Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Religious Christmas message from Lands End

Click on the image above
to see this Christmas message.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

What's a pangolin?

WHEN? Probably never except by armchair

WHERE? Borneo rainforest

The first thing I saw today when I turned on the computer was a Yahoo News article about pangolins. I had never heard of such an animal. My curiosity led me to several websites, but the one I just had to share with you was a excellent video of a Malayan or Sunda pangolin (Manis javanica) in a Borneo rainforest. With a little imagination, you can pretend you are right there in the rainforest.

There is another video on YouTube from National Geographic you may want to view entitled What in the World is a Pangolin?.

You also might need some help, as I did, on where Borneo is. Borneo is the third largest island in the world and is located at the centre of Maritime Southeast Asia. Borneo is surrounded by the South China Sea to the north and northwest, the Sulu Sea to the northeast, the Celebes Sea and the Makassar Strait to the east and the Java Sea and Karimata Strait to the south. The island of Borneo is divided administratively into 3 parts, the only island in the world that is a recognized part of 3 countries:

  1. The Indonesian provinces of East, South, West and Central Kalimantan
  2. The Malaysian states of Sabah and Sarawak (the Federal Territory of Labuan is located on nearshore islands of Borneo, but not on the island of Borneo itself)
  3. The independent country of Brunei (main part and eastern exclave of Temburong)
I found the above information at Borneo in Wikipedia.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dolphins at Weeks Bay

WHEN? Tuesday · December 15

WHERE? Fairhope, Alabama · find us on the map

Jumping Dolphins · courtesy of www.ManyFreeWallpapers.comPhoto credit: ManyFreeWallpapers

estuary: A semi-enclosed coastal body of water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea. Estuaries are often associated with high rates of biological productivity.

While Wendell was volunteering today at Weeks Bay Reserve, an employee remarked that he had seen dolphins jumping out of the water in Weeks Bay for the first time ever. Naturally, my first question was, "Did he get any photos?" Apparently not.

Wendell and I had wondered if the heavy rains we had had recently could be the cause of this different behavior at Weeks Bay, so I sent an email to the manager at Weeks Bay asking him if he had any idea why this unusual Dolphin behavior happened? He replied that he did not know any reasons that would directly cause the dolphins' behavior. He went on to add: "Jumping for a dolphin is common — we just haven’t seen this behavior in Weeks Bay."

I have seen dolphins in the Gulf and even in Weeks Bay traveling one behind the other the way they normally do, but I would be very excited to see them jumping like they are doing in the video below.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Going on a road trip

WHEN? Anytime

WHERE? Near Colorado Springs, Colorado

We have traveled in Colorado, but that was back in 2005 before we began this blog, and we're not sure why we haven't traveled to this well-known destination in person because it's right here in America. In fact, Wendell took his basic training in the Army near this location that can be seen from Denver, Colorado on a clear day. They call it America’s Mountain. You had probably already guessed it was Pikes Peak, hadn't you?

Now, all you need to do is click on O Beautiful and start the video for your armchair ride to the top of the mountain.

After you've done that, you might want to refresh your memory of the words written by Katharine Lee Bates.

America the Beautiful

O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!

America! America!
God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thorough fare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness.

America! America!
God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law.

O beautiful for heroes prov'd
In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life.

America! America!
May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabster cities gleam
Undimmed by human tears.

America! America!
God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea.

This version of the song does not include all the verses, but I sure do like it:

Ray Charles does America the Beautiful

Friday, November 27, 2009

Elk Crossing

WHEN? Nov 27 -- not in person - by armchair

WHERE? Drake, Colorado

We're still waiting for a good sighting in person of either an elk or a moose. Until then, this will do just fine. Notice how a few of the elk slip because it's an icy spot.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Brent Burns at LuLuS

WHEN? Monday · November 16

WHERE? Gulf Shores, Alabama · find us on the map

VENUE? LuLu'S at Homeport Marina

Not long ago, we were sitting around a fire at Driftwood RV Park when a discussion about going to LuLu's to see Brent Burns came about because of some recent RVers who were staying there. We had been meaning to see him perform ever since we came down in January of 2008, so we decided to join them on November 9th, but Tropical Storm Ida caused us to postpone seeing him. This evening, we finally did get to gather at LuLu's for an enjoyable evening of entertainment.

This was our second visit. We posted about the first one on February 2 at LuLuS.

The owners of the RV park and five of their residents sat at a table close to the stage and we sat at the bar. Brent Burns sounds just like his many recordings, available on seven CDs. I believe it was the Alabama or Gulf Coast tourism people who provided us with three of his songs along with their literature. So we were already familiar with Livin' the Life, Perpetual Vacation and Down in Paradise.

Brent Burns is a well-known singer-songwriter who received the 2008 Trop Rock Music Award for Entertainer Of The Year. You'll likely find his biography interesting reading.

By visiting Brent's website, we learned a lot about him, including the fact that he is a newlywed, having married in October.

You can check out our photos on Flickr by clicking on Brent Burns at LuLu’S.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Got in on a First

WHEN? Saturday · November 14

WHERE? Bon Secour, Alabama
Bon Secour, Alabama on the map

We arrived at the 1st Annual Bon Secour Oyster and Wine Festival in the mood to party and were not disappointed! Along with the afternoon's gorgeous weather, here's just some of what we were treated to -- and for only $10 a person.

