Category Archives: Alabama

A Year on the Road

On August 25 we hit an anniversary – one year of traveling with our RV on the road!   We reached this date while staying at Boston Minuteman Campground, located in Massachusetts.   I thought it was interesting that Massachusetts was our 25th state to visit, so we are now halfway through our goal of visiting all the states.  To clarify, we won’t be able to visit them all – Hawaii is out of reach and at this time we don’t have the desire to make the long trek to Alaska, but the remaining 23 seem to be doable.  It has been quite a year – we have stayed in 49 different campgrounds, visited many historical sites, museums, National Parks, State Parks, towns, cities and attractions.  Below is another picture of our anniversary site, with perhaps the tallest and densest trees we have camped under!

During this past year we visited the Black Hills and Badlands of South Dakota, listened to folk music in Arkansas and Cajun music in Louisiana.   We saw the swamps and bayous of the South and antebellum mansions in Mississippi.   In Alabama we camped right next to the waters of Mobile Bay and enjoyed the turquoise ocean and white sands of the Florida Panhandle.   We walked the historic streets and sat in the squares of Savannah, Georgia.  While in South Carolina we visited the only tea plantation in America and discovered lots of history in the narrow streets of Charleston.  While traveling through Virginia we saw the homes of former presidents and the first colony at Jamestown.  We explored Philadelphia with family and camped in the Amish country of Pennsylvania.  In Maine we visited a new National Park and on scenic drives admired miles of rocky coastline.   We discovered beautiful waterfalls in New Hampshire’s White Mountains and traveled up to the tallest mountain in the Northeast.   These are just a few of the many highlights during a year of exploring and learning much about this wonderful country we are blessed to call home.   In the picture below, we got a warm welcome when arriving to our park near Mobile, Alabama.

I was thinking recently how different each state is as they each have their own look, “feel” and culture.   I can just tell I am in a different state and not because of the welcome sign on the road.  They really have their own uniqueness and that is one of the things that makes exploring such an adventure.  There is always that anticipation of what the next state will be like and what we will find there.   During our year of travel, a few of the states we had visited before, but most were new to us and there has been much to appreciate in every state we have been.   Some touched a special place in my heart and I found myself a little sad when leaving.  But I always reminded myself that there would be more memorable and special places to come and this has truly happened.   It can be hard to leave a great place behind, but without moving on, we would not have explored 25 remarkable states.  Below is a picture of the park we stayed at in Louisiana, one of our favorite states and the place where we experienced a surprise snow storm in December.

So, traveling and sightseeing aside, how has it been living in a 21-foot trailer?   It can certainly be a challenge.   The lack of space for all our things is probably the biggest challenge but there are others.   The ability to move around freely inside and spread out is tough.   Our comfort is compromised, my days of lounging on the couch like I did at home while watching a movie or reading a book are a thing of the past.   Trying to prepare food and cook in a small kitchen area can at times elicit some groans from me as I struggle to manage the ingredients I am cutting up or finding space for a dish or pot.   Since our refrigerator is small we can only fit limited amounts of food so grocery shopping has to be more frequent.   When trying to find something in our long, deep food pantry, I often have to take stuff out and stack it on our bed, as I reach my arm into the dark space trying to feel for that can or box.

Above is a picture of a scene that awaited us when we arrived in Vermont, another challenge we have dealt with from time to time.   Although we try to secure everything when moving the trailer from one campsite to another, a few times we have found frozen food items on the floor or even one time a cabbage that somehow popped out from the refrigerator and ended up near our bed.   On one stop we found our large glass mixing bowl in pieces on the stovetop.   The shattered dishes pictured above we discovered after arriving in Vermont.   I didn’t expect Corelle Ware to break into so many tiny pieces.  We do use paper plates and bowls from time to time, but for some things dishes are better.

