (They also serve some pretty good-sounding lunch items, but I was all watered up for our first selection.) We stored the goodies in Petunia and headed to Fresco Italiano. Not your run of the mill Italian food, everything is fresh made and served in a beautiful dining room that adds to the enjoyment. Mr. Wonderful (MW) had the Chicken Parm Melt, and I went for the Fritto Misto de Mare appetizer (calamari & shrimp) with a side salad. Everything was delicious, and we would definitely go again.
Before getting back on the road, we walked around the courthouse and checked out the area information. This whole central and western section of south Georgia was once part of the Creek Nation, Muskogee Indian territory. General Andrew Jackson ran them out in 1814, and the land was gradually populated by farmers and ranchers, the latter benefitting from the native wiregrass. After the War of Northern Aggression (as Granny called it), the area economy was decimated. It wasn’t until the 1880s, when the industrialization tornado hit the rest of America, that the pine forests became attractive for both wood and turpentine. The economy once again growing, the area became attractive to a variety of immigrants, including the family of Captain H. H. Tift, the founder of Tifton.
SIDE NOTE: On a historical marker for Tift County, the original county officers are listed…Sheriff J. B. Baker, Clerk J. E. Peoples, etc. One is Ordinary W. S. Walker. At first I thought they forgot the title and someone named their child Ordinary. How terrible! Then I realized that W. S. Walker was the first Ordinary in the county. Was everyone else spectacular? or colorful? or crazy? What the heck is an Ordinary? I came up with two possibilities: 1) a member of the clergy appointed to prepare condemned prisoners to death, or 2) a judge with direct authority (as opposed to delegated authority) to decide a case. Not sure what the guy actually was, but I sure am glad his Mama didn’t name him Ordinary.
We continued on US-82 to Albany, then headed due west, seeing plenty of planted pine forests and pecan groves along the way. After passing through Morgan, Edison, Bluffton, and Fort Gaines, we crossed into Alabama and arrived at our home for the next few days, Hardridge Creek COE near Abbeville.
Friday was a lazy day. We took a nice walk in the morning and checked out the campground, then I spent some time catching up on work. It was nice to just hang.
Saturday I did some writing in the morning, then we headed out to take care of some chores. In Abbeville, Alabama, which has a nice, thriving, downtown area, our first stop was for lunch at Huggin’ Molly’s. Their slogan is “Frozen in the Fifties”, and you certainly feel that when you walk in and see the old-fashioned soda fountain and marble topped booth tables. The decor is all antique signs, old movie posters, and personal mementoes. I was surprised to see a Dale Robertson (from Tales of Wells Fargo – we’ve talked about him before) movie poster, and it turns out that he was friends with the founder’s father, Anthony Rane. There is also a cool pic of the founder, Jimmy Rane, with Harper Lee on her 83rd birthday. Honestly, this place is worth a visit just to walk around looking at the wall stuff, but you also get good food! I had a buffalo chicken wrap and salad, and MW had a club sandwich. Their hand-cut fries were awesome, and MW took a shake with him that was also very good. Oh, I almost forgot, Huggin’ Molly is a ghost!
After lunch we found a grocery store, then headed out to the Corps of Engineers office at the lake dam to pick up a veteran’s pass. No joy…closed on weekends. Bah humbug! On the way back to the campground, we stopped to take a look at the Frontier Village in Fort Gaines, Georgia. This little park has been in existence since 1908, when the “Civic League” women’s club raised $500, which was matched by the City Council to purchase the land. It is on a bluff overlooking the Chattahoochee River that was once occupied by the Confederate military Fort Gaines. The original 100-foot square fort was established in 1816 to protect settlers from Indians, but that one burned. The only remaining evidence of the Confederate fort is the watchtower on the hill. The park contains several other buildings, all at least 100 years old, that were donated and moved from other areas in the county, including a grist mill, a smokehouse, and two cabins. The view of the river makes it a nice stop, too. When we arrived at the park, there was an old guy sitting in a minivan who immediately offered to share some area history. Never one to turn down a history lesson, MW hung with him while I took a look around. I came to the rescue after 15 minutes or so, and the guy was still talking. He seemed to know a lot about the area, but when he said he sang or played (I can’t remember which) onstage at the Grand Ole Opry, I couldn’t decide whether he was a real cool guy or just making things up. He did offer to sell us some raw honey out of his trunk, but we weren’t in the market. As we were driving out, we saw a small outhouse at the end of the row. The sign said something to the effect of…no information, just showed up in the middle of the night. LOL.
