Have you ever wanted to sell everything you own and just "take off?" Travel the country's back roads, paddle down a meandering stream, experience breath-taking mountain views, walk among 100-year old trees, and just marvel at America's beauty? That is the dream that my partner, Betsy, and I decided to make a reality. This blog describes our adventure. The food we eat, people we meet, sights we see, and the enjoyment we find in traveling.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Abe’s Grill

It is not uncommon for us to use hamburger guides as a road map.  While the average traveler might pull out an atlas, we grab Hamburger America and chart a course based on juicy yum.  When Garden and Gun Magazine compiled a Guide to the South's Best Burgers, our map just got a lot more cluttered. 

Driving up through Mississippi, the little town of Corinth has two burger scores on the list.  Abe’s Grill, which was started in 1974, popped out at us.  The full parking lot was a sure sign the hype was justified, not to mention the exterior roadside diner décor that had us longing to see more.  Throw in the fact that they are the “Oldest Diner on U.S. Route 72 (which stretches for 337 miles) still operated by the original owners” and “Home of the Midsouth’s Favorite Homemade Biscuit” and our course was set. 

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Abe, his wife Terri, and their son Ryan guarantee you will have an unforgettable breakfast and lunch.  And they deliver on that promise.  All the components are there for a memorable experience – great atmosphere, mouth watering food, diner décor, and best of all – the super personable threesome operating this joint.  Upon entering the front door, Abe whisked us into our counter seats (of which there are just 17) making us feel like welcomed locals just stopping in for a bite.  Drinks are served old school south in a mason jar and before we knew it hand cut fries from tasty Idaho potatoes were dredged from the fryer and placed in front of us.  Abe is proud of his seasoning salt blend so we gave the fries a sprinkle and dug in.  Two hot Big Abe quarter pounders with cheese were also crying for our mouths to open and take a bite. 

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So here is a place where, yes, the food that was served was delicious but what you also get is a free side of friendly people who appreciate that you took the time to stop in so they can share what they have been doing for 41 years.  We sat at the counter for nearly an hour talking with Abe, Terri, and Ryan and assorted locals who plopped down next to us to enjoy their corndog or ribeye sandwich.

Nothing about stopping in this burger joint disappointed us.  Abe’s Grill serves perfect diner food – homemade biscuits and gravy for breakfast; burgers, corndogs and fries for lunch.  And prices so low you have no excuse not to stop in.  Homemade biscuits, gravy, coffee are just $3.21, and quarter pounder for under $3 bucks, handcut fries for $1.38, and a freshly baked jumbo chocolate cookie for under a dollar. 

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It’s hard to say what we liked better at Abe’s Grill – the food or the owners themselves.  They are super personable and happily chat with customers about their business and share information about Corinth.  Abe explained that Terri is up at 1:30 am to get the famous biscuits going but you would never know it by her cheerful personality.  Next time you are anywhere vaguely around Corinth, Mississippi you should put Abe’s Grill on you map.

Friday, March 20, 2015

72 Hours in Montgomery, Alabama

Montgomery, Alabama is a hot bed of American history.  It doesn’t take long for you to realize that here history is celebrated, interpreted, and commemorated.  The city has a monumental past but is not stuck in it.  Downtown is a buzz of revitalized historic downtown buildings, budding restaurant scene, and an energetic pulse that lures locals and tourists alike. 

With just a few days to cram in all that Montgomery holds, we hit the ground running.  Sunday morning had us up early and heading to church and visit one of the most iconic structures downtown – the Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church.  The church is where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. began his ministries and rose to become a leader in the Civil Rights Movement.  Church services prevent tours on Sundays, but anyone is welcome to step inside and worship.  To the east of the church looms the towering and stunning state capitol building.  It was on the steps of this building where 25,000 protesters marched 50 miles from Selma, ascended the capitol steps, and demanded that then Governor Wallace extend voting rights to all citizens.

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History can make girls hungry so we decided to pop into Dreamland Bar-B-Que and Ribs for lunch.  After all, what trip to the south would be complete without bar-b-que?  The smell of wood slowly cooking seasoned meat wafted out the door and hung in the air.  Just by the line and how crowded the restaurant was we knew our choice of restaurants was not going to disappoint.  To walk off lunch and continue our exploring we headed past the Montgomery Biscuits minor league baseball stadium (sorely wishing a minor league game was in progress) to the Riverwalk and back around to see the beautiful Union Station.

