Category Archives: Alabama

A year in review

The past twelve months have flown by faster than any other that I can remember. It is hard to believe, but it has been a year since I left New York City that cool rainy day in March. And now I am here in Nevada basking in the sun. I once again drove out onto the Mormon Mesa to find a tranquil spot to soak up the sun and to read. Unfortunately, I left my book at home (check out by my friend J.D. Fox. A legal thriller for a good cause). Fortunately, I brought pen and paper.
Overton is a very quiet place; however, up on the mesa it is even quieter. I am looking over this big flat covered by sage brush, creosote and other desert shrubs, no humans. The desert is starting to turn green with lots of new growth. I am surrounded by mountains, the Virgins, Muddy and Mormon Mountains are the large ranges.
Last February I was in the final stages of getting everything organized for this journey. I was going crazy. Overwhelmed by everything I felt I needed to know about the camper. Dealing with insurance companies was another big headache. One company for the truck and my apartment, another one for the camper. Who would insure what? The homeowner’s insurance or the camper policy? I got as many different answers to the same question as people I talked to. It was a nightmare. That on top of figuring out how many watts my inverter would need to run my computer on the camper’s DC power. Watts, volts, amps, AC or DC power, all very confusing. If you are drawing a blank here, then you know how I felt.
I drove a little over 25,000 miles in the past twelve months. I haven’t done much driving since I returned to Overton from my southern Nevada excursion in January. 25,000 miles of very different terrain. I don’t remember every road I took, but when I look at my maps and especially my photos (11,000+) I do remember little details, the smell of the Juniper trees up in the Dalamar Mountains or the smell of celery near Oxnard. There are not too many countries where you can drive that many miles and never really see the same thing twice.

Bryce Amphitheater

I haven’t written anything in detail about what I did or where I was in October. Most of the time was spent in southern Utah. It is one of the most amazing places I have seen so far. The area is “littered” with National Parks: Canyonlands, Arches, Bryce and Zion in addition to magnificent landscapes in between. I hiked almost fifty! miles throughout October. It gave me a very different perspective from just driving through. None of the parks were crowed at that time of the year, especially on the trails that were more than one mile long.

Zion - so much beauty

Every time I left one park I asked myself how could the next place possibly get any better. Amazingly they always did. The geology in this part of the country is fascinating. Parts of Utah, Nevada, Arizona and Colorado were covered by water millions of years ago, that combined with volcanic eruptions has made for an incredible landscape.
What is my favorite place?


I have seen the beautiful beaches of Alabama, the pancake flats of Texas, the Pacific Ocean coastline, the mountains of northern California, the

Bryce - rainbow colors

rainforests and desert of Washington State, the spires and hoodoos of southern Utah and Arizona and much much more. It is very difficult to name one place. I did like Etna in northern California a lot.

Scott Valley

Scott River

Etna is situated in the Scott Valley and has a population of less than 800. Surrounded by mountains and golden fields. When I visited the fields were harvested and the colors were stunning. To me the town just had a very nice feel to it.


