Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Time for lunch in small town Americana

When traveling, people usually want to try something new.

New, that is, as far as a place to eat. There’s that adventure aspect.

But that goes against the grain sometimes when not in somewhat familiar territory or a town big enough to have a “fast food row.”

On a recent trip, on a road in Alabama never traveled before, lunch time arrived when we were in what some would call the “middle of nowhere.”

Well, it was somewhere for those who live there. But to us, there wasn’t a lot of civilization 20 or so miles before we arrived, and upon leaving, it was the same way in the other direction.

I can’t remember the name of the town, but I believe it was Grove Hill. We had gotten off the main highway to take a break and check out our GPS to see how to get where we wanted to go.

After a few minutes of checking and not arriving at a different decision about how to head north, my wife and I decided to have some lunch.

But where.

The road we took off the main highway into the town took us along the side of a courthouse complex. It was a rather large building. This had to be the county seat, I guess. I didn’t know.

We were traveling on the road parallel to the front of the courthouse, but about a block away. We turned toward the building wondering what was in the neighborhood.

The road curved to the right and away from the courthouse. Before I realized it, we were already back to the road we had come into town on.

But wait, there was a restaurant to the northeast of the courthouse that we had just passed. I figured they had to have somewhat decent food. We turned around and decided to give it a try.

I found out that not only did the Courthouse Square Deli and Bakery serve good and reasonably priced food, but they were located in a building that once housed the Clarke County Democrat, which apparently was a weekly newspaper. I once worked on two weeklies.

The paper served the area from 1856 until 1941, al least that’s what the lettering on the building indicated.

As usual my wife got a salad and water and I had coffee and a Philly cheese steak sandwich.

There was a homey atmosphere to the place, and since it was early afternoon, the courthouse workers had apparently already made their appearance at the regular lunchtime hour.

There were a few patrons in the spacious building, enjoying the socializing that comes with a small town restaurant.

We enjoyed the meal and soon set out upon our adventure.

Next post: June 6, 2017

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Opryland resort offers unique experience

Opryland Resort complex at Nashville offers abundance of flowers, walking space

The first time I ever saw the outside of the Ryman Auditorium building in Nashville, TN was back in January of 1967.

It was a very inauspicious occasion that took me to the front of the facility that housed the Grand Ole Opry.

Earlier on that particular day, I had hopped on a Greyhound bus in Hattiesburg, MS, heading north. North into the unknown. North to Fort Campbell, KY, where I would undergo eight weeks of basic training.

The bus station in Nashville was close to the Ryman. It was sometime around 2 or 3 a.m. when we arrived in the city. There was about an hour or so wait before the next bus. 

Some others who were also headed to Fort Campbell all decided to walk down to the famous building.

The middle of the night was cold, but I can’t remember it being bitter cold. We just sauntered down to it, walked around and then went back to catch the next bus.

That was my only personal experience with the Ryman until a couple weeks ago.

On a trip to a college graduation in Louisville, KY., my wife and I spent a couple nights with a relative in Bowling Green. The next day we went back to Nashville, taking in the gigantic Opryland Resort Complex and then driving to downtown Nashville.

After a couple hours of walking around the resort, we weren’t much into walking around Nashville so we just did a drive-by sighting of the Ryman and other downtown spots.

The older one gets, the fewer are the places that one wants to spend time walking around and seeing. Our sightseeing nowadays is more akin to ‘one and done” which means giving our attention and energy to just one location.

The Opryland complex was a delightful surprise with all the walking paths, flowers and plants, and open spaces under those giant domes. The waterfalls were great.

I just loved that aspect of it, being able to be outside while being inside.

We spent so much time browsing around that we decided to enjoy a meal at one of their “outdoor” spots before heading out for a driving tour of the town.

Next post: May 30, 2017

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Still recovering from the longest day

How long does it take to physically get over an 800-mile day trip?

Well, so far, it is three days and counting for this driver.

The older one gets, the harder it is to recover. At least, that is what I am finding out.

A one-week trip from home for a college graduation some 800 miles away had a few challenges.

The first, of course, was the first day out when we had a flat tire on the vehicle we were renting and easily swapped it out at another rental location on the road.

But the last day, what turned out to be the 6th day, wasn’t what we had in mind.

Unfortunately, my wife had a medical condition that required an emergency room visit of about five hours on day 5. (She missed seeing her nephew receive his diploma.)

Having somewhat recovered from that, the decision was to get back home as soon as possible in case there was another flareup. We wanted to be close to her personal physicians.