For the most part we have tried to stay at least a week or more every where we have been, but that time goes by so fast and it seems before we know it, it is time to pack up and move on to the next spot.   The life of a nomad is certainly an interesting one.   There are always new places and situations to become accustomed to.   We have been fortunate to find quiet and pleasant neighbors at every place we have stayed.   It has been nice to talk to other travelers and find out about their experiences, where they have come from and where they are traveling next.  Some have had some good tips on places to camp or attractions to visit.   It is always great to share expertise on the road!   We have met a few full time travelers, but most are seasonal who are only RVing for part of the year or taking a short vacation from their home.  The RV park owners and staff have also been kind and helpful and have never lost our reservations!  I have to admit that as we drove to each new location, I would wonder if this would be the time that we would be told, “Sorry, we don’t have a spot for you!”   We were blessed with few issues along the way that have hampered our progress.   Below is a picture from our last campground in Maine which featured a lovely area to sit and walk along the waterfront.

Where do we go from here?   Although I had good intentions, my blog has continued to be so behind, because I always have much I want to write about making it hard to keep up.   Although we left Maine the first part of August, I still have more to write about our time in that wonderful state.   We have since had shorter stays in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts and our current spot in Rhode Island.   We will be visiting Connecticut next and then start making our way to the Appalachian and Blue Ridge Mountain states of West Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina.   We plan to visit those states through the rest of September, October and into early November.   We will then begin our trek back to California where we look forward to spending the holiday season.   Below is a sunset picture at our campground in New Hampshire.

We thank you for taking the time this past year to check out the blog and for the comments you have made.  It can get lonely on the road so it is much appreciated to hear from you!

Alabama – Fort Morgan, Dolphin Cruise and Flora-Bama

I really like most places I visit, but some just grab me with a special kind of interest.  From the moment I walked through the entrance way of Fort Morgan and saw the first set of rooms, I was wowed.  This place is really atmospheric and the kind of historic attraction that is fun to explore.  The fort is well preserved and there are so many rooms, passageways and tunnels to see I actually got a little lost wandering around.   Unlike some places I have visited, there were no displays or signboards in most of the rooms,  which I appreciated.  I realized later that I didn’t ever refer to the guide but was simply captivated by the building itself and imagining the soldiers living and working here.

One of the things that is so neat about Fort Morgan is the brick work and there is so much of it here!  The number of bricks supposedly used to build it is over 30,000,000.  Over 200 enslaved people including men, women and children made these bricks by hand and built the fort beginning in 1819.  It took a total of 15 years to complete building.  In 1833, the Fort was named for General Daniel Morgan, a Revolutionary War hero.  It commands a great location on the corner of Mobile Bay and the Gulf Coast.

The Fort’s greatest claim to fame was during the Civil War when it was used as a defense against Union forces.  In 1864,  Admiral Farragut’s Union fleet passed the fort and entered Mobile Bay.  In the ensuing battle, the Fort’s guns damaged some Union ships but failed to sink them.  Only one Union ship was lost when it struck a torpedo and sank.  (Nowadays we call these mines).  Farragut then gave an order which became a famous phrase, “Damn the torpedoes!  Full speed ahead!  The Union fleet forced its way in and Fort Morgan was cut off and bombarded to the point where the Confederate forces were forced to surrender.

The military history here actually stretches over 100 years, with the last involvement during World War II as there were concerns about U-boat activity in the Gulf that resulted in the sinking of 56 ships.   It is now run by the State of Alabama as a historical park.  Below is a picture of the main grounds inside the fort.

Mark didn’t hang around inside the fort as long as I did as it was another cold and very windy day on the bay.  He later sent an amusing text and picture about how he was in the restroom warming his chilled hands on the hot air from the hand dryer.  He does not get cold very easily and hardly ever wears a coat or layers.  Perhaps you can tell in the picture below that he has five layers on.

We came on a day when the ranger talk was about the Civil War battle here.  It was a cold and very windy day and our group sat in one of the dank rooms of the Fort and listened to the lecture.  The young speaker had an encyclopedic mind and remembered numerous names, dates, histories of the people and events that led to the Mobile Bay conflict.   Whew, it was a little much for me to take in, but most of us stayed through the whole lecture.

I like this picture of our guide in period dress uniform that I took while he was showing me where an artillery piece hit one of the walls in a room.