But if you ask me what will I remember the most, it will be the kindness of complete strangers; like Kate in Texas who runs a Bed & Breakfast. She prepared lunch for me despite the fact that she does not serve lunch and that she is not allowed to sell food to people who are not guests. We spent almost two hours talking and eating. I made a donation. Or Kinsey, a fellow traveler in Montana, one of only two solo women travelers I have encountered, who left fresh tomatoes and some potatoes at my door before she headed out. The campground manager who gave me scallop squash and cherry tomatoes because I couldn’t find any veggies at the small supermarket. The store keeper in Augusta, MT, who made me a cup of hot chocolate (with milk) on a cold and rainy day.
The RVers in Oregon who first watched me put my camper back on the truck and then invited me to dinner. My neighbors here at the campground who invite me over and always make sure that there is at least one non-meat dish for me.
The couple who invited me to Christmas dinner, Henry and Tyann, who have become friends and had me over for dinner several times since. They have made sure I don’t run out of my special dark rye bread which they bring back from Mesquite. They even have given me a ride to Whole Foods in Vegas so that I could stock-up on some good cheese. My hiking buddy Ron makes sure I have enough fresh coffee in the house. You have to know there is only one supermarket in Overton. Which is fine for all the basics, but they don’t carry things like good cheese or a wide variety of produce. Vegas is sixty plus miles away and Mesquite forty miles, ONE way.
Never mind all the friends and friends of friends who let me stay with them. Some I hadn’t seen in decades.
It is these and many more encounters that I will cherish the most.
Thank you all!!
As much as I was frantic and crazed before I left New York, I am now panicked that I have to be back in New York City by June. It is not so much that I will be back in the big city, I do love NYC, it is more that I have to sell my truck. As mentioned in a previous post, NYC rent plus truck payments on a minimal part-time job are just not feasible. I am still hoping for a miracle.
Maybe now you understand why I want to continue traveling. There are so many more people to meet and places to discover. I have only been to twenty three of the lower forty eight states and some I only quickly drove through.

self portrait at sunset

Succumb to fried food

Here is the post that goes with the photos below.

Have I mentioned how beautiful Alabama is?  No, I am not getting paid by the Alabama tourism board.  There are the beautiful beaches along the Gulf Coast.  FYI, there is no oil on the beaches, so come on down.  It is not only the fishing industry that’s hurting because of the oil spill.  Tourism has taken a big hit as well.

Heading north I drove through very green, beautiful hilly areas.  There are forests everywhere.  I think I am ready for a change of scenery.

The eastern part of Alabama is all about lakes.  As you know I stayed at Lake Martin, 44,000 acres of clean water.  I nick named it the Hamptons of Alabama.  I was told that people have their second, third or even fourth home here on the lake.  Families often only spend the summer months in these million dollar mansions.  I was not impressed by the homes.  They were big, however, they lacked character.

I did go on that boat ride on the lake, four hours of riding around in a little boat with an eight horse power out boarder, fun!  Just a tip in case you should be spending any time on the water this summer.  Apply plenty of sunscreen!  Thanks to the cooling breeze the sun does not feel hot and you easily burn to a crisp otherwise.  I am sure you already knew that.

The time at the lake was tranquil.  The park has over 600 campsites on 1,400 acres.  Over the weekend it gets crowed with families.  Once Sunday rolls around people start to clear out and peace and quiet return.  Only five of the forty sites in my area were occupied, total silence.  The sounds of children playing were replaced by the sounds of song birds, ducks, Canada geese, squirrels, and woodpeckers.  

Could you think of a better way to end the day than sitting by the lake, watching the sun set with a little campfire burning and a cold beer in your hand, oh well make that a cup of tea?  It is very relaxing to just look out onto the calm water, just what the doctor prescript.

Wait, I wanted to write about fried food.  OK, when I arrived in Gadsden I asked for a place to eat.  I was told about this great seafood place not too far from the campground.  Yeah, seafood.  Well, when I looked at the menu I was not so thrilled anymore.  Fried, fried and more fried fish.  The only vegetable on the menu was the baked potato that came with most dishes.  So, I settled for some fried crawfish and grilled shrimp with French fries.  Neither was that great.  The best part about this dinner was the cornbread, I usually don’t like corn or anything made with corn, the coleslaw and the pickled onion, which was a first for me.  

What’s the deal with crawfish?  It is very popular down here and in the South.  It is not even a fish, more a cross between shrimp and lobster.  I had it in gumbo and fried and neither time did I find it particular tasty.  The fried version was the size of popcorn.  I haven’t eaten out to dinner ever since.

Speaking of food.  Did you know that all foods in Alabama get taxed; prepared and fresh, even milk?  Sales tax is 9%, that’s more than we pay in New York City.  Adds almost 10 cents to every dollar spend, that’s a lot!  Just a little food for thought since NYC is considering a 1% tax on food.truck camper  travel  ford 

Too much to write about

Alabama overview - near Lake Martin

OK, I just got home at 8 PM after a day of exploring.  I am too tired to write, but I wanted to post at least some photos.  Words will follow.  At this point I could sit in front of my computer for days just writing.

