Bluegrass and Train Rides

Trip Start Jan 09, 2009
Trip End Jun 01, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Alabama
Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Although cool this morning (low 40's) the day was mainly sunny and warm - a good day to go exploring.  After Don did his baking - Beer cheese bread and banana loaf - we headed off to find Point Clear and other points on our map.  In the late 60's I attended an international Agricultural Leadership Conference at the Grand Hotel in Point Clear and was really intrigued with the area.  It didn't disappoint today.  Punta Clara, a candy and pecan store that I remembered, is still there and we are told that the hotel (which we didn't actually see because we were looking at the golf course across the road) had to be rebuilt after hurricane Ivan 2004 (they thought). The hotel has been there for close to a century and it was the first time it had sustained significant hurricane damage. We did stop at a lovely park and pier in Fairhope and then downtown to a fantastic shopping area of small stores.  I couldn't find any of the ones I had remembered from my first visit but loved the window shopping!

We then drove north to Daphne and Spanish Fort through good agricultural land that, until recently, was rapidly disappearing under a crop of houses.  There are many subdivisions that have ground to a halt.  The close proximity to Mobile AL really is putting pressure on this area.  Then back to the RV park via Silverhill, the nearest hamlet and post office for the park.

The bluegrass concert that delayed our departure from this park did not disappoint.  People arrived from far and wide - Gulf Shores, Pensacola and north - from other RV parks and condos, just for the concert.  There must have been close to a hundred people in the activity center.  The group, the Chestanag Family Band, plays here about once a month and for special events and they share the venue with other groups.  They specialize in bluegrass gospel music and are very talented musicians.  For $5 we got the two hour concert, popcorn and a drink, and a train ride!

The owners of this park are train enthusiasts and have installed a mile long two-foot track and imported a welsh coal mining train that can run with either their steam or diesel engines.  The station and other buildings along the track, a barn and soon to be constructed chapel, are inspired by buildings that they saw in Wales.  During the month of December they had over 5000 people travel on the 'Santa train' to see Santa who was located in the barn and during October about the same number for the 'Pumpkin Patch train'.  Plans are underway for an Easter theme.  These features attract lots of local people for revisits, especially those with children.  Although the park is child friendly, through the winter months the residents tend to be snowbirds from the northern mid-western states.

In addition to the 2-foot track, train enthusiasts have laid about 1/2 mile of seven inch track and the train that runs on it can also take passengers!  Both tracks feature steam engines which are used when demand is strong enough to justify 'steaming up'.  Otherwise the larger track has a diesel engine that they use.
Wales West is a great park with excellent facilities and a friendly atmosphere.  This area has a lot of things to see and do.  Hope we find our way back!
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