I love boat tours and thought it would be fun to try a dolphin cruise on the Orange Beach waterways.  The captain and assistant were so nice and the ride was pleasant and relaxing.  We saw a lot of dolphins which was great.  I have always thought it is difficult to get a decent picture of a dolphin and this trip was no different.  They move too fast!  There are between 30 and 50 known dolphins in the bay and our guides explained that many of them have been identified and even named using as identification their unique dorsal fins.  The guides also passed out some pictures of the dolphins showing what to look for.

Much of our trip was on the Intracoastal Waterway.  Before we began our traveling, I was not aware of this water route since I had traveled so little in the southern and eastern parts of the U.S.  This is a 3,000 mile inland waterway along the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic coasts.  The waterway consists of rivers, inlets, bays and artificial canals and provides a route for shipping.  We have been seeing the Intracoastal Waterway since Louisiana.  On this trip we came across this large barge which we followed for awhile.

One of the more interesting things I learned on this trip was that artificial reefs are built and placed in the Gulf to provide habitat for marine life since the area lacks natural reefs.  The artificial reefs make it possible to have a healthy fishing industry here.  Below is a picture of reefs that our boat captain showed us on the trip.  Besides these man made reefs, other material is used for habitat such as barges, tanks and bridge rubble.

The boat tour normally goes into an area of swamps and creeks, but the water level was too low for the boat to make it without getting stuck.  What was surprising is that this boat can travel in a depth of only 18 inches, but it was still too low!  So we only went into part of the Bayou to look for wildlife such as alligators, birds and turtles.

Flora-Bama Lounge is a coastal landmark which straddles the borders of Alabama and Florida, hence the combined name.   This is one of the more unique places we have visited on our travels.  More than just one thing – it is a lounge, a store, a music venue, an oyster bar and a beach front eating establishment.  This is the kind of place you wander around and just soak up the atmosphere.  There are a variety of rooms to sit both inside and out.  Nobody cares if you wander around, everyone does their own thing, including writing their names on every available surface.  I have never seen so many autographs in one location; people had written on the shelves in the store, on the steps and walls of the buildings, on the tables, almost any where there was a hard surface.  Can you see our names included below?

The Flora-Bama hosts a number of special events throughout the year including the polar dip in January and the Mullet (type of fish) toss and beach party in April.  I read that there is music here every day of the year.  Mark and I heard some country and western songs we hadn’t heard in some years and found ourselves searching You Tube for the songs for our drive home.   (Look up the London Homesick Blues).  Kenny Chesney once played here for thousands of people.  Even more noteworthy is our friend and former co-worker John claims to have worked here in his younger years.  Although, we couldn’t find his name any where!

In the next blog I talk about our six month anniversary on the road!

Hanging Out by the Bay

I was excited to travel to our next RV destination, a secluded tree covered park on Mobile Bay near the town of Gulf Shores on the Alabama coast.   Our park was on a narrow peninsula just a few miles wide in most places with the Bay on one side and the beach on the other.   This would be our first time staying this close to water as our site was literally a few steps away.  It is also the smallest park where we have stayed.   In the picture below, I am hanging out by the bay.

Most of the people camping here return every year for the winter season.   Mark and I thought it was interesting that since the park has numerous Canadian guests, there was a Canadian flag next to the American at the entrance.  This is the kind of intimate park where guests get together daily at 4:00 p.m. for the “board meeting” to visit and enjoy the fire in the stove.  They also have a book club and celebrate birthdays.

We enjoyed the scenery and ambience – there is a small pier on the water and Adirondack chairs are placed next to it for relaxing.

Our trailer was located under a huge oak with hanging moss, a sight I never get tired of.

We really enjoyed watching the bird life that came and went, especially the pelicans which in my opinion are one of the most entertaining sea birds.  Mark and I marveled at how close they can skim over the water at high speed just inches from the surface without crashing.   They are also acrobatic dive bombing their odd shaped bodies for fish.  Mark caught some great closeups of them.

