Saturday, August 30, 2008

Helen Keller's Birthplace and the Coon Dog Cemetery

We had a day trip to Tuscumbia, AL, birthplace of Helen Keller. Ivy Green, her birthplace, is a permanent Shrine and is included in the National Register of Historic Sites. The entire house and grounds are open for the public and has much of the original furniture of the Keller Family and hundreds of momentos of Miss Keller's life including her library of Braille books and old Braille typewriter. Helen Keller was born June 27, 1880. At the age of 19 months an illness left Helen blind and deaf. Helen Keller graduated from Radcliffe College in 1904 with her Teacher (Anne Sullivan) by her at all times. "The Miracle Worker", the play written by William Gibson, is produced each summer on the grounds of Ivy Green. It is now the official outdoor drama of Alabama. I thought it interesting that her mother was reared in Memphis, a descendant of the Adams family of New England. Helen's father served as a Captain in the Confederate Calvary.

Hope the next pictures don't confuse you....The Coon Dog Cemetery is actually one of those things around Red Bay that everyone goes to while they are here. It is located in a Wildlife Preservation and there are literally hundreds of graves for these beloved coon dogs. Wish I could have shown more pictures - they are all so different.


We decided to drive on the Natchez Trace Parkway today. The Parkway is beautiful -speed limit - 50 mph. I loved the slow pace. When you cross the Tennessee River it is so scenic. The Parkway goes from Natchez, MS to Nashville, TN.
On Friday, one of the places we didn't have time to visit in Tuscumbia, AL was the Alabama Music Hall of Fame. We're glad we went back. Alabama's history includes so many talented musicians and entertainers - many we were surprised to hear from Alabama. Whether you like rock, rhythm and blues, gospel, soul, country, opera, classical or contemporary music the Hall of Fame is full of surprises. We had no idea how important Muscle Shoals was to music. Hank Williams, Lionel Richie and Nat "King" Cold are just a few of the superstars. Taylor Hicks' purple velvet jacket is on display. The group, Alabama's, tour bus was on display.
Tammy Wynette is from Red Bay, Alabama, by the way. Red Bay has a Tammy Wynette Highway in town. All the exhibits are interesting and very well presented.

Friday, August 29, 2008


Some of our pictures of the Allegro (Tiffin) campground are below. We arrived mid-day Wednesday, in Red Bay, AL. The first time we came to Red Bay was to tour the plant where all Tiffin products are made. It impressed us enough that we decided we could easily live in a 40' diesel pusher with 4 slides. I think you'll see, in the next few days we're here, there is a lot to see and do. Some of it is a little unusual, but some of it is sensational, to say the least. Just put it all in perspective! Tiffin is really Red Bay; Tiffin Motorhome Industries, Tiffin Supply, Allegro Campground (on an old municipal airport runway in Red Bay); and many industries related to the construction of Class A motorhomes. We are settled in site 42 with a 50 amp connection and sewer (fhu) full hookups - what more could you ask for? About 100 similar coaches are surrounding us. Each morning about 7:00 a.m,. the ones who are to be in the service bays pull out and report to their service techs with their warranty or service items. There are about 50 service bays. There is a building you can go to where rver's have taken furniture out of their units and bought other furniture - and you can buy it at cost if you belong to the Allegro Club. Maybe they didn't like the sofa - and wanted European Stressless chairs. Or they want a different oven or need a different carpet. Also, lots of interesting people here from ALL over the country. I mean, everywhere! The day after we arrived, Norris from Tiffin drove up and took all our requests - about 50 of them - and informed us they will be able to get to us in about a week - week and a half. So, we are going to be loving this area for the next couple of weeks. We already have some interesting side trips planned. Red Bay is a trip in itself. The factory is open for tours 2 times a day - you can visit the completed '09 models as they are being manufactured, and see the latest and greatest in new floor plans and options. The campground is exquisite - just kidding, but it isn't bad. There is even a store to buy RV supplies. And eating places! We ate lunch at Swamp John's - best catfish in the area we've been told. Talk about local flavor. Ezzell's Bar-B-Q. You have to be careful. These are professional eaters and if you ate everything on your plate, you'd explode in front of everyone. The local Piggly Wiggly, another popular eating spot, is one of the favorites around here. You can buy your groceries as well as get hot foods from their plentiful selection on the buffet. Wednesday is chicken and dumplins, I heard. No one has made the top 10 list. Remember, this is like a "camp" experience.
Did I tell you we are on an old airfield? I better start jogging....NOW!


We went back to Green Cove Springs from Tampa trying to run from the TS FAY. Guess what?! It followed us and we couldn't leave because it was projected to go exactly where we wanted to go - Alabama. So we had a great time - got to see Kenneth and Kiley start to school together. Got to go to Kiley's birthday party and enjoy the fish from their vacation to Key West. Delicious mahi mahi and snapper - blackened and fried by Chef Harold. We delayed leaving and decided to let the weekend pass and we'd hit the road - then we had to postpone a couple of days - anyway, Tuesday morning we had lift off and drove to Auburn, AL and stayed at a sweet little campground down the road from the school. We didn't realize Auburn University was established just about the same time FSU opened. Anyway, there were about 25,000 students welcomed back this week, and it was packed. We came at a good time because when a football game is in town, every campground is filled - with Tigers.