  • All the oysters, wine and beer we wanted.
  • Live music, including local bands Smokey and the Iguanas and The Buds, who played from a flatbed truck trailer.
  • One of the booths we visited was Shucker's Oyster Bar at the Wharf in Orange Beach, Alabama. We were familiar with them because Shucker's also has a location on Ross Barnett Reservoir just outside of Jackson, Mississippi. Wendell was pleased to see that their chef was wearing a Mississippi State cap like he was. Their oysters were very good!

We haven't yet learned the results of the oyster competition that was to give a Grand Prize of $1,000 and a People’s Choice award of $500. Spearheaded and organized by the Wine Liberation Society and The Tin Top Restaurant and Oyster Bar, this festival is expected to be an annual event from here on out. We saw a number of friends while we were there, and since festival news travels fast around here, chances are good we'll see lots more next year.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Off The Pavement

WHEN? Any Day

WHERE? Loveland, Colorado
Loveland, Colorado

In our travels, we have never seemed to have as much time as we would like to see all an area offers. Seems like the first time I was in Colorado, I was working in at a bridge tournament in the 70s, and I hardly saw anything except a high rise hotel in downtown Denver. Later, in 2005, we saw some of Colorado while on a month-long trip in our travel trailer that took us to several western states, but we never did make it as far north as Loveland.

Have you ever wished you could see wild animals in their habitat without them seeing you? Now's your chance, and you don't even have to leave your armchair.

Recently, a very cute video was received attached to an email. It was of an elk calf playing in the water in an elk wallow in Colorado. It turns out there are many more wildlife videos from cams placed there by David Neils which are ample proof that the wildlife seems to be plentiful in Colorado. Mr. Neils told me that the elk calf video contained no sound because a squirrel or some other animal pulled the microphone cable out of his camera box.

There's ever so much to see at David Neils - Photographer. He has revised his website to allow his videos to be more easily viewed. This elk calf video is now easy to find there, so I have removed the unauthorized YouTube video I had on this post. On the photography website, you'll note his videos show up the fourth image to the right very near the top. ENJOY!

It is very strange what attention this video has received by YouTube users. Maybe it is correct to say it has gone "viral."

I just checked YouTube, and there are about nine or ten users who still have this video up, but probably none of them have Photographer David Neils' permission to have them up. This is what You Tube offered when I search for Elk Calf.

There's no need to go to YouTube, however, because you can actually see the video at Off The Pavement - David Neils' website.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Live Music at MRBG

WHEN? Sunday, October 11

WHERE? Magnolia Springs, Alabama · find us on the map

When we first came down to Alabama in January of 2008, live music was playing on Sunday afternoons at the Magnolia River Bar & Grill. Now it's back. This time Billy Pelletier is singing and playing his guitar, and it's combined with karaoke for a fun time.

When I saw this little monkey, it immediately brought to mind Toby Keith's popular song, "I Love This Bar," which in many ways describes this bar.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Shrimp Festival 2009

WHEN? Thursday - Sunday · October 8-11

WHERE? Gulf Shores, Alabama · find us on the map

WHY? 38th Annual National Shrimp Festival

38th Annual National Shrimp Festival 2009
We did our level best to make it to the first day of the festival because we knew a musical group that were performing at 11:45 AM on one of the music stages. It turned out we did not make it by that time and SugarCane Jane was performing on the stage on the east end. What huge crowds were there already around noon as we rushed through them to get to the stage that was near the Pink Pony.

We were able to hear them for as long as we could stand -- literally STAND, and it was quite warm, even in the shade by the PA control tent. While we were standing there and listening, Top Hat came by and told the person working there that he was making them sound good, and he was right. They captured the attention of many of the festival attendees with their close-blended harmony and the musicianship of Anthony Crawford. Before we just had to leave, Savana Lee sang a solo of an Alison Kraus song. Also, they had sung several of their songs as well. Their new album had not arrived for distribution, but they were almost certain it would be in for their performance on Sunday at the festival.

We stopped at Doc's food booth for some fried shrimp, and hung around in shaded areas until we had both consumed every bite, having not had anything to eat since an early breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express in Jackson, Mississippi, that same day.

To see some of the festival's entertainers and a couple of Hooters Girls on Flickr, visit National Shrimp Festival of 2009.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


WHEN? Tuesday · October 6

WHERE? Jackson, Mississippi · find us on the map

Taking Care of Business

No, we didn't go all the way to Graceland in Memphis, and we weren't buying flashy jewelry like Elvis wore. We were simply taking care of eye exams long overdue. We have a preferred doctor in Jackson we just can't let go of.

While we were in Jackson, we took the opportunity to look up some friends. This may not include many photos, but such as they are, you can view them at Fall in Mississippi.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Good Combo

WHEN? Sunday, September 27

WHERE? Alabama's Gulf Coast · find us on the map

Okay, we have put on a few pounds since many of you have seen us. That's because we love to eat and there's plenty of opportunities to do it on the Coast. We are thinking of writing a song entitled "I've gotta lose weight and I sure do dread it" because we've stuffed in lots of good eatin' while we have been here in LA.

Big Daddy's Grill on the Fish River in Fairhope, is in our neighborhood anyway, so it's sort of silly to say we traveled there, but one of the reasons we do travel there as often as we do is it has it all, particularly on a beautiful day like today.

