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Posts Tagged ‘Spring Trip 2013’

Burritt Mansion

Burritt Mansion

Descending from Monte Sano State Park, we stop at Burritt on the Mountain, where we tour the mansion of Dr. Burritt, an inventive and unusual doctor of homeopathic medicine, who married a patient, 20 years his senior. She reportedly told him that if he married her, he’d never have to work again.  Ask for the audio guide at the entrance to the mansion, they’re not always offered, but they’re free and add a lot of history to the self-guided tour. There’s also a small folk park, with homes and buildings depicting farm life in rural Alabama in the 19th century.  It was simultaneously being used as children’s nursery rhyme adventure when we were there, which was a bit jarring in terms of time travel – and noise and activity level. But some, like this drowsy pig, seemed not to mind. I’m referring to the picture.IMG_1728

Our destination for the night is Lake Guntersville State Park.  We hadn’t realized it when we’d made reservations, but they were hit by a devastating tornado in 2011.  The whole campground was pretty much ripped apart. It’s really sad, but a miracle that no one was killed. We’re grateful to have a campsite, no matter what, and even more grateful when we hear we can get a ride up to the lodge and restaurant for dinner!

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The maintenance man, our driver, takes us on a tour of the hotel/cabin facilities after dinner.  Amazingly, we still have energy for our first and only fire on this trip when we get back.  No hot dogs or s’mores yet on this trip yet – another first.  Brrrrrrrr.

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We’ve stayed at Monte Sano State Park before.  We get the same site (I look up an older blog post where I was pretty intrigued with the peeper frogs here at our site, #19).  But it’s so coooold here (we’ve run our heater every night on this southern spring trip) we don’t get the big symphonic chorus again.

Alabama Constitution Village

Alabama Constitution Village

But we do have a really beautiful, almost warm day to tour the Alabama Constitution Village in downtown Huntsville the next day. It’s in a lovely area of historic homes, and the Navion slides nicely into a regular metered parking space right in front.  We’re glad of its nearness, as we slip back for additional coats and sweaters, and some cheese and crackers – which allows us to pay closer attention to the costumed interpreters. Everyone learns better when not hungry or cold.  Jaded living history museum visitors that we are, we enjoy it all and pick up a couple of new things.  We’ve never seen an “Ugly Jar” before – a jar/jug with an ugly face used to warn children, really anyone, that something bad was in there, like poison or alcohol. The other thing we’d never seen was a pair of andirons, shaped like snakes, which when a fire was lit in the fireplace would look really scary to children and keep them back from the fire, and being burned.

We got a combination ticket to the Depot Museum, where we tour briefly – they’re closing in half an hour, then sit in their scenic parking lot to use internet and plan the next few days, before heading back to our non-tech campsite.

Depot Museum

Depot Museum

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Rattlesnake Saloon, AL

Rattlesnake Saloon, AL

We stay here longer than expected.  It’s a really nice local park and campground,  it’s raining and Dick has some programming to do.  There are pretty walks along the Tennessee River, with a beautiful marina (and restaurant that will open soon after we leave) and things to see nearby.  Plus, we meet a local couple who give us restaurant recommendations!  I remember the three  restaurants with three R’s:  Ricatoni’s Italian Grill, Rattlesnake Saloon, and Rosie’s.  (We remember the couple who recommend these because they said they sold their last motorhome to Denzel Washington, their previous one to the Backstreet Boys.)  So, our first night in town we go to Ricatoni’s and have an absolutely outstanding shrimp dish. We think that if this in any indication of the local restaurants, we need to stay longer.  The next day, after touring the Helen Keller site (written about in previous post), we go to a Palm Sunday Mass, where the priest interrupts the Palm Sunday reading underway and insists on reading the Good Friday reading in our booklet.  Afterwards, we decide we should head to the Rattlesnake Saloon, about a 20 minute drive into the hills from Tuscumbia.  It’s definitely an experience!  We park in a big upper parking lot (RV’s can stay here with hook-ups, but we’re glad we’re not – it’s raining, muddy and crowded) and climb into the back of a pick-up truck for a steep, scary, careening ride down a narrow dirt (muddy!) road to a restaurant/bar/music venue in a cave below.

The next night we head back to Ricatoni’s – but their power’s been off for the two hours previous to opening.  The dinner still is great, but not quite as fabulous as the first time, for obvious reasons.

We do Rosie’s the 3rd night (so-so), and don’t need to stay here any longer.  We’re out of restaurants, it’s stopped raining for a bit – we’re off!

Out my "bedroom window"

Out my “bedroom window” McFarland campsite

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Cottage next door to Main House

Cottage next door to Main House, where Helen was born

This is truly an inspiring visit for me.  When I was a little girl, my parents gave me a set of biographies.  The first biography I ever read was Helen Keller’s.  I can remember being enthralled by the story of this other  little girl, who had lost her sight and hearing at 19 months, and lived in a world of darkness.  Then a teacher, Annie Sullivan, came along and turned this little girl’s comfortable world upside-down and led her, kicking and screaming, towards the light of learning and understanding. Helen Keller would go on to graduate cum laude from Radcliffe,  contribute to many causes and be recognized as a brilliant pioneer.  But I always think of the pump, and the cold water pouring over her hand, and the letters for water being spelled on her palm, until – the miracle happens.  Water is a thing, it can be named and spelled.  What a torrent of words follows!  It’s a total thrill to stand next to the pump and think about that.

The Pump at Helen Keller's Birthplace,  "Water"

The Pump at Helen Keller’s Birthplace, “Water”

Tantrum Dining Room

Tantrum Dining Room

I also love seeing the dining room, which I remember more from the movie/play, The Miracle Worker,  than the book. The battle happened in this room.  It looks to me like all the napkins are folded neatly. : )

Other fun things to see here?  The key that Helen used to lock Annie in her bedroom and then hid –   and much more – in the “museum room” of the Main House.

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Replica of Loretta Lynn's Butcher Holler Childhood Home, Hurricane Mills, TN

Replica of Loretta Lynn’s Butcher Holler Childhood Home, Hurricane Mills, TN

She was born a coal miner’s daughter and became a country music legend.  We watched the Cissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones movie version of her rags to riches story before we left on this trip, (March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, a month later than we expected) and it was the perfect set-up.  Parts of it were filmed in the antebellum plantation they bought here (and Crisco commercials!)  in the tiny, now museum-town of Hurricane Mills, which she bought along with the house (she  owns it all, including the post office).  The ranch has over 6000 acres.

Loretta Lynn's Plantation Home, Hurricane Mills, TN

Loretta Lynn’s Plantation Home, Hurricane Mills, TN

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We were beginning our guided tour (Butcher Holler home, Coal Mine and Plantation Home) standing on the porch of the old gristmill, across the street from her childhood home, when a car and a couple pick-up trucks drove by a feet away from us.  We saw Loretta.  We knew she still did concerts and events here, but didn’t realize she lives here, in a smaller house, right behind the Plantation Home.  Her recording studio was right up the hill, a few yards away, opposite one of the museums and she was heading there for a session.  We learn that the Ranch is a very family-run operation, so there are Lynns to bump into everywhere.  We hear that Loretta and Doo, her husband, and their kids used to come to the campground where we’re staying in the hills on the property and chat, and thank fans for coming.

Memo to selves:  The Plantation home is supposed to be haunted, and Loretta did a special with one of the Ghostbuster/Haunted shows, so we’re going to have to find that and watch!

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