Thursday, February 28, 2013

Free Stuff: 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center

Directly across the street from Meaher State Park was 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center.  It was a great way to spend a family afternoon.  The property is nestled at the point where the Mobile-Tensaw Delta meets the Mobile Bay.  It boasts several easy to moderate hiking trails as well as two indoor wildlife exhibits and the best part...they are FREE to the public.  The wildlife exhibits contained both live and taxidermy specimens.  In addition, there were interactive activities for kids throughout the exhibits like the puzzle in one of the photos below.  Apparently, they also offer story time followed by arts and crafts for children under 6 on the first and third Tuesday of every month.  Attached are links to both 5 Rivers website and Facebook with regular updates of all activities.

Sign for both Meaher and 5 Rivers 
Live squirrel!

The only live gator we saw in Alabama

View of the Delta.  Still February so plant life still very brown.

Really cool wall sculpture  "Fossil" by Bruce Larsen

Live owl

Interactive puzzle

Brian and Truman taking a break from hiking

Sunrises, Sunsets, and a Full Moon

We stayed in Meaher State Park for a total of 10 days.  Over the course of our stay we experienced some of the most brilliant skies.  Here ya go...
February's Full Moon











Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Happy Birthday Truman!

Truman turned 1 on February 27.  Wow, what a crazy year.  If anyone had told me when he was born that by his first birthday we would have sold everything and been living as transients in a pop up, I would have never believed it. 
Brian, Amber, and Truman (one day old)
Truman (one year old)
His birthday was the first sunny day since we arrived.  We decided to do a bit of exploring.  We were hoping to find a nice place to eat and celebrate.  Everyone we had met said Fairhope, Alabama was a “can’t miss” town and it was only about 30 minutes from where we were camped.  In our opinion, Fairhope was an “okay” town.  The coolest sight was the self-sustaining organic grocery with everything from solar and wind power to produce grown on site.  The streets were lined with trendy shops and most of the restaurants closed between 1pm and 5pm.  When you sell everything for a life on the road “stuff” tends to take on a whole new meaning.  We found ourselves uncomfortable even window shopping.  There was nothing there we needed and the reduction in our material possessions seemed to reduce our wants as well.  We did stumble upon an open Irish pub.  One thing we did need and want was a decent lunch.  Walking around Fairhope had given us an appetite.  We ordered the fish tacos and a couple of drinks and found a comfortable spot out on the patio.  The sun was shining and it felt marvelous to be outside in February.   A group came through looking for a Geo Cache.  The bar’s patio was the last stop leading them to the “treasure”. 
Amber and Truman on the pub patio

Geo Cache Crew

The pub recommended Felix's Fish Camp Grill on the causeway for dinner.  We packed back into the car and headed towards our dinner destination.  We couldn't have picked a better place to celebrate Truman's first birthday.  The service and food were magnificent.  We had an amazing view of the sunset on the bay.  They even brought Truman a piece of cake with a sparkler. 

Restaurant View

Birthday Boy!

Sad to see the night come to an end, we arrived "home" to find a special birthday package on our door step.  It contained one Elmo birthday card, one stuffed gator, and one Alabama coloring book.  A special thanks to Laura V and Jumpin' Jony for leaving the perfect gift and giving us a warm Alabama welcome!  What an amazing end to an amazing day!

 Happy Birthday Little Man!!!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

A homemade stabber stick, some big black garbage bags, and a chance to give back

After several walks on the 3 boardwalks located within in the park, we noticed an excessive amount of litter.  We truly feel it was incidental litter and not intentional, most likely blown from boats or campsites or even as a result of a capsize.  Regardless of why it was there, we felt compelled to go out and pick it up.  Brian constructed what is best described as a "stabber stick" for hard to reach trash, we grabbed a couple of garbage bags, and off we went in the direction of the nature boardwalk.  Most of what we picked up were empty drink containers both plastic and can.  We did have some unusual items including some shoes and one trash can lid.  There is a motto in the back country camping community..."leave no trace".  It felt good to live this motto here in make this place more beautiful than we'd found it.
Entrance trail to the nature boardwalk

Trail to the Nature Boardwalk

Nature Boardwalk

Nature Boardwalk

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Good Old Fashioned Barter and a Fast Friendship

