Welcome Back

“Welcome back, your dreams were your ticket out
Welcome back, to that same old place that you laughed about”

To say we have been rather busy lately is quite an understatement.

You see, fifty-seven days ago, I was playing around on Realtor.com just as I have for the last several years, pondering the possibilities of the many listings that were up at the moment, when something caught my eye.

I mean something REEEE-ally caught my eye.

So, I did something that I had never done in all my years of looking; with Audley’s guidance I reached out to a VA lender for a preapproval.

“Well the names have all changed since you hung around
But those dreams have remained and they’ve turned around”

Fifty-five days ago, we canceled our weekend plans and took a little road trip into Alabama. There, we looked at two houses. One was trashed and definitely showed what a little staging for the internet can do. The other was nearly perfect; close to everything we had in mind for a home.

“Who’d have thought they’d lead ya
Back here where we need ya”

Fifty- four days ago we made an offer on a house, wrote an earnest money check, and the very next day it was accepted.

We were under contract with “closing in thirty-five days.”

{GULP}

Thirty-one days ago, I accepted a position to teach pre-k in a newly established Christian Academy this coming autumn.

Twenty-four days ago, we met with our realtor in the small town of Scottsboro, Alabama to close, and at the same time became first time homeowners.

“Yeah we tease him a lot ’cause we got him on the spot, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back…”

Fourteen days ago, we moved to Stevenson, Alabama, just 3 miles from where Audley grew up and where we moved away from almost exactly ten years ago.

“…And I know what a scene you were learning in
Was there something that made you come back again”

There is a lot to the hows, whys, and whats of all this, but the Reader’s Digest version is Audley changed industries back in December and works from home, when he is not traveling. After nearly 27 years of moving with power company and paper mill construction, we have been given the opportunity to control our own path.

“And what could ever lead ya
Back here where we need ya”

Our “First” Home

We decided the time was right to purchase a home, but with the market what it is, this was not so easy. We looked near Atlanta (where we had been living). We looked in South Carolina (to be near our grandbaby). We looked in Tennessee. We looked in Alabama. But we weren’t serious until the right property became available. We really wanted out of the city, we wanted property, preferably not new construction, and a ranch style. We wanted character and potential. Something move-in ready that we could add our own spin on to turn into our home.

Who knew where it would lead us?!

The craziness, busyness, chaotic mess of the last fifty-seven days was an answered prayer in so many ways, especially with the ease of purchasing our first home. We stayed within our budget, worked with a great realtor and lender, and found what I hope is our forever home!

Back Porch Views

And the song lyrics scatter throughout my post? As we were driving on I-24 with a moving van, our pups and kitty I was listening to a 70’s station on Spotify. The theme song to “Welcome Back Kotter” by John Sebastion began playing on the radio. I laughed as I thought back to all the times we’ve left this area to chase our dreams, only to return.

“Yeah we tease him a lot ’cause we got him on the spot, welcome back
Welcome back, welcome back, welcome back”

God sure does have a sense of humor.

Road Trippin’: Itinerary & Photo Journal

Bags are unpacked, laundry is caught up, our young Marine has arrived in Cali, Madeline is back in school, and we are rested after a whirlwind seven day road trip through eight states last week!

Bradley graduated his MOS training and is now a Marine MP. We drove out to Ft Leonard Wood to enjoy time with him before he headed off to his PDS.

The boy did not have as many days off as we did, so we arranged a little mini-vacation around Madeline’s spring break and our travels. I love planning road trips, and this one was no different!

I have never let others plan for us; the goal is always to try to pick activities that fit our interests, see as much as we can to get a feel for so many fabulous things our beautiful nation offers, and we leave plenty of time to be spontaneous.

To begin planning I always put our destination into the GPS and look at all our routes; this time we were shown two distinct ways to travel to Ft Leonard Wood. Our entire little family has a goal of visiting all fifty states (hubby has visited 49 of them; I’m at 29 & it’s become quite a contest between our 4 kiddos), and airports don’t count. With two routes showing Madeline pointed out she could add two new states to her list so we decided to loop this trip.

