Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Crazy in Alabama


Oh, Alabama! You crazy barefoot inbred mistress of my heart! From the depths of my Croc-flopped soul I look at thee! My BFF Chicago Meg is on her 2nd Annual Escape From Winter working vacation in Gulf Shores for a few weeks and I took it upon myself to skeedaddle eight hours down I-65 and visit her and avail myself of a free place to stay at the beach for a few days. So far it's been insanely beautiful: near 70 every day and sunny, except for a dramatic thunderstorm last night. BUT ANYWAY! Enough about the weather. Do I LOOK like WILLARD SCOTT? But a happy Smuckers birthday to my centenarian readers nonetheless.

I loaded up Madeline and drove down on Sunday, with brief stops in both the cosmopolis of Elkton, TN (where Madeline was menaced by a giant thirty-foot-tall knife-wielding, chef-hat-wearing chicken. What is a chicken that tall looking for to eat? And also? Chickens do NOT HAVE opposable thumbs! How do they hold a knife or fork? It was a very confusing stop and I haven't even gotten to the part about the joint next door, The Boobie Bungalow. I have no idea what they do there. Perhaps it is a wildlife group dedicated to the preservation of a certain species?) and also Greeneville, AL, where absolutely nothing of interest has ever happened, other than me driving through. Oh, maybe a tornado or a civil rights march or WHATEVER but other than that, NOTHING. Especially if you judge it by the gift shops. NOTHING. So then I got off 65 and made a beeline to the Coleman Camping Factory Outlet, where I picked up two hiking poles (because that's what makes me a SERIOUS HIKER. How much shit I carry when I do it) and a red steel-belted camping cooler. I'm stopping there again on my way back. Then I got to Gulf Shores, hung a right and drove all the way out the Ft. Morgan Peninsula, as far as I could go without falling into the Gulf of Mexico. The name of the house is Dolphy Dunes. I have no idea what a Dolphy is.

Monday was mostly a little bit of beach-walking and a trip back into Gulf Shores to eat a plate of oysters at a pizzareia/oysterbar. Good, not great. I'm still sort of craving a spectacular plate of them.

But TODAY! Oh, TODAY! Fantastic. We got up early and drove back a few miles to meet our tour guide for a nature walk in the Bon Secour WIldlife Refuge. Her name was Jan and she was a lovely older lady with a Wisconsin accent. She pointed out reindeer moss and dewberry and dollar weed and several hollies and someotherthingamajigs and I couldn't hold it all in but she was very knowledgable but she didn't like it when BFF Chicago Meg said something about a muscadine grape leaf that seemed different than the other grape leaves she had pointed out. Jan turned on her heel and stomped off into the alligator/armadillo/cottonmouth-infested maritime forest. I laughed at that, "maritime forest." It sounded so fancy! It just means "woods by the beach." But it was super-pretty.

Then we had breakfast at a weird place that had 9/11 newspaper clippings all over the place ("I'll have two ham biscuits with a side of tragedy! And a small orange juice!") and then we delivered our friend Jenna to the Pensacola airport - after I spent sixty-two dollars on inexplicable things at Souvenir City and the Purple Octopus. Don't ask. But if you need a sand dollar that has been airbrushed with the phrase "Liquor Up Front; Poker In The Rear," please call me. I have a surprise for you!


Anyway. On the way to the airport we saw a drive-in liquor store and I was very excited about that. Liquor! Now with Manatee!

Then, on the way home from the airport, we stopped at Tarkiln Bayou Preserve State Park, on the Florida side of the state line. It's pretty simple and small as state parks go, but there's a spectacular boardwalk that hovers above (in summer) vast expanses of wild-growing pitcher plants and other carnivorous plants. It was pretty great and I can't wait to revisit it in high pitcher plant season. This last picture really does capture the essence of the place, and also of the day as a whole, from a morning maritime forest, to a late afternoon bayou. All perfection.