Things fell apart for the first time in Alabama. Looking back, it was a pretty minor tragedy. But for two newly minted roadies with a year’s worth of trailer renovations still fresh on our minds — it felt like a swift kick between the ribs. We didn’t know it then, but Birmingham was the start of a calamitous pattern: bad things happen to us in good cities.
Our tour of the South was always building toward Birmingham, a place we felt we needed to see and understand and experience. This is for a variety of reasons, but the most important being we believed Birmingham could be a place we’d want to plant roots. We arrived enthusiastically at Oak Mountain State Park, perched just above the city. The first two days, as had become customary on our trip, were spent working. Carson frantically finishing stories and me tackling a new business head-on. After our two-day waiting period, we’d just scratched the surface of BHAM. We ate at a Thai restaurant downtown and visited The Garage, a bar recommended to us by the suave folks at GQ. It lived up to the hype as we sat at the bar, conversing with a local about his experience growing up in Birmingham, the segregated schools and businesses, how it all changed and how some of it still hadn’t. We went home that evening ready to tackle it all.
That next morning I pulled Costello’s flea and tick medication from its cubby, gave him his heart worm pill, cleaned off the bag and in the blink of an eye, watched the paint melt off the stove top. Befuddled and terrified, I yelled to Carson. We wiped at it with a towel, confused as to what was eating away the paint. Before we could speak, the sink cracked. Whatever had melted the stove was now eating the sink’s paint, too. And a little bit of the countertop. And…what else?! We frantically cleaned every surface and tried to stop the bleeding before we realized that Costello’s “organic and non-toxic” flea spray was the culprit.
I wish I could say I handled it gracefully. I felt not only personally responsible for the downfall of all our hard labor, but I’d wasted the one sunny day promised in the forecast on a trip to Lowe’s. And it was not going to be fun. We spent the rest of the day repairing every broken thing in the trailer. As the day came to a close I cried. Everything was sort of patched, but it sure wasn’t the same. And to make matters worse, we’d started laundry and not a single drier in the whole campground worked.
The next day we finished repairs, pausing only to give Carson just enough time to pack. We were leaving for Atlanta the next day so Carson could catch a flight for a week long assignment. And so Birmingham came to a sad close. Thankfully, we didn’t give up on the state just yet.
Instead of driving from ATL to Florida, we drove across Alabama to the shores of the Gulf Coast and Meaher State Park. I was skeptical of the place at first. It looked like a crammed RV parking lot next to the water. But as we set up and the warm Alabama sun hit my shoulders, I felt like we were home. Being surrounded by kindred spirits made me a whole lot less anxious about our lot in life.
As we tuned to NPR on our radio, we discovered that we’d waltzed into Mobile just in time for Mardi Gras. Mobile actually hosts the longest running Mardi Gras celebration in the country, and they started the tradition way before the more well-known New Orleans affair. We watched our first Mardi Gras parade in the perfect place. We ate Moon Pies. Carson got hit in the face with a seriously heavy string of beads. We were offered, and accepted, a Bud Light on the streets. We watched marching bands perform crowd-pleasing hits and show-stopping steps.
The rest of the week we experienced the best the Gulf Coast had to offer: fresh fish from Felix’s Fish Camp; bursting, beautiful sunsets at the “sunset capital,” Dauphine Island; long bike rides and afternoon walks on the beach; walks out to the pier for sun downs. We even made new friends (hi, Harvey & Opal!) and accepted their generous portions of locally made cheese. And to top it off, we got a little history lesson, too. We visited Africatown, a neighborhood in Mobile where the last slave ship entered America. I’d say more, but Carson vows to cover this in more detail for you later(!)
As we drove along Highway 8 through Fairhope, AL, a town so darling it can only be described as something straight out of a Nicholas Sparks movie, we felt the ship had been righted. The bad start in Alabama had been washed away with the tide. We were on to bigger and better things.
Here we come, Panama City!