Marvelous Mobile Bay: Dauphin Island

A narrow, 14-mile-long outdoor playground juts from the mouth of Mobile Bay into the Gulf of Mexico

Near the mouth of Mobile Bay, Dauphin Island, provides a getaway atmosphere with attractions aimed at the family. Graced with all the necessities, Dauphin Island allows you to get away from the hustle and bustle of more developed areas.

Causeway and bridge to Dauphin Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Back in 1699 the French explorer Le Moyne d’Iberville landed on the island and started a settlement called Massacre Island, which was later more tastefully renamed Port Dauphine. It served briefly as the capital of the French Louisiana Territory in the early 1700s. During the War of 1812, American forces captured it. The historic Fort Gaines, on the eastern end of the island, was built to protect Mobile Bay.

Dauphin Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Dauphin Island Park and Campground is a great place to enjoy all the island has to offer. The 155-acre park offers an abundance of exceptional recreation offerings and natural beauty. The campground is uniquely positioned so that guests have access to a secluded beach, public boat launches, Fort Gaines, and Audubon Bird Sanctuary. The campground offers 150 sites with 30/50 amp- electric service and water; 99 sites also offer sewer connections.

Fort Gaines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

From here, head over to nearby Fort Gaines, with its 22-foot-tall exterior brick walls and storied military heritage that spans 1821 to 1946. The fort is most highly recognized for its role in the Battle of Mobile Bay, a famed Civil War naval conflict.

Fort Gaines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It was during this three-week battle that Union rear admiral David Farragut roared the command, “Damn the torpedoes; full speed ahead!” (It’s interesting to note that the word “torpedoes” in this case referred to hidden enemy mines and not submarine weapons.)

Fort Gaines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Start your self-guided tour by picking up a map at the gift shop. The comprehensive guide includes 26 points of interest along with facts about the fort’s tunnels, bastions, blacksmith shop, and disappearing gun mounts, among dozens of other features.

Fort Gaines © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

You can examine the huge anchor of Farragut’s flagship, gaze toward Sand Island lighthouse from atop the southeast bastion, or browse the museum. Fort Gaines numbers among the best-preserved 19th-century brick seacoast fortifications in the East.

Audubon Bird Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located nearby, the Audubon Bird Sanctuary consists of 137 acres of maritime forests, marshes, and dunes, and includes a lake, swamp, and beach. The trail system within the sanctuary has been designated as a National Recreational Trail. The sanctuary is the largest segment of protected forest on the island and the first landfall for neo-tropical migrant birds after their long flight across the Gulf from Central and South America each spring.

Audubon Bird Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For a quick sampling of the sanctuary’s flora and fauna, you can hike the 0.6-mile interpretive loop trail that winds through the maritime forest where the dominant plants are loblolly and slash pines, live oak, southern magnolia, and Tupelo gum. It leads by slightly elevated boardwalk from the parking lot to Gaillard Lake. The wharf overlooking the lake is a favorite site for observing egrets, herons, blue-winged teals, pond turtles, and pig frogs.

Audubon Bird Sanctuary © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other trails include the 0.3-mile Dune Edge Trail, 0.8-mile Swamp Overlook Trail, 1.7-mile Upper Woodlands Trail; a 0.4-mile trail leads to Dauphin Island Campground and 0.5-mile trail leads to Fort Gaines.

Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab is a public aquarium and exhibit facility that allows visitors the opportunity to explore the four ecosystems of coastal Alabama—the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta, Mobile Bay, the barrier islands, and Gulf of Mexico. Its features include a large exhibit hall, featuring aquariums swimming with local water life, and a living marsh boardwalk along the bay.

Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most visitors begin their self-guided tour by watching a video titled “A World of Water”. It explains water’s journey from the delta through the 35-mile-long estuary to the Gulf. The estuary is so abundant that fishery scientists labeled the north-central Gulf of Mexico the “fertile crescent.”

Estuarium at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Highlights in the 10,000-square-foot exhibit hall include live snakes, baby alligators, and aquariums containing sharks and other exotic sea creatures. At a touching table, you can stroke the spiny shell of a horseshoe crab, a prehistoric species more closely related to scorpions than to crabs. 

