11/30/18 Opp, AL.

DAY #41

Wow, it’s the last day in November and here I am in the land of Opp.  Sure not a usual last day of November for me, the weather today is 76 degrees and sunny, with a moderate wind.  In other words, it’s a beautiful day.   It’s such a beautiful day that I slept until that’s right, you guessed it, noon.  I’ve been sleeping a little better at night but still, if I don’t get up when the alarm goes off, I’m back to dreamland, which was the case today.

Putzed around for a couple of hours (I’m really good at putzing around, does that make me a Putz?), then decided to do what I’ve done too little this trip.  I decided to do some walking.  While the park is small in size, it does offer a couple of very nice, well marked out trails.  I walked for a solid hour and oh yea, this fat boy could feel it, but I pushed on and saw it through. I felt good doing it.  Along the way I took some more photos of the lake.

While it’s a super lake, it doesn’t really scream “Down South.”  It looks like it could be in so many places, Arkansas, Louisiana, hey even Minnesota.  Thinking about it, maybe what screams “Down South” is the fact that it’s going on December 1. 

After the walk, I sat down for awhile, and that turned out to be it for the day.  I did drive into Andalusia (really like this name) later to get some groceries. 

It’s supposed to start raining around nine this evening and by the looks of it, rain pretty much straight through to Sunday.   Some of the rainfall may be heavy and they’ve issued a flash flood watch.  My trailer sure has been getting tested for leaks so far this journey.  I’m still in the process of hooking the water up, why am I procrastinating on this?

11/29/18 Opp, AL

DAY #40

Left the space heater on last night and when I woke this morning (10:30 am-late start), I thought, man it’s hot. Got up and checked the thermostat, it was reading 79 degrees.  I thought, pretty good bet it’s nice outside, turned off the space heater and began to prepare for the day.  After visiting the little boys room (yes, it was nice outside), I decided to start by taking a couple more pictures of the lake.

It really is a quaint little park, Nice amenities, full hookups, and all the while tucked away on the edge of Opp, seemingly far away from the outside world.

The plan for the day was just to putz around.  I started by lubricating the locks on the storage doors,  charged the batteries for the drill, and lined the edges (not finished the best-rough edges) of the trailer storage compartment with duct tape.  Then I played around with what size hitch height to use to bring the trailer more level when towing.  By turning the hitch I currently have around, I gain 2″ of height.  When I went to Camping World in Dothan, I purchased a hitch that would give me a 4″ height increase.  After doing a dry run to see if it would work, I came to the conclusion that the 2″ will work.  I’m still unsure if I can go higher by using the 4.”  I’m going to try the 2″ and see how that works.  One step at a time.

My next project was to hook up the water to the trailer.  the campsite has water and it also has a hookup for  black/grey water at the site, which you don’t see that often.  I thought super, Now I can test the black/grey water as well.  But first, I headed into Opp for lunch at a place called Benton’s.  Play before work, isn’t that how it goes?

Benton’s began in 1957 and is a walk-up (Ala Dairy Queen) restaurant with a small sit-in area.  The google reviews are positive, with more than one reviewer noting how busy they could get.  When I got there there was no cars in the lot and my first thought was maybe their closed.  So often you see a business listed on google map and when you get there, it’s closed.  They were open and I ordered a cheeseburger, fries and chocolate shake.  It was a good all american meal, better than corporate fast food and I felt satisfied about eating at a local place.

After lunch I decided, hey I’m here in town, let’s check it out.  Opp has a population of approx. 6000.

While the downtown area survives, it is in a state of morbid decline.  Unlike other city downtown’s that have been given new life with restaurant and entertainment venues (e.g. Pensacola, FL), Opp remains a “working mans” downtown.  After driving around town, I came away feeling that Opp itself, not just its downtown, is in decline.

This is the major shopping area in Opp.  There are no Walmart or even McDonald’s.  The nearest ones are in Andalusia, about fifteen minutes away.  And the worst of all…NO WAFFLE HOUSE.  If there’s any town where a Waffle House would fit in, it’s here!

I bought some “Cheese Straws” at the IGA.  Kind of like eating a soft cracker with a cheesy taste,  bet you can’t eat just one…

Lots of second hand stores, and dollar stores, and on the other side of town a rent-a-center, all businesses you don’t normally associate with prosperity.  I’m also surprised by all the title loan places I’ve seen and not just in this area.

Opp also has a couple of motels and to be honest, I’m not sure they’re even open.

Saw this building and I had to take a look twice before getting its full meaning.