We would leave Atlanta and head west through Alabama, Mississippi, skirt Tennessee with a pass through Memphis into Arkansas and head up into Missouri as we drove out to see Bradley. Coming home we would go through St Louis into Illinois, Kentucky, back through Nashville, Tennessee and back into Georgia.

With our route chosen we had an idea of places we wanted to see along the way and we set out to see what we could see! I thought our itinerary was a lot of fun, and had a couple of requests from social media to share it, so here we go!  Of course some of this was tailored to visiting Bradley, but you should find plenty of ideas for planning your own trip!

Day one we left about four in the afternoon after Audley had gotten off work. We love driving backroads, especially during rush hour, so we when we left on Thursday afternoon we took 2- lane roads from Cartersville, Georgia into Gadsden, Alabama before hitting I-59 into Birmingham. With spring really starting to show up it was a beautiful drive past farms and flowing rivers and creeks as we’ve been blessed with a lot of rain this year.

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Our first stop was for supper just outside Birmingham. We chose a quirky little sushi restaurant called Rock-N-Roll Sushi. We absolutely loved the classic rock theme of both the decor & sushi rolls!

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Madonna & Tommy Lee Rolls

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Journey & Motely Crue Roll

With our bellies full we drove through downtown Birmingham and headed west on I-22 into Mississippi.  Once in Tupelo we stopped for the night at the Hilton Garden Inn.

Day two began nice and early (7:15 am) as we wanted to make a stop by Elvis Presley’s birthplace (we were in Tupelo after all), which has been made into a public park as well as museum. We stopped by before they opened for a morning stroll through the park. While we didn’t get to see the inside of the home, no crowds and the peacefulness of the early morning was worth the stop. It’s a park that’s been tastefully created and quite lovely.

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We left Tupelo and passed through Memphis where we stopped at Elvis’s Graceland, a last minute decision since we had visited the birthplace early that morning.

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Graceland has changed a whole lot since I visited 24 years ago which meant we only viewed the house from a distance. We didn’t want extra museums and planes, we only wanted to walk the grounds; see the memorials and the gravesite. We were not paying $70/each to do so!

We paid $10 to park; Madeline bought a T-shirt, we walked to the wall by the gates (that looks so trashy since they allow people to draw graffiti all over it), took a few photos and was back on the road in 45 mins. I’m not a tourist trap/circus fan when it comes to historic or cultural locations.

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We crossed the Mississippi River into Arkansas where we hit backroads through the Ozark Mountains into Missouri to Mansfield.

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Y’all, it’s a stunningly beautiful drive, and you never know what unique towns you might pass through.

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Mansfield was the final home of Almanzo and Laura Ingalls Wilder. I was so excited for this planned stop! It’s not a huge tourist trap like Graceland was (thank goodness), but a tastefully done memorial to recall a fascinating life! Admission was $12/each for both the Rock House their daughter designed and had built for them and the Rocky Ridge House, Almanzo constructed. We spent a couple of hours here, and made it our last stop of the day.

Everyone was so knowledgeable, friendly and just lovely to be around!

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despite the rain, this was such a memorable destination!

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I’ll share more of this beautiful and historic location in another post!

At the recommendation of one of the girls at the Wilder Museum, we hit the backroads (make sure your gas tank is topped off) out of Mansfield and stopped in a little Amish community for an all-you-can-eat Friday night fried fish and chicken supper.

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Y’all.

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Amish peanut butter …. you MUST try it!

It was amazing.

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And we didn’t eat again until around 1:00pm on day three.

We rolled into St Robert, Missouri around 8:00 and checked into the Hampton Inn on historic Route 66.

Day three allowed us to enjoy a little extra sleep as our Marine and adopted Marine were sleeping in themselves. We picked the boys up from the base and headed west again towards Branson; an hour and a half drive. Lunch at Steak and Shake, shopping at the Tanger outlets was the perfect way to spend an afternoon with teenagers. Branson has so many shows and activities to choose from, We wanted something where we could have fun interacting and savoring time together, so the Branson Murder Mystery dinner theater was definitely the best choice!