Dauphin Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

For all at last return to the sea—to Oceanus, the ocean river, like the ever-flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end.

—Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us

Mobile Bay: Gateway to the Gulf

Mobile Bay is an incredible gateway to the Delta, a bird sanctuary, and boating, fishing, and kayaking

Along the northern perimeter of Mobile Bay, a network of rivers forms a wildlife-rich delta that beckons canoeists and nature-lovers. Fishermen and sailboat enthusiasts relish the bay itself. On the south shore, where the bay meets the Gulf of Mexico, white sand beaches lure swimmers, shell hunters, and sunset photographers.

Mobile Bay at Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Located in the wetlands of Mobile Bay near Spanish Fort, Meaher State Park is a scenic 1,327-acre park offering facilities for both camping and day-use.

The Mobile Delta consists of approximately 20,323 acres of water and Meaher State Park is the perfect access point to this massive natural wonder. Formed by the confluence of the Alabama and Tombigbee rivers, the Mobile Delta is a complex network of tidally influenced rivers, creeks, bays, lakes, wetlands, and bayous. Since the Delta empties into Mobile Bay, it is a productive estuary with numerous species of fresh and saltwater fish, which makes Meaher State Park an fisherman’s dream.

Mobile Bay at Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A 300-foot fishing pier with a 200 foot “T” and boat ramp make Meaher State Park an excellent location for fishing with Mobile Bay providing a productive estuary offering numerous species of fresh and saltwater fish. An Alabama freshwater fishing license is required; most common freshwater fish are abundant in the area. The boat ramp is located on the Blakeley River on the east end of the park. The ramp is accessible from 7 a.m. until sundown.

Mobile Bay at Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A self-guided walk on two nature trails includes a boardwalk with an up-close view of the beautiful Mobile Delta. Enjoy watching the abundant aquatic bird life as well as alligators.

The day-use area features a picnic area and comfort station for visitors. 

Mobile Bay at Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Big-rig friendly Meaher State Park offers 56 modern campsites with 50/30/20-amp electric service, water, and sewer connections. Semi-circle pull-through sites exceed 100 feet in length. Most back-in sites are in the 60-65 foot range. The campground also features a bathhouse with laundry facilities and Wi-Fi. A tower is located on top of the bathhouse. There are also 10 improved tent sites with water and 20-amp electric service. Current RV camping rate is $35/night; tent sites $22/night. Weekly rates for RV sites are $182. Monthly rates for RV sites from November through March only are $623. Reservations are available by contacting the state park.

Mobile Bay at Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

For more outdoor adventures, the nearby Mobile-Tensaw, W.L. Holland, and Upper Delta Wildlife Management Areas offer hunting and wildlife viewing opportunities for those visiting the Delta.

Mobile Bay at Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Also located near Meaher State Park, just north of Interstate 10, is the Five Rivers- Alabama’s Delta Resource Center which features an exhibit hall, theater, gift shop, and canoe rentals.

The 80-acre nature complex is the gateway to the Delta, a 250,000-acre wetland playground designated a National Natural Landmark by the National Park Service.

Mobile Bay at Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Besides the more than 300 bird species, 126 fish species, and 500 plant species found there, the delta is the exclusive home of Alabama’s state reptile, the endangered Alabama red-bellied turtle.

Mobile Bay at Meaher State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Begin at the Shellbank Visitors Center, where movies preview this free facility’s recreational opportunities. A stroll across an observation deck brings you to a museum filled with artifacts and displays depicting the delta’s rich cultural, historical, and ecological heritage. Picnic facilities, nature trails, and a gift shop occupy the site, too.

For up-close explorations, you can rent a canoe or kayak or launch your own. Canoe, kayak, and pontoon boat tours are offered.

Mobile Bay at USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

While camping at Meaher State Park, take advantage of the abundant shopping and dining options in the Mobile metro area. The white sands of Alabama’s Gulf Coast are only an hour away. USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, and GulfQuest National Maritime Museum are also located nearby.