After a week or so here, I had to chuckle at the park’s name “Bay Breeze.”  We encountered more than just pleasant breezes here.   A few icy storms blew in during our stay and coming off the bay there was nothing to block the cold north wind, it was fierce and like a gale.   A few times we tried to go outside but even though I had several layers including a heavy coat, I could only stand the cold and wind for about 10 or 15 minutes.  The temperature plunged below freezing at night and was in the low 40’s during the day.   Although it had been a cold winter all through our travels in the southern states, this was much colder than I would have expected for the Gulf of Mexico.  The returning guests talked about how unusual the weather was, as temps in the 70’s and 80’s had been the norm during last year’s winter.  One benefit from the cold weather was that Mark was able to get rid of his stash of warm hats he had knitted over the past several months of RVing.  It was great to see the park owner wearing one of the beanies as he made the rounds to turn the water off at sites to keep hoses and pipes from freezing.

I was looking forward to seeing the white sand beaches and emerald blue water of the Gulf and when the weather was finally clear and sunny, we visited a beach located only a few miles down the road from us.

The sand here is so white because it is made almost entirely from grains of quartz that have come down from the Appalachian Mountains.    As you can see from the picture above, there were almost no visitors the day we were there.   Mark sits pretty bundled up as the temperature hadn’t gotten up above the high 40’s and still felt a little icy.  He had just bought a portable beach chair and was determined to try it out, weather be damned.

I enjoyed walking along the beach and marveling at how clear and sparkling the gulf water is.  It was also fun to look for seashells.  When it is too cold to swim or wade, walking beaches and collecting shells is the next best thing.

Our park was close to a wildlife refuge called Bon Secour (French for safe harbor) with beautiful scenery and several trails.   My favorite walk (Pine Trail) starts near the road and travels through a forest of tall loblolly pines and palmettos.  I thought it was neat to see such tall pines with little palms underneath.  The loblolly pines are found in the southeastern United States mostly in lowlands and swamps.

This walk was interesting because it traveled through different habitats and plant life including by a swamp, marshes and a lake where I watched a flock of pelicans.

The walk continued over sand dunes ending at the ocean after two miles.

It was a beautiful trail through a variety of topography and plant communities like the coastal scrub below.  I hoped there would be more bird life but we didn’t see much.  We did get a quick glimpse of an armadillo.

Shrimping is an important industry here with several places selling shrimp and other seafood “fresh off the boat.”  One of the things I wanted to do was buy some fresh shrimp to cook so one day we headed to Billy’s Seafood.

There was a nice variety of shrimp but I was curious to try the Royal Reds which are primarily found in the deep waters off the Alabama coast.  It has been called “poor man’s lobster” because the sweet taste is similar to lobster.  We bought a few pounds of the very large, unshelled shrimp to take back with us.

That afternoon at the Board Meeting I found out another guest had been to Billy’s that day and also bought Royal Reds.  He asked me if I had a tool to devein and shell the shrimp.  I looked blankly at him as my mind considered deveining a shrimp, something that had escaped me when I purchased them.  On the few occasions when I have bought shrimp, they were always processed and ready to be cooked.  He offered me the use of a tool since he had bought two.  It took awhile to take off the heads, shell, devein and cook all those shrimp, but Mark and I really enjoyed the taste of them.  We ate them over cheese grits, a popular way to eat shrimp in the south.  I have actually developed a liking for grits during our travels.  I used to think they were kind of bland, but now enjoy having them from time to time and a little cheese mixed in doesn’t hurt the taste.

Speaking of food, I thought I would mention a restaurant we found that we liked well enough to eat at several times.  At Lambert’s Cafe, they throw rolls and you do your best to catch them.  As soon as the rolls are hot out of the oven, they put a large pan of them on a cart and wheel them out to the dining area.  These rolls are huge and because they are so hot, it is hard to hang on to them!  The first time we came, the roll thrower just lobbed them to customers while standing close to their tables.  On our second visit, a different roll thrower had a great arm and tossed them across the room.  I tried to take pictures of the rolls in flight but it was hard to get a good photograph.  Discovering my dilemma, our long distance roll thrower tried to make it easier by juggling several at once.

