Sweet Home Alabama

Site 30 at Rainbow Plantation

Site 30 at Rainbow Plantation

THURSDAY

We left Clanton early for a 4 hour drive to Summerdale, Alabama. Summerdale is home to one of our Escapee club parks. We made this our destination for a couple of reasons. First, we’ve vacationed near here in the past & knew it to be an area we truly liked. Summerdale is a mere 15 miles north of Gulf Shores & the brilliant white sand beaches of the Gulf of Mexico. Second, this area is a contender for our home when we do decide to come off the road. It meets all of our criteria.

We were very pleased by what we found when we pulled into Rainbow Plantation. This facility offers a variety of options. Sites for folks like us who are just passing through, sites that may be leased for 1 year or for 5, & there are deeded lots that you can own outright & build on. There’s a clubhouse with laundry, pool & a large activity room where potluck dinners, ice cream socials, game nights, etc. are hosted. Tucker even has a fenced-in dog area in which to romp.

The park has a nice layout with campers & 1 year lessees to one side & on the other are 5 year lessees & the deeded lots. The clubhouse & pool are central. Lanes are paved & tree lined, mainly with Live Oak, although tall stands of native pine encircle the entire space.

Rainbow Plantation is a good 5 miles off the main drag of AL 59. Lots of agricultural farms & cattle ranches surround it. Summerdale is a small community but it’s only a short drive to several tasty restaurants, shopping & beaches. To the west lies Mobile, just across the bay. To the east is Florida’s Panhandle.

Our first impression, Two Thumbs Up.

FRIDAY

Weatherman says Fall has arrived bringing with it, less humid cooler temperatures. Translation, milder temps in the low to mid 80’s. Hmm. Where we hail from we call that Summer.

The Gulf Shores website states that the only dog friendly beach is at Fort Morgan. Off we go so Tucker can “bark” that he’s dipped his paws in the Gulf.

Fort Morgan Beach

Fort Morgan Beach

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We find that the beach lies way off the beaten path within the Fort Morgan National Historic Landmark. It proves to be a disappointment. The beach faces Mobile Bay & not the Gulf of Mexico. It’s missing that beautiful white sand & the water is a bit murky. The scenery is marred by oil rigs & tanker ships. Not only that but Tucker must be leashed at all times & we’re charged $10 for the privilege of being here. Sorry Tuck, no more ocean swims for you while we’re in Alabama.

Tanker

Tanker

Which one's Tucker?

Which one’s Tucker?

Fort Morgan was constructed after the War of 1812 when Congress realized the need for stronger fortifications to protect our coastlines. During the Civil War the fort was found to be out of date & easily defeated. This was demonstrated on August 5, 1864, when Union Admiral D.G. Farragut sailed his fleet past the forts guns & into Mobile Bay, losing only one ship in the process. This is the battle in which Farragut gave his famous order, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.”

Fortifications at Fort Morgan

Fortifications at Fort Morgan

Officers House

Officers House

Battery Dearborn, a concrete gun position

Battery Dearborn, a concrete gun position

The fort is put on caretaker status in Dec. 1867 & remains that way until the Spanish American War, when it is reactivated. In subsequent years it is used as a training base during WWI & by Navy & Coast Guard units. In 1946 it receives it’s final deactivation & is turned over to the State of Alabama.

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We take the opportunity to cruise Beach Blvd. from Pine Beach to Orange Beach, oohing & aahing at the scenery & beachfront homes. We also make a stop at Gulf State Park. Maybe a future winter hole-up spot? It definitely has possibilities.

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SATURDAY

The Smithsonian is sponsoring a free museum day nationwide. I check out the website & find Battleship Park/USS Alabama is one of the options. I know Don would enjoy seeing this so I print off a ticket for 2. Total savings, $30. Nice deal! We get an early start.

USS Alabama

USS Alabama

The USS Alabama was commissioned Aug. 16, 1942. She earned 9 Battle Stars & shot down 22 enemy planes during WWII. She served in both the Atlantic & Pacific theaters, usually with a crew of 2,500 men aboard. The only casualties suffered on board ship were 6 crew mates that died when one of the ship’s guns accidentally fired on another one of the ship’s guns. Not a single man was lost due to enemy action. The ship was retired in 1962. In 1964 she was taken to Mobile Bay & opened as a museum the following year. The ship was added to the National Historic Landmark registry in 1986.

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Did you know? The USS Alabama has been used as a hurricane shelter. During Hurricane Katrina, families of 18 museum employees sought shelter on board. The ship did obtain damage & had a three-degree list that has since been corrected.

