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Sweet Home Alabama…

Posted by on June 26, 2016

alabama seal“SWEET HOME ALABAMA” SONG LYRICS. 1974. 

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

ANOTHER POWERFUL THUNDERSTORM. Now back in Pensacola after our day at the Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve, I sit by our balcony window marveling at the powerful and dramatic thunderstorm which has just begun. Striking, bright and almost blinding bolts of lightning pierce the darkness, as torrential rain pours from the sky. The lights in our little apartment flicker. And then all goes dark. Deafening thunder. It’s as if God wants me to take note of His power and pay more attention to what’s important in life. Duly noted. I marvel at the effect this storm is having on me and I feel God’s presence more than ever. And that’s saying lots, since His miracle recently spared my life in the face of my doctors’ predictions that I’d perish within a few hours. No, not just yet doctor. When I open my eyes and come out of the coma I suffered for almost eight weeks, I’ll work hard to regain my strength.  I’ll walk again and my kidneys will heal. I won’t need dialysis to keep me alive. No, I’ve got some work to do. Folks I don’t even know are waiting for me. I’ve become acutely aware that He has a plan for me. I think it’s an important one. You’ll know when I know. I’ve had hints, but there’s more in store. I’m sure of it. I’m humbled and excited at the same time. It’s just God, me and the storm. There’s more for me to do on this earth.


Not an uncommon sight in the deep South. But the folks all seem to be good Americans. They mean no harm. They’re just acutely aware of their heritage and determined to preserve it.

FLOMATAN, ALABAMA. The area is eerily like the spot in Georgia where “Deliverance” was filmed. As those of you who saw the film know, Burt Reynolds and his companions had anything but the peaceful weekend they’d planned, floating down the river in their canoes. But here there are no bad boys with big heads playing the banjo. In this huge Wildlife Reserve there’s contentment. It permeates my soul. Good old boys in the American Coffee House play checkers on a board perched precariously over a pickle barrel. A couple other folks sit at the counter sipping their coffee. By all appearances they’re in the midst of an important conversation. A few miles down the road at the Paradise Cafe, cut-up chicken floats in the fryer, having been seasoned and basted “just so.” The recipe is from somebody’s grandmother. Recipes are learned, cherished and handed down from one generation to the next. My GPS doesn’t work out here. Neither does my phone. When I stopped to get directions, a lady with wizened brow said to me, “Go way up yonder past the caution light. You’ll see a little country store with an old Coke sign. You gotta stop in and ask Miss Bell for some of her sweet tea. She’ll tell you exactly how to get to the Reserve.” Thank you, ma’am. We’ll just do that.

entrance2MAGNOLIA BRANCH WILDLIFE RESERVE.  Florence and I drove all around this huge park, marveling at the fields, lakes and pine forests. We silently compared it to the “high-end Class A motorhome parks” where we’ve stayed during the last few years. There’s nothing wrong with those places at all. Staying there just doesn’t have the same effect as we’d get staying here. But it’s just too hot. Period. Today’s high was 102 and the humidity hovered around 78 percent. I enjoyed watching Florence fly her drone and we did a little off-roading in the Jeep, but we’ve changed our minds about staging here after we leave our apartment and prepare for the next leg of our Adventure. There are zip lines over the lake. Deer and turtles poke their heads around trees and rocks to check us out. An alligator’s beady eyes are barely noticeable on the water’s surface. It would be a fun place to stay, but not in the summertime. Alabama in the summer is way too hot! Anywhere in the South is too hot.