Sunday was another lazy day. We watched our church service early in the afternoon. We had been missing Pastor Dustin’s voice! Later I had to make a quick run to Dollar General in Fort Gaines, Georgia, for some eggs. Dinner was hamburgers grilled over the fire, baked beans, and leftover sweet potatoes.
Hardridge Creek COE Campground is on Walter F. George lake, which used to be called Lake Eufaula, fed by the Chattahoochee River. On the Georgia/Alabama state line, the lake is a favorite for fishermen, both from boats and shore. Amenities include a swimming area, playground, hiking trail, picnic tables, picnic shelter, boat launch, fish cleaning station, dump station, and two bathhouses, both with laundry facilities. The campground is spread out along the shoreline. There are a total of 74 paved, electric & water sites, 3 of which are buddy sites for up to 16 people. The bathhouses were newly renovated and very clean, and the park was well-kept. You could hear a little traffic from the bridge just south of the campground, but it was relatively peaceful. We enjoyed watching the turtles and birds in the swampy area we were backed up to, but we didn’t see any alligators. We would definitely stay there again. For this stay in March 2022, we paid $104 for 4 nights.
On Monday, March 7, we hit the road around 7:20 AM, heading north to Eufaula, where we took US-431. It was still fresh road through Opelika and Roanoke, so that made MW happy. The weather was grey, but only rained sporadically. We stopped for lunch at LuLu’s Country Kitchen in Wedowee, Alabama. It was a small diner in a strip plaza that served breakfast all day and lunch, with food good enough to bring in the locals. Our entrees were good, but the stars for the visit were MW’s hand-cut fries, like you make at home, and his hand-made Butterfinger milkshake. The waitress had a cool t-shirt that I just had to share, too.
After lunch we continued on the last fresh road up to Anniston, then followed our old route up US-431 through Gadsden and Guntersville to Huntsville, arriving at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Campground early in the afternoon. After setting up and hanging out for a little while, we headed over to visit with Peg (MW’s stepmother) and Colin Bagwell. Dinner was some pretty delicious roasted chicken thighs, asparagus, and potatoes. (You really never go wrong with dinner at the Bagwell’s!)
The next couple of days were filled with some errands and chores, including the ever present laundry. Peg took us out to visit with our niece, Jamie and her whole crew…Josh (husband), Elijah, Faith, Hope, Joy, Grace, Micah, Noah, and Judah. Yes, you read that right…EIGHT children. AND Jamie home schools! AND Josh works from home! Honestly, those two should just wear Superman/woman capes around all the time. In fact, Josh nominated Jamie for an award for Remarkable Woman of 2022, and she was among four selected for her area. One will continue to a higher level. Her story airs later this month, and I’ll be sure to share the link in the next post.
Tuesday night we had dinner with most of the Huntsville family including Scott (brother), Anne (sister), Caleb (nephew), Alyssa (Caleb’s girlfriend), Cayden (Alyssa’s son), Eric (Colin’s son), Becca (Colin’s daughter), and Harrison (Becca’s son). It is always a fun crowd with LOTS of laughter.
Wednesday morning I made my normal laundry run without incident, and saw something cool on the way back into the campground. The Space and Rocket Center runs their Space Camp educational programs out of the complex next door, and we always see rocket remnants in the trees around the entrance. Today there were actually kids at the Launch Complex and rockets going up. Too cool!