Picture this. Not only is the atmosphere great in the outdoors with good food, there's live musical entertainment to round it out.

Today, the entertainment (besides the dogs and happy people) was a couple of very talented performers who bill themselves as Sugarcane Jane. Here's a video of them doing one of their songs from their upcoming album, which we heard them do live this afternoon.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

A hero laid to rest

WHEN? Thursday · August 27

WHERE? Olive Branch, Mississippi · find us on the map

Some unique experiences were part of a WWII veteran's funeral we recently attended. At the close of the service, our funeral procession traveled nearly 20 miles along a busy interstate to historic Elmwood Cemetery in Midtown Memphis. As each vehicle crossed the quaint stone bridge leading into the cemetery, the daredevil Memphis motorcycle officers who had escorted us stood at attention on either side and saluted until the last car had passed. Unexpected and touching.

I would have been very disappointed had not the video turned out as Taps was played at the cemetery. Since some of the deceased's large family were unable to attend, it was one of many photos and videos taken at Elmwood to share with them.

Day is done, Gone the sun,
From the lakes · From the hills · From the sky,
All is well, Safely rest, God is nigh

Fading light dims the sight,
And a star · Gems the sky · Gleaming bright,
From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night

Thanks and praise for our days,
Neath the sun · Neath the stars · Neath the sky,
As we go, this we know: God is nigh

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Magnolia River Bar & Grill

WHEN? Tuesday, August 11

WHERE? Magnolia Springs, Alabama · find us on the map

We had a very pleasant surprise today. We were served a free sample of gumbo that was the best gumbo I had ever eaten. Unfortunately, the recipe is not available. All I can tell you is that some of the ingredients include shrimp or chicken, wonderfully cooked rice, some hot sauce, and bay leaf.

This place is right on Highway 98 in Magnolia Springs, about half way in between Fairhope and Foley. Keep your eyes open for their sign. It's just one more good place to visit with friends with a cool one or to stuff yourself with some more Gulf Coast cuisine. You might even be talking to the person next to you and get a tip on a place to settle down in LA.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Remembering our friend Al

WHEN? Saturday · August 8

WHERE? Kelseys in Foley, Alabama · find us on the map

It wasn't that long ago, on May 6th, that we celebrated Al's 80th birthday at Kelseys. An even larger crowd gathered on Saturday, August 8th, to remember our friend Al.

Finger foods were served, and the bar was packed with those who had known Al a long time, along with others who had known him for a short while (yours truly).

Wayne Fuller played the guitar and sang Marshall Tucker Band's Can’t You See. Someone at Kelseys was actually recording a video of Wayne's performance. Here’s an early 70’s live version of this classic:

Al's friend Bob Arness composed a poem for the occasion:

Here’s to our buddy, here’s to our pal
It’s hard to believe, but his name is Al
Some words of wisdom, advice to follow
It may not be easy, just learn to swallow.

Al could be hard to take, a pain in your side
Just shake it all off, take it in stride
He was one of a kind, a real piece of art
Most of the time just a grumpy old fart.

We’re all here, you may wonder why
We’re just here to say good-bye.

Al, you are missed.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Slovenian group

WHEN? Anytime

WHERE? The Internet

WHAT? Perpetuum Jazzile - Vokalna Ekstaza

I have an email correspondent from Slovenia, so I asked him about this group. He responded:

Oh, Perpetuum Jazzile is a group of professional Slovenian singers, many of them have a solo career. They're really good. They sing "a capella" (no instruments, everything is simulated with human voices), mostly adaptations of Slovenian songs, but some foreign songs as well. If they ever come to USA, don't miss them! ;-)

My wife and I were on a concert last fall, where Africa was performed for the first time (this is where YouTube recording is from) and it was fantastic (it's completely different hearing it live in a huge concert hall than now on YouTube, although it's still great).

Best regards, Kristof

Maybe you have seen the rainstorm part of this before but maybe not the choir doing Toto's Africa. Very entertaining. By all means, listen to the first part of this video of the rainstorm.

The beginning of this video is really striking. Group members simulate an African thunderstorm with their hands, then they sing. It's really something to see and hear.

Africa by Perpetuum Jazzile is performed live at Vokal Xtravaganzza 2008 (October 2008) - arranger Tomaž Kozlevčar.

The thunderstorm simulation effects were inspired by Kearsney choir (South Africa).

Sunday, August 2, 2009

MSU Bulldog Bash

WHEN? Sunday · August 2

WHERE? Gulf Breeze, Florida · find us on the map

We took another trip over to Florida in the Pensacola area. This time it was for (are you ready for this?) the MSU Bulldog Beach Bash & Send-off Party. Alumni and friends, incoming MSU students, and prospective students and parents were invited. Lots of work went into planning this event by members of the Northwest Florida Chapter of the Mississippi State University Alumni Association, and it was really good to get together with Mississippi State fans. The college football season is just about here!