Mobile Bay at Dauphin Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Whether you plan to stay a week or a month, the area’s welcoming hospitality, sun-drenched climate, sparkling waterways, and wide range of activities will have you describing Mobile Bay as “the place where fun floats”.

Mobile Bay at Dauphin Island © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

For all at last return to the sea—to Oceanus, the ocean river, like the ever-flowing stream of time, the beginning and the end.

—Rachel Carson, The Sea Around Us

Sweet Home Alabama: Mobile

Don’t be fooled by the beautiful skyline reflecting off the bay; Mobile is more than just incredibly good-looking

Mobile is more than 300 years old and that fact alone says there must be a lot of history associated with a city of that age. The many museums and historical homes help tell Mobile’s story.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

As the oldest city in Alabama, Mobile has a rich past spanning centuries. French, Spanish, British, Creole, Catholic, Greek, and African legacies have influenced everything from architecture to cuisine, creating a miniature melting pot in the Port City.

Fort Conde © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1711, the French erected a brick fort to protect their New World inter­ests and named it Conde. The site, now a 4/5-scale reconstruction of the original early 18th century French Fort Conde, func­tions as a welcome center. The original fort sat on 11 acres of land, therefore a full-size reconstruction was not possible because of the area it would cover in downtown Mobile.

Fort Conde © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

At the Museum of Mobile, a short walk from the fort, you can view a 14th-century dugout canoe and other artifacts from native peoples, relive the voyages of slaves who arrived in Mobile, and hear tales of Civil War soldiers. The museum occupies the old city hall/Southern Market building (circa 1867), a National Historic Landmark. Permanent exhibits span 300 years of regional history, and changing exhibits focus on various individuals and events that shaped the area.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The museum’s permanent collection contains more than 85,000 artifacts, which range in size from a button to a fire truck. The collection includes items gathered by 19th-century citizens in their travels around the world.

Eight National Register Historic Districts make up what is known as downtown and midtown Mobile.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dauphin Street has served as the core of Mobile’s business district since the earliest days of the city. As one of the oldest streets, the name dates to Mobile’s French colonial past: the heir to the French throne is called the “Dauphin.” The street remained largely undeveloped during the colonial times, however, its importance increased once Mobile became an American city in 1813.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile emerged as the third busiest port in America during the boom of “King Cotton.” The late 1830s brought devastation to Mobile’s downtown as a series of fires destroyed many of the early frame buildings. Beginning in 1839, all structures along Dauphin and in the commercial districts were required to be built of brick.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today, many of these brick buildings remain, although the storefronts have been periodically updated. Shopping trends of the 1950s and ’60s redirected retail activity to outlying areas of the city creating vacancies in the district; many of the buildings have once again been placed in service.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A stroll along historic Dauphin Street isn’t complete without a stop at A&M Peanut Shop (209 Dauphin St.), where peanuts in the shell are roasted hourly in a 90-year-old roaster.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Known simply as the Garden District or Oakleigh, the lovely Oakleigh Garden Historic Garden retains the feel of an old neighborhood. Sidewalks and massive oaks line the streets graced by some of the most charming houses in the City.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Developed primarily after the Civil War, the district’s building stock clearly mirrors the City’s economic prosperity during the 19th and early 20th centuries. The district’s name comes from the antebellum mansion, Oakleigh, constructed in the 1830s by James Roper.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Cathedral-Basilica of the Immaculate Conception (circa 1834) is the oldest Christian church in Alabama. The historic cathedral sits across the street overlooking Cathedral Square, a tree-shaded park whose design reflects the basilica’s floor plan.

USS Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Explore the mighty WWII battleship USS Alabama, winner of nine battle stars, and the submarine USS Drum. Both are National Historic Landmarks. An aircraft pavilion is filled with over 25 historic planes and military vehicles including the Mach 3 A-12 Blackbird super-secret spy plane.