Not sure of the history of the building but it’s there, you can just see it.  Today it’s being used for recycling.

The housing in the city is typical of the style of homes in this part of the state.  Here are some examples;

Now in all fairness, most of the homes are in better shape than what I’ve shown.  Most are simple, single story homes, some in need of a little TLC. 

Actually, a lot of the homes are nice.

Bonus section with today’s posting.  Opp has a peanut buying business in town and thought it fun to check out.  

Here you can see peanuts in the trailers.  

Those are blowers attached to the trailers which in turn are filled with peanuts.  I think they have to bring the moisture content to a given percentage before shipping.  With all those blowers going, IT IS LOUD.

After checking out the city of Opp, Alabama, I aimlessly cruised around the area for awhile before heading back to the camp.  While driving along, I noticed a lot of helicopters in the area and they looked to be landing so I followed to see if I could find where they were touching down. I found it and it was cool to see four or five helicopters taking off and landing doing training.  the site was like a big field in the middle of nowhere that had asphalt strips (like narrow runways), and a couple of control towers. The sign at the road called it a staging area.   I know that Fort Rucker is in the area, and that’s where army helicopter pilots are taught.  OK, Got my bearings reset and headed back to the campsite.  got back in time to do some touch-up (painting) of the steps but it got too late to do the water.  Oh well, another day, another day.

11/28/18 Opp, AL.

DAY #39

First full day in the land of Opp and it was a good day.  Started out this morning with some frosty but clear weather.  The plan for the day was to head east, eventually ending up in Dothan, AL.  Dothan is approx. 60 miles east of Opp.  I wanted to check out a Camping World (bought a 4″ hitch) there and it gave me a chance to check out and get the “lay of the land” (so to speak).

Along the drive to the big D (not to be confused with Dallas), I passed fields of cotton and peanuts and the occasional small heard of cattle.  Not sure what kind they are, I’m thinking Black Angus because they’re black in color?  I’ve seen Brahma and Longhorns in Louisiana and I think I’ve seen these guys before, yea, I’m pretty sure they’re Angus.  Oh, did I forget to mention the trees, yes there are trees everywhere.

DSC_0109 (1).JPGI do get a kick out of seeing the cotton fields and the cotton they produce.DSC_0108 (2).JPG

The peanuts give me a thrill too but the crop’s been harvested and its ground cover collected as “peanut hay.”  After a couple weeks, this is what it looks like .

Didn’t take many photos today, as I said, I wanted to get the lay of the land and that’s what I did.  It ended up being an all day drive meandering around the southeastern corner of Alabama.DSC_0113 (4).JPGDamn, sometimes it can be tough getting a photo, this picture for example.  I had been going down this road for at least 2 miles, not a soul behind me, or passing me in the other direction for that matter.  I decided to stop (yes, in the middle of the road) and take this picture. Hey, can you guess what happened next?  You got it, some guy in a truck comes from out of nowhere behind me (I see him in the rear-view mirror) and as he goes around me, he lets me know he’s not happy.  He then stops his truck and it looks like he’s going to get out.  I just calmly looked at him and cruised away.  He passed me a couple minutes later and that was that but geez, IT NEVER FAILS!

Now I do need to fess up and take responsibility for stopping on the road like I did,  regardless what I was thinking.  Maybe that’s why I stayed calm when the guy was yelling at me, I was in the wrong and knew it.  Hopefully I’ve learned Something constructive (I need to say it that way) today.

A couple of observation that I came away with today, unlike Louisiana where people seem to drive slow, here in Alabama, I felt like I was the only one going the speed limited.

Not sure what gas is going for elsewhere, but at the Walmart in Andalusia, AL, it was $1.98 per gallon.  that’s the lowest I’ve seen it (few other places at $1.99 per gallon).  Also have seen it going for $2.59 per gallon not that far away.  Like I said, gas in Alabama can be all over the board. DSC_0117 (4).JPG

Guess what, they have Walmarts here (who would have thought).DSC_0115 (4).JPGOne last observation and regrettably I didn’t get a photo of it, is a Dollar General Market that I saw.  It looks like a normal Dollar General (which by the way are everywhere) on steroids.  I think the big difference is the addition of grocery’s.  Am I seeing the future with that store???  You read it here first.

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11/27/18 Pensacola, FL-Opp, AL.

DAY #38

Up at 9:00 am, and on the road 45 minutes later, all under a blue sky and a brisk northerly wind.  The temperature was 40 degrees and let me tell you, it motivated me to move a little faster in getting the trailer ready to roll. Ya know, it really is nice when everything goes as planned, like this morning.  Maybe the trick for me is to remember this day, and save the good vibes for those days when things don’t go OK.

