Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Gunter Hill COE, Montgomery, AL

May 19 - 24 Gunter Hill COE

We were up early for the drive down to Montgomery, AL and Gunter Hill COE.  It was only 210 miles but it seemed like it took forever.  There was a long traffic delay on I-65 that lasted for 10-12 miles.  Not sure what the problem was since we didn't see any accidents or construction.  Odd!

The directions to the campground had us wondering if we were going the right way.  It seemed like we had to make a right or left turn constantly and the roads progressively were worse.  We did drive down Old Selma Highway for 4-5 miles and finally turned into the COE park.

Our campsite was very long and we could have parked two motorhomes the size of ours in the driveway along with the tow vehicles.  It was a nice level concrete pad for the mh and grass between the sites.  Full hookup sites like this for $13/night with pass.  One of the nicer campsites we've had in a long time.

Our cellphone and wifi service were terrible since we were so far out in the boondocks, plus due to the trees we had a difficult time setting up our Dish Playmaker.  I did mange to get it working finally and we were able to watch a few of our favorite shows.

Just as we arrived at the park it began to rain and it rained every day we were there.  Sometimes lightly and others torrential downpours.  I think we received over 8" of rain total for the 5 days.  Our campsite was flooded more than once. 😕

The creek down the road from us was at flood stage very quickly and stayed high for the duration of our visit.  Our campsite was just off the Alabama River and was high enough that there wasn't any danger to us. 

Boat launching area

Flood stage
 There are two camping sections at Gunter Hill and we were in the newer part with great campsites.  The older section is sort of a rustic type, with narrow interior roads and the sites tended to be unlevel.  They are rock parking sections for the RV/Trailer, etc and the heavy rains washed out a number of the sites.

The campground is used very heavily by locals and many of them expressed that they preferred to be in the old section since it was right on the water.  The light areas between the trees, in the background, showing in these two photos are the river.

Due to all the rain we didn't get out and do a lot of touring in the area.  We've been to Montgomery before and our friends John & Ann Duncan showed us around to all the interesting places to visit.

The telephone pole takes away from this photo but the large trees and pretty pasture with the horse perked Gerry up so I've included it here.

 The cattle sure do have some nice grass to munch on.  We saw cattle in Tucson eating cactus and I'm sure they would trade places with this group.  Part of the pasture was underwater and a few young ones were playing in the flooded area.

 We ran across some old plantation homes and stopped to get some shots of them.  This one below was beautiful and looked very stately.

I think this is a newer home but it fit into the area very nicely.

We did go grocery shopping at the nearest Public's that was 19 miles away and very expensive.  We took advantage of being near some restaurants (none near us) and had lunch at a Chappy's.  We hadn't been to one before and were pleasantly surprised when our waitress asked us what kind of ice cream we wanted.  We each enjoyed our complimentary cone before leaving.  It was crowded, however we had a nice meal and great service.  

That was our exciting 5 days at Gunter Hill.   No, I do not like thunder and lighting all night and getting weather alerts 4-5 times a day.


Friday, May 19, 2017

LaGrange College 1830-1855

I always check out what there is to see when we get to an area we've never been to before.  A simple google search will bring up the more popular sites.  Looking for geocaches take us to areas that we wouldn't usually travel to and we've run across great finds that way.  There are two geocaches near the LaGrange College site and we made it there and found a cache in the old cemetery.  The other cache was on the grounds of the old college where they have a number of old buildings from the era when the college was founded.  

The grounds were closed for the night and right across the street was the home of a deputy sheriff with his official vehicle parked in plain sight.  We decided it wasn't a good idea to jump the split rail fence and search for the cache.

Here is a history of the LaGrange College taken from the historical society homepage. 

