It began to rain pretty hard Sunday morning making the ride out to the airport to drop Lyndsay off a challenge with foggy conditions severe enough that staying in the lane was difficult. We returned to the house to finish cleaning up, run a load of laundry (we’d forgotten to turn on the washer) and pack the car for the short drive to Mobile.
Given the rainy conditions and extra time on our hands, we opted to stop at a Taco Bell to eat a good sized lunch not knowing if we’d be able to cook in camp later in the day. Thus would begin an adventure in fast food eating, one we’d subsequently witness a number of time in the ensuing month, that could put you off this type of dining for good. We don’t typically eat much fast food, so our experience may have been an anomaly, but from beginning to end the attention to detail and service delivery was sorely lacking.
This was a combo Taco Bell and Kentucky Fried Chicken operation and our first clue should have been when a customer came back in with a bag of KFC food and complained that the order was wrong. We stepped up and placed our order, a Quesalupa, Combo Chicken Burrito, and a beef taco with a drink. The only thing they got right was the drink, and that only because they gave us an empty cup to fill.
We opened the bag of food to discover no taco, so back to the counter to get one. Then the Chicken Burrito turned out to be beef, not bad to eat but not what I ordered so back to the counter to exchange it. After Joanna finished her Quesalupa, we compared what it was like to what we thought it should be (based on those tantalizing Super Bowl ads we’d witnessed a month earlier) and concluded she’d been given a Chalupa. Too late to do anything about it, and stuffed with Taco Bell food, we exited and resumed our journey to Mobile.
We arrived at Meaher State Park, our campground for the next four nights, as the sun came out promising us dry conditions to set up the tent. Located on the causeway just outside of Mobile near Spanish Fort, it sits facing Mobile Bay and it is utilized primarily by mobile homes and trailers, common enough circumstances at any campground today but giving us free choice to the ten tent sites allocated to that style of camping.
We chose a site with a direct view of the bay and would enjoy its location throughout our stay. After a long week in New Orleans we opted to cook up some food we’d brought with us, particularly as we couldn’t find any markets open nearby, it being Easter Sunday. A quiet evening in camp was just what we needed to begin the third leg of our South East Spring Swing
I’d come down with a cold, or some type of allergy based respiratory issue the day before so didn’t feel my best the next morning. We had a slow start to the day and left late morning to hit a supermarket nearby and provision for the next few days. We returned to camp and made sandwiches for lunch and having dawdled quite a bit, began to run out of afternoon in which to do some sightseeing.
I decided I could be sick in camp or sick taking in sights and so we took off for one of our primary Mobile objectives, the battleship USS Alabama. My Dad was a Merchant Marine during World War II and communicated his love for the sea and for large sailing ships to us throughout our childhood. Anytime there was an open house down at the Long Beach Naval Shipyard (long since closed) we’d head there for a tour and burger at the base mess hall.
Like any of the people who served during the war, it was quite possibly the event that changed his life and the stories my Dad told about his time at sea were legendary, yarns spun late at night with old friends that captivated my brother and I. One gift we were able to give him a few years before he passed away was a day long trip out of San Pedro on one of the remaining Liberty Shops, the Jeremiah O’Brien. It was a beautiful early fall day (I recall the UCLA Football game being shown on a TV) and we sailed the channel to Catalina Island. Along the way vintage WWII fighter planes staged mock battles over the ship and for a few moments, my Dad was back there, a young man in the prime of his life, living the adventure.
We’ve toured the battleship North Carolina in Wilmington and the aircraft carrier Midway in San Diego so this wasn’t’ our first rodeo, but still the size and complexity of these large ships, living museums to the technology of the time kept our interest when we wrapped up our tour, three hours later at the close of the day, we were exhausted after having climbed up and down steep ladders and ducked through many narrow openings.
We rested up back at the campground for a while before venturing into Mobile to meet with Leigh and James for an evening of fine beers and good food at LoDa Biergarten. Situated in the middle of the downtown part of the city, we found a place to park a block or so away and walked up to the entrance, initially intimidated by a long line which we found out was waiting for the next serving of a seafood boil that was cooking in a big pot just outside the front door.
We grabbed a table inside, ordered an Avondale Miss Fancy (that good beer from Birmingham) and a local lager and not long after, Leigh and James arrived. Glad to see this happy couple after our last visit a little over a year ago, we settled into the type of pleasant conversation one enjoys when catching up with folks we like after a period of time apart. Having eaten here a number of times, Leigh and James recommended we start with the Guachummus appetizer, a creamy blend of garlic/tahini hummus and guacamole, a delightful combination and a house special the Pig on a Stick, 3 bacon wrapped deep fried Conecuh sausage corn dogs served with a Honey Dijonaise dipping sauce.
We had thought the four of us would split the corn dogs, but it was insisted that Joanna and I each eat one apiece, a guilty pleasure but one that left little room for anything else. On the spot though we ordered the house fish and chips to split, a good sized serving of Abita-Amber-battered Atlantic Haddock every bit as good as any of the fresh fish we’d been consuming for a little over two weeks. Along the way we’d ordered a Good People Snake Handler apiece, another great 10% Double IPA from Birmingham.
By now stuffed and fully hydrated, we bid Leigh and James a fond farewell, walked the block back to the car and drove to camp. Another successful day of sightseeing and connecting with old friends had come to an end. Sleep came easily that night, a combination of tiredness and cold medicine as I tried to chase the illness and allergy induced sense of un-wellness out of my system. The sound of small waves lapping against the bay shore provided a dreamy melody that brought good dreams. We’d see what the next day would bring.
Meaher State Park: http://www.alapark.com/meaher-state-park
Long Beach Naval Shipyard: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_Beach_Naval_Shipyard
USS Alabama: http://www.ussalabama.com/
Merchant Marines WWII: http://www.usmm.org/ww2.html
SS Jerimiah O’Brien: http://www.ssjeremiahobrien.org/
LoDa Biergarten: http://www.lodabeer.com/#loda-bier-garden