Burn through Mobile

Trip Start Mar 01, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of United States  , Alabama
Tuesday, March 22, 2005

We ended up in Mobile, Alabama. We probably could have made it further down I-10, but we honestly didn't feel like pushing it, and we weren't planning on staying very long. Plus, the drive from Mobile to New Orleans wasn't very taxing. When we crossed the state line from Florida to Alabama, we stopped at the Welcome Center and loaded up on the tourist guides. One of the pamphlets confirmed what I thought I read on a billboard we passed a few miles back: the Dead Sea Scrolls were on exhibit in downtown Mobile. Definitely on the to-do list. After pulling out of the Welcome Center, the remaining drive into Mobile was a breeze. Plus, we gained an hour since we passed into Central Standard Time. The RV park we stayed in was more of a large rock parking lot with power and water outlets and sewer hookups every several yards. The surroundings were nice, though, so it balanced out. The remainder of the day we spent planning what we were going to do in Mobile and when we would leave. Plus, we got to daydreaming about opening our own campground.

The next morning (Sunday, March 13) was beautiful. The sun was out and the air was warm. The high was supposed to be in the mid 70s - the warmest weather yet. Since it was so lovely, we headed down to Bellingrath Gardens first. The gardens and home were originally a fishing camp, but were developed by the Bellingrath family to include 65 acres of gardens and a 15 room home. Displayed inside the home are antiques, silver, furniture, china, crystal, and cut glass. The site is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And deservedly so.

Ed and I decided in the interest of time only to wander around the gardens. The first area we walked into opened up onto a large rose garden with more than 50 kinds of roses. They weren't in bloom at the time, but we did see one or two buds beginning to open. It must be an unbelievable visual and olfactory experience when in season. From the rose garden, the path led into a recently restored conservatory where we found Easter lilies, hydrangea, orchids, hibiscus, and other flowers in bloom among a wide variety of tropical palms, ferns, cacti, and succulents. Outside the conservatory we found a butterfly garden to the right beyond which the Great Lawn opened. The path through was trimmed in blooming daffodils, purple kale, and parsley. By following the path, we strolled into a plaza with a fountain which flows toward the Mermaid Pool. To the left was the home outlined in wrought-iron balconies and scrollwork. We walked around the home and down toward the water by following the continued flow of water from the Mermaid Pool. After tumbling down several waterfalls, it collected in a coi pond tucked inside the Bellingrath Grotto. The overflow from the grotto ran further down until it finally emptied into the Fowl River. The continuous movement of water from its point of origination to the river as its final destination just reinforces the idea of the circle of nature.

After a bit of time enjoying the view, Ed and I moved past the house again to Mirror Lake Dam which created Mirror Lake from a shallow stream. Next, we hooked a right along the Bayou Boardwalk which loops through a bayou and extends into an observation tower at one point. The only wildlife we saw through the bayou was a turtle sunning himself and some minnows. I told Ed that I used to stand very still in shallow water at Lake Waccamaw; the minnows would come and nibble my toes - a very queer feeling. From there, we passed back into the gardens and walked back around the house. We entered the small chapel built next to the Delchamps Gallery of Boehm Porcelain. The chapel was very elegant, but still quite comfortable and is sometimes used for weddings. The gallery housed many small sculptures of wildlife found in the area as crafted by Edward Marshall Boehm.

Outside again, we walked around Mirror Lake, past the Bubbling Brook (which wasn't so bubbling), by the lion at the overlook (where we got our picture taken), and over a bridge - after which we passed out of view of Mirror Lake. Next was the Bridal Garden which boasts seasonal blooms, but this wasn't its season. The Oriental-American Gardens were the unexpected pleasure of the walk. The path curled around a small, winding pond. At some points, we walked over stones set through the moving water; at others, we walked over bridges.

Finally through the gardens, we entered the gift shop on the way out. We poked around quite a bit and discovered that things were really rather reasonably priced. But we still didn't buy anything. I expected some seeds or bulbs that were found in the garden to be sold in the shop, but none were to be found. What we did find were garden accessories, soaps, sachets, wind chimes, and porcelain (among other things).