LaGrange College 1830 – 1855

In the early 1820’s, LaGrange was established on the crest of a mountain near Leighton, AL. Initially there were about 400 inhabitants. In the late 1820s, the Tennessee Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church solicited proposals for a site and subscription of $10,000. On December 4, 1828, the Methodist Church accepted the LaGrange proposition. Later that month, the Mississippi Conference joined in the efforts to establish a college. Representatives from the two conferences met at LaGrange on January 10, 1829, and selected a site for the college. On January 11, 1830, “LaGrange College” opened with an enrollment of 70 students, becoming the first state chartered college in Alabama. Rev. Robert Paine was the first president (1830-1846).

The enrollment peaked at 139 in 1845. Dr. Richard H. Rivers became president in 1854, when the college faced serious financial problems. In response to an offer of better support, Rivers moved the college to Florence, Alabama in January 1855. Over 150 graduates received degrees during its 25-year history. The establishment of LaGrange College in 1830 should  be considered the birth of collegiate education in Alabama. The move to Florence was controversial, some students and faculty remained at the former campus, and the Florence institution was denied permission to use the name of LaGrange College. It was chartered as Florence Wesleyan University on February 14, 1856, and is known today as the University of North Alabama.

LaGrange Military Academy 1857-1862

After LaGrange College moved to Florence in January 1855, a group of LaGrange citizens reorganized the college in the vacant buildings under the old name. Rev. Felix Johnson was elected president. To increase the patronage, a military feature was introduced in 1857. Major J.W. Robertson became superintendent, and classes were suspended while a third major building was erected for the cadets. The college reopened in February 1858, as LaGrange College and Military Academy. The new institution’s financial situation was dismal until the State of Alabama provided military equipment and scholarships. The Academy soon flourished and became known as the “West Point of the South.” In 1860, the name was changed to LaGrange Military Academy. By 1861, the enrollment was almost 200 cadets. During its existence, 259 cadets from nine states attended the Academy.
In 1861, many LaGrange cadets left to join the Confederate Army. Consequently, the Academy was forced to suspend classes on March 1, 1862. Only two cadets had graduated. Major Robertson was authorized to organize the 35th Alabama Infantry Regiment, C.S.A. He was elected colonel and the remaining cadets formed part of one company. The regiment was mustered into the Confederate Army on March 12, 1862, for three years. On April 28, 1863, the 10th Missouri Calvary of the Union Army, known as the “Destroying Angels,” commanded by Col. Florence M. Cornyn, burned the Military Academy, the nearby La Fayette Female Academy, many businesses, and homes. The village of LaGrange dwindled away. In 1995, LaGrange Park was transferred from the Alabama Historical Commission to the LaGrange Living Historical Association. Thereafter, the site of Alabama’s first chartered college was enhanced and stands today as a historical landmark.

Listed on Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage in 1976.

We were too late arriving at the area to be able to tour the old buildings but managed to get some photos of them.  Many of the buildings have been brought here from other places in the area and look like they are quite old.

Visitors Center & Museum
Servant Quarters


Guess what!

Church & School

Barber Shop

One of two B&B cabins for nightly rental.

Blacksmith Shop

Country Store

We continued to geocache in the area and found two more caches before it became too late to search for more.  I was using my smartphone for caching and we were out in the country and turned around a number of times.  To find our way back we entered a cache we had found and followed the direction to it and then on back to the motorhome.

One thing we have observed is that there must be a country church for every 50 people in the area.  We've driven on roads where there is a church every mile or so and open fields between them.  I wonder where all the church members live.  The churches look to be in good shape and are in current use.

That was our day, how was yours?


Thursday, May 18, 2017

Tuscumbia Big Spring Park & Helen Keller Birthplace

 Interesting places pop up all over if you are curious and keep your eyes open.  Gerry and I were returning from dinner and spotted this old cabin sitting alongside of the road.  It sat there by itself and we thought it looked great, so we pulled over to get some photos of it.  Behind the cabin was a small pool of water and then we saw a waterfall there, also.  Right away our antennas went up and we had to find out what all this was about.

Paddle Wheels on the pond.

 We searched for the entrance to the waterfalls and this is what we found.  The Big Spring has a daily flow of 35,000,000 gallons a day of crystal clear water.  The park setting is very pretty and relaxing so we got out and walked around the area.