Did you know? The ship’s soda fountain, called the “Gedunk”, is the place where ice cream, candy, sodas, & other small snacks were dispensed to crewmembers. More than 100 gallons of ice cream & soda were doled out daily. Smaller warships like destroyers could not keep ice cream on board, so whenever possible they traded with larger ships like the Alabama for this sweet treat.

Did you know? When first commissioned, the Alabama was painted shades of blue-gray in a dapple pattern. She was repainted before her first combat deployment so that her gray superstructure would blend in with the sky & her blue hull would be less visible against the ocean when seen from other ships. She was painted entirely blue in 1944 so she would be less noticeable from Japanese aircraft.

IMG_9612     The Alabama has 2 anchors weighing 25,000 lbs. each. These are on 1020′ chains.

Two things caught our attention immediately after we walked the gangplank to board. The smell of diesel fumes & gun oil still permeate the air of the ship & we were amazed to find that the main deck consists almost entirely of wooden planks.

Main deck

Main deck

A ship is much like a floating city with all of the necessary businesses we use in daily life. There’s a butcher shop, bakery, post office & barber shop.  There’s a chapel, medical ward, machine repair shop & commissary. There’s a brig (jail), tailor, laundry & game room. There are many other services on board as well. And, depending on your rank, a variety of berthing quarters. (Kinda like tents to 5 star hotel status.)

IMG_9660     IMG_9662     IMG_9625     Officers Galley

A typical menu. This one is from 1946.

A typical menu. This one is from 1946.

IMG_9637     IMG_9639     IMG_9640    A bad apple’s pretty spartan accommodations.

IMG_9608     IMG_9632     IMG_9621     Can you imagine having to hustle through these openings to reach your battle station?

IMG_9642     Ship butcher shop     IMG_9650     Ship Chapel

The temporary brig or "Tank" as the men called it, was used to confine men caught fighting until they cooled off.

The temporary brig or “Tank” as the men called it, was used to confine men caught fighting until they cooled off.

The laundry. In war there is no time to wash clothes the traditional way in buckets. It was essential that men going into battle wear clean clothes to prevent infection in case of wounds.

The laundry. In war there is no time to wash clothes the traditional way in buckets. It was essential that men going into battle wear clean clothes to prevent infection in case of wounds.

Chief Master at Arms Quarters.  He carried out the policies of maintaining discipline & order among the crew. Needless to say, he's wasn't very popular.

Chief Master at Arms Quarters. He carried out the policies of maintaining discipline & order among the crew. Needless to say, he’s wasn’t very popular.

Captains Table   Captains Cabin. Captains Quarters

IMG_9636     IMG_9669     IMG_9656  Which accommodations do you prefer?

Scenes from BATTLESHIP PARK

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B52 Bomber

B52 Bomber

USS Drum submarine

USS Drum submarine

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Don rode the flight simulator.

Don rode the flight simulator.

A Redtail flown by Tuskegee airmen

A Redtail flown by Tuskegee airmen

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The Vietnam Memorial at Battleship Park

Vietnam Memorial

We are the men from Alabama who served in Vietnam, but could not return…..remember us.

IMG_9723     Vietnam Memorial     Vietnam Era Huey chopper

POW MIA bracelet sculpture. I wore a copper one when I was in Jr. H.S.

POW MIA bracelet sculpture. I wore a copper one when I was in Jr. H.S.

The Korean War Memorial at Battleship Park

Since my father is a veteran of the Korean War, of which I am very proud, I always take the time to visit Korean War Memorials wherever I encounter them.

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IMG_9733 Korean War Memorial IMG_9737 IMG_9736 IMG_9738

Another memorial that caught our eye & one that touched our hearts as dog lovers, was dedicated to the men of Alabama who were dog handlers & their faithful four-legged companions.

Memorial dedicated to dogs & their handlers who served

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Several hours later when we were sweaty & hungry, being the Parrotheads that we are, we decided to have a late lunch at Mobile’s Dew Drop Inn. It was here that hometown boy Jimmy Buffett ate the cheeseburger that inspired him to write the song  “Cheeseburger In Paradise”. One of the oldest dining establishments in Mobile, the Dew Drop Inn ironically isn’t noted for it’s burgers but for it’s world famous Dew Drop Inn hotdog. The hotdog’s toppings are sauerkraut, pickles, homemade chili, mustard, & ketchup. We couldn’t get our mouths or stomachs wrapped around one so ordered the cheeseburger instead, with the  homemade fries & onion rings combo. Yes, it was delicious!

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SUNDAY

We’re spending today & the next few just kicking back & relaxing. Maybe getting a couple of things done like grocery shopping & laundry or even utilizing the pool a bit.

Here’s lookin’ at you kid…………………

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