Our photos from this event were taken by Wendell, and they are located here.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Old Fashioned and Delicious

WHEN? Friday · July 31

WHERE? Foley, Alabama · find us on the map

Established in 1929, Stacey's Rexall Drugs and Olde Tyme Soda Fountain is the oldest drugstore in Baldwin County. This café was featured in the Pelican's May 1, 2009 issue. The article was displayed near the table where we ate our ice cream.Wendell had butter pecan - I had a hot fudge sundae
Wendell had butter pecan -
I had a hot fudge sundae

Let me backtrack. The first time I went into this drugstore from the Fifties, I was trying to find some place to buy some cosmetics. They didn't have any. What they do have is a place that has some good ice cream and even a menu with foods listed that you might have expected to order in an old fashioned soda fountain.

We only snapped a few photos while we were enjoying our ice cream. You can view them on Flickr at Stacey's Rexall Drugs and Olde Tyme Soda Fountain.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Brockles in Dallas

WHEN? Late 50's & early 60's

WHERE? Dallas, Texas · find us on the map

Just the name of this blog, The Perpetual Vacationers, leads one to believe that it's about places we have been and things we have seen. Please forgive me for using a poet’s license to include a trip into the past. Not one about where we went or what we saw, but about something we ate.

Back in the late 50's and early 60's when we lived in the Dallas area, there was a restaurant on Ervay Street, just off downtown, named Brockles Restaurant. It opened in 1929 under the name of Brockles' Club Cafe. Andrew Brockles, Sr., went into the restaurant business in 1919. In the Brockles Restaurant on Ervay, they made and served a special dressing on their salads. The salads were nothing more than a quarter of a head of iceberg lettuce covered with this special dressing. There was also a bottle of the dressing on each table and an ample supply of saltines to nibble on until the food was served. The dressing was so good, and in such demand that they started selling it in some of the grocery stores in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Actually, their special dressing began being produced and sold commercially in 1942.

The first time I ever tasted the dressing was at the Texas State Fair. They had a booth there, and were passing out crackers with this special dressing spread on it. It was Soooo Gooood! Needless to say our house was never without Brockles Special Dressing as long as we lived in Texas. My job, however, took us other places and the dressing was not to be found.

I admit that I thought about the dressing from time to time, but after three or four decades, I had about forgotten about it. Luckily, Mae Dean had not. You see, she had worked with a lady who’s father-in-law was either the owner or one of the owners of the business, and had thought about them from time to time. Eight or ten days ago she made an internet search to see it she might find something about the restaurant and it’s dressing and got a BIG HIT. A member of the Brockles family had a web site on The Brockles Family, Brockles Restaurant and Special Dressing. Not only that, but since neither the restaurant nor the dressing business are still around the whole Brockles family agreed to include the recipe for that great tasting Special Dressing on their web site.


1 Pint Jar of Mayonnaise (16 oz)
4 Tablespoons Sweet Pickle Relish, drained
2 Teaspoons Paprika
1½ Ounce Blue Cheese, crumbled
1 Tablespoon Garlic Powder

Place Mayonnaise in a mixing bowl. Add remaining ingredients one at a time stirring to mix after each item is added. Continue stirring by hand until it is an even color and texture. Place sauce back into the mayonnaise jar that has been washed. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours before using.

Note: There should be a little left after filling the jar. Just spread on a saltine and enjoy your effort. This sauce is good as a salad dressing or just eaten on a saltine cracker.

I made my first batch today. I can assure you that our house will never be without Brockles Special Dressing again.

~ Wendell Smith

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Second Visit to Pensacola Air Show

WHEN? Saturday · July 11

WHERE? Pensacola Beach, Florida · find us on the map

The photo at the top of this blog post came from the Pensacola Beach Website. We were way too far away to get a photo like this. This photo must have been made from the air anyway. We weren't in the air.

Organizers of the annual Pensacola Beach Air Show have had many years of experience and definitely know how to plan for a crowd, and a crowd of folks coming by foot, boat and various kinds of motor vehicles was there. The traffic jam was not what we expected and we even considered just going back home, but we drove all the way to Navarre and picked up some snacks and headed back where we came from until we found a place to park and access the far eastern side of Pensacola Beach. One of the requirements for where we parked was that it have at least one portapotty. With that having been found, we brought our beach gear out on a very beautiful, uncrowded beach and spent two or three hours mostly under our newest and best beach umbrella we have ever owned. It put all the others to shame, even if I do say so myself — and I just did.

The difference between this year's and last year's air show is hard to say because our vantage point was way far away from where the show was staged. The good side was we sat on a beach some people dream of. It was likely as uncrowded as it was because so many tourists had crammed into the areas of Pensacola Beach where the air show took place. We can only guess that the show was very similar to the show last year.

Since our photos are not all that good and just prove we were there, we are referring you to a website that has some great photos of the Blue Angels:
Blue Angels at Bent Bay
Our own photos are located on Flickr:
Blue Angels Air Show at Pensacola Beach in 2009
Here's the Blue Angels 60th Anniversary show in 2006:

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday America!

I wanted to save this for myself so I could look at it from time to time.

Just click here and enjoy My Beautiful America.

Happy 4th of July!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Father's Day & First Day of Summer

WHEN? Sunday · June 21

WHERE? Orange Beach, Alabama · find us on the map

When we left the Foley area, the temperature was around 98º, but when we arrive in the areas near the Gulf and the beaches around the Alabama-Florida line, there was a breeze and the temperatore was 89º. That might have been reason enough to take our little Sunday drive in that direction.

