When we were planning our travel route through the southeast, I was a bit apprehensive about traveling through the state of Alabama. Perhaps because I'm a "northerner" or perhaps the movie Deliverance has left an indelible mark on my perceptions, but I expected to encounter a lot of people like "Earl" here (pictured below) :
You know: mullet-wearing, trailer living, confederate flag waving, beer swirling, banjo playing, gun totin' red necks.
Fortunately, I was deeply mistaken. What we found was a lot of friendly folks like Roy, Katie and Joe (who treated us to some home-brewed, moonshine! This picture was snapped after my eye-sight returned a few hours later).
And we were treated to some magnificent scenery like this:
It is easy to see why people fondly refer to Alabama as their "sweet home". It is a state of inescapable beautiful (at least the northeast quadrant).
Our first campground in Alabama was in the small town of Langston, named Windemere Cove.
We were quite pleased with the area. The campground had all the amenities and everything was clean and well maintained. They even had lake front RV lots for sale for around $80k (we decided against doing this!). Although there weren't many people around (not sure why) but those that were we found to be very friendly and often invited us to "come sit a spell".
During our stay, we bumped into one of the owners (the wife) at the pool. As it turns out, they live in England. They owned a beautiful home in Florida (and were very happy there, as she told us) but they ended up selling it and buying this piece of property because of its proximity to the lake. Someone had suggested to them that it would be the perfect location for an RV park; and, how easy it is to manage an RV park, even from England (because all you do is sit back and collect the rent, she was told). So they poured over a million dollars into the infrastructure and have yet to turn a profit (although they hope to this year). She said --sadly-- its been way more work than they ever imagined.
A little history about the town of Langston. It was known as Coffeetown (named after the town's first postmaster) in the early 1800's and thrived for a short period of time as river transportation swelled. With the arrival of the railroads in the early 1900's, which bypassed this area, the town faded in significance. Today, a mere shell of it's former self, the town contains a church, a post office, and a (somewhat questionable) general store. Oh, it also contained this:
I can't explain it but I suppose it is why the Appalachian Basketball Association quickly folded!
Something we've grown accustomed to seeing, but still find a little disturbing is the local tornado shelter.
This one is not very large.. so, first come, first served?:
We did find some other interesting towns nearby:
Question: What metropolitan area in the US is home to the greatest number of Aerospace Engineers (more than Houston, Washington DC or L.A.)?
If you had answered: "Alex: Where is Huntsville, Alabama". You'd be correct.
In the 1960's, Huntsville was known as Rocket City. NASA designed and built the giant Saturn V rockets here used to launch our astronauts to the moon. Sadly, once NASA discontinued flights to the moon (why, I'll never know), Huntsville's economy crashed back to earth like a spent fuel canister of a Saturn rocket.
The town saw some resurgence with the development of the Space Shuttle and the ISS, but it has been the growth in private space flight that has really brought the economy back to life. In 2017, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin, Aerojet Rocketdyne and Boeing all established or expanded their space research operations here.
So if space flight interests you, visit the U.S. Space & Rocket Center museum to explore the history of our space program.
P.S.- At the time of this writing, tickets were $25 per adult, but we found out through the Huntsville Visitor's Center that Thursday evenings after 5:00 p.m. admittance is free!
Another out of the way town we stumbled upon was once known as "The Sock Capital of the World":
In the 1830's, during one of the darker periods in this nation's history, the native-American peoples were forcibly and brutally removed from their homelands in the southeast U.S. and force-marched westward. In what has become known as the Trail Of Tears, almost half of the relocated population died along the way.
Since many of the native-Americans did not go quietly, the US Army under command of Major John Payne built a fort here that was used to intern Cherokees until their relocation to Oklahoma.
With the advent of the railroad in the mid-1850's, and the discovery of coal and iron deposits, the town sprang up and began a period of explosive growth. When the mineral deposits proved to be much smaller than expected, the town began a general decline.
But that all changed in 1907, when the W.B. Davis Hosiery Mill began operations. This was the beginning of decades of hosiery manufacture. With the demand created by our soldiers during WW1, the industry boomed and at one point the hosiery industry in Fort Payne employed over 7,000 people in more than 100 mills. It produced more than half of the socks made in the United States and was thusly designated the "Sock Capital of the World."
Anyway, long story short, with the advent of NAFTA and other shifting economic forces, the hosiery industry "drooped" with only a handful of mills still in operation today.
Below is one of the long abandoned mills. The lower level has been converted into an antique mall.
The town's only other claim to fame is...
The musical group Alabama was formed here in 1969. The band was founded by Randy Owen (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) and his cousin Teddy Gentry (bass guitar, background vocals). The city houses their fan club and museum. There is even a monument to them in the center of town:
And lastly, there is the nearby city of Scottsboro (population 14,770).
But more about this tragic story in my next blog post.