Short driving day of  less than 130 miles, in which about 2/3 of was done by back roads (off the interstate), although I did take I-10 for a ways.  Felt kind of sad driving away from the ocean but I’m still close enough.  Opp, Alabama is only twenty miles from the Florida border.

On the way to Opp, I stopped at a place called Carpenters Campers in Pensacola,  It’s an RV dealership.  I wanted an opinion on whether or not I needed a Weight Distribution Hitch for towing the trailer and I thought who better to ask?  In doing my homework, I found myself kind of on the fence whether I needed one or not.  the truck does sag a tiny bit when towing so I thought,  it’s on my way, check it out.  Now I knew I was taking a chance in having them say, Ya, Sure, you should have a WDH, seeing the dollar signs in their eyes as their saying it.  I got lucky, the guy was honest and told me that he didn’t think I needed one.  He did suggest turning my hitch around, that would raise the ball and the level of the trailer by 2″.  Good suggestion and one that I’m going to do.

Made it to the State Park around 1:00 pm.  DSC_0104 (3).JPGIt was a nice day with a strong feeling of fall.  I’m noticing less pines and more other types of trees around here. It looks like mid-September in Minnesota, the trees are turning color and looks to be, not long before their peak.

One of the neatest things happened.  As I was driving down the road, a cardinal landed along the shoulder ahead of me.  It stayed only for a moment and then flew away.  If you believe what they say about seeing a cardinal, then you’ll understand when I say, my best friend is with me, still looking out for me.  This was so cool because it’s never happened before.DSC_0106 (3).JPG

Everything went hunky-dory (I think that’s french)  in setting up.DSC_0101 (2).JPG

The view from the campsite…Nice.  It should be even better as the temperature warms up over the next few days.  Frigin NW wind really makes it feel cold.DSC_0100 (3).JPG

And what I see when looking out the window of the trailer…Double Nice.DSC_0099 (3).JPG

There’s a fair number of campers here and most are pretty big.  I’m a baby compared to them.DSC_0103 (3).JPGDSC_0102 (3).JPG

This is a nice place.  It has decent WiFi and very limited over the air TV (PBS, Bounce, Grit).  The bathrooms are clean, as are the showers, and it’s all a short walk away.  There’s even a couple of washers and dryers.  Welcome to “Sweet Home Alabama” as the sign says when entering the state.

11/26/18 Pensacola, FL

DAY #37

After surviving the torrential rains of last night (man, did it rain) and worse yet, the plummeting temperatures, I spent my last full day in the Pensacola area.  The high went from 70 on Sunday, to 50 on Monday along with a brisk North wind (I’m sure there are those thinking 50 degrees, yea we feel for you…Not!).   I’ve enjoyed my time down here, so much so, I could stay longer.  The weather has been decent (except of late) and being close to the gulf and the trees have been great.  I like how you’re close to being “out in the woods”, but still have civilization near by when needed, kind of best of both worlds.  I regret that I didn’t explore the park more than I did.  It’s a nice place that reflects what this area looked like before development.

The port of Pensacola, back in the day.DSC_0040 (3).JPG

Per my usual routine, I didn’t do much of anything today.  Got up late, surfed the net, and watched TV.  I don’t know if that’s such a bad way to spend the day, especially when it’s not very nice (relatively speaking) out, but for me, it left me feeling guilty and introspective.

I’ve been on the road now for approx. five weeks and I’m doing OK.   I’m enjoying the travels immensely and experiencing little homesickness, although I still feel the tug of home (in a good way).  There’s so much to see, and I do feel kind of guilty when I don’t see everything.  I think that feeling is compounded by a tendency of mine to not get off my ass and do things (like today).  I haven’t been very good about changing my diet (still too much junk food) and losing weight (still too darn fat), and I’ve fallen short in being more physically active.  I have been fortunate and thankful for having no issues with the truck (3000 miles) or trailer (2200 miles).  Expenses are running slightly less than budgeted, mainly due to lower gas prices.

I guess my biggest disappointment so far has been in myself.  I find that I’m still judging people too quick, still expecting the world to be as I want it to be, and angered when it isn’t.   I’m disappointing most, in my lack of effort to address these shortcomings, I really need to do better.  Oh well, my ghosts are still with me and I suspect, will continue to be for a least a little while longer.  At least I won’t be alone driving down the road will I?

Having snapped back from reflection land, it’s time to move on.  Tomorrow morning it’s up around 9:00 am, shut down and hook up the trailer, and head off on my way to the next stop in our journey, Frank Jackson State Park, Opp, Alabama.