Friday, August 8, 2008


RV and I have both talked about going to Bok Tower several times and this seemed just about as good a day as any - so we waited until after lunch and decided to drive the thirty something miles from Seffner and enjoy the scenery on US 60 to Lake Wales. We had a bad rainstorm this morning and the wind ripped the awnings off several coaches around us. Ours was in, thank goodness. The wind appeared out of nowhere. Definitely teaches you a lesson.

If you've ever gone to Bok Tower, then you've probably heard of Spook Hill. It has appeared in Time Magazine several times. When you go down this hill, you pull up to a white line that has been painted in the road. Then you put your car in neutral, and your car starts moving backwards - seemingly defying the law of gravity. We had such a good time doing that, we went back again. This is such a well known place that it is right by the Spook Hill Elementary School. (pix)

Bok Tower exceeded our expectations. It was built in 1927-28 and stands on the highest point in the State of Florida, called Iron Mountain. Dutch immigrant and humanitarian Edward W. Bok commissioned world-renowned masters to create a stunning garden, a majestic tower with a 60-bell carillon as well as a haven for birds, plants and wildlife. President Calvin Coolidge dedicated the Sanctuary in 1929 as a gift for visitation by the American people. We were lucky enough to be there at 3 pm for a 30 minute concert. There was a light misty rain - on and off - and we just enjoyed seeing the native flowers, even an area where extinct flowers are being reintroduced to nature. All the flowers are labeled with their botanical names, and there are so many you can't imagine. To go there in the spring when so many varieties are in bloom would be wonderful. You just walk in silence and listen to this beautiful carillon concert. You're at the top of this mountain looking down at fruit groves and the areas surrounding Lake Wales.

We had been told about another restaurant in the area we didn't want to miss. Manny's - in Lake Wales. We had already been to the other in Haines City and enjoyed it immensely. It was delicious; however, since I wrote our favorites, we have chosen another order: Understand these are chosen on the basis of local restaurants with home cooked food. (not gourmet and not particularly showy, just good local food establishments). #1 - Fred's Market, Lakeland; #2 Holt's Bakery, Douglas, Georgia; #3 Speckled Butterbean, Webster, FL; #4 Suwannee River Diner - White Springs, FL; and #5 Jessie's Restaurant - Monticello, GA. More to follow or we'll rearrange if we change our minds. Manny's didn't make the top five, but it's up there - where else would you have had another Elvis sighting.

We made our way back to Seffner on I-4 (not the scenic route). We need one of those clocks that says what the day is. We don't pay attention to days in the rv lifestyle.

West Coast of Florida - WOW

OK, we're in Tampa and this is such a beautiful area so we set out to look at this highly rated RV Park, Bay Bayou in western Tampa - just get off the interstate on Hillsborough Avenue and head west - way west. I've been to Tampa many times and didn't know it went this far. Bay Bayou was a beautiful park on water and you know when you see it that the ratings are in line. Before we decide where we are going to go, we consult several books, the internet, our Tiffin blog and then my software on my computer which has all the RV Parks in the US. Another helpful way is to drive directly to the park and see if this is the kind of place you would feel safe staying - and it was.

We rode until we found the Dunedin Causeway that goes to Honeymoon Island State Park...and then you can catch the ferry to Caladesi Island. We didn't, but we would love to come back one day. It kind of reminded you of getting to Key West - maybe even driving around in Hawaii. People were on both sides of the Causeway fishing, swimming, etc. It was amazing. We decided we couldn't go into Honeymoon Island (voted #1 in State Parks in the USA) right now so we returned back over the Causeway and turned right on 19A - WOW. Dunedin is beautiful but then it starts to get a little commercial - kind of like Daytona - but newer - Clearwater - Bellair Beach - Indian Rocks Beach - Redington Beach - Madeira Beach - Treasure Island - St. Pete Beach - one of my favorites - John's Pass. Notice how fast I said all those places - well that's how fast we seemed to be going.

We weren't in any hurry but we both definitely felt this was our first day of vacation for the rest of our lives. We stopped in Indian Rocks Beach and ate lunch at a neat little restaurant - Guppy's - which really exceded our espectations. (pix) Then we stopped at St. Pete's Beach at a Tastee Treat for an ice cream. Like the sticker on our bus says, "Life Is Good". We came back the long way - the Sunshine Skyway..... it was amazing they are using the old Causeway as a fishing pier of both sides.... there were even RV's on the bridges. They've set up several permanent restrooms on all sides. It is very big. I think you could go deep sea fishing and never get in a boat! We both kept saying - "This is a part of Florida we didn't know existed. Unbelievable!"


We arrived in Seffner (LazyDays - LD) Rally Park to attend the Freightliner Chassis Owners (FCOC) Rally and had a great time as well as met some new friends. We were about to prepare to leave and our refrigerator started defrosting. We called someone from service at LazyDays to come by since everything is under warranty. Between Norcold (notsocold) and LD they determined our cooling unit went kuput. That happened on 8/1 and then we found out the part wasn't ordered until 8/5 so it is on the way by snail mail and should be here about next Tues. We are making the most of it. There are worse places. LazyDays provides excellent service plus 2 free meals a day (and your morning paper to your door). Right now they are having a free rally for all the people who have purchased their rv's from them in hope someone will weaken and hopefully buy another one. We didn't buy from here but we know people who are here taking advantage of all the free festivities. Tonight is their big luau. Anyway, the first pix are the LD site pix.

While we've been here we discovered the Veteran's Memorial Park on the big canal that crosses the state. It was interesting and very well maintained by the county. It is a great place to picnic and spend a nice afternoon.