While in that area, we tried a restaurant we had never dined in. We could critique it, but we won't. Let's just say that we consider a Sunday afternoon at Big Daddy’s Grill is more to our liking. The Wolf Bay Lodge restaurant is now located at the Zeke's Marina, and it caused us to realized we had dined there before many, many years ago, but it was then called Zeke's.

We took nine photos you can view quickly in a slide show:

Saturday, June 20, 2009

5th Annual Balloon Festival

WHEN? Saturday · June 19

WHERE? Foley, Alabama · find us on the map

We stopped in briefly Friday morning before all the booths and vendors were set up. Despite our early arrival, the hot air balloons had already come and gone by that time. A helpful vendor explained that they missed the soccer field where they were supposed to land after being blown off course by the prevailing southeasterly winds, and some ended up on the road and even in peoples' back yards. We looked around a bit and took a few antique tractor photos, then returned home in anticipation of seeing balloons on the following morning ...

And we weren't disappointed! Today was better, and we saw quite a few balloons land at the festival's correct destination site. We got photos of the balloons and met four friends there. I'm guessing that at least 30+ balloons were involved in this festival. By using the brochure/schedule for this year's festival, it seems like at least the following was true:

State of Origin / Number of Balloons
Alabama · 7
Florida · 3
Georgia · 5
Kentucky · 1
Louisiana · 6
Mississippi · 6
Missouri · 2
Tennessee · 1
Texas · 2
Total Identified: 33

There were at least two balloons we could not identify and possibly some we identified wrong.

After that, the six of us gathered at the Magnolia River Bar & Grill for a yummy breakfast cooked by Bob. Since we don't expect to return tomorrow for the festival's final day, we'll miss the Frisbee Dogs' scheduled performance.

See our photos on flickr:
5th Annual Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival

The website for the festival is very informative with a schedule of events and an audio that comes on after you are on the site for a little while.

Gulf Coast Hot Air Balloon Festival

Friday, June 12, 2009

Second Visit to Bahama Bob’s

WHEN? Friday · June 12

WHERE? Gulf Shores, Alabama · find us on the map

Along with good food, today's lupper at Bahama Bob's included a beautiful day to enjoy the beach out back of this beach cafe.

We pretty much covered what a relaxed dining experience it is to choose the back patio where one can look out on the beach and the Gulf. All ages were there on the patio with us on a gorgeous day. Our first visit was covered in a post in July of 2008 at Cay Key Quay.

This visit was mostly occupied with (besides eating) experimenting with shooting short videos:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sunday Live Music

WHEN? Sunday · May 3

WHERE? Big Daddy's in Fairhope, Alabama

Live music at Big Daddy's

I was a little undecided about which blog to put this on. But I did want to mention a good choice for reasonably priced entertainment on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons, particularly when the weather is nice.

We've only mentioned Big Daddy's on the Fish River once on this blog, along with quite a few other restaurants we had tried since we settled in Lower Alabama, on the post Sho'nuff fine dining on February 12 of last year.

We really did not go for the food on Sunday afternoon. We saw in a local publication that there was live music there. We had some adult beverage and mixed in some fried crab claws between us, but the live music was really good.

Randy Branch played the guitar and hormonica and sang. Some of the songs were written by him and are on the CD Long Black Car on his website at Poppaskeeter Music, while other songs he sang were written by other songwriters and musicians.

On Randy’s MySpace you can listen to three of the songs on the CD. It looks like he is really quite busy performing locally, and apparently he can also help you with your real estate needs.

Big Daddy's has a street address of 16542 Ferry Road, Fairhope, with access by boat from the Fish River. The Big Daddy's website gives good directions, but once you know where Ferry Road turns off of CR 32, you won’t have any trouble finding it the second time. Those with boats in the area don’t have any trouble finding it once they come into the Fish River out of Weeks Bay by just following the river upstream.

This Sunday afternoon, several people had brought their dogs, so it reminded us some of Pirates Cove in that respect.

We took a few photos you can view at Live Music at Big Daddy’s.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Tolstoy Park

WHEN? Monday · April 27

WHERE? Montrose, Alabama · find us on the map

Recently I sent a video on Turkey (the country) to a member of Wells United Methodist Church in Jackson, Mississippi. Earl Hill, Jr. replied, thanking me, and added this: "Be sure you read The Poet of Tolstoy Park by Sonny Brewer and see his little house in Fairhope."

Tolstoy Park

I purchased the book and read it and then started trying to find the little round house referred to in the book. It took a second day of searching with more specific directions to finally locate the house.

I recommend the book to you if you are one who likes to read books of a spiritual nature and about philosophy. It's very much like a journal of sorts and is based on a real person, Henry Stuart.

Excerpt from an interview with author Sonny Brewer:

THE POET OF TOLSTOY PARK is based on the true story of a 62-year old man, Henry Stuart, whose doctor in Idaho in 1923 told him he was dying of consumption. He moved here to Fairhope, left his shoes out west, and lived barefooted in a round concrete house he built by himself with his own two hands for twenty-two years! He had a divinity degree from Mount Union College and listed his occupation in the 1920 Census as “weaver of rugs.” Clarence Darrow befriended him and visited Henry a number of times in Fairhope. He was a writer and poet, a gardener, and a self-reliant man Thoreau would have loved.