 Picture perfect view of the waterfalls with the nice bridge over them.  The coolness from the water was very refreshing on this hot day.

Gerry enjoying the cool falls.

 The tallest water fountain is over 40ft tall and the fountains were working while we were there.  They have a lighted show each night of the fountains which are set to synchronize with music, and it's free to watch them.

The waterfalls are man made and are the largest known ones in existence.  They look natural and blend in with the park very well.  

Now it was my turn to cool off.

Paddle wheels
 There are some amusement park rides including this old carousal and a nice train ride around the grounds.  A band concert stage is alongside of the pool.  South of this area is a 9 hole golf course that looked great from the road.  We were both very impressed with the park and would love to have one like it wherever we settle down.  Beautiful!

 Tuscumbia is well known and very proud of being the birthplace of Helen Keller.  When she was 18 months old she went blind and deaf, but she was a very intelligent young girl and overcame the odds to become famous.

Heller Keller was born in this home in Tuscumbia, AL.  Unfortunately, we arrived just as they were closing for the day.  I guess we will have to put that on our list for another trip here.

Helen Keller birthplace 

 As we were leaving Tuscumbia I noticed this neat old street clock and then noticed the famous name at the bottom of the base.

The downtown area of Tuscumbia was very nice to see.  There were many shops open along with other businesses including the County Courthouse that stood out very well.  Nice to see small towns that are still viable and functioning.  I wish we had more of them in the U.S.

We had dinner at an old restaurant just up the road from the park.  It had two entrances on the street with an entrance to an apartment section between the entrances.  We walked in the right entrance and it looked like it was an old bar with two tables and then a young girl popped out of an archway and directed us to another seating area.  Service and food were good and I actually was able to order a beer in Alabama.  

Our waitress looked a lot like my grandniece Hannah and I asked if she minded me taking a picture of her.  She was fine with that and I sent it to my niece Vonda and said I found Hannah's twin.  Vonda sent back a photo of Hannah and I showed it to the waitress and she was surprised how much alike they looked.  Hmmmm!

That was our day, how was yours?

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Natchez Trace Parkway & McFarland Park

Gerry and I have driven the length of the Natchez Trace Parkway more than once and it is an enjoyable drive if you aren't in a hurry.  Our first time on the Trace was in a car and we were able to stop and go with no problem.  Another trip we had the motorhome and tow car and it was more difficult.

Since we were in the area, we decided to take a short drive on the Trace after stopping in Red Bay to pick up some headlight bulbs.  One bulb on the motorhome went out and we bought two of them since they usually fail about the same time.  After picking up the bulbs we headed for the Trace and took the long way home.

There are a number of stops along the Trace and we pulled into the Cave Springs parking lot.  Right behind the sign is a walkway that takes you down to the cave.  It is a very short walk and the cave wasn't that impressive.  It was in a sink hole and part of the cave roof had collapsed. 

 A short distance down the road was the Bear Creek Mound.  As the sign states, it was a small mound built a long time ago by the local Indians in the area.  It wasn't a burial mound, but most likely was built for ceremonial purposes.

Bear Creek Mound

 One of the local attractions in the area is the Coondog Cemetery.  We visited it a few years ago and wrote it up in a blog.  It struck us as strange that they would have a brown sign pointing out the cemetery since most brown signs are for national or state parks.

 We were on the Trace during the heat of the day and saw a few squirrels, birds and some wild turkeys.  This one was on the side of the road and took it's time getting out of sight.  They know they are protected and didn't run away as fast as most turkeys do.  We have a couple flocks of  wild turkeys near the cabin and they will speed up to get out of sight when they spot you.

 The Tennessee River used to have ferry boats as means of getting across the river before bridges.  The Colbert family was quite large and had a couple ferry boat crossings along the Tennessee river.  I read up on the Colbert family and they were a quite fascinating group.  

 The Colberts were quite the business people as evidenced by him charging Andrew Jackson $75K to transport his army across the river.