Our final night was spent with Colin and Peg. We visited at the house, and later went to dinner at Humphrey’s Bar & Grill downtown. The food was good; MW had a Humphrey’s Hot Chicken sandwich, and I had Humphrey’s Bird with portobello and Swiss. However, the waiter, although very nice, was TERRIBLE. It probably took 15 minutes to get drinks after they were ordered (including water for MW), and he came back at least twice to ask what it was we ordered before delivery. (He was carrying a little pad and pen with him, but didn’t seem to use them.) My food order came out incorrect, and the cauliflower bites appetizer never made it. (They were out, but we weren’t told that until after our entrees were delivered.) Also irritating MW a little more, out of an entire sheet of available beers, they didn’t have the one he chose, which he found out after everyone else already had their drinks. (We joke that we have some kind of sixth sense for what is out of stock. It is a very common occurrence.) The young man clearly needs to find some other line of work. The final rub came around the time the food was delivered. They were playing very good music, but suddenly it was turned up to a decibel somewhere between ear bleed and brain aneurism. The manager was very nice about getting it turned down somewhat, but a short time later the live musician started…and he was LOUDER! Honestly, the singer was probably good, but it was so loud that we couldn’t really tell. Thank God we were about to head out. I spoke with the manager as we left, who said she has no control over the volume level of the artists. WHAT?! That is simply crazy! I understand live music in a bar atmosphere, but if you are set up for dining, people at a table should be able to hear each other talk. Even yelling, we couldn’t make out what was said. Outside my ears were ringing like I had been to a heavy metal concert! I don’t think Peg and Colin will go back, and I know we won’t. The bright spot was the downtown area. We come to Huntsville a lot to visit family, but always forget to check it out. There are several options, and we will be back to see what we can find. After a little more visiting back at their house, we said our goodbyes.
We’ve stayed at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center Campground numerous times, and it is our go-to for visiting family in Huntsville. I never remember to get pics, though. Sorry. The campground has 27 paved, 30-amp, full-hookup sites with grills and picnic tables. They have a bathhouse and laundry facilities, too. In the 4 years since we’ve been staying there, the rates have gone from $20 to $33 per night, which is still very good for full-hookup. However, our one complaint is that the roads needed serious work on our first visit in 2018, and they are much worse now. For this stay in March 2022, we paid $99 for three nights.
Thursday, March 10, found us heading out before 7AM for the LONG drive to Pensacola. Earlier in the trip we had to rearrange some dates for a family emergency, so that left us with a 360-mile day…not something either of us enjoy. (We try to keep our drive days around 200-220 miles so we can meander and stop when we feel like it.) The plus side was that, since we were driving on interstates that we’ve traveled many times before, I had time to get a LOT of work done. Thankfully, it was a beautiful day, and for the most part, traffic wasn’t bad. MW really expected the morning rush hour in Birmingham to suck, but we sailed right through. Well, except for the horrendous concrete-paved roads through there that threw us and Petunia around quite a bit. We stopped more often than necessary for fuel and hit a couple of rest stops in order to just walk a bit. For lunch we found Wentzel’s Oyster House in Greenville, Alabama and had yummy oysters and shrimp. The entire decor is signs and bumper stickers, and you could sit in a different section on each visit and just read. We finally arrived at our regular spot, Gulf Shores/Pensacola West KOA in Lillian, Alabama, about 2:30ish.
SIDE RANT: You know the interstate system was designed as quick routes to get back and forth across the country and around major cities. The original guidance included national standards for signage and construction. During the fuel crisis in the 1970s, President Nixon reduced the nationwide speed limit on interstates to 55 mph from the 70 to 75 mph that was the average prior. In 1987 the Feds allowed higher speeds on rural sections, and in 1995 President Clinton returned all speed decisions to the states. Driving many long stretches of interstate today, you would never guess that there are supposed to be specific construction standards. Some are concrete, while others are asphalt. Many of them are not safe at the posted speeds, and generally beat the hell out of your vehicle at any speed above a walk. I-65 through Birmingham, Alabama, is definitely on that list, as is basically the entire state of Louisiana and a lot of other places on I-10. The section through Birmingham is concrete that has been repaired by various methods and some of the repair cut-outs appear to have drops of 2-4″. That’s like driving over a curb at high speed! Why is the quality so divergent? Because the states are responsible for maintaining the interstates, with the feds contributing most or all (depending on the road) of the funding. Several years back our neighborhood was trying to get our private road turned over to the state for maintenance. The process was long and involved us bringing the road up to standards before they would step in. There is NO WAY some of our interstates meet Federal standards. So shouldn’t the states be held accountable for getting them back to par to continue to receive funding??? Thankfully, if you read this blog often, you know that we are not on interstates much, which keeps my blood pressure at a more healthy level.