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Our kids volunteered for the roles of the James brothers and Kay Marte (the local town gossip). With dinner and an interactive show we had a crazy fun evening filled with a lot of laughs!

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Day four we worshiped with a little congregation just off of base in Waynesville. Everyone there was so welcoming, sweet and friendly. We won’t forget our visit anytime soon.

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After lunch, Bradley let us know he had to return to base earlier since it was Sunday, so he suggested we make a stop at Uranus Fudge Factory, a quirky little tourist stop on Historic Route 66.

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And if the truth be known I probably was not mature enough for this general store and fudge factory, especially when the guy behind the counter at Uranus asked how I wanted my “fudge packed”.

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Y’all all I have to say is you have to have a warped sense of humor to make this stop which is why Bradley wanted to stop I’m sure.

After we dropped Bradley back off at the base we had plenty of daylight left so we ventured out to drive a little of Route 66. We drove over to Devil’s Elbow Bridge, and stopped by the George M Reed roadside park. Roadside parks were common back when people traveled Route 66 as they made great places for picnics and stretching your legs while on your road trip!

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Roadside parks would be fabulous now as we travel, but unfortunately we live in a society where people would rather abuse and destroy than appreciate and preserve.

Day five was partially spent on the military base for Family Day as we were given insight to our Marine’s career path and an opportunity to see the kinds of equipment he’s been trained to use.

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After the ceremonies we took our adopted Marines out for the afternoon for an entertaining lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings and an adventure at Ft Wood Escape Room. Thank goodness for my Submariner, because the Marines really struggled with this one!

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We also went bowling. 🎳 Thats all I have to say about that one adventure.

It was bad.

The boys had to be back in the barracks by 1730, so Audley, Madeline and I hit Route 66 a different direction for some colorfully fun backroad highlights.

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Once back in St. Robert we stopped in at the Route 66 Diner for burgers and fries. Service was phenomenal, and the food, although simple was delicious!

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Day Six started off with MOS graduation. Followed by a tearful goodbye, our Marine boarded a bus headed to the airport.

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After he left Audley, Madeline and I hit Route 66 towards St. Louis. We passed through Cuba where we had a fabulous lunch at The FOURWAY Diner and drove through this historic little town.

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Cuba, Missouri is known as Mural City

We arrived in St Louis in time to take the last car up to the top of the Gateway Arch. It was the perfect way to end our Route 66 travels.

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After supper, and moving on down the interstate we stopped in Mt. Vernon, Illinois for the night at the Doubletree. There we caught the end of my Alma Mater’s basketball game that put them in the NIT finals.

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Day seven we finally made it back home, but not before stopping at at a fantastic little western store in Marion, Illinois (McKinney’s) for some boot and hat shopping.

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We also made a swing by Lipscomb University (my alma mater) in Nashville to catch a little basketball fever. So much has changed in that part of the city ( in a positive way), and I enjoyed the pass through off of the interstate. Lipscomb holds a lot of precious memories for me!

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My old dorm

 

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The tradition of the painted mascot continues on…

While this was a lengthy post, I hope you found some inspiration for your own vacation plans as summer is right around the corner! I plan to detail our visit to Mansfield, St. Louis and a little glimpse of our short drive on Route 66! Hope you’ll stop back by!