 The two fishermen were very close to the bridge over the Tennessee river.  I couldn't tell if they were having any luck, but if they were fishing then it was a good day.

 We exited the Trace right after crossing the bridge and drove along the river road toward Florence, AL.  The river wasn't in view for the most part until we arrived in Florence.  The McFarland Park is on the river and has a nice campground, except the roads are narrow and the sites are tight.  The view is great though.

Florence, AL McFarland Park 

There was a small fishing dock and it was well used as you can see from the photo below. 

In addition to the campground there is a nice golf course, marina, picnic areas, a hammock area and large playing fields.  It was one of the nicest County Parks we have seen on our travels and we would try and get a campsite there if we are in the area again.  One negative point is that the bridge nearest the park is closed to trucks and RVs at the present time.

On the south side of the river there are several large houses on the bluffs.  I would imagine they are million dollar houses with million dollar views. 

It was a long day and we visited for a while and then went back to the motorhome for dinner.  Gerry had a big night planned with her favorite TV programs on the air.

That was our day, how was yours?

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Trip To Red Bay, Alabama & Tiffin Motorhome

While we were in Tucson we had a problem with the air suspension system on the motorhome and took it to La Mesa RV to have the problem repaired.  They were able to get us back on the road, but couldn't fix the air suspension problem completely.  I wanted the job done right and decided to stop by Tiffin Motorhome and have them finish the job.

We arrived on a Sunday evening and the campground was full so we went to another campground nearby.  It was just a gravel parking lot with full hookups but actually cheaper than the Tiffin Allegro Campground.  We figured we'd be there at least a week and paid the weekly rate of $100/week.  We were tired from all the driving and decided it was a good time to take a break.

Tiffin has what they call the Express Bay service where they will take you in and fix everything they can in 3 hours.  Then you have to wait again at the bottom of the list if you need more time.  The only thing we really needed to have repaired was for them to finish what La Mesa Rv couldn't do.  We sat around for 3 days and were scheduled to go in Wednesday after lunch but they didn't call us to let us know which bay they'd use for our service.

There was a huge fire in the nearby town of Baymont, MS and the Baymont Bathware factory burned down.  We didn't see the fire, but took photos a day or so later.  We could still smell the residue.  What a mess and I read where the 150 workers were are out of jobs for a while.  The company has setup alternate locations to try and continue producing the bathware until the factory can be rebuilt.

Thursday we finally got into a bay and they fixed the problem along with another one we wanted to be taken care of.  The techs at Tiffin did a great job and we were ready to roll on Thursday.  Well, not exactly.  

It seems our wet bay by the sewer connection had a rotten floor and needed to be replaced.  Tiffin said it was quicker and cheaper to have a company near Muscle Shoals, AL do the job.  We called them and they said to be there at 9am on Friday.  We packed up and left for Muscle Shoals and spent the night in their campground.  They took us in Friday morning and completed the repair, making it better than ever.

I mentioned to one of the techs at the repair shop that I needed to find a lab to have some blood work done and that Gerry had a cough problem that wasn't going away.  Lo and behold, he had a medical recommendation for a Nurse Practitioner who worked for a number of doctors and called him to get Gerry an appointment.  He was the father of the NP and managed to get her the appointment.  

We went there after lunch and she got prescriptions along with a blood work order.  We had to get back to the RV shop to get our keys and pay the bill, back to Lab Corp for blood work and then find a campground to spend the night.  Whew!!  We were running around like chickens with our heads cutoff going back and forth. 

To make a long story short, we found a nice campground nearby and went there about 6pm and got set up.  The campground office people had left for the day and the camp host was gone for the weekend.  We picked out a site and got set up for the weekend.  We even had a catfish dinner at a local restaurant which always makes me happy.

This is one of those areas we hadn't planned to spend any time, but are having fun geocaching and discovering hidden gems in the area. It's interesting exploring places off the beaten path, especially when it is unplanned. 

That was our exciting week on the road.  How was yours.