Heading south from Lawrenceburg I’ve traveled 39 miles to Florence Al. It’s raining today and is expected to rain for a couple of days, but I had to get to a location that at least had better TV coverage, especially since I may be indoors a bit more with all the rain.
I found a really cute little city park called McFarland Park. It’s right on the Tennessee River with it’s heavily wooded shear rock cliffs on the opposite shoreline, dark grays with white streaks. $15 a night (Electric and water). Nice paved sites, half are pull-thru’s.
Florence is in the NW corner of the state and is a nice sized town. I love the sound of the small town on the other side of the river, Muscle Shoals. It sounds so beachy to me. In any case, I went to the only Frank Lloyd Wright home built in Alabama. It’s the second Usonian built and is considered the purest design in that field. Frank was very passionate about his homes that he designed and often made buyers sign a contract that they would not change anything in them without his approval. The wide expanse of window/doors (which had no hardware on the outside for safety) so they could only be opened from the inside. Every room in this house has access to the outside. His concept of bringing the outside in. Mitered corner windows with no seams to block the views, the horizontal lines of the building and roof lines.
Clearstory windows, fireplaces at the center of each of the main living areas. This was way before Tv, when families would gather around a fireplace. A beautifully restored home and well worth the visit.
I visited the Florence Indian Mound which is the highest one in the area. It’s now surrounded by industrial parks and the port of Florence along the Tennessee River. The area was originally inhabited by the (1) Archaic People over 10,000 years ago. They’re main diet consisted of eating the mollusks from the river thus giving the name to the area, Muscle Shoals. The (2) Woodland and (3) Copena Cultures who probably built the mound arrived around 4,000 years ago, or 4,000 BP (before present). They were replaced by the (4) Mississippian Civilization, then the (5) Historic Indians , the (6) Euchees, the (7) Shawnees from the Ohio River who eventually were replaced by the (8) Cherokees and (9) Chickasaws in 1715. The Chickasaws eventually gave up there claim to the area in 1816 and left on the Trail of Tears.
So what does this all tell us. One is that the ancient Indian tribes migrated into and then out of the area, but more importantly, that later on, each of the Indian tribes that settled here pushed the previous tribes out of the area enjoying the rich lands for themselves. Eventually the last Indian tribes, the Cherokees and Chickasaws being forced out by the U.S. in our quest to settle more land as we moved west. Man seems to want to take over the best lands for themselves. To the victor go the spoils so to speak. Looks like a pretty consistent theme throughout history.
I did a tour of Pope’s Tavern. Darn, they didn’t have any brew-skies chilled either. It’s one of the oldest structures in Florence and was used by both the Confederate and Union forces during the War between the States. It of course was a stagecoach stop, Inn and tavern in it’s time and would have made a great stop along the way. Sure would have been nice if they’d had a cold one waiting for me.
This town has all the major stores on the outskirts of town from Best Buy to Targets to Home-Depot and over 125 restaurants to choose from. Including 14 Barbeque places. Haven’t been able to check out any nightlife but it’s also home to the University of North Alabama so I’m sure there’s something going on around here. The two places I ate in were, Ricatoni’s Italian Grill in the old part of town. I had fresh bread dipped in herbs and olive oil and cheese ravioli in a tomato cream sauce. Great food and I ate at Guthrie’s. Guthrie’s is a fast food place, very nice looking place, with only one thing on the menu. Chicken strips. Includes coleslaw and fries. Really, that’s the only thing on the menu. And I’ve got to admit, they do know how to do a chicken strip justice. Shortest menu I’ve ever seen.
Using my trusty Road Master Road Atlas, I head out again and followed hwy 157 east just past hwy 65 to the Ave Maria Grotto. How did I know about the grotto? Easy enough, it was highlighted in my atlas. This is one of the best map books I’ve found and I use it to discover unique places along the way. I drove along this mostly 4 lane divided country highway up and down steep V shaped hills and valleys. Past dormant corn fields with errant corn sprouting up, and cotton fields with small tufts of cotton still clinging to some of the dead shoots.
The grotto is located on the grounds of the St Bernard Abbey a Benedictine Monastery of men founded in 1891. The grotto is in an old stone quarry and contains miniature replicas of many famous shrines and churches through out the world including a Hansel and Gretel scene built by Brother Joseph Zoeti.
I was able to travel to Bethlehem, St Peter’s Shrine, The temple of Fairies, The Tower of Babel, Lourdes Shrine and Dormition Abbey just to name a few. Anyone interested in historical sites and especially religious significant sites would really enjoy walking through this grotto. What a pleasant surprise out in the countryside of northern Alabama. Fresh air, inspiration, meditation, a sense of peace and joy.
I’m staying at the Noccalula Falls Campground in Gadsden Alabama for a couple nights. Nice park, $16 a night for water/elec./cable tv. Full hookups are available for a couple dollars more. The falls are anemic due to the lack of water, but still a really pretty site. I’m going on the hike around the falls this afternoon.
Now if you want a great meal, check out Gail’s Café. It’s right behind Paul’s Mountain Meat across from the Noccalula Park. I had chicken over rice, great fried okra, a squash casserole (more like a light delicate soufflé) a roll, drink and banana pudding all for $7.00.
Well I’m heading down to meet up with Ruth Hemrick and her husband James. Just to say hi and talk about all the 5 Points gossip of what’s going on. That should take all of “5” minutes… (chuckle).
PS. Found a campsite called Southern Pines Campground off of CR-212. It’s owned by the Southern Harbor Marina and I was able to get a half off discount of $11 a night, full hookups.