We took a long journey to new territory in the Fall of 2004. After summer visits with our family in the Northwest and Colorado, and some time in South Dakota (now our home state) we drove through parts of the middle of the United States – Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana.
Then we spent quite a while in Louisville, Kentucky. (We actually stayed in a KOA across the Ohio River in Clarksville Indiana – it’s just a drive across the bridge). I'm standing on the high school campus where my mom's family home used to be.
My mother was born and raised in Louisville and her family had lived there for generations, but she came out to the Northwest before she met and married my dad. Mom took us to visit when I was three or four (when my dad was overseas in the service) but I hadn't been since. There were lots of Kentucky stories when I was growing up though. So Louisville had a kind of mythical status in our family. It was enjoyable and kind of sad all at the same time to see places we’d only ever heard about.
Generations ago, the property where the Louisville Zoo is now belonged to some of my ancestors. This memorial is there. It's not everybody who has family buried at a zoo.
We also stayed for a while at Bardstown. Kentucky, of course, is famous for its bourbon and I think it’s illegal to go to the state without sampling. It was really quite interesting to learn the process of how it is made. It’s the water from Kentucky’s creeks running over the limestone rock that makes it so good! These are barrels of whiskey aging at Maker's Mark Distillery. The open vat is whiskey mash before it goes into the barrels. I guess no germs can survive in the alcohol.
We toured Mammoth Caves National Park. Caves are very difficult places to take pictures.
Then we spent a while in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee and Asheville, North Carolina. We saw the tourist stuff at Pigeon Forge (Dollywood!) and the Biltmore Mansion in Asheville (the grandest home we’d ever seen at that point, before we went to England).
When we started on this leg of the journey, we didn’t have advance reservations anywhere and we had no concrete plans except to see the Louisville area. Everything else we did was just a matter of enjoying whatever we happened upon. But it was already getting cold in Louisville in October and we got a sprinkling of snow in Asheville, so we needed to move South before Winter really set in.
Bill did some research on winter weather and RV parks and we decided to head to the Gulf Coast. Tired of being on the road, we settled down for the winter at an RV Park called Plantation Harbor. It's in the village of Elberta – between Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida. We really lucked out by landing there, because we met some wonderful people and had some great times. The Park is on Wolf Creek, which drains into the Gulf. Our good neighbor in the park had a boat and often invited Bill to hitch a ride; fishing was great. We did a lot of exploring in the area too, since everything about the South was new to us. These two pictures are on the walking area by the Creek in back of the RV resort.
The Lower Alabama area is very friendly to its winter visitors. Scenery is beautiful and there is a lot of good local food. We almost lived on shrimp and other seafood and learned to like grits and collards (sort-of). There was a good artisanal cheese-maker right outside of our little town and a nice farmer’s market. (We bought just-picked farm strawberries -- in February.) Restaurant food was good and inexpensive. Local groups had dinners and other events that welcomed the winter visitors. We even joined the Friends of the Library in Foley (the neighboring town) and Bill took a photo software class at Faulkner State University In Foley.
We really enjoyed this whole trip and we had a great time on the Third Coast, which is what the locals call this area of the Gulf. Traveling clear across the country from Northwest to Southeast was a great learning experience.