Hank Aaron Childhood Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Visit the Hank Aaron Childhood Home and Museum located at Hank Aaron Stadium. Hammerin’ Hank was born in a section of Mobile referred to as “Down the Bay,” but he spent most of his youth in Toulminville, an historic neighborhood of Mobile. He went on to become one of Major League Baseball’s greatest baseball players ever and held the MLB record for career home runs for 33 years. He still holds several MLB offensive records.

Worth Pondering…

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

Going Mobile

Once called the Paris of the South, Mobile has long been the cultural center of the Gulf Coast and you’ll find an authentic experience like nowhere else in the southern U. S.

The water is a good beginning point to understand Mobile because the city is on a river, just north of a bay, south of a swamp, and has a storied history as a port. From the powdery white beaches of the gulf to the 800 square miles of alligator-­populated delta, you’re never far from water here.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Mobile was named after the Mauvilla (or Maubilla) Indians who lived here centuries ago. Once called the Paris of the South, Mobile has long been the cultural center of the Gulf Coast and you’ll find an authentic experience found nowhere else in the southern United States. The birthplace of Mardi Gras in the United States, the area’s sheer beauty, modern architecture, amazing museums, and famous seafood continues to impress visitors and locals alike.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Founded in 1702 as the original capital of the Louisiana Territory and nestled along the beautiful Mobile Bay, few American cities boast a history as rich as Mobile’s. In 1711, the French erected a brick fort to protect their New World inter­ests and named it Conde.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The site, now a 4/5-scale reconstruction of the original early 18th century French Fort Conde, func­tions as a welcome center. The original fort sat on 11 acres of land, therefore a full-size reconstruction was not possible because of the area it would cover in downtown Mobile. The reconstructed fort opened on July 4, 1976.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Later the British took ownership and after that the Spanish. In the 1820s, the U.S. Congress ordered its sale and removal and shortly afterwards it was demolished.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Leaving the fort, history lovers should head across the street to the Museum of Mobile. Opened in 1857 as the Southern Market and used as City Hall through the 1990s, the museum boasts a marble lobby with six brightly colored murals reflecting the city’s landmark moments.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Permanent galleries detail Mobile’s story and include such artifacts as a 14th-century dugout canoe and the Colored Entrance neon sign from the Saenger Theatre, host to many famous black musicians. Upstairs are exhibits detailing The Great Fire of 1919 which left 1,200 homeless, 1979’s Hurricane Frederic which killed three and injured thousands, and the city’s contributions to the nation such as the 1969 World Series champions Mets’ outfield who were all from Mobile.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Eight National Register Historic Districts make up what is known as downtown and midtown Mobile. These eight distinct personalities spread throughout the Mobile Bay area truly define the heart and soul of Old Mobile. 

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dauphin Street is an historic district in downtown Mobile that consists of many buildings from the 1820s to the 20th century; architectural styles include Federal, Greek Revival, Italianate, Queen Anne, and Victorian. Dauphin Street was named after the son of King Louis XIV and this street became the main commercial street of the city.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In 1839, a fire destroyed many of the wooden buildings that had been built in the Federal style. During reconstruction, many structures were built in the Victorian style of architecture seen today.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Bienville Square is a tranquil square with trees, benches, fountain, and a bandstand.

Downtown Mobile is a mixture of the old and the new. Modern office buildings and high-rise hotels are scattered among the historic buildings. The ultra-modern Outlaw Convention Center along the waterfront is an interesting contrast to the older buildings of the downtown area.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Oakleigh Historic Complex contains several buildings in one picturesque area. The Oakleigh Mansion (built around l833) is an old two-story T-shaped building constructed with slave labor. The bricks used in the walls of the ground floor were made by these slaves from clay dug on the property. The main portion of the house is of wood. The house is filled with antiques and original furnishings.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Another historic building near downtown Mobile is the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and century-old live oaks are scattered over the grounds. The mansion is an antebellum home with more history associated with the Civil War era.

Mobile © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Sweet home Alabama
Where the skies are so blue
Sweet home Alabama
Lord, I’m coming home to you

The Absolute Best Places to RV This May

If you’re dreaming of where to travel to experience it all, here are our picks for the best places to RV in May

May is like the Friday of months. No, you’re not quite to summer yet, but already people are making vacation plans, and generally slowing down after a nose-to-the-grindstone winter and spring. It’s the kickoff of fun season, when amusement parks open and beach town parking lots start filling up.

