Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mobile Alabama

Lafayette to Mobile was a long day, but it took us past some beautiful scenery and Biloxi, Mississippi, where I went to technical school for the Air Force. We drove highway 90 past New Orleans. I recalled those days, forty or so years ago, when we would jump into a couple cars and race to New Orleans to spend a night in the Big Easy. As you can imagine, a lot has changed since the 70s. Huge hotels and casinos now line the coast that I remember as being a string of gumbo shacks and oyster houses. 

Meaher State Park in Spanish Fort is just across Mobile Bay from the city. The park is right on the water with great views of the bay to the south and the city to the west. The only negative was the constant drone of traffic on the bridge taking traffic on I-10 across the bay.

Having driven so long, we didn't feel like cooking. Besides, there was a seafood restaurant just a couple miles away that had excellent reviews. The parking lot of Original Oyster House on Battleship Parkway was nearly full, with dozens of people waiting outside. We were told there would be a 45 minute wait for a table. Sarah and I found our way to the bar and within 15 minutes had secured the two seats of a couple that had just finished dinner. We don't mind eating at the bar. The food is the same as is served in the dining room, and we often meet some interesting people. 

The bartender, knowing we were not locals, offered suggestions to best experience the dining. We started with a shared appetizer, blackened craw fish. We struggled with deciding among the many  wonderful items on the menu. Our bartender suggested the big sample platter with fried oysters, shrimp scampi, crab cakes, fried craw fish, and seared ahi tuna. We left very happy with our experience.
Our campsite on Mobile Bay at Meaher State Park 
With just one day in Mobile, we chose to spend it at the Mobile Museum of Art. We go to art museums in almost every city we visit. The museum in Mobile is a jewel of this city. There were four special exhibits ongoing in addition to the permanent collection. The arrangement of the special exhibits and the permanent collection was well organized. I sensed that the curator took special care to make this museum a place where students could get a logical progression of art and art history. 

Mobile Museum of Art
Sarah and I both thought the work of Vietnamese American artist Binh Pho was amazing. His intricate carving and painting wood to create decorative vessels is very impressive. 
Beautiful Vessels by Binh Pho
While we both enjoy cajun, mexican and sea food, we wanted something different for lunch. We found that at Jamaican Vibes Restaurant, an unpretentious store front in a small shopping mall. The food is served in styrofoam "take out" boxes with plastic knives and forks offered for utensils. But, the food is delicious. I don't claim to be an expert on authentic Jamaican cooking, however, I do know good cooking when I taste it. The owner/cook, Noel, served us Brown Chicken Stew, black beans and rice, cabbage, curried chicken patty and curried beef patty. As we ate, we watched Noel serve his other customers. With Reggae music playing in the restaurant, he sang along with every song as he dished out his wonderful food. It was clear that Noel enjoyed seeing his customers enjoy his efforts.  We certainly did.
We decided to avoid Lafayette by going east on Highway 20. It is a very nice, smooth road. Sarah and I both commented on how much better the roads are in Florida compared to Louisiana. About 40 miles southwest of Lafayette we found Camel Lake Park. Camel Lake is a small, beautiful and secluded park. The lake is crystal clear. Our campsite was about 50 yards from the water with an uninterrupted view of the water. The park is run by the National Forest Service so our Golden Age Pass got us a 50% reduction of the outrageous $10.00 camping fee. Since we had to pay the huge sum of $5.00 to camp we decided to really splurge and select a premium site, with electricity, for an additional charge of $5.00. After getting the water and electricity connected, Sarah and I enjoyed a thirty minute walk around the lake. There were some interesting wild flowers, but the only wildlife we saw were lots of birds and a couple hawks.
Large Campsite at Camel Lake

Our Front Yard at Camel Lake

The next day brought us to our destination, Traveler's Rest Resort in Dade City, FL. We were met there by Robert, our broker in the deal to purchase the new Airstream. It was just as described on e-bay. The previous owners told us they had only spent three nights in it and had never even used the stove. 

We have taken possesion of our new AS and are awaiting documentation to get back on the road. Stay tuned for pictures of the new Mary Joan III. 

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