My spot at Lake Martin

Fun on the lake

Just another sunset

Gray skies remain

The heavy rain stopped at some point during the night.  I was just glad that I was not sleeping in a tent.

Warnings of severe weather are still broadcasted on the radio;  mostly to the southwest of my location.  It is a little unsettling to have the regular broadcast interrupted by these warnings,  I am not used to that.

Alfalfa sprouts, rosemary and food in general

Muse at Town Creek Park

I am still in Alabama.  Spent two days in Auburn, home of the Auburn University Tigers.  I arrived just in time for graduation.  That unfortunately meant that the campus was empty and the university town feeling was not quite there. Nevertheless, I had a great experience.
For the first time in a very long time did I read the words “alfalfa sprouts” on a menu.  No matter what it was, this had to be good.  And it was!  A tuna salad sandwich with lettuce, tomato, provolone cheese and alfalfa sprouts, YUMMY!  Probable the best sandwich I had in the last month, thanks Jimmy John’s.  Sorry, fried foods.  To top this off I had a cup of coffee and a delicious white chocolate, macadamia nuts cookie next door at Taylor’s Bakery.  My day was made.
In the evening I went to a little open air concert in Town Creek Park.  A total family affair; kids running around having a good ole’ time and the parents relaxing.  What else can anyone ask for?  And the music wasn’t bad either.

Since I am a creature of habits and who knows when I get my next great sandwich, I repeated my lunch indulgence the next day. I also bought a bunch of cookies for the road.  Anyone would say that’s enough of a good time, but no I had to top all this. 
Here in the South college sports are very big.  Auburn is known for its great football team.  They have a stadium seating 87,000 + fans.  In comparison Giant Stadium in New York (technically New Jersey) only seats 82,000! Unfortunately, football season doesn’t start until the fall so I had to “settle” for a baseball game.  Not as popular, the stadium only seats a little over 4,000, but still an experience.  Especially when you get a photo pass and have access to the field, lucky me.  I had never photographed a baseball game before, so there was a learning curve.

Auburn Tigers

There is a lot of this going on

1 - I am going to get to second base

2 - really I am

3 - I am very close

4 - oh, oh, there is the ball

5 - safe! Really?

The next day I didn’t want to move, but I also didn’t want to stay in Auburn. So I did the second best thing. I found a state park with a campground at a lake that was only 50 miles away. I could manage to drive 50 miles, 1 1/2 hours, that’s OK.

Lake Martin - I have to live through this every evening - how do I do it?

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I don’t know how I manage to pick these campgrounds, it’s a gut feeling. I am facing Lake Martin just a few feet from my camper. The water is even warm enough to go swimming. My Auburn campground wasn’t bad either on a farm, quiet and green.

I got to talk to my campground neighbor and he recommended a restaurant about 12 miles from the park. Nothing around here is close by. He also mentioned a gourmet food market. My heart jumped for joy. I would check both out on Sunday. Rosemary flavored home fries and crab cakes egg benedict, OMG! I savored every bite. The restaurant is called Sinclaire’s and if you don’t know that it is there you wouldn’t find it. There is no sign on the road where to turn. I never realized how much food can change your mood. Food can be healthy and good for you, but it has to be satisfying to be mood altering. I had a similar uplifting felling after the tuna sandwich.

Off to Catherine’s Market. Fresh fennel, leak and other vegetables I hadn’t seen in a while. And most importantly, at least for me, fresh cheese. Not the supermarket variety I have been getting. Thanks for the tips Randy. I was already contemplating to have some cheese shipped to me from Fairway or Schaller & Weber in NYC. Only problem, I never know where to have that stuff shipped. I never stay long enough for mail delivery.