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Apple Orchards & Cotton Fields

 

“Summer ends, and Autumn comes, and he would have it otherwise would have high tide always and a full moon every night; and thus he would never know the rhythms that are at the heart of life.”
~Hal Borland

 

Autumn has arrived a bit late here in the South due our our unseasonably cool and wet summer.  We are just now catching glimpses of color in the trees here in South Carolina, but it is coming, as are the much cooler temperatures and shorter days.
I do love autumn and all of the wonderful traditions and fun our family enjoys together throughout the season!
Of all out traditions, I do have to say visiting an apple orchard with my Momma is my absolutely favorite.  It has been a tradition of ours for many years now, one that I had to break last year because of the distance between us.  This season I decided, distance was not going to be an issue, so when we discovered an open weekend without football and band competitions we loaded up our car and headed home to Tennessee for the weekend!  Our short road trip was full of surprises and so much fun that included spending the day with Momma driving the country backroads of North Alabama to our favorite orchard; Crow Mountain on top of the mountain in Fackler, Alabama.
“Surely the apple is the noblest of fruits.”
~Henry David Thoreau
 
 
Crow Mountain Orchards, owned by Bob and Carol Deutscher, has been in operation since 1974 and is a must-do highlight of our autumn traditions.  It is also very popular among the North Alabama & Middle Tennessee locals as they are packed each and every time we visit!
 
Mr. Deutscher packing up apples
Selecting the best apples with Momma

 

 

One thing I love about Crow Mountain is all the variety that they grow.  Of course their biggest crop is the crazy assortment of apples in the fall, but during the summer months they also have peaches.
Also in the fall you might find luscious Asian Pears, Muscadines (these were filling my palm they were so large, and oh so sweet!), and fresh apple cider!

 

 

I do love to buy local and not imported fruit!
Even though our day was very overcast and a little drizzly the orchards were still beautiful and brimming with fresh fruit just waiting to be picked!

 

 

 

 

 

Couldn’t you just eat this right off the tree?
 
We purchased delicious Jonathan & MacIntosh apples for their tart flavor just perfect for baking and making apple butter.  I also bought two gallons of sweet and tart cider to freeze for a little hot spiced apple cider this holiday season.
 
I can’t wait!
 
I do love those country backroads and the beauty of our home in north Alabama.  The cotton fields we passed were in full bloom and just captivated me.  Usually the cotton has already popped when I make this trip, but with things just a wee bit behind, I enjoyed the beautiful flowers on each plant.
 

 

I asked Momma (who grew up picking cotton in Alabama) why the cotton plants had both pink and creamy colored blooms.  She told me that the petals change from creamy white to yellow, to pink and finally a dark red before they whither and fall off of the plant, leaving behind the green cotton bolls.  All of this happens in just a matter of days so actually catching so many blooms was very lucky!

 

Love the mountains in the background of this beautiful field!
 
I have so many plans for my apples…. thinking a pie or two, preserving a few for the winter and at the moment I’m working on apple butter. Honestly, I can’t wait to share my simply scrumptious recipe with you!
My mouth is already watering and I’m craving a hot buttered biscuit with that fresh fruit butter now!
Have a wonderful week!
 

What I Did on My Summer Vacation: The USS Alabama

Traveling with my hubby is always an adventure, and when you add Naval history to the mix he becomes like a little boy just waiting for the next adventure.
So was the case with as we made a stop-over in Mobile, Alabama and visited the magnificent battleship USS Alabama and submarine, USS Drum as we made our way to Palm Beach for yet another meeting.

The keel of the USS Alabama was laid in 1940 as hostilities across the Atlantic were heating up in Europe between the British, French and Nazi’s, but America was not yet at war.  This particular ship was the 8th to bare the name Alabama and completed her sea trials in 1942.  Weighing 44,500 tons and 680 feet from bow to stern,  She was immediately put into service in the Atlantic Ocean sailing from Norfolk, Virginia with a job of protecting Russian and British convoys.  After a brief period in this role, The Alabama was sent to the Pacific clearing the Panama Canal in August 1943.

In the Pacific the USS Alabama and her crew of sailors and marines served valiantly in the Pacific war against Japan, accomplishing all of her assigned tasks.  She saw 37 months of action, participating in nine major battles of the Pacific.  During this time she never saw any causalities or suffered damage from enemy fire;  a huge accomplishment!
After the end of the war, the Alabama dropped anchor in Tokyo briefly and then took on 3700 servicemen to travel back to the US arriving in at the Port of San Francisco on Navy Day, 27 October 1945, bringing our boys home form war.

