Notes From The Road, Day 3

Our day began a little later than expected due to a serious need to sleep in. We rolled into Muscle Shoals Alabama last night and kept moving into Florence. There was a slight issue finding the hotel and what followed became a comedy of errors.

Where’s The Radisson?

What we didn’t realize is there are two streets with the same name and, well, they don’t connect. This was problem number one. Once we had gone both directions on the street we thought we were supposed to be on, we gave up and tried something different. This time I was at least finding some of the landmarks on the map, so there was hope. We didn’t see any signs or indications there was a hotel anywhere close to the Chuck E. Cheese. With nothing to loose we turned into the parking lot and hidden back off the road, behind some trees, there was a three story hotel. Still no signs. The one that should have told us the hotel was in the background had a covering over it and there was no sign on the building. The lights were on and people coming and going so we crossed our fingers and pulled in.

It seems this Radisson is becoming a Clarion, thus the anonymity. This was an exhausting end to the day.

Fresh Start – New State

Coffee in hand we headed east towards Tuscumbia, Alabama. Tuscumbia is where H.G.’s father was born and raised. I loved Laurel, but I REALLY love Tuscumbia. This is a town I want to come back to; a town that is filled with history and charm. Tuscumbia exudes southern charm and hospitality, and was also the birthplace of Helen Keller.

It started to rain while we were here, but we just drove, looked at houses, oohing and ahhing all along the way. We had two main goals while here – find the home where H.G.’s father was raised and also find the Rosenbaum house, a Frank Lloyd Wright designed home. We succeeded on both accounts.

Means family home in Tuscumbia.

The Rosenbaum house, designed and built by Frank Lloyd Wright is in the Usonian design – a design that is based on a modular system and built so as to be affordable for average Americans. Wright wanted to be able to offer affordable yet beautiful and functional homes for those who are not among the wealthy class. Our tour guide said this is the only house that actually took advantage of the modular design’s ability to be added on to without disrupting the flow and feel of the home. I had seen another FLW home in Manchester, New Hampshire, but this one was different. Quite a bit smaller and more compact. It is always an amazing feeling to tour one of his homes.

A Hidden Gem, Lunch and A Big Mental Mistake

While just driving around aimlessly we stumbled upon Spring Park, a gorgeous park with a spring that runs throughout. On the park grounds there is also a small gauge train, a pint sized roller coaster and carousel for the kids.

The waterfall into the spring and the monument to The Trail of Tears is beautiful and poignant. I could have stayed for hours just watching and listening to the water and enjoying this natural wonder.

We wanted to grab a quick bite to eat before it got too late. Our eating schedule has been way off the past few days. I found a little place called Aunt Bea’s Bakery & Bistro in downtown Tuscumbia. We stopped in for a sandwich and cupcake. Everything was delicious. We finished and left as the rain was starting back up again.

We sat in the car in front of the restaurant while H.G. placed an order for a customer, and then proceeded on our merry way. Then about two hours down the road I reached for my purse to get my journal for a little sketching.

But my purse was no where to be found. It was now 4:52, Bea’s closes at 5:00 so I quickly called. Sure enough I had left it hanging on the back of my chair. We now have a huge dilemma. Turn around, spend the night in Tuscumbia and then have a very long drive to get to Sparta tomorrow afternoon. Or, we can keep going and get the purse on the way home. Somehow, I don’t feel a sense of panic. My purse is in the hands of good people in a small town in Alabama and I pray that they will keep it safe for me until Tuesday. Somehow…by the grace of God, I feel safe and secure with my purse right where it is.

Who knows, maybe we are supposed to travel back through Tuscumbia for a reason. I don’t know, but what I do know is that I’m not in control and H.G. is going to remind me of this every time we go somewhere, I just know he will. Oh well, when he does, I’ll just roll my eyes and keep on moving.

Tonight we are in Knoxville, Tennessee and tomorrow we head through the Smoky Mountains to Sparta. See you on the road!

Notes From The Road, Day 2

Today is the day we planned on spending the most time wandering and looking. Alarms set. We slept well.

Bright and early this morning, we packed our bags, checked out of the hotel and headed to a little cafe I had found online. How did we ever travel before the internet?

The Coney Island Cafe has been operating in this same location since 1923. Started by Greek immigrants, the cafe has a set menu posted on the wall.

A pay phone and a picture of Merle on the wall.

I think there have been many a folk to set on this stool, eating a meal, sipping coffee, and swapping stories.

We were greeted with a smile and “Hello” from Sabrina, who also cooked a fine breakfast. Her smile lit up the room.

After breakfast we gassed up and headed north to Laurel. This was only about a forty-five minute drive so we arrived before most of the businesses were open. We also beat the heat of the day so we parked the car and walked around the downtown area.

We saw many of the places and streets seen on the promos and introductions to the show “Hometown.” This town is special to us because it is the town where my Hunter-Gatherer was born.

His mother was born and raised in this house in Laurel, and this is where she came to give birth to her first born. His dad was in graduate school at the University of Texas in Austin and it just made sense for her to be home with her parents instead of living in married student housing in Austin.

In the late 1950’s H.G. and his brother, and later sister, would spend time with their grandparents. He has very fond memories of listening to baseball on the radio, and eating all the good food his grandmother cooked. While I’m sure there was difficulty and strife in the world, to these kids, life was simple and full of potential.

Annie, Mrs. Foley to her students and most folks in Laurel, would warn H.G. and his brother to be careful crossing over these little bridges because Billy Goat’s Gruff lives in the creek, under the bridge and he would get them. The vivid imaginations of two young boys went wild with this information. While they never went in the creek, they always looked very carefully before playing near the bridge.

The Busy Bee was another favorite place for the brothers to visit. Grandmother would give them fifty cents, with which they could occupy themselves for hours. Ten cents would get them into a movie and then they would stop at the Busy Bee for some candy and a glimpse at the “men’s” magazines. Fortunately those magazines then were not what they are today! His saintly “Methodist Grandmother” would have had a fit if she knew that’s what they were spending their time doing!

I enjoyed seeing all this through his eyes once again and making memories along the way. I’ll leave you with a few more pictures of our day in Laurel.

Tomorrow we’ll be in Alabama and Tennessee. See you on the road.