The rolls here are homemade and delicious as is the rest of the southern inspired menu.  Along with a meat entree, you get a choice of two sides plus what the restaurant calls “the pass arounds.”  The pass arounds are circulated by wait staff who offer servings from big bowls throughout your meal.  The dishes include fried potatoes, cabbage, pasta in tomatoe sauce, fried okra, black-eyed peas as well as sorghum and apple butter for the rolls.  Even before our plates arrived, we found ourselves eating hot fried okra off a napkin.  There is definitely too much food here!  The Lambert family started this restaurant in 1942 in Missouri and still have two restaurants there and this one in Foley, Alabama.

The towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach were about a 20 minute drive from our park.  A popular destination for tourists, there are 32 miles of white sand beaches.   We were surprised to see how many high rise condos and apartments were located along the coast here.

There were lots of surf and souvenir shops in the area, some with a huge shark head for an entrance or other garish sea decorations and signs to lure tourists.  We decided to drop into a few and I was amazed at the amount of t-shirts, sweat shirts, hats, bathing suits and beach towels that filled row after row of these large stores.  Not surprising, they were almost empty since this is not beach season.  Mark joked that they should have included some parkas with the beach wear!  One day while Mark and I were eating a pizza lunch in town, we laughed to see a variety store across the street with a bunch of beach rafts and inflatables in front of the store.  The previous night the temperature had been below freezing and it was barely in the 40’s that day.

During an evening walk on the beach at Gulf Shores, I took the photos above and below.  There were a lot of grey clouds, but the sun was trying hard to peak through and cast some light on the beach.

As always, thanks for reading the blogs, we appreciate your support.  In my next one, I will be talking about further adventures on the Alabama coast before we move on.

Mobile Bay and the U.S.S. Alabama

The city of Mobile sits on Mobile Bay, an inlet of the Gulf of Mexico. We visited the Gulf Quest National Martime Museum which celebrates this area with 90 interactive exhibits.  It is a large and creative building designed to look like a container ship with ramps leading up to six different “decks” or floors.

The museum features exhibits on weather, hurricanes, marine life, shipbuilding, navigation and shipwrecks to name just a few.   Some of the exhibits are geared for the younger set, but I found it a pretty good learning experience.   I think that Mark got a little bored with it after awhile and found a place to sit and wait.  He said he really doesn’t miss being in the 6th grade.   As so often seems to happen since we have been traveling, there were few people in this beautiful and modern museum on a weekday.  My favorite exhibit was the ship simulator where you could pilot several different vessels in Mobile Bay.  Below is a picture of me captaining a huge cargo ship. We were told by museum staff that it was designed to be realistic with an accurate modeling of the Port of Mobile.

As you walk up the ramps there are many historical nautical sayings that are now common phrases today.   Below is a picture of one that I liked.  I was actually surprised at how many sayings are nautical in origin.  For example, “Make a Clean Sweep” is when you win every contest.  Centuries ago, the Dutch navy hoisted brooms aloft boasting they could “sweep” their enemies from the seas.  This practice continued into modern times aboard submarines returning from successful patrols.

The museum has outdoor decks where you can view activity in the port.  Shipbuilding is an important industry here and we had a view of the Austal Company, one of the largest ship builders on the Gulf Coast. They build combat ships for the U.S. Navy, like the one pictured below.

The Port of Mobile is a deep water port, the 9th largest in the nation and the only one in Alabama.

A Carnival Cruise ship was docked right next door to the museum.   When we were done at the museum, we heard that the ship was getting ready to leave so we went outside and waited for it to depart.  A tugboat with darkened windows was parked right next to the ship waiting to escort it out of the harbor.   All of a sudden a voice from the tug boomed out, “What are you waiting for, why don’t you get on the cruise ship?”  So, we had a little back and forth conversation with the unseen tugboat operator while we waited for the cruise ship to leave.

Mark and I have not yet been on a cruise ship.  I wouldn’t mind giving it a try some day, but I don’t think Mark is game.  As the cruise ship backed out of port, the tug followed along on the side.

The most famous resident of Mobile Bay is the Battleship U.S.S. Alabama, the centerpiece of Battleship Memorial Park.

The ship was commissioned August 16, 1942 and served during WWII in both the Atlantic and Pacific theaters.  The Alabama led the American fleet into Tokyo Bay on September 5, 1945, the day after the surrender documents were signed.   The ship was decommissioned on January 9, 1947 and docked at Bremerton, Washington.