Her service was complete.  Unlike many ships of the time, the USS Alabama only saw action in WWII and was decommissioned quickly; 1947.

Due to the cost of trying to maintain the “Peacetime Navy”, in 1962 it was decided that the Alabama (along with several other great ships) would be scrapped.  Shortly thereafter a campaign was launched to bring the mighty ship to Alabama as a memorial to the many sailors and soldiers from Alabama who had served.

Alabama school children raised almost $100,000 in mostly nickels, dimes, and quarters to help bring her home to her final resting place.

Having parents born and raised in Alabama as kids of the Baby Boom, the USS Alabama means a lot to both of them.  They were two of the school children who donated their hard-earned changed to help with this effort.  They were given a gift for their contributions; each received a lifetime pass to visit the great battleship in Mobile Bay.

In 1972, seven years after the ship opened to the public, they finally got a chance to use those passes for the first time.  It was also my first visit to the beautiful and historic ship.

Dad & Momma were just 22 years old here!
A lot has changed since that 1972 visit which Audley and I were able to enjoy on our own trip.
No longer is the Ship the memorial, but the state has constructed an entire Memorial Park dedicated to all the soldiers and sailors from Alabama who has served and even lost their lives for our country throughout many wars.  There is no way to post pictures of everything, but here are a few highlights of the Memorial Park and the USS Alabama.

 

 

The Vietnam Memorial

 

 

Replica of the Vietnam Wall containing the names of Alabama’s men and women who were killed in this conflict.  My father has several classmates whose names are etched here.  It’s a very moving and sobering spot to visit.
Seeing the open guns reminded me of how vulnerable of our servicemen really are when they are out fighting for us.

 

The travels and battles of the USS Alabama

 

 

 

Bunks for the sailors and marines onboard…. close quarters for sure!

 

Shipboard amenities for servicemen away from home.
Telegraph/Mail room
The command center of the ship
The Alabama’s service record is permanently recorded on the side of the ship.

While touring the ship I learned so much about the lives of the men on board, how they lived everyday and how they fought to protect our freedoms.

One thing I found so fascinating was the Presentation silver displayed.  While it was removed for it’s own protection during the war, generally it is left on board.

Here’s  little history on the presentation silver:  During the 18th century it became traditional for cities and states to present silver serviced to the warships bearing their names upon commissioning.  This silver service was designed for use on formal occasions such as port visits attended by local dignitaries. The US Navy withdrew silver services from all warships in WWII, leaving Alabama’s service stored in the State’s archives during the ship’s active service.  The silver was placed on board the USS Alabama for display in 1967 but has never been formally transferred from the state archives.

The USS ALABAMA’s presentation silver.
Besides home to the USS Alabama, Battleship Memorial Park is also the final destination of the USS Drum a WWII era submarine that was launched in 1941 and was donated to the USS Alabama battleship commission in 1969.
Since I married a Submariner, visiting the USS Drum was very important to Audley.  As he descended the steps into her hull he inhaled deeply, taking in the smell of submarine living still in the air after all these years.
I found it all quite emotional actually.
Audley in the control rooms of the sub looking at navigation charts.
Yes, those are beds, both over and under the torpedo.  Yes, that is how our sailors sleep.
The tiny kitchen where meals were cooked for the men serving on board
The officers were spoiled, just a little, although they still didn’t have much space.
Some of the USS Drum’s presentation silver
The USS Drum’s service record in WWII.

 

Audley & I on deck of the USS DRUM.
I hope you enjoyed a little of our visit to Mobile and the Battleship Memorial Park.  I know military history can seem rather boring, especially for a female, but I can assure you, a stop at one of our nation’s many military memorials will sure give you an whole new perspective and appreciation on our men and women who have and who continue to serve.
Next on our adventure we enjoyed a little R&R in Palm Beach, Florida complete with dinner by the ocean, shopping millionaires row and some high-end antiquing!