There wasn’t another incident, but it was a long day.

Traveling from Louisville, KY to Ocean Springs included another challenge. Just below Birmingham, AL traffic ahead of us came to an almost standstill.

Traffic was barely moving. 

A month or so earlier, we came upon a traffic slowdown and after getting through it, realized that whatever had happened was cleared up and the slowdown was just a long chain reaction to get back to normal speed.

What was the Alabama situation?

After eventually arriving at Alabaster, AL, we saw ahead that traffic was being re-routed off the interstate onto Highway 31. Vehicles were backed up in all directions.

The officer at the off-ramp said there had been a diesel spill a few  miles down the interstate. Both the northbound and southbound lanes of I-65 were re-routed.

After a short stop for a meal, we headed back into the traffic and edged our way through Alabaster. There was a sign pointing to an I-65 connection.

We took the turn, but there wasn’t anyone following. Did we make a mistake?

After about a three-mile distance, we saw the on-ramp to southbound I-65 and easily got on to it.

It was clear sailing. A mile or so down the road, we saw the on-ramp where most of the other vehicles were getting on the southbound interstate.

The two-hour or so delay resulted in our not getting home until  about 12:30 a.m. Sunday, a long way from the 9-10 a.m. start.

All in all, it was a long, tough day, and I am still feeling some of the effects.

Next post: May 23, 2017

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Trip's first day: A challenge overcome

Sometimes things just don't go as expected.

Like, our current one-week trip.

I picked up our rental car on Monday morning and within a couple hours my wife and I were on the road.

We planned a two-day trip to our first destination up in Kentucky. Looking at a map, there was the thought that taking a different route other than an interstate would be interesting. Well, interesting sounds good until something goes wrong and one ends up with more mileage to cover with less time.

Well, we decided that we would go up Highway 43 from Satsuma, AL and when it intersected with Highway 5, we would take that road to I-20 into Birmingham and then northward on I-65 to Kentucky.

That's the way it seemed to be working. That is, until we hit Mobile. A warning message on the dash signaled that one of the tires was losing pressure. What to do? When a tire is losing pressure that means, of course, that it must be going flat.

Arriving at the rental car franchise in Mobile, the tire was checked. Sure enough, it was low. The car maintenance person spread some soapy water on the tire to see where the leak might be.

The water started bubbling. There was a nail in the tire where the air was escaping. 

The rental car representative at that location quickly offered another vehicle for our use and then we were on our way with only a minor delay.

The rest of the first two days went as expected. Tuesday afternoon we pulled into our first scheduled destination for a short visit.

Life does have its little surprises, but often they can be overcome. Especially when a company's representatives work quickly to help solve a problem. 

Thanks, Enterprise!

Next post: May 16, 2017

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Not once, not twice, but three times

Sometimes one just doesn’t plan right.

Take, for instance, this past Sunday.

On  a trip 150 miles to the west over the weekend to Baton Rouge, LA, our plans were to head back home on Sunday morning.

As most everyone who watches the weather can recall, Sunday was not a walk in the park for a lot of people.

High winds and tornadoes resulted in the deaths of a few. Buildings and homes suffered damages. The front extended from the Gulf of Mexico up to the midwest.

My wife and I had a three-fer that day.

Getting up a little too late, we decided to stay put and let the storm front pass through. There were high winds, lightening and some very heavy rains.

We survived.

But then, we did what some would call a stupid thing.

After the major part of the front passed through, we decided to head home.

The storm was heading east. We were also heading east.

Somewhere east of Hammond we caught up to the major portion of the storm. Yes, the winds were heavy, the lightning was there and the downpours were ferocious.

At times we had to cut down to about 45 miles per hour because the rain was so heavy and it was difficult to see more than 100 or so feet ahead.

But we persevered. Others slowed down with a lot of them having their emergency blinkers flashing. The more adventurous just passed us on by as though nothing unusual was happening.

We managed to get ahead of the front and decided to stop for a rest break, knowing that we didn’t have much time to take care of business and get back on the road.

As we were heading out of the gas station, the edge of the front was moving in. The rains began as we got into our vehicle and continued east on I-12.

A few miles down the road and we were out of the weather.

But then again, we weren’t really.

After getting to our home in south Mississippi, we settled in for what we knew was going to happen again.

The bad weather showed up an hour or two later, bringing with it the expected thunder and lightning, high winds and heavy rains.

So, in one day we experienced the same storm three different times.

Just goes to show what can happen when one doesn’t get up early enough to get ahead of  a system.

Next post: May 9, 2017