One last interesting tidbit (at least to me), I finally got to see an armadillo in the wild.  The bummer of it though, the poor thing was road kill

 

 

11/25/18 Pensacola, FL

DAY #36

Into everyone’s life a little rain must fall, and today it fell on me.  The temperature  was nice (upper 60s),  and it wasn’t a torrential rain day, just lite and intermittent.  It was just enough to keep you indoors, but in a soft and gentle way.DSC_0096 (1).JPG

Some views from my abode.DSC_0097 (1).JPGDSC_0098 (1).JPG

Another quiet day, stayed close to the ranch.  I did go and do some more laundry and oh yea, I stopped and had my Waffle House fix.  They really are dives, but that’s part of their mystique.DSC_0134 (3).JPG

Here’s an observation of mine.  The border with Alabama is very close and it’s interesting to look at the difference in gas prices.  In Alabama, the cheapest I’ve seen (so far) is $2.19 per gal.  In Florida (around Pensacola) the cheapest has been $2.47 per gal.  That’s a pretty significant difference.  Did some checking and Alabama’s state gas tax is about .14 cents per gallon less than in Florida which explains some of the difference.  Another thing I’ve noticed about gas prices along this journey.  In Minnesota, gas prices are about the same no matter where you go in the state, it may vary by .10 cents per gal by region, but very consistent from one station to another.   Since Arkansas, I’ve noticed that the price can change by as much as .25 cents per gal just by going two blocks.  In short, there really isn’t any consistency in price, it’s all over the board.

Let’s answer a question everyone’s been asking (yea, everyone).  What does the trailer look like on the inside.DSC_0093.JPGThe bed is a full size queen and it’s comfortable enough.

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Watching the news and it looks like when this storm system passes through later tonight, it is going to get cold…like freezing cold (32 degrees).  I don’t like it that cold, that’s one of the reasons I’m down here…Ouch!

Just as I was finishing this blog, up came the thunder and lighting, a thunderstorm to end the day.   Kind of like how it sounds.  And now here comes the torrential rain.  Check back tomorrow to see if I survived.

11/24/18 Pensacola, FL

DAY #35

Another late day getting started.  Damn, I’m beginning to get frustrated with not being able to fall asleep until 5:00 am.  I was planning on going up to Mobile, AL, today to check out the battleship U.S.S. Alabama, along with a WWII submarine, and other military hardware all located on a 100 acre site along Mobile Bay.

It was a beautiful day out. Temps in the upper 60s, and blue sky’s & sunshine.  It did rain last night and judging by the standing water, it rained a fair amount.  I’ve been real fortunate in the weather being as nice (overall) as it has been here.

Since today was a washout for my original plans, I did end up taking a drive for a couple of hours done some back roads of Southern Alabama.DSC_0082 (4).JPG

One of the first things I saw and thought, oh wow, how cool, was a field of cotton.  It’s late in the season so I was lucky to see this.DSC_0074.JPGDSC_0073 (3).JPGDSC_0076 (3).JPG

Southern Alabama does a lot of logging given there are so many pine trees down here.DSC_0085 (3).JPGDSC_0080 (3).JPGDSC_0088 (2).JPG This is an area after clear cutting (it’s really a ugly process), they control burn before replanting.DSC_0078 (3).JPG

As I was driving along I noticed a road off to my left and a sign designating the area as a state management area.  It seemed really remote so I thought, I’ll go a ways down the road (dirt) and get some good photos.DSC_0083 (3).JPG

Down the road I went and as I did, it seemed civilization was slipping away.  Further back I continued until I reached the point where I began thinking, OK, far enough, time to turn around.  Just as I was about to do so, google map pipes in, take a right in 600 feet.  I had forgotten I had it on and was somewhat surprised it was still tracking me.  I double checked the map and sure enough the road would bring me back to the asphalt highway.  So, a right turn I took and off I went, four miles down a road that was showing me Southern Alabama in all its natural beauty at every turn.

While it was really cool, it was kind of scary as well.  What if I get a flat tire? What if the truck breaks down?  What if google was wrong?  Here I was out in the sticks, and I mean about as far out as you can get. DSC_0090 (2).JPGDSC_0092 (2).JPGI did see three trucks parked along the way.  I don’t know if they were hunting or what, but they did reassure me I wasn’t lost.  Stayed the course and finally came back onto pavement.  The rest of the ride back was pretty blah after the time in the woods.

What started out as a disappointing day, turned out OK.