But it’s only the cusp of Summer, and you’ll find many destinations are still relatively empty and affordable—and some places really make the most of the pre-summer anticipation. So both at home and abroad, here are five spots you should absolutely check out for your May travels.

Alabama Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Alabama

Before the summer crowds take over the glorious beaches of Alabama’s Gulf Coast, there’s this little beach concert in Gulf Shores called the Hangout Music Festival the weekend before Memorial Day.

Alabama Welcome Center © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Up the road in Montgomery, the most underrated city in Alabama opened the Legacy Museum in April 2018. Housed in an old slave warehouse, the museum chronicles the African-American experience “from slavery to mass incarceration,” in the museum’s words. It’s a chilling look at the history of black America.

Old Talbott Tavern, Bardstown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Louisville, Kentucky

OK, it’s no big secret that the only horse race most people can name happens in May. And it’s also no secret the Kentucky Derby is the only thing most people can tell you about Louisville. So maybe if you’re making your way to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May, you should also take some time to check out other stuff the city has to offer.

Jim Beam American Stillhouse © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Try some of the legendary restaurants in the city, or head to the East Market District of Downtown, also referred to as NuLu (New Louisville) neighborhood that is becoming known for unique art galleries, specialty stores, antique shops, and a growing number of local restaurants. On the first Friday of the month, hop aboard a ZeroBus for the First Friday Hop. It’s an all-in-one art show, shopping adventure, and street party.

Heaven Hill Bourbon

Check out Muth’s Candies (home of the famous Modjeska—a caramel-covered marshmallow confection) and Joe Ley Antiques (an 1890s schoolhouse filled with two acres of treasures). 

Need a sugar fix while you’re out shopping? Head over to Please & Thank You, home of what’s touted as the world’s best chocolate chip cookie. The café and record shop sells coffee, sweets, sandwiches, and more. Enjoy a cup of java as you peruse the vinyl record selection.

Makers Mark © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Then there’s the nearby Kentucky Bourbon Trail, full of nearly a dozen distilleries with names like Jim Beam, Makers Mark, and Evan Williams.

If you’re in town for the Derby you don’t even need to attend the race to have fun. This is, after all, one of the biggest party weekends in any city all year.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Bisbee, Arizona

Southeastern Arizona’s Mule Mountains provide out-of-towners the freedom to set out on cactus-dotted hiking trails and discover old copper mines. The thrill of discovery, peaks when happening upon Bisbee, a mining-town-turned-arts-colony tucked into the desert.

Bisbee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Explore Old Bisbee for a history lesson and museum tour as you travel on foot up Main Street to Tombstone Canyon. Next, browse the countless art galleries, studios, and bungalow-style houses that pepper the Warren District. Stop at Mimosa Market, a 100-year-old neighborhood grocer that has mastered the craft of sandwich making. Spend the night at an eccentric sleeping habitat, perhaps a retro Airstream or vintage bus at The Shady Dell Vintage Trailer Court.

Congaree National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Columbia, South Carolina

Just a two hour drive from Charleston, stately Columbia has plenty going on in spring, from weekly markets to kayaking on the Saludia River. An interesting time to visit is late May to early June, when a rare viewing of synchronous fireflies turns nearby Congaree National Park into a scene from Disney’s Fantasia, causing the swamps to glow with thousands of tiny humming insects. The fireflies in Congaree will blink in unison on evenings with the right weather conditions. Best of all, the action happens less than a quarter mile from the parking lot, so you won’t have to battle a two-hour hike to witness the breathtaking light show.

Colonial Williamsburg © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

Colonial Williamsburg isn’t just a reenactment and it isn’t just a restoration. It’s a 300-acre historic area that attracts nearly 1 million visitors every year. Tour the blacksmith shop, let the kids play Revolutionary Era games, and watch live moments in America’s past.

