Monday, January 29, 2018

Elberta Dinosaurs & Stonehenge - Free!

Yup, its a elusive Piney Wood Dinosaur!

Tucked in the trees along the Barber Parkway in Elberta is a few things you wouldn't expect to see in Alabama -  Stonehenge and a couple of dinosaurs. If you drive all the way to the marina (which we skipped on this trip) there are also some knights and a giant lady in the lake
How to get there: "Drive US Hwy 98 either eight miles east of Foley, AL, or 21 miles west of downtown Pensacola, FL. Turn south onto County Rd 95. Drive five miles. Turn right onto Fish Trap Rd. Drive a half-mile. Turn left at the Barber Marina sign. Drive one mile." The knights are on trails by the marina parking lot and we understand the 'Lady of the Lake' is in a fenced off area of the marina.
Bamahenge is on the right, set back in the trees about 150 yards or so. There are no signs, but it can be spotted from the road.
The installation, a fiberglass art piece by Mark Cline is known locally as Bamahenge.
"Mark designed Bamahenge to be 21 feet tall and 104 feet across, essentially identical in size to the original. It's correctly aligned with the summer solstice; the point of sunrise is over the center of three lintels on the outer markers. There are actually only four different stone shapes, but with clever flipping and repositioning, all of them look different."
 Cline consulted with astronomers, so while the piece is not a complete model of Stonehenge, the fiberglass stones that are on the site do line up correctly for the summer solstice!  (Oh, and they are anchored in concrete and designed to be resistant to hurricanes)
Mark Cline also created the dinosaurs. Currently there are four dotting the woods near Bamahenge.
The story goes that Mark was  building dinosaurs at his Virginia studios for an amusement park, when  a man stopped and said his brother might be interested in the 'lawn ornaments'. Mark made up a ridiculous price to get rid of the guy - but two weeks later the guy called back and said he wanted seven! Turns out the guy was the brother-in-law to George Barber, a billionaire.
After installing the dinosaurs, Mark Cline got a call that George wanted glass eyes in his dinosaurs. He ended up being flown back down - just to add glass eyes!
The dinosaurs were supposed to be installed outside a raceway that George was designing, but when plans changed, he moved four of the dinosaurs out to the marina.
In 2006, the dinosaurs were damaged by a hurricane. Mark flew down (again) to repair the dinosaurs, which gave him a chance to talk to George about creating a life-size replica of Stonehenge.
We have now seen two Stonehenges, Elberta and  Ingram, Texas - only a few more to go. Hmmmm, maybe it's time to visit Odessa, Texas?

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Fairhope History Museum and Mosher Castle - Free!

(Our apologies. The internet at the park continues to be flaky, so posting will be a bit sporadic until February 28th)

This weekend, we decide to check out Fairhope and its (free!) history museum. We stop at Los Tacos for our first Tex-Mex breakfast since leaving Texas back in July.  We order two breakfast burritos, with a side of beans and guacamole. The burritos are big and hot, and the salsa is spicy.  Yep, definitely back in civilization again!
Fortified, we zoom down the road to Fairhope. Fairhope is a pretty unique southern town. It was founded in 1894, and so didn't even exist during the Civil War and the aftermath.
It was also founded on the ideas of E.B. Gaston, and was, essentially a socialist experiment.
We make a quick detour at the visitor's center and then head next door to the museum.

The Fairhope History Museum is in the old City Hall, and admission is free.
The area that would become Baldwin County started out as a football, tossed back and forth between superpowers battling for control  of  the New World territory.  The Revolutionary War tanked the French Creoles' plan for the area, and later, 'Alabama City',a plan by ambitious New Orleans developers also fell through.
Eventually, a group of idealists from Iowa showed up, to start a colony based on the single tax concept proposed by Henry George, a nineteenth economist. Although the colony was not a long-term success, Fairhope is one of only 3 Georgian colonies that still has a single tax system.
The community also attracted and embraced other free thinkers. Quakers, socialists, creative types, and yes, even nudists, moved to Fairhope.
In 1907, Marietta Johnson founded the School of Organic Education in Fairhope (along with a public library using her own books). The school focused on educating the entire child, body, mind, and spirit, and did away with things that impeded that - like homework and tests. We understand the school still exists, although it has relocated to a new campus.
Fairhope is also known for an odd natural event, the jubilee. At least once a summer, fish and shellfish will float to the surface of Mobile Bay (this happens because of a lack of oxygen in the water and only occurs in two places in the world - here and in Japan). The above sculpture was created by Craig Sheldon.
Craig Sheldon was a brilliant and eccentric wood carver - who built a castle.

We walk from the museum to see the two 'castles' (only 2 blocks over), and yes, there really is a copper dragon wrapped around the chimney of the Mosher castle. In case you are wondering, his name is Hendrix.
Besides sculpting, Craig Sheldon also expanded and renovated the small house he and his wife bought.
The tower was his unique solution to the need for more bedrooms for the children.
Of course, children eventually grow up. Craig's daughter, Pagan, married Dean Mosher, and bought the house next door. They immediately set out to castle-ize their home as well! (OK, maybe Pagan didn't really grow up after all...)
After admiring the castles, we stroll over to Downtown Fairhope.