That's probably enough to grab your interest without giving away the plot. The little round house was not easy to find, even though I had some photos of it from the internet. I think the house had become "bigger than life" in my mind by the time I finished the book because I was really surprised at how small it seemed when I stepped inside of it. It was a pleasure to visit it and take a few photos, which you can see here.

Monday, April 13, 2009

A Surprise Dance

WHEN? Probably never except by armchair

WHERE? Antwerp, Belgium

Several people have shared this video with me via email, and I think it's too good not to put up on our travelblog. Since I'm Hop-a-long Smith for awhile, real travel is out of the question anyway.

One of the most beautiful buildings of Antwerp is the building where this video took place, which is known as Centraal Statie, Railway Cathedral or simply Antwerp Central Station. One person who posted a video of this on YouTube described it thusly:

"We had a 45 minute gap between two trains and there was a school group performing the Do Re Mi! It took us a while to realize that this was a performace. It seemed like people were randomly joining the dance."

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Almost rained out

Welcome to the Elberta Sausage Festival

WHEN? Saturday · March 28

WHERE? Elberta, Alabama · find us on the map

We wanted to go to the Sausage Festival in Elberta again this year, but the weather was a problem. We felt bad for all those who had booths to sell their wares because the attendance was way down from last year's since it rained up until 9 A.M. But it was reasonably good weather when we arrived. Of course the grounds were soggy from the rain we'd had for the last few days.

We managed to enjoy ourselves inspite of the situation, but we might have stayed longer if the weather had been more cooperative.

Sausage Festival 2009Rules, SchmulesSausage Festival 2009
Sausage Festival whiskey band

Before returning home, we enjoyed hamburgers and fries at Rusty's in Foley.

Check out our Flickr photos at:
Elberta Sausage Festival

We also attended this event last year:
Oom-Pa-Pa 3/29/2008

Sunday, March 22, 2009

LA Entertainment

WHEN? Saturday · March 21

WHERE? Fairhope, Alabama · find us on the map

Fairhope Arts & Crafts Festival

Last year we heard about this festival from our neighbors, but we were just too involved in getting settled into our Lower Alabama home to take the time to attend it. This year, we chose Saturday to attend. As I'm posting this, things are underway for the thirda and final day of Fairhope's 57th annual Arts & Crafts Festival.

The weather could not have been more beautiful for this event, and today looks like that trend will continue. We followed a bus to the Big Lots shopping area and took it to downtown Fairhope to attend the festival. It's big, so we certainly got in our walking exercise yesterday.

Admission is free. We each paid a buck for the bus going and coming back, and I'm proud to say I only purchased one bargain item for three bucks. This may leave the impression that our total cost was only $7.00. That's not the true picture, because we ducked into the Ravenite Pizzeria for lunch. It was less than $20 for more pizza than we could eat and a cool brew to go with it.

Our photos do not reveal how big this was, but this event offered over 200 exhibitors from throughout the nation. Live entertainment is included as well as many food and refreshments booths. All of this takes place on the streets of beautiful downtown Fairhope.

Where we lunched looked like they had a place up front for live entertainment. They told us that occurred on Friday nights and BEGAN at 10 PM. There's not much chance we'll be attending that because we're getting our ZZZZZZZ's most nights by that time.

We left the festival in a mood to continue enjoying ourselves and stopped three places before we called it a day. We were both happily exhausted and slept like babies.

Here's the unusual assortment of photos we have to share with you from yesterday.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Exotic armchair travel

WHEN? Probably never except by armchair

WHERE? Pamukkale, Denizli, Turkey

My cousin, Billy Walton, sent me a PowerPoint slideshow about Pamukkal. It was the first time I had heard of it. The show said that perhaps it should be considered the 8th Wonder of the World.

Since I have no idea I can ever travel to Turkey to see this spectacular natural site, I am happy I am able to share this video with you as I armchair travel.

I was disappointed to find this note in my internet research:

Pamukkale has mineral springs that have been in use for thousands of years. Calcium-rich waters spilling from a hilltop spring are responsible for creating white stone basins. The "cotton castle's" terraced basins hold in the 102ºF water, and up until the 1990's you could just walk up and jump in. No more. Hotel development and irresponsible tourism around the springs choked the water source and the basins reverted to a dry, dingy gray. Although their luster has since returned, visitors can only walk on carefully laid out paths around the site.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

Wales West Bluegrass Festival

WHEN? Saturday and Sunday · March 7 and 8

WHERE? Silverhill, Alabama · find us on the map

This is the 4th year that Wales West RV Resort has held their THANK YOU SNOWBIRDS BLUEGRASS FESTIVAL. The show takes place on both days of the weekend with eight musical groups participating. It's pretty much non-stop music from 10:30 AM to 5:00 PM each day with a half-hour break for lunch, during which sweet rolls, popcorn, chips, candy bars, cookies, ice cream, soft drinks, water, coffee, brats and hot dogs are available for sale at very reasonable prices. Also during the festival, train rides on the railroad were half price at $3.00.

Cottontail Express (changes names seasonally)

It could not have been more convenient to attend this unless we were staying in the park itself because it is located just a few miles from where we live. The weather cooperated completely, beautiful, spring-like and sunshiny.

We tried to capture for you what the RV resort looks like where this festival took place. The owners, Ken Sr., Ken Jr., and Ann Zadnichek, have a really nice piece of property and seem to be continually improving on it.