I now have a freezer full of fresh veggies, these are my frozen veggies, not store bought. Speaking of freezer, this is the first time in almost 22 years that I have a freezer. I know that’s hard to believe, but in NYC I only have an under the counter fridge with a cooling compartment. I now have ice cream in my freezer and I find myself sitting on my “couch” watching online TV and eating ice cream, heaven. Wow, who would have thought that I have to move into a smaller space to get a bigger fridge.

I already have extended my stay here at the lake. Tomorrow I will rent a little motorboat and have some fun on the lake.

Eventually, I will head west. Just a cavern, a waterfall and a lost luagage store that I want to see first before leaving Alabama. I want to be in California at the end of July for the big garlic festival in Gilroy, don’t ask.

FYI, I am still traveling the back roads, Interstates are too crazy.
Here are some more fun signs.

Crosswalk instructions at Auburn University - don't they really know?

Burnt Car Road

Unamed Road

Lucky me or sweet people of Alabama

Kenny, Barbara & Eleanor

I can’t explain it, but I have a great hand when it comes to picking campgrounds.  Maybe I should start playing the lotto.

I had planned to stay in Uriah, Alabama for two nights, well this is my fifth night.  There is not much around here, mostly agriculture; cotton, soybeans, peanuts and more crops and the beautiful rolling hills.  Then of course there are the people.  The folks around here are very nice and friendly.  In particular my campground hosts, Kenny and Barbara.  They were the ones who persuaded my to stay longer, it didn’t take too much arm twisting.  The first night I arrived they had me join them for dinner at one of the local restaurants.  On Mother’s Day I joined them and Kenny’s mother for lunch.  Through them I met Tim who used to own a cotton gin, in a nutshell a place where the cotton gets separated from the seeds, cleaned, bundled and sold. 

Trailer load of cotton

500 lb bundles of cotton

Cotton harvest is not until September, but I got an in-depth tour of the gin he once owned.  Pretty neat.  To top all this of, I got to ride Kenny’s backhoe, no dirty thoughts here! 

When was the last time you drove a backhoe?

This is what this trip is all about, connecting with people.  Let’s hope that my luck continues throughout this journey.

While I was here I did get to drive around as well.  There are the pretty sides, the rolling hills and the Alabama River, but there are also more depressing aspects.  Only 10 / 15 miles from here are two small towns, Frisco City and Repton. 

Frisco City - four walls, no roof

Both of them have fallen on hard times. 

Frisco City - shell of a building

Along one short block on Frisco City’s main street there are at least seven buildings that are shut down, of those, three buildings only have the walls standing, no roof.  Some ladies told me that the town declined when the school shut down about five years ago.  City Hall had a notice posted calling for a town meeting to discuss ways to revive the town.

Not too far from there is Repton.  A once bustling railroad town according to the historic maker which was erected just last month.  The maker points to the “Historic and Beautiful Repton”. 


I guess it once was beautiful, unfortunately all but one business along the historic stretch are closed.  The former business owners didn’t even spend the time to completely clear out their stores.  Desks, boxes and in some cases supplies are in plain site.  All I could think was what a great place for a cafe and maybe even a restaurant. 

Repton - no train depot, no stores

The old red brick buildings ARE still beautiful, just need a little work.

I don’t want to end this post on a down note.  I stocked-up on some fresh veggies and fruits, something I didn’t get very much of in the last couple of days, this is meat and fried food country.  I now also own a pot of basil and a pot of parsley.  A gift from the sweet people of Alabama, as Jim the owner of the feed & seed place said, as he handed me the pots.  Thank you Alabama.  


Straw bales at sunset - I just love them

I will continue east to Auburn and then up to northern Alabama before I head back west.  I have been on the road now for almost 60 days and drove just under 5,000 miles.  It feels like I left NYC just yesterday.  Hope you guys up there get some warmer weather soon.  The thermometer in my truck showed 130+ F today. OK, it was standing in direct sunlight, but still.  Driving with open windows brought the temps only down to 90 + and it is not even summer.