Back in the truck, we decided we were hungry and headed into an area of Theodore (just outside Mobile where our campground was) that our camp host told us had restaurants. We were looking for some home cooking (it being Sunday), but couldn't find the restaurant we were looking for, so we crossed to the other side of the main road to see if it was that way; however, we quickly passed out of developed area. Ed couldn't find a suitable place to turn around, so we just continued on down the road. Finally, Ed swung into the parking lot of a restaurant called Cock of the Walk (yes, you read it right), a family restaurant which specialized in catfish and coleslaw. The parking lot was quite full, but we decided to stay anyway. Inside, it was huge. One room led to another and there were people everywhere. We finally got seated and set up with some sweet tea and coleslaw (really spectacular coleslaw and apparently their signature). We also ordered some fried pickles for an appetizer. Before they arrived, Ed headed back out to the truck to get some Advil for me. And never came back . . . so I went looking for him. I found him on the phone to AAA. The keys were locked in the truck. After getting a locksmith set up, we headed back to our table to find a busboy cleaning it. We managed to save most of our table setting, but lost the pickles - which turned out to be ok, because our food wasn't too far behind. And we couldn't fault the busboy; he was doing his job well. Ed didn't get to eat too much of his food because he had to go outside and meet the locksmith, so I got a to-go box and paid the bill.

After dinner, we continued into downtown Mobile to see the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit. However, when we got to the Exploreum, the tickets were sold out. Both of us really wanted to see the exhibit, so we purchased tickets for the next morning and planned on a late check-out (since the drive to New Orleans wasn't too long). On the way back to the parking lot, we passed Fort Conde, and, on a whim, decided to go in. We wandered around the corner of the fort that was still standing. The rest of the fort had been deconstructed to make room for the development of downtown Mobile. We saw a typical officer's and enlisted man's quarters, the infirmary, and a pictorial history of Mardi Gras in New Orleans (where the festival originated). There was also a section devoted to African-American history from the area. We also climbed a series of steps onto the battlement where we found cannons. At this point, it was beginning to sprinkle, so we went back to the truck.

We needed to restock on some supplies including groceries and some random things like mounting tape (for our US map) and Dentastix (treats for Bandit), so we stopped at Wal-Mart off of I-10. The Wal-Mart we stopped at was packed full and the experience was interesting. Sadly, it was at Wal-Mart that we saw the greatest amount of trash. Mobile in general wasn't the cleanest place, but the roadsides around that Wal-Mart were shamefully trashy. After leaving the parking lot and getting back on I-10, we decided that it was time to get out of Alabama.

The next morning, we got up early and were at the Exploreum in downtown Mobile at 9:15. We received headphones and a digital audio tour guide. We weren't ten feet into the exhibit when a large group of third- (maybe fourth-) graders came piling in. Thankfully, they went into a film first, so we were able to move through the exhibit in relative peace. We saw photo spreads from where the scrolls were found and read the history of the archeological dig. We saw pottery and oil lamps from the period found with the scrolls. We saw timelines. And finally we saw pieces of the scrolls. Each section was only about four inches long, and the widest intact piece was only about a half a foot. They were still breathtaking. We even saw a segment of the Ten Commandments, presented in a different order, but basically the same. Then, of course, we passed through the gift shop. Then we walked up two flights of stairs up to the scientific display. Ed designed a roller coaster (which helps to explain laws of physics) and we took it for a virtual ride. Then we pumped bubbles through different liquids (water, different types of motor oil, and cooking grease) to see how air behaves in different viscosities. We also played with a Jacob's Ladder, completed circuitry, and tested our conductive qualities. We were headed into a virtual reality room when some junior high students swarmed the area, so we left. We had accomplished what we wanted anyway. But first: the gift shop. Where we bought nothing, but looked at everything.

Then it was back to the campground (after a brief stop at a Waffle House for food) to pack up and pull out for New Orleans.
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