Fairhope's downtown is very walkable, with cute shops and boutiques,
and the occasional alpaca. This fellow stands in a enclave of shops that have been walled in to create a tiny French Quarter - along with several restaurants and a wonderful chocolate shop, called Frenchman's Corner. We'd heard this was the best place to buy chocolate, so we split a piece of handmade almond crunch with a chocolate topping. It's excellent!
Considering how quickly the almond crunch disappeared, it's probably a good idea we don't try the Nehaus chocolate, which is specially imported from Europe. We continue to stroll, impressed with the amount of art in many of the shop windows. Being bad bloggers, we miss the opportunity to take a a picture of Fairhope's other treasure, the independent bookstore Page and Palette. Ooops.
We do pick up a few treats for the Spoiled Husky from Waggy Tail. As you can tell, someone approves of our selections.

The founders of Fairhope set aside large areas for public parks and open spaces (as well as 80 feet wide streets, at a time when the standard was 30!) The result is a network of parks.  The Eastern Shore Trail is an easy walk from downtown, a paved path that meanders along the bluff.  The path wanders down to the North Beach and Pier, where there is also a fountain and a rose garden, and
the ocean! Fairhope is definitely a wonderful, fun place to spend a Saturday. Stay tuned! On Sunday, we went in search of the elusive Piney Woods dinosaur!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Foley Model Train Museum and Holmes Medical Museum - Free!

It continues to be a crazy, unusually cold winter here at the coast. On Tuesday, it warms up a bit. We jump on the bike and zoom over to Foley.
We get a nice surprise when we arrive. The city has a welcome event going on for snowbirds, and are handing out free coffee and doughnuts. Yes!!
 Foley was founded in 1901, when John Foley arrived from Chicago and bought up 40,000 acres. 
John was an interesting character. He created and sold Foley’s Pine Tar and Honey, a 'cough syrup', while developing Foley into a town. 
John divided and sold lots, built sawmills and a grist mill. He also convinced the Louisville and Nashville Railroad to expand a line to Foley, by promising to pay for the cross ties.
John built the Magnolia Inn in 1908. Yes, I know, we posted this picture of the Magnolia Inn before - but we found out something very interesting about this building. There is a secret tunnel underneath it! You can watch a short youtube video about it - and John Snook. John Snook took the cold war seriously, and built the tunnel to double as an air raid shelter. He also trained the women employees of his phone company to be sharp shooters!
Our first stop is the Foley Railroad Museum.
The museum is open from 10am to 2 pm, and admission is free.
 The museum is housed in the old train depot, and has a small collection of railroad equipment and other artifacts from Foley's early days. 
It also has a 24 x 60  "O" gauge model railroad layout. Alan Goldman donated his model railroad to Foley in 2004. 
The Caboose Club went to Montgomery, dis-assembled the tracks, and then erected it in a custom built annex.
 The track is huge; it's 24' X 60' and has over a quarter mile of track. 
When we visited, there was 6 model trains running, plus a smaller train running around the city park. There are also several buildings that are animated as well. 
Next, we visited the Holmes Medical Museum. The museum is open Monday through Saturday, from 10am to 2pm. Admission is free.

I am going to take a moment to digress, because there is a great story about the Baldwin County seat.  In 1900, the state legislature ordered the seat be changed from Daphne to Bay Minette. When Daphne resisted, the people in Bay Minette made up a fictitious murder. While the sheriff of Daphne was out chasing a killer that didn't exist, the citizens of Bay Minette seized the county records and moved the county seat. Ingenious!
Early Centrifuge

This was Baldwin County's first hospital. Dr. Sibley Holmes opened the hospital in 1936. He and, later, his son Dr. William Holmes, operated the hospital on the second floor. In 1958, the new county hospital was built and the Holmes family locked up the old hospital and walked away.  
Exam Room

Although some changes were made when it was converted into a museum, it is still very much a time capsule. The door, above, led to the roof where a lab used to exist. The lab was built on stilts to help keep down the risk of fire.

Dr. Holmes wanted to be a surgeon, but he never had time to take the extra training. The hospital was mainly used for births. The museum has documented 300 Holmes babies, but there are probably many more.
Dr. Holme's Office

Dr. William Holmes was known fondly as Dr. Buddy and his wife, Philomene, was a nurse.
Disinfecting Station for the Operating Room

Since the doctor made house calls, Philomene often had to provide medical care on her own and people often said she was just as good of a doctor as her husband.
Blood Transfusion Stand

Dr. Holmes and his father used the operating room to deliver babies, but would also schedule minor surgeries like tonsillectomies and appendectomies.
Operating Room

Surgeons would drive in from Mobile to do these surgeries. If you look in the back right hand corner, you can see the sponge stand, which they would use to count sponges after a surgery.
Anesthesia Machine

Some say the old hospital has ghosts, but sadly, we didn't see anything.
After a fun day exploring these two museums (and eating free doughnuts!) we decide to try a local place we had heard of - Gooroo's. I try the fried fish po' boy and the Biker orders the Adam Bomb, a hamburger stuffed with jalapenos and cheese. The fish batter needs a little more seasoning, but that is a small quibble with what was otherwise an excellent meal.