130 F in the truck


Help clean-up the oil spill



The donation

Everyone can do something to help the clean-up efforts of the looming oil disaster along the Gulf Coast.


If you read my last post you know about the hair donations that are collected and made into booms to keep the oil off the beaches. Well, I did my part and cut my hair and mailed it to a collection center. I considered shaving my head, but I thought that would go just a little too far.
Get your hair salon and your pet groomer involved. The hair will be used for the Gulf Coast oil spill and any future spills.  Again check  for more information. I received my mailing address within 24 hours of signing up.

My first encounter with the New Orleans police

Greetings from New Orleans.  Apologies for the long break between posts.  Traveling, taking pictures and working a little can all turn into a full time job.

The distance between Gulf Shores and New Orleans is not very large, only about 200 miles.  But once you reach the Biloxi area you feel much further away.  You can’t help but think of Katrina and Rita and the damage they have caused.  In many parts along the Gulf coast did I see dead sticks in the ground, tree trunks without branches and only half their original size.  However, the damage to homes was more apparent in Mississippi and Louisiana.  Many empty stilts that once were the support and the protection to houses.  Four and a half years later roads are still being paved and as one contractor in New Orleans told me only recently have they put up street signs in some areas.  Why is this taking so long?  The contrast sometimes is amazing, boarded up houses on one block and beautiful homes on the next.  So far I have only gotten a very small sampling of the area, but I am planning on exploring more.

OK, you are wonder what happened that I met the NOPD.  Well, I wasn’t speeding.  Originally, I thought I had my first travel adventure or misadventure on my hands.  Leaving Alabama I noticed that my front license plate was missing.  My first thought was that someone in Miami must have stolen it while I was parked in the tennis tournament parking lot.  When I arrived at my campsite in New Orleans, the very nice St. Bernard State Park, I asked Ranger Johnston if he could tell me where the nearest police station was.  I wanted to report the plate as stolen just in case it is being used in some kind of unsavoury activity.  Instead of me going to the police, I had two officers show-up at my campsite within 15 minutes!  Unfortunately, they couldn’t help.  I needed to report the incident in Miami, oh what fun.  We had a nice chat and they left.  As I said I thought I had my first adventure on my hand, as it turns out it wasn’t one at all.  I looked at some pictures I took of the truck along the way and believe it or not, I must have LOST the front plate on my first day of travel.  All I needed to do was call the DMV (35 minutes on hold) and order new plates.  It was suggested to me to inform the NY State police and the Pennsylvania State police just in case.

Today I started my volunteering gig with Habitat for Humanity.  We are a small group of 8 putting up siding on a house.  I have to practice my handheld circular saw sawing skills.  Managed to hit not the nail on the head but my thumb, blue was always my favorite color 🙂  It is a slow process.  Some more people are supposed to join us tomorrow.

Let me go back to Alabama for a bit.  I would have never mentioned Alabama and white sandy beaches in the same sentence.  The sand is super fine and the beaches are clean!  If you are into shell collecting, this is the place to be; especially when you go to Dauphin Island.  The shells are bigger than my hand at least a 1/4″ thick, brownish color and pretty heavy.  I took a photo which I will eventually post.  Does anyone have an idea what kind of shell this might be?  The beach was littered with them.  Dauphin Island even has a bird sanctuary.  Some parts of the West End beach were corded off for migrating / breading birds.

I had my first po’boy on Dauphin Island, grilled shrimp, very nice.  I got to talk to the two ladies who were making the sandwiches.  They told my about the big fishing rodeo they have every year on the island.  Hundreds and hundreds of anglers from all over the world come to fish.  Supposedly the variety of fish is endless.

It is getting late and I still have to make dinner.  There is more to write about, the nice guy in Biloxi who told me how to get out of a bad traffic jam, the nice guy running a campground who didn’t know that there was a nice restaurant just 2.5 miles from the site (never ask locals) and the beautiful Live Oak trees.  Did I mention bugs, I have been eaten alive.  Itching and scratching for a week now.

Good night.  Next time some photos.