Having been fulltime RVers, it was somewhat of a joke for us to realize that this park, along with most others in Lower Alabama, don't have the usual problem of having train tracks nearby to serenade the RVers all the time, night and day. So what did they do? They built the only authentic Welsh Victorian two-foot narrow gauge railway in the Americas right in their park. The good part is, this railroad only runs when they schedule it themselves.

Wales West RV ResortSouthern Sounds bluegrass bandPark architecture

Check out our Flickr photos at:
Wales West Bluegrass Festival

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Rest of the Story*

WHEN? Monday · March 2

WHERE? Hattiesburg, Mississippi · find us on the map

WHY? Lunchtime ... once again, we were hongry

Last September we put up a post on Robert St. John's Restaurants after we stopped in Hattiesburg and ate at the Crescent City Bar & Grill. We agreed to have today's lunch at the Purple Parrot Cafe on our way back to Alabama. Both restaurants are owned by Robert St. John.Dual restaurant sign
The Purple Parrot didn't seem to be as large and was decorated with colorful abstract art. I'm no more an art critic than I am a food critic, but I do know that I like anything filled with many colors. That was true for my food that I selected on the basis of wanting to know what black-eyed pea gravy was. I also knew that I like pork tenderloin (peppercorn encrusted), mashed potatoes and green beans. The portion was a little bit more than I could handle, but I did my best. Wendell chose the pecan encrusted catfish, which also had some black-eyed peas with it, I think. I’ll have to say I was concentrating so much on my own meal that I don’t remember what else he had.

Certain things the servers and staff did were interesting to me. I don’t frequently dine in restaurants of this class, but I do appreciate the service when I do, such as help with my chair as I'm seated.

Here’s something neat: Have you ever dined in a nice restaurant with cloth napkins that are white and come out with lint all over a dark colored outfit? Because I had on black, they switched out my white napkin for a black one. At least that was my take on it.

The other thing that set this restaurant apart for me were various quotes written on the hallway walls. Two favorites:

“Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn.”
~ Garrison Keillor

“Too much of a good thing can be wonderful.”
~ Mae West
*An aside:

Paul Harvey passed away very recently on February 28 of 2009 at the age of 90. What an icon he was and will remain so because of all the memories of the many years he did what he loved while his fans enjoyed it. I’m one of those fans. I thought it was interesting that my first thought for a title for this post probably brought Paul Harvey to your mind just like it did mine.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Mardi Gras Parades

WHEN? Sunday · February 22 · 2:30 PM
WHERE? Mobile, Alabama
WHAT? Joe Cain Parade

WHEN? Fat Tuesday · February 25 · 10:00 AM
WHERE? Gulf Shores, Alabama
WHAT? Gulf Shores Mardi Gras Parade

WHEN? Fat Tuesday · February 25 · 1:30 PM
WHERE? Orange Beach, Alabama
WHAT? Orange Beach Mardi Gras Parade

We've put up two Photo Sets on Flickr featuring these three parades. You can check them out at:

Monday, February 16, 2009

Checking Out a Beach

WHEN? Monday · February 16

WHERE? Perdido Key, Florida · find us on the map

WHAT? Gulf State Park Florida Point

Neighbors have been telling us about this public beach they go to ever since last year, but we had not been there. We've passed the turnoff for it many a time and really wondered about it, but just did not check it out. Since the weather was good, though cool, we decided it was time for an outing in the sunshine.

As the map shows, Alabama Point is on the west side of the Perdido Pass bridge, and Florida Point is on the east side, which is the state line location between Alabama and Florida on Highway 182. As their sign indicates, it is part of Gulf State Park in cooperation with the city of Orange Beach, Alabama. Florida Point has lots of parking, a bathhouse, a covered picnic area, and the beach runs the length of the pass and around to the Gulf. It has four boardwalks over the dunes and sea oats if you want to go directly to the Gulf.

Until a person has been here awhile, it is hard to even know how many beach locations are part of Gulf State Park, which has over 5 miles of beaches available in both Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. All areas in Orange Beach are free of charge to everyone.

Hurricane Ivan struck this area in September 2004, causing extensive erosion damage to the this beach on the east side of the pass. When we arrived in this area in early 2008, it appeared that the environmental restoration was still underway, which included dredging approximately 560,000 cubic yards of sand from the shoaled navigation channel and placing it on Florida Point.

I am not knowledgeable of maritime terms and such, but I am learning some. The photos of piled up rocks that go out into the water are jetties. A jetty is a protective structure of stone or concrete which extends from shore into the water to prevent a beach from washing away.

Honorable Mention:
Although it's a slightly further drive from our home than other area beaches we've visited, this is the only free-of-charge public beach we've found so far that that has real restrooms.

To check out our photos on Flickr, click on Florida Point Beach Access Gulf State Park

While walking along the beach, we encountered a young couple from Bowling Green, Kentucky on the beach and asked them to take our photo together and we did the same for them. I hope we hear something from them because I have forgotten information that might allow me to find their Christian work on the web.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fort Condé

WHEN? Wednesday · February 4

WHERE? Mobile, Alabama · find us on the map

WHAT? Fort Condé

Fort Conde

Today's visit to Fort Condé came about because we weren't hungry enough for lunch when we finished with a VA appointment. A friend in Mobile suggested visiting this downtown museum before she joined us for lunch.