We kicked back for a little bit, and MW performed a brief examination of the inside of his eyelids. Then we headed out for our reason for hitting P’cola…hanging with bro and sis, Mark and Jennifer Jones. (Always a great time, no matter the weather or occasion.) We enjoyed a lovely dinner courtesy of Jennifer of BBQ sliders, baked beans, and slaw…delicious…and spent the evening catching up.
Friday MW had planned to work on yet another leak, but the weather didn’t cooperate. Instead I did a bit of writing, then we headed out to the one place MW must eat when in P’cola…Whataburger. As I’ve said before, I can take it or leave it, but it is requirement for him. After that, we ran a few errands, then headed back to Petunia. I spent a little more time writing, before heading over to the other Joneses for dinner. By the time we arrived, our favorite rotorhead, Alex, had already come in from Fort Rucker in Alabama, so it was good to catch up with him, too. Oh, and Mark fixed us a great meal of pork chops, twice-baked potatoes, and green beans…yum! Just like the Bagwell house in Huntsville, you don’t get a bad meal at the P’Cola Jones abode.
Saturday the Florida Jones Crew headed over first thing to the McGuire’s Irish Pub 45th Annual St. Patrick’s Day 5k. Like the Polar Plunge at Pensacola Beach every winter, the run is a tradition that Mark and Alex have shared for years. There is a lot of drinking afterward (it is, after all, hosted by a pub), and Jennifer is nice enough to take care of the DD duties. Since 1) MW and I don’t run anywhere unless being chased by bears or mountain lions, 2) it was about 38 degrees with 20 mph winds, and 3) if I start drinking before noon, I’ll be sleeping the rest of the day, we opted to meet them back at their abode later. We spent the morning enjoying the heat indoors, and I took the opportunity to do a little writing. When we all got together later, we headed out to dinner at The Original Point Restaurant on Perdido Key. This place is a little gem. All of the food was terrific. MW had shrimp, oysters, and scallops, which were all great, and he thought the slaw was some of the best he’s ever had. My soft-shelled crab and oysters were delicious, too. They had live country music that started shortly after we arrived, and I would have asked to be seated just a little further away had I realized. It wasn’t anywhere near as loud as the music in Huntsville a few days ago, though, and they were very good.
Sunday we all met at the house and went to the early service at Liberty Church. The music was very loud with lots of flashing lights, which felt like attending a rock concert. That part wasn’t our style (you know I like to sing hymns), but everyone seemed to enjoy it, and Pastor Josh Lipscomb preached a good message. After lunch we headed over to Cobalt for brunch. We’ve been there several times in the past, and the food has always been good. MW had corned beef hash (very good), and I had the seafood omelet, which was OMGoshdelicious! That’s a thing! Afterwards we rode over to Petunia to show off the recent changes (paint, etc.), then went back to their house for a bit. The afternoon entertainment was “The Batman”, but Jennifer had a few things to get done…and wanted some peace and quiet, I’m sure! The movie was good, but waaaayyyyy toooo LONG…3 hours. Later Alex headed out for the drive home to Enterprise, Alabama…he’s stationed at Fort Rucker. Then Mark, Jennifer, MW, and I had a terrific meal of roast beef. (She is such a bad influence on MW! Every time we leave there, he starts talking about all the things I need to cook! Seriously, though, thanks for that recipe, Jennifer.) After a little more visiting, we said our goodbyes and headed back to Petunia.
The Gulf Shores/Pensacola West/Lost Bay KOA is in Lillian, Alabama, and sits right on Perdido Bay. It is your typical KOA with most sites stacked in tight, but they do offer a variety of options. Amenities include a pool, playground, clubhouse, laundry facilities, camp store, bathhouse, dog park, fishing pier, and beach. Lodging options include several sizes of house or cabin, some down on the bay facing the water. Campsites range from motorhome-only premium sites and patio pull-through sites to 50- and 30-amp regular, parallel sites and a tent area. Although in Alabama, it is a quick drive to anywhere in Pensacola, including Perdido Key and the Naval Air Station. For a private campground in a tourist area, the price is not bad, either. For this stay in March 2022, we paid $196.84 for 4 nights for our 50-amp, full-hookup site.
That’s it for now. Next up…Mississippi and some other stuff. See you on the path!
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