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American history in Montgomery reaches beyond Civil Rights and lands right into the lap of country music.  Montgomery is where legendary country music star Hank Williams got his start on a local radio show.  Described as one of the most influential country musicians of the 20th century, ole Hank ranked up 35 top-ten hits.  All of this before an early death at 29 years old.  Hank’s accomplishments and life story are told in the Hank Williams Museum.  The 6,000-square foot museum brings the legend to life with old photographs, albums, snazzy clothes and other memorabilia, including the baby blue Cadillac where he died in the backseat.  Can’t get enough Hank, walk a couple of blocks over to the memorial statue or make the short drive to Oakwood Cemetery, the final resting place of Hank and his wife Audrey.  Here you are likely to run into other fans that have come to pay homage.  Lore has it that his ghost comes a calling late at night which is told in the Alan Jackson song "Midnight in Montgomery."

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Monday morning had us back in the throws of the Civil Rights Movement.  There are many famous faces associated with the movement, one of which is Rosa Parks.  When the seamstress and activist declared that she would not vacate her seat on a crowded bus for a white person to sit down, she started a movement.  By sitting she took a powerful stand.  Troy University in downtown Montgomery is where you will find the Rosa Parks Museum and Library which memorializes her actions that began the powerful Montgomery Bus Boycott.  The museum has a fascinating futuristic time machine ride that transforms visitors back to the era of Jim Crow and civil rights struggles up until 1955 – when Rosa Parks took her infamous ride. 
Photo of bus inside Rosa Parks Museum
Photo courtesy of the Rosa Parks Museum and Library
Once you leave the time machine and enter the museum you pick up the story with Rosa Parks’ famous bus ride.  A replica bus with real life images of riders recreates her actions leading to her arrest.  Continuing on, a tour guide walks you through the museum and continues to tell the struggles that activists faced and the many obstacles that stood in their way from crooked police, racist politicians, and the Ku Klux Klan. 

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About this time of the day we are getting hungry so we pop into Chris’ Hot Dogs on Dexter Avenue which has been there since 1917.  Here you promptly take a seat and a snappy waitress wants to know what you’re having.  The famous dogs come slathered in a homemade chili sauce that has this messy dog screaming to be eaten with a fork.  Resist the urge or locals will definitively know you are a tourist.  Stories are told of ole Hank sitting at the lunch counter, eating a dog or two, and scratching out song lyrics on napkins.

With a satisfying lunch we are back on the pavement heading to the Freedom Rides Museum at the Greyhound Bus Station.  This historic site is where 21 young people used nonviolent means to protest the segregation on public transportation.  Brave Freedom Riders stepped off a Greyhound bus to an angry racist crowd that viciously attacked them.  The shocking violent event awoke the American people and the Kennedy Administration to the injustices that were happening in the deep south.  

Before leaving downtown, we had one more stop to make at the Civil Rights Memorial Center.  The center chronicles key events in the Civil Rights Movement and a memorial pays homage to important dates and people.

Our third and final day had us making the 30-minute drive from Montgomery to the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site.  When white military officers declared that black men did not possess the physiological or physical capabilities to perform complicated tasks required to fly aircraft, pioneering young black men proved them wrong.  Modern, interactive exhibits walk you through the struggles and successes these men made and how their abilities led to the end of WWII and integrated the military. 

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Our 72 hours in Montgomery was up.  But there was one more stop to make on our drive from Montgomery west towards Selma at the National Park Service’s Lowndes Interpretive Center.  The center tells the story of the famous Selma to Montgomery march and the determination and courage the nonviolent protesters had in the face of police brutality immortalized on "Bloody Sunday."   Start your visit in the auditorium with a 25-minute film titled "Never Lose Sight of Freedom" and then meander among the exhibits to hear voices of the March and see images of the march that eventually led to legislation allowing all the right to vote.  Afterwards we had to drive across the now infamous Selma bridge ironically named after a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Montgomery surprised us.  We were expecting an old, tired city stuck in the past.  Instead, we were met with a downtown that was vibrant, clean, and full of energy.  One can not help feel the struggles of the past yet Montgomery seems to have used the past to move into the future.    

