We spent five days in Tuscaloosa, Alabama with my son Travis and his wife Geli, touring the area for blog fodder and introducing people at libraries and stores to my books. But all good things must come to an end, and before we knew it was time to head home to Florida.
We left Wednesday morning after lots of hugs and promises to get together again soon, then retraced our route down US Highway 82 to Montgomery. But instead of turning south toward Dothan, the way we had come to Tuscaloosa, we continued east to Tuskegee, a place I have wanted to visit for as long as I can remember.
There isn’t much to Tuskegee, even as small towns go, but it has two very important attractions. One is the Tuskegee Institute, founded by Booker T. Washington in 1881. He attracted the best and brightest instructors, including George Washington Carver, who gained fame for his many inventions and methods to use common plants to improve everyday life. The college has grown to become Tuskegee University, a private, historically black university that is world renowned for the quality of education it provides.
Today the college is part of the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, and since it was summertime, the campus was not very busy. We spent some time touring the fascinating George Washington Carver Museum, which should be a must stop for anybody traveling through this part of the country. It’s amazing to see how much this man who began life as a slave accomplished, and I will post a blog about the museum in the next few days.
After touring the museum, we paused at the Lifting the Veil of Ignorance Monument nearby, which honors Booker T. Washington. Dedicated on April 15, 1922, the bronze monument shows him symbolically lifting the veil of ignorance off his people, represented by a terrified slave, and pointing him toward a new and better life obtained through education and industry.
Just outside the main campus is The Oaks, Booker T. Washington’s home. Built in 1900, the beautiful house was the university’s center of social activity and an important meeting place for faculty, students, and visiting dignitaries.
A few miles outside of town, we stopped at Moton Field, where the famed all-black Tuskegee Airmen were trained for service in World War II. Today it is home to the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, and two hangers hold displays on the airmen and the challenges they faced here at home and at war, and their many accomplishments in combat. I will have a blog about our visit to the museum soon.
We had planned to stop at Columbus, Georgia to tour a couple of interesting museums there, but there were several things going on in town and no hotel rooms available, so we decided to do that another time. Instead we traveled southeast through Albany to Tifton. Along the way we ran into a terrible rainstorm that got so bad that we actually had to pull off the highway into a Walmart parking lot for a while because visibility was down to nothing. We eventually made it to Tifton, where we spent the night at the Country Inn and Suites, which was a very nice hotel at a very reasonable price.
By the next morning the sky was clear and the storms were gone. We took I-75 south to Florida. When we spotted a sign for Webb’s Antique Mall just south of Lake City, we decided to stop and check it out, and were glad we did. This place is huge and it would take most of the day to see it all. I am always looking for badges to add to my collection, and I hit the motherlode there. They had one showcase filled with everything from police and fire department badges to security guard badges, and I managed to come away with some goodies.
A few miles further down the road we ran into a massive traffic jam and crept along at about two miles per hour for over an hour. When we finally got past that there was no evidence of a problem except for an accident on the other side of the highway. I guess everybody was just rubbernecking, hoping to see someone else’s misfortune.
We got off the interstate and went to Inverness to visit an antique shop there, where I managed to score two more badges. Elvis Presley spent some time in Inverness in 1961 while filming the movie Follow That Dream, and it was the childhood home of John Lee’s grandmother, Mama Nell, who saw Elvis there as a young girl and has been obsessed with him ever since, in my John Lee Quarrels book series.
From Inverness, we went east on State Route 44 a few miles, passing the Three Flags RV Campground where we used to stay quite often during our fulltime RVing days. We stopped at a couple of antique shops in Wildwood, where Terry found a nice old glass butter churn with the original wooden paddles and a pretty brass kerosene lamp that begged to come home with us.
We continued eastbound, stopping for dinner in Sanford, and arrived home about 9 PM with 320 miles under our belt for the day. It’s always nice to get away, but nothing beats coming home to your own bed. And we were tired enough that it didn’t take us long to get there once we had the van unloaded and things put away.
In the next few days I will be posting blogs about some of the other interesting places we saw on our trip, including visits to an old country church and burial ground far off the beaten path, and a movie set we didn’t know existed. Stay tuned!
Thought For The Day – I am so broke, I can’t even afford to fill up my bicycle’s tires.