Historic Jamestown © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

And, then visit the Jamestown settlement and Yorktown battleground for a full historical experience.

Worth Pondering…

Remember, don’t sweat the small stuff. Life’s too short, and the older I get, the shorter it gets. So, just enjoy your life, do the best you can, live according to the Golden Rule and LIVE, LOVE & LAUGH!

Underrated Places to Hit While it’s Still Winter

Shoveling snow under gloomy skies doesn’t do winter’s brand any favors

Numerous places in the South are enjoying warm, sunny weather—a big draw for those in parts of the country where winter is long, cold, and dreary.

Here are some overshadowed places that’ll have you reveling warm during these cold-weather months.

Mississippi Gulf Coast at Bay St. Louis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Mississippi

There are also 26 miles of pristine water and white sand beaches in Mississippi, without anywhere near the number of tourists or tacky T-shirt shops you’d find in Florida. And, unlike the other beach towns on the Gulf, Biloxi, and Gulfport have casinos. And don’t overlook funky Bay St. Louis.

Mississippi Gulf Coast © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Dip your toes in the Gulf of Mexico at the “Riviera of the South,” then tap them to the beat of authentic roots blues music. Nourish your soul and body in Mississippi, known for its preservation of historical places, creative arts heritage, and natural wonders.

Ambrosia Bakery, Baton Rouge © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Louisiana

If I could eat in only three states for the rest of my life, Louisiana would be in this select group.

Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

More to the point, y’all know the high regard to which we hold the food culture of Cajun Country and the rest of Louisiana (thank you for Tabasco, po’ boys, gumbo, crawfish, jambalaya, boudin, and crackling). 

Jungle Gardens on Avery Island, home of Tabasso © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

But there is more to the Cajun appeal than just the food. Between bites of their tasty cuisine, boredom is never a problem in Cajun Country. Nature experiences are abundant on the Creole Nature Trail, an All-American Road.

Gulf Coast State Park, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Alabama

While mostly known for college football and slow cooked ribs, Alabama is actually geographically diverse with the rolling foothills of the Smoky Mountains in the North, open plains in the center, and the Gulf coast’s sandy shores in the south. This makes Alabama an excellent destination for RVers spring, summer, autumn—and winter.

Mobile, the modern and the historic © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The famed “Sweet Home Alabama” you may have heard is more than a song. This is a land of history, culture, music, and adventure from beaches to mountains. Music legends Nat “King” Cole, Lionel Hampton, W.C. Handy, and Hank Williams were born in Alabama. Here, Gospel is sung in churches and folks dance, while Blues, Country, and Jazz are also popular music genres.

Hank Aaron Childhood Home © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Alabama was home to sports greats like Hank Aaron and Joe Louis.

Alabama’s oldest city, Mobile claims America’s first Mardi Gras, a celebration that began in 1703. Every year the streets of Mobile buzz with parades and festivities for the entire family.

Historic small town Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

It’s time to take a road trip to Alabama.

Zion National Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Utah

Way down south in…Utah. Dixie has it all: mild weather, red rock hiking, proximity to national and state parks, golf—even a little cotton. Since the early 1860s when Mormon pioneers came to the far southwestern corner of Utah to grow cotton, the Washington County area has been known as Utah’s Dixie.

Sand Hollow State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The communities of St. George, Hurricane, and Springdale are situated near several national parks, state parks, and other scenic treasures that make the region so popular.

Utah Dixie’s climate features plenty of sunshine, low annual precipitation, and clean air.

Its year-round warm weather draws folks from the colder climates up north.

Shoveling snow under gloomy skies doesn't do winter's brand any favors
Quail Ridge State Park © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Winters are relatively mild with infrequent traces of snowfall which rarely stays on the ground more than a day making the area ideal for year-round golf—ten of Utah’s best courses are located there!

Hard to surpass for its variety of scenic beauty, this area is one of the most popular resort and retirement communities in the Southwest. Winter here—the prices are reasonable.