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Four Years of Full-timing

What, four years of traveling, experiencing, playing, working, meeting, and most importantly LIVING has passed?  The cliché of “where did the time go” certainly comes to mind but so does the desire to keep driving.  It is for sure that we have passed our initial RV mindset that we would just travel in our RV for a year or two.  Guess neither of us are very good at math. 

We are so looking forward to 2015.  There are going to be exciting new adventures along the way and collaborations that we can’t wait to share with you.  Some of which we are remaining hush about for the time being so we can reveal them at an appropriate time.  And boy is that hard!

2015 will have us traveling back to a familiar place – Bar Harbor, Maine – a place we have visited many times and was our summer “home” last year.  Our blogging friends Nealy’s on WheelsMy Quantum Discovery, and Winecoasters will be joining us along with other friends who find the lure of Maine too much to pass up.  We will be returning to work at Narrows Too Campground (and, psst . . . management allows us to offer a 25% discount to friends) but we'll be taking a new route to get there.  Instead of hugging the east coast and smelling salt air and eating seafood we will be cutting through the mid-west where family, friends, and wholesome cuisine will keep us smiling.  After another summer of Betsy trying to set the record for most lobsters eaten by a human, we will head south back to the Florida Panhandle for next winter.  But how and when we get there is anyone's guess – just the way we like it. 

The thought of summarizing last year in a long, drawn out narrative was not very appealing to me.  So with a full wine glass sitting at my side it became apparent that now would be a good time to explore a more graphically creative side.  Yes, you have been spared voracious text that would have left you saturated with boring statistics resulting in copious amounts of yawning and swearing never to read this blog again. 

Now that year four is in the books we hope you hang in for another year of RV-A-GOGO’ing and enjoy the adventures with us. 

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Remember if you find yourselves in our neck of the woods, please let us know.  Or you can always find us on RVillage.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A Weekend of Bourbon and Biophilia

We have been hanging out in the HWY 30A neck of the Florida Panhandle since November and have been pretty busy.  Between socializing with old friends and making new ones, our winter has whisked by and now we are nearing time for us to leave.  But before we left there were a couple of things on our agenda that we had to do. 

First up was a festival named Bourbon, Beer and Butts (or B3 if you tend to get tongue168 tied)Now come on . . . that combination is pretty intriguing.  When our friends Nikki and Jen (of Cowgirl Kitchen) raved about the event last year and really spurred us into going, we were not putting up a fight.  The thought of tasting craft beer, smoky barbeque, and husky bourbon had our taste buds salivating and brought us out.  Betsy is a  much better lover of bourbon than I, but don’t think I was not happy to sip some Kentucky warmth on this fifty degree night.  So on a chilly night in Alys Beach, we chatted with friends, listened to a lively band, sipped bourbon and tasted beer under the beautiful stars and an amazing moon.  Yes, we had a great time!  Thanks girls.

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The event was a charity benefiting the Children’s Volunteer Health Network and they brought their mobile dentist unit to the park.  As probably the only RV owners at the party, we could not resist taking a look inside.  Last year, they did $4 million dollars in free dental work.  Applause please!

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"Biophilia" is a term coined by renowned scientist E. O. Wilson which means "the love of all living things."  In 2009, the E. O. Wilson Biophilia Nature Center opened as an education center as a means to provide visitors with an opportunity to experience nature up-close and gain an understanding of the importance of biodiversity.  The center is proud of their education accomplishments that involve thousands of students a year.  An interactive exhibit hall houses live animals, dioramas, animal skins, and educational games.

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The day we went the facility was hosting a celebration entitled the "Black Bear Affair."  The facility was abuzz in hands-on activities.  There was a bald eagle feeding, guided nature hike, live animals to touch, black bear biologist talks, and all kinds of fun activities like making black bear Moon Pies, casts of bear paws, and a black bear crossing sign.   

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While we were practically the only people at the event without kids, it was still fun for us and we were impressed with the facilities.  Now it's time to get our motor home wheels rolling and move on to discover other places full of fun, food and new friends!