When the Alabama was to be scrapped, a statewide campaign began in 1963 to fund the ship’s voyage back to Alabama.  I think the most interesting appeal was made to the school children of Alabama.  If a child contributed any amount of money, they would receive a ticket of free admission to see the battleship once it arrived.  The children alone raised $100,000 with 300,000 tickets issued.  This was a huge amount of money in 1964.  In all, $800,000 was collected to bring the ship back to Mobile Bay.

It took three months to tow the ship 5,600 miles from Bremerton to Mobile Bay with arrival on September 16, 1964.   It was not an easy trip as along the way, one of the two tugs towing the ship sank with two men aboard losing their lives.  In addition, the ship had to wait out two hurricanes.  The Alabama passed through the Panama Canal with only eleven inches of clearance.     Battleship Memorial Park first opened for public tours on January 9, 1965, dedicated to Alabama veterans of all branches of the armed services.

Outside there are many gun placements to climb on to see what it would be like to handle and sight the big guns.

Battleship Memorial Park is very large, with not only the battleship to tour, but also the U.S.S. Drum submarine, a pavilion of aircraft and a variety of tanks and other weaponry on the grounds.   Just touring the ship takes hours, because there is a lot to see here with several floors of exhibits beginning at the deck and going below via stairs/ladders.  In addition there are several levels above that can be explored.

At first being in the “bowels” of the ship and going up and down the stair/ladders felt a little confining to me but the more I was there, the more I didn’t want to leave but continue exploring the passages and rooms.  In order to stay on track, you follow a series of routes marked with either red, green or yellow arrows depending on which tour or area of the ship you want to visit.  Ideally, it is great to walk it all so you can experience as much as possible what it was like to serve here.

Did you know that ships have hatches and doors?  Above, Mark is standing by a hatch which leads down to the second level.  (Hatches go up and down and doors go across).  Below, a picture of one of the watertight doors designed to protect the ship in case of flooding.

The Alabama had a crew of about 2,500 and as I wandered about, I was amazed that so many could work and be housed here.  People had to eat and sleep in shifts (watches as they call them).  It was really like operating a small town.  We were able to see all the main compartments that took care of the basic necessities of the crew and the original furnishings and equipment displayed were very interesting.   Below are pictures of sleeping rooms with hanging bunks.  You had to be pretty trim to fit into those beds!

And another picture of one of the sleeping areas with a locker demonstrating how a crewman had to fit everything in.  Boy, those mattresses were thin!  Reminds me of summer camp or a road trip I went on with my sister Barbara to Idaho and Montana when we stayed in KOA cabins with mattresses that looked similar to these, ha ha.

This is a picture of the dining area or mess deck.  During the day, there were more tables here, but at night they were removed and hammocks were slung from the ceiling.  That would make sense, since there were so many men that needed to sleep some where on this ship!

Below, it looks like a yummy breakfast is being served in the mess deck!  Not a sausage and white gravy fan so it would probably have been corn flakes for me.  But I know what Mark would have chosen, he is biscuits, sausage and gravy all the way!

This would have been my favorite part of the ship – the soda fountain which was called the “Gedunk” stand.  It was here that ice cream, candy, sodas and other small snacks were given to crew members.  I read that more than 100 gallons of ice cream (made on the ship) and sodas were served here daily.

If I were to have a favorite, I also would have my least  – the dental office where all dental work was completed including oral surgery and denture work.  An x-ray dark room was next door.   That chair doesn’t look quite as comfortable as the ones we get to recline in today.

This was a great visit and I hope you have enjoyed seeing some of what the U.S.S. Alabama offers for visitors.

 

Thanks for checking in!