Several school buses were parked outside the fort, and we were joined by students on a field trip. Since it was a cold day, we concentrated on the fort's indoor artifacts, including many historical photos, some of which were from early Mardi Gras and the reign of King Felix III, the first royalty associated with this annual festival. You'll notice in our Fort Condé photos on Flickr that the decorations for Mardi Gras were everywhere we went.

Mardi Gras tree In the fort's stockade

This fort has had many names and was much larger when it was needed for protection. As it now stands, what visitors see today is what was recreated for Mobile’s 1976 United States bicentennial celebration. To learn more about the fort's history, visit Fort Condé on Wikipedia.

Monday, February 2, 2009


WHEN? Monday · February 2

WHERE? Gulf Shores, Alabama · find us on the map

WHY? LuLu'S at Homeport Marina

Many is the time we have noticed this landmark as we were crossing the Intercoastal Waterway on Highway 59 in Gulf Shores, but we had never gone inside. So it was high time we did. There was a small crowd when we arrived there around 4:30 PM. This will not be hard to understand since the date was Superbowl Sunday.

As we came in, Greg Brown was playing a James Taylor song, and we took a seat at the bar and ordered drinks. It was a beautiful day weatherwise, so it was a good day to get some photos. We listened to several songs, and then I asked if Greg knew anymore JT songs. He did and played Carolina In My Mind.

While sitting there we glanced over the menu, and Smitty said you'd better bring your wallet when you came here. When you look over all the real estate, furnishings, etc., it is not hard to understand the prices. There's lots of overhead here.

As LuLu'S website tells you, their first location was on Weeks Bay, much closer to where we live, but being located right on the waterway means they get lots of pleasure boat traffic, and the atmosphere here is worth a lot, and live entertainment as well.

You can check our our photos on Flickr by clicking on LuLu’S.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cozumel Cruise


WHEN? Thursday · January 8 through Sunday · January 11

WHAT? Carnival Holiday Cruise

We took our first Caribbean cruise almost twelve years ago. It was on a much smaller ship with Commodore Cruise Line, no longer in business. We took a bus from Jackson, Mississippi to New Orleans and stopped in several ports on the cruise. It was a very enjoyable experience, but last week's cruise to Cozumel was better in several ways.

  • The cruise left from Mobile, Alabama, much closer to home.
  • The larger ship provided many more recreational opportunities on board, so many that we had to pick-and-choose among them.
  • The two live entertainment shows, Xtreme Country on Friday, and Shout on Sunday, were outstanding, with nonstop singing and dancing.
  • A group of friends were on board ship with us!
It was fitting that we left on the cruise one year to the day from when we arrived in Lower Alabama last year. Little did we know then that we would settle here after being on the road fulltime RVing.Our official Carnival Holiday Cruise Lines portrait
On Thursday, January 8, we were on board the Carnival Holiday Fun Ship in time for lunch from the buffet on the Lido Deck. There was no time to be bored because recreational activities abounded. Once we were at sea, a good size casino was opened. Our photos and those of our friends tell the story of the fun. I even took a photo of the Fitness Center, but never set foot in there again. There were just too many other things to do. Since the ship was pretty big, we got quite a lot of exercise just climbing stairs and walking on board.

Our assigned-seating dinner in the Four Winds dining room was the best way to dine, in our opinion. Open seating was available for breakfast and lunch in the Seven Seas dining room. Both places were very much like dining in a restaurant, where we were given menus and each person made their selections. There was a buffet on the Lido Deck, but we much preferred the dining rooms.

Auburn fanAdamStaying cool in a fedora and shadesElegant French tips

Friday evening's dinner included an "elegant dining" dress code. I balked at this at first, but it turned out to be fun. Since our group was among the best-looking guests on the ship, we naturally turned lots of heads when we arrived. Although it's impossible to choose a Best Dressed among us, Jan certainly deserves an Honorable Mention for her head-to-toe coordination, which included a fashionable scarf and clever shoes that matched her dress perfectly. And Cheeryo in his authentic Scottish kilt was, of course, the Holiday's most originally dressed diner that evening. I encourage you to click on each thumbnail to really appreciate how spectacular we all looked.

Elegant diningElegant diningElegant diningElegant dining
Elegant diningElegant diningElegant diningElegant dining

Most of Saturday was spent in Cozumel, beginning at Carlos 'n Charlie's. Then we moved on for a time at Jimmy Buffett's Marguaritaville on the water. Several photo ops were in Cozumel as well as some typically tropical scenery. One lady almost missed the ship's departure. They actually had to pull back in a short distance so she could get back on board. Two other bigger cruise ships were docked at Cozumel also. They left first, and then the Holiday pulled away.

Welcome to CozumelThe two amigos

Sunday was another day at sea as the ship was on the return trip to Mobile. The first thing I noticed that morning was the beautiful sunrise, which reminded me of a traditional folk melody, I See The Morning Breaking.

It is truly amazing what it takes to entertain and feed this many people on a large cruise ship, yet the staff do it so well. We recommend your checking to see just how affordable these trips have become.

The Fun Ship's drink of the day
MRBG's favorite pole dancer
Our favorite pole dancer

See all our cruise photos on Flickr:
First Day of Cozumel Cruise
Second Day of Cozumel Cruise
Third Day of Cruise – in Cozumel
Fourth Day of Cruise – return trip