2023 - April - Road trip - Day 4
Today’s forecast was not looking great not surprising as apparently it rains here 120 days each year and the average rainfall in a year is 66 inches annually. However the rain was not predicted until later in the day and so Karen was keen that we got up and out early.
The breakfast was not bad. It became quite crowded when a Mississippi Junior Basketball team called the Bulldogs all came in at once. They were all very well-mannered and quiet and obviously quite excited about whatever tournament they had travelled to play in.
We hit the Alabama roads just after 9am. Our first destination was the only Antebellum House near the City of Mobile that was open on a Saturday. I knew they offered tours but that didn’t really interest me and I envisioned sitting on the porch in a rocking chair or perhaps under a large oak tree whilst Karen absorbed the history of the plantation and house on a tour.
That would have been lovely. However, the house was now in the middle of a housing estate as the land had been sold off years ago. It was a reasonable size but didn’t have the presence of other such houses we have visited over the years. It didn’t even have a car park. Neither of us were getting good vibes from it and so after pulling up alongside decided to go for Plan B instead which was visiting the Mobile Botanical Gardens.
This was a 7-mile drive in the opposite direction we had already driven. We found the car park and the attendant seemed a little surprised to see us. It is run by volunteers and wasn’t really geared up for non-members. Nevertheless, we were let in the electric gate and made our way to try and find someone to pay for tickets. Eventually we found the manager, who then spent ages telling us all about the different areas of the gardens.
It wasn’t huge and it wasn’t really set up for visitors but we enjoyed the walk round. Many of the plants like camelias that at home are only now coming out, here were way past their best here. We sat for a while on a bench in the sun and almost had the place to ourselves. What the place most definitely needed was a café which Karen thought would entice more visitors especially if they were as caffeine deficient as she now was.
When we felt we had wrung as much value out of the $16 admission we had paid we left to go and explore the Historic Dauphin Street in downtown Mobile. As I was certain there would be some lovely coffee shops there, I ignored Karen’s protests as we drove past a Starbucks.
That turned out to be a mistake not that Karen mentioned it. We found a free 2-hour parking spot of Dauphin Street itself and set out to explore. The architecture was very much like New Orleans with the ironwork but with a curious mixture of some art deco buildings thrown in between. The issue was that many of the buildings were shut down or derelict. What were open were almost 100% bars or restaurants. Many people were already sitting outside drinking beers and cocktails. The street advertises itself as like New Orleans but cleaner and safer. It was neither and all the sadder for it.
There was no coffee shop in sight. So, we kept walking to the business district where I figured there must be something for the workers. There was. A Starbucks in a bank building. We quickly went in and ordered as it was shutting very soon (at 12.30pm on a Saturday?). The staff cleared up around us as we had our drinks. I was unable to use the facilities as they were now locked and the manager had gone home with the keys. It kind of summed up the whole city.
We then had to come up with a Plan C for the day. This involved driving to the USS Alabama Battlesite Park a couple of miles outside the city. It cost $5 dollars to park which I had to pay using an actual credit card as their machines did not have long enough wires to stretch into cars to enable me to use Apple Pay. I just shook my head.
Karen decided she didn’t want to pay to go onto the battleship as we have been on ones previously and they always involved ladders which she was worried about climbing. I didn’t mind as I think the best view is from the outside and besides there were lots of decommissioned aircraft scattered outside to wander around. These aircraft were probably quite interesting except there were no display boards telling me what they were and what they were used for, making them being there quite pointless.
As we wandered to the gift shop, there was a notice saying the battleship and park received no funding and relied on donations and volunteers. It showed. It was very amateurish especially the gift shop. There was a café, but it had a funny smell and just served up junk food, so that was given a wide berth.
From our vantage point on the ground, we could see loads of people had now congregated on the deck of the ship but we didn’t know why. Then we heard something like blank gun fire from the deck as the ship came under ‘attack’ from a stunt plane in the sky. The plane did several circuits but wasn’t getting anywhere near close enough to make it seem real in my opinion, but what do I know.
At that point it started to rain. Not much but heavy droplets. The clouds though looked ominous. We made our way back to the car and came up with Plan D. This was to head back in the direction of the hotel and have a wander around the nearby Walmart in the dry.
It was raining harder when we walked into Walmart. As we walked round, we picked some random things (like a powerful water pistol for $5 to use on the pesky pigeons at home who keep eating my grass seed). We also got some wraps for a late lunch.
As we were preparing to leave the heavens opened. There was thunder and rain on a biblical scale. On the corrugated roof the noise was unbelievable. In the next hour there was 1.5 inches of rain. We stayed in the shop for a while and picked up more things to buy the longer we were in there.
Eventually it eased a bit and I nobly went out into the still quite hard driving rain and got the car and drove it round to the front of the store to pick up Karen. And then as quickly as it started the rain ended.
After a while back in the room, we ventured back out to get a hot meal. Karen wanted to go to Red Lobster which was a couple of miles away. When we were almost there, she then decided that as we had had a late lunch that perhaps she wasn’t that hungry but she might be able to just manage a starter. I said that was pointless and we would be better off getting a takeaway.
So, with a quick U turn we popped in a handily placed Dominos Pizza place. Karen just got some garlic bread whilst I had a medium pizza (that I couldn’t finish).
We ate the food in our room and watched another episode of Blue Lights. I was fast asleep by 10pm whilst Karen watched the local news and weather.