Mobile – Mardi Gras and Moon Pies

When I think about our visit to the city of Mobile, Alabama, the importance of Mardi Gras celebrations comes to mind.  Although Mardi Gras is often associated with New Orleans, the first Mardi Gras was held here in 1704, so Mobile considers itself the founder of the festival.  In 1702 French Catholics began a settlement in Mobile and it became the first capitol of French Louisiana.  The settlers brought with them the tradition of Mardi Gras.  To celebrate Mardi Gras “mystic societies” build colorful carnival floats and create costumes around the year’s theme.  They then put on parades and fancy balls which are usually held in the month of February.  Kings and queens are also selected each year and they dress in lavish suits and gowns with custom made trains.  I was sorry to miss seeing one of the parades, but our schedule necessitated us moving on before the celebrations were to begin.

The best place to get a taste of Mardi Gras is at the Mobile Carnival Museum which is located in a historic home.  I thought this museum was fascinating and a feast for the eyes, one of my favorite museums during our travels.  There are 14 gallery rooms filled with memorabilia and lavish attire of past kings, queens and members of the court.  This includes costumes, robes, trains, crowns and scepters.  In some of the rooms videos were playing of past balls or parades where the costumes were worn.   The museum really gave me a sense of how important the celebration is in Mobile and how much money it must cost to create the outfits and pay for the parades, balls and parties.

The first room in the museum has a large decorated float to give visitors an opportunity to experience being in a parade.  The first parade was held in 1830 and has been an annual tradition ever since.

The very expense trains reflect the personality of the king and queen and have a great deal of ornamentation.  The trains all looked very heavy to me and I could not imagine wearing them.  In the room above I was able to watch a video of the king and queen who wore this attire at their coronation.

I learned that each season the Mobile Carnival Association and Mobile Mardi Gras Association, made up of prominent families choose the king and queen.  Sometimes several generations of a single family may wear the crown.  The expense of the costumes and numerous parties, balls, etc. precludes this being possible for the average family.

Mardi Gras is the final day before the start of lent with lots of revelry before settling down for the Lenten season, a time of self denial and repentence.

The museum has exhibits of costumes from some of the mystic societies.   I was surprised to learn that there are about 60 different societies.  The societies have names such as Santa Claus Society, Order of Jesters, Order of Polka Dots, Jokers Wild, Comic Cowboys to name just a few from Mobile.

You can’t help but see Mardi Gras inspired merchandise when going into stores in Mobile with even Walmart in the spirit with a whole row dedicated to wreaths, masks, beads, etc. in the standard purple, green and gold colors.

Besides decorations, I had been seeing the traditional “king cake” for some weeks at Walmart and grocery stores throughout the South.  The King Cake is a ring or oval shaped cake that has a coating of purple, green and gold sugar or Icing.  Inside the cake is a plastic baby and whoever gets the baby has to buy the next king cake.  Traditionally the baby was to symbolize baby Jesus.

Have you ever eaten a moon pie?  It is a round graham cracker cookie filled with marshmallow and then dipped in a coating.  They are a big deal in Mobile.  Our first introduction to Mobile’s fascination with moon pies was when we arrived to our RV park and were told that on New Years Eve, (the next evening), the mayor would be dropping the “moon pie.”  This particular moon pie is electric, weighs 600 pounds and is dropped from a tall building downtown.  After it drops, there are fireworks and a laser light show.  In addition, earlier in the evening the largest edible moon pie is served in one of the hotel courtyards.  Moon pies first became popular here in the 1940’s and 50’s when Mardi Gras parade organizers decided to replace the cracker jacks they had been throwing with the softer moon pies which were easier to toss.   Today, around 500,000 moon pies are thrown each year during Mardi Gras parades in Mobile.   Although popular here, they are actually made in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

Moon Pie General Store is located in downtown Mobile and while there, we stopped in to check it out.  They had a variety of miniature moon pies so we got a few to try.  I am not a big fan of them as I find them pretty bland and even though there were different flavors, I could tell no difference between them.  (Mark does say though that I only have one taste bud left, ha, ha).  I do think the whole culture around them is interesting though.

The store also featured the RC cola and moon pie combo which many years ago got the nickname, “working man’s lunch,” because it was popular with laborers and miners.   To finish my discussion of moon pies, below is a picture of a dessert Mark and I shared at the Spot of Tea restaurant in downtown Mobile.   It was a moon pie banana pudding that was quite delicious.

Thanks for checking in and next post I will talk about Mobile Bay and the Bay’s most famous resident.