In the previous article I mentioned a birthday package left for Truman.  This was left by our camp neighbor Laura.  Now, we never would have even met Laura if a) we hadn’t moved due to the flood in site 1 and b) we hadn’t had a dog loving baby.  While we were consumed with inventing new ways to stay dry…the rain didn’t stop even though we moved the pop up to a new site, people we taking notice of our “vintage set up”.  We were surrounded by high dollar campers, fifth wheels and travel trailers…while we made do in our 1980’s pop up covered in tarps.
  One of the benefits of a low dollar, even lower amenity camp vehicle is that you are forced to spend your time outdoors.  We met our neighbor Laura because Truman likes dogs and Jumpin’ Jony likes anyone that will pet him.  Our baby and her fur baby wanting to meet gave her the opportunity to ask what the heck we were doing in a pop up in Alabama in February.  We briefly exchanged our stories.
 As it turns out, Laura had a pretty good story of her own.  She had been a salon owner in the town of Fairhope.  Unfortunately, a nasty divorce left her with nothing.  As a result, she bought a travel trailer and settled as a resident in Meaher. Though she no longer has a shop of her own, she currently works as a stylist in a local hotel salon.  In addition to her day job, she has also started a non-profit organization called the Gulf Coast Blues Society.  This organization’s focus is to keep Blues alive with an additional mission to promote music in education.  She is an amazing testament of strength and resilience. 
It may have been fate, but Brian had just commented on my need for a trip to the salon not more than 24 hours before.  I asked Laura if she had any availability in her schedule at work over the next few days.  She kindly said the salon she worked in was extremely expensive, to save my money, and she would do my hair in the campground for just $40.  This was a great deal.  We set up a time for the next day and each returned to our respective sites to continue on with our own days.
 A short time later she stopped back over.  She said, “I have a proposition for you.  I have a leak in my roof and I am afraid of heights.  Would it be possible for your husband to help me fix the leak?  If so, I will do your hair for free.”  Ah, the barter system…we love the barter system!  I checked with Brian and he said yes.  Truman napped, Brian fixed the leak, and I got the best cut and color I think I have ever had.    As far as we know, the leak Brian fixed has been water tight ever since.

The next day Laura was our personal guide to the hidden gem of Gulf Shores, Alabama.  This was Truman's very first trip to the beach.  She snapped some amazing pictures of all of us on the beach.  We left with some great family memories and photos. 

Brian and Truman feeding the seagulls

Sandy feet

New friends (Laura, Amber, Brian, and Truman) 
Amber and Truman


Rain, Rain, and more Rain!

Depending on which local we talk to the weather is either normal or out of the ordinary.  Regardless, our second morning in Mobile we woke up in a full flood surrounding the pop up and car.  No strangers to rain (while camping), this amount of rain in such a short span of time was a first for us.  Since it appeared the rain would continue, the campground staff offered us a chance to move to a site with a concrete pad.  We debated moving, weighing our options.  In the end, we decided moving was best.
  Looking for a short reprieve from the rain, we decided to make our move.  As we began transferring water proof containers from the pop up to the grass, the rains began again.  Moving a pop up is much like moving a takes a lot of tedious tear down and setup.  We decided not to completely collapse the pop up for the move across the campground in an effort to save time.
  I'm sure we looked much like a circus making our way from one end of the campground to the other pulling our pop up open pop up at 5 miles an hour. 
10 days later, upon our departure from Meaher, a puddle still remained in site 1.  Turns out we made a good choice.

Our car tires with water to the rims

Almost shin deep water outside the pop up

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Meaher State Park-Spanish Fort, Alabama

We got on the road by 7:30am.  This was a long car day.  We probably pushed further than we should have with a baby in tow.  Our goal was to reach warmer nights, which meant putting distance between us and the cold north.  After a bit of research we settled on Mobile, Alabama as an extended stop.  We arrived at Meaher State Park about 7pm and it was already getting dark.  Learned the pop up can become a bed with a door.  This is how we spent our first night in Meaher.  Our site is number 1.  It is the closest to the bathrooms and the fishing pier.  The people have been exceedingly kind and accommodating. 

This was unlike any state park we had ever experienced.  It was comprised of the campground, three docks, and the Mobile Bay.  Approximately 80% of the campers were permanent with the remaining sites available for transient campers.  People visited for the view and the access to prime fishing.  Little did we know at the time this little community was a gem and we would miss and reminisce about our stay here for months to come.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Henry Horton Who

It was time to leave our friends in Radcliff, Kentucky and begin our adventure.  We got a bit of a late start and only made it about 3 hours this first day.  We decided to camp for the night in Henry Horton, a Tennessee state park.   Beautiful and wooded, we were the only campers in the place.  A brief visit from the park ranger and we were paid for the night.  The bathrooms were immaculate.  It appeared they had been newly constructed. 
This was the first night in the pop up.  We were definite newbies to pop up camping.  We were unable to unhook the pop up from the car and even though the camp site had power, we had no idea how to hook up the pop up to the power source.  Layering clothing and blankets we all huddled together in the one bed we were able to extend.  It was cold and sleepless night.  We had concerns regarding staying in a pop up with Truman (our young son) during such extreme weather, but we survived the night no worse for wear and staying in a camp ground only cost us $21.  Below is a photo of Brian and Truman all bundled up and prepared for a very cold night.