Worth Pondering…

No matter where we go in our motorhome, that sense of independence is satisfying. We have our own facilities, from comfortable bed to a fridge full of our favorite foods. We set the thermostat the way we like it and go to bed and get up in our usual routine.

Joe Cain, Moon Pies & Mobile Mardi Gras

Mobile dates its Mardi Gras to 1703, a decade and a half before New Orleans was founded

Chief Slacabamorinico would have been proud.

The Chickasaw leader was “reincarnated” by Mobile resident Joe Cain in 1866 as a rebellion against occupying Union forces.

The Civil War had brought a halt to Mardi Gras celebrations, and in April 1865, Union troops took control of the city.

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Mobile’s Mardi Gras festivities resumed unexpectedly the following year when Joseph Stillwell Cain, a local clerk and former member of the Tea Drinkers Mystic Society, led a parade through the occupied city dressed as a fictional Indian named Chief Slackabamarinico.

Cain exuberantly declared an end to Mobile’s suffering and signaled the return of the city’s parading activities, to the delight of local residents. He also succeeded in moving Mobile’s celebration from New Year’s Eve to the traditional Fat Tuesday. 

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

During and after Reconstruction, Mardi Gras became the premier event of the city’s social elite and a way of celebrating the “Lost Cause.” New societies representing different portions of the city’s diverse population began to appear. The Order of Myths (OOM), established in 1867, chose as its emblem Folly chasing Death around a broken column, imagery that was seen by many as a symbol of the “Lost Cause.” At the end of the traditional OOM parade, Death is defeated, and Folly wins the day.

In 1870, a group of young men between the ages of 18 and 21 formed the Infant Mystics, probably because they were too young to join other societies. The Knights of Revelry, formed in 1874. Their emblem of Folly dancing in a champagne glass between two crescent moons remains a familiar site during Mardi Gras parades.

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Mobile has been doing it ever since and they mark the annual occasion with majestic parades, colorful floats, and flying Moon Pies.

When people think of Mardi Gras, they think of New Orleans. But long before there even was a New Orleans, Mobile was celebrating Mardi Gras in the run-up to Ash Wednesday.

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Mobile dates its Mardi Gras to 1703, a decade and a half before New Orleans was founded. The raucous annual celebration originated in the Port City, not in the Crescent City.

Mardi Gras celebrations begin two and a half weeks before Fat Tuesday and Mobile comes to life. Elaborate themed floats manned by masked mystic societies, mounted police and marching bands wind through downtown Mobile and surrounding areas, entertaining nearly a million revelers each year.

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Many of the mystic societies hold annual formal balls. Some of the balls are private, open only to members and their families; others sell tickets to guests. Membership rules vary. Members need to be born into some societies; other groups invite residents to join, and still others accept anyone who pays the dues.

A specific decorum regarding gown design for royalty still prevails, according to the late Gordon Tatum Jr., former curator of the Mobile Carnival Museum.

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

“Cover the ankles,” he said. “It may be split to San Francisco, but cover the ankles.”

The cost for robes, gowns, and scepters, as well as full-out partying, is only governed by how deep Daddy’s pockets are. The museum’s least expensive outfit is estimated at $40,00.

Mobile has decreed that moon pies are the official throwing treat from Mardi Gras floats (too many people were being conked on the head by hard candy).

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The Mobile Carnival is a family-friendly time of parties, balls, parades, and revelry.

Find your spot and get ready to catch Moon Pies, beads, and trinkets. And not to forget the man who kept Mardi Gras alive, Joe Cain Day is observed the Sunday before Fat Tuesday. 

The party has started in Downtown Mobile and will end with Fat Tuesday on February 13.

Mobile celebrates Mardi Gras © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

But, after all, if, as a child, you saw, every Mardi Gras, the figure of Folly chasing Death around the broken column of Life, beating him on the back with a Fool’s Scepter from which dangled two gilded pig bladders; or the figure of Columbus dancing drunkenly on top of a huge revolving globe of the world; or Revelry dancing on an enormous upturned wine glass -wouldn’t you see the world in different terms, too?

—Eugene Walter, The Untidy Pilgrim