HERE ARE SOME  OF THE PICTURES I TOOK. During the day as we explored the Reserve, Florence flying her drone and me drivingentrance the Jeep off-road as if still a kid, I wasn’t so philosophical or contemplative as I am now…during the Storm. These images paint a picture of our day. Kids playing in the water and showing-off as they buzz across the lake on zip lines. Others eating watermelon and fried chicken. Blacks and Whites. We had fun.  Perhaps we’ll return in the Fall and go fishing with bamboo poles. Maybe we’ll chat again with the lady who lives down the road. She grows table grapes to sell passers-by and supplement her monthly Social Security check. It arrives on the second Tuesday of each month. The mail carrier puts it into her mailbox. There is no direct deposit to her bank account. She has no bank account. There are no banks here anyway.  No, we won’t stay here now. Summers are just too hot. It’s time for us to leave the land of Dixie and find a cool breeze rustling through the pines in Pennsylvania. In a couple more weeks we’ll be on our way.



The Reserve is owned by the Poarch Indians. They share it with the public for camping and fishing, while maintaining its unspoiled beauty. 



There are miles of roads like this in the Reserve. They lead nowhere…and everywhere.



Nature’s clutter is perfect.




We’ve towed our Jeep about 10,000 miles behind our motorhome in the last three years, always on the lookout for a dramatic river crossing to capture on film. We found that crossing today, in the back country of Alabama.



This river crossing was not for the faint of heart. I took a deep breath, shifted into the lowest of our all-wheel drive gears and took a chance. Frightening!


Our hearts pounded as we crested this ridge, not knowing what dangers might lurk on the other side.



We have a Great American Adventure sticker on the back windshield of the Jeep. All kidding aside, we’re frequently asked about our Journey. Many of the folks who’ve asked about it are now subscribers to my blog. Yes! We love having company on our Adventure. Why don’t you subscribe, right now?




Florence flies her drone, “Flying Blind” up to the clouds, where she competes with birds for available airspace. Can you see the birds? Do you see her drone? What fun she has. She likes all things mechanical. I enjoy watching her have so much fun! I wouldn’t trade her for a million bucks. 



The Pilot going through her pre-launch checklist before launching her drone in the reserve this afternoon. Flying conditions were good.




Becoming licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration as a pilot is serious business. And no, I’m not kidding about the license. Pilots who ignore flight protocols, if apprehended, are subjected to forfeiting their licenses, steep fines and incarceration.




Up, up and away. That’s what I’m talking about. “Flying Blind” heads to the Heavens.




Safely back on the ground, with battery life to spare. Good work, my dear!



Despite the heat, kids scamper up the steps to this platform where they’re tethered to the zip line before they zoom across the lake. Or they can jump onto “the blob.” $5 per kid per day. Dawn ’til disk. Unlimited play. Sounds reasonable to me.




Patiently waiting for prey.






ANOTHER GREAT DAY ON OUR ADVENTURE. Florence, we’ve been through a lot during the last eight months. You helped the doctors save my life. And yes, as you’ve told me time and again, “That’s just what a wife does.” I know that, but think about it for a moment: I’d have been done. We’d have been done. Our Great American Adventure would have come to a screeching halt, if you’d not made sure the doctors knew I wouldn’t give up even though they almost encouraged you to do so. You and I knew we needed more time to explore America. We were in touch. When you’d give me your hand I’d squeeze it, if ever so slightly. Thank you. But now, I’ve seen enough doctors. I’ve had it with hospital stays. No more invasive procedures or surgery. I worked hard at the West Florida Rehabilitation Institute. I’m strong and healthy again. It’s time for us to pack up, put Pensacola in our rear view mirror and find another playground. Let’s head north…anywhere to escape this heat. Let’s find some shade trees…perhaps swim in one of the Great Lakes. Or visit Niagra Falls. And when we get there, wherever that may be, let’s thank God for sustaining us through a challenging time. Let’s just turn it over and have fun. God won’t begrudge us that.  I’m sure of it. Let’s hit the road and find more adventure. Because together we’re an awesome force. And without each other…well, we’re just two small fish in a very large pond.

I’LL CONTINUE MY STORY NEXT TIME. Return and be with us while we continue our Adventure. Contact us. Help us decide where to go and what to see. We’d like your input. We really would.

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