Can we have a drum roll please? Time to introduce the latest four-legged member of our family - meet Daisy! She is a Border Collie mix (we're not sure what the mix part is) that we adopted from the Animal Rescue Foundation in Theodore, Alabama. Known as the Arfanage, Daisy was one of their Arphans. She had been at the Arfanage since last August when she was rescued from another shelter whose owner had a huge heart and couldn't turn away any animals that were going to be put down. Unfortunately, that big heart led to animal neglect and being shut down by the county with most of the dogs and all of the cats going to the Arfanage.
Daisy's age is guessed at approximately seven years old, came to us housetrained, walks pretty well on a leash, is very dog-friendly, doesn't chew anything unless you tie her up and walk out of her line of vision, then her leash is fair game in her mind. She is skittish around new folks till she gets to know them, men more so than women. If she could talk, we'd learn more of her background. What she is terrified of is thunder and lightning. After two storms in one week in which she tried to crawl into bed with us (we know other folks allow their pets to sleep with them but we've never been comfortable with that), we ordered a Thundershirt which has worked wonders. This 'shirt' wraps snugly around her and must feel like a hug. At the first sign of a storm, the shirt goes on and she calms down and will lay in her bed (at the foot of our bed) all night. We all get a good night's sleep - what a wonderful invention!
When we first got her, she followed us around like our shadows but is more independent now. We do still have to work on her occasional barking at night when we leave her alone but we'll try different things to see what works best. Maybe in time she'll realize she is not being abandoned. She did quite well with her first bath - we took her to a dog wash called Dirty Hairy in nearby Daphne - towels, shampoo, brushes, a waist-high walk-in tub, a dryer - what a bargain for $15! She's not too fond of getting her teeth brushed, but we'll work on that. And of all the dogs we've had over the past 40 years, she is by far the easiest to sit still while her nails get trimmed.
It's been four a half years since we lost Shelley - now we have to get back into the routine of having a four-legged critter around to care for. We certainly get our daily exercise, no matter the weather!
Longtime friends and mountain dulcimer mentors Karen and Galen arrived at the Plantation early in the month - we'll have several opportunities to practice our music together as well as hang out and do fun things. We said our goodbyes to Dave and Mary as they headed to Tuscaloosa to lead a Habitat build there - we'll see them again in April.
During the snowbird season, Rainbow Plantation hosts monthly specially Sunday dinners. This month's was international for which several folks signed up to bring a dish. These dishes were then labeled and placed on tables on the perimeter of the clubhouse dining area. Club members then made a $3.00 donation to partake in as many of these dishes as they had room for on their plates, and until the dish ran out. Obviously, several favorites were there as the longest lines were at those tables. We managed to get more than enough for our plates and fill our bellies with the two tables around us. Yet we still had room for the ice cream social coming up right after the meal. The Sunday ice cream social serves two purposes - one is to satisfy those ice cream cravings, the second to pass on information on what's happening in the club and nearby - always well attended.
Based on several recommendations, we (the two of us plus Dave and Mary) enjoyed a buffet lunch at the Gift Horse Restaurant. Known for their apple cheese dish (scrumptious), the rest of the huge buffet table was loaded down with a large variety of salads, vegetables, entrees, soup and rolls. Somehow we missed seeing the dessert table, which is located to the left when you first enter the beautiful dining room. Monday prices are especially attractive. Using a coupon distributed by the visitor center, we had lunch, one at full price, one at half. An even better deal is bringing in a church bulletin on Mondays and getting a free meal after you pay for the first one - wotta deal! We will be back with bulletin in hand.
A little bit about the Gift Horse building: Built in 1912, the beaded pine walls and ceilings are impressive. Its original purpose was the Foley Progressive Club, a membership club consisting of a group of men who helped to found Foley. What is now the huge dining room used to be where dances, concerts and cultural events were held. It was then sold to the American Legion in 1937 and was used during World War II as the USO Club. It has also housed several hardware stores and in the 1950s, it was a skating rink. Purchased by the McLeods in 1984, the building was renovated to the beauty we see there today, and has been a restaurant since then. The buffet table mentioned earlier dates to around 1840 and is 28 feet long - very sturdy to hold the variety of foods on this Southern buffet.
At one of the club's functions recently, we met Ken and Helen and Andy and were invited to join them to play Pegs and Jokers, a board game - what fun we had! We had a weekly date with them, continuing to learn the strategies.
Long time friend Norlando lives in the Mobile area. We always manage to get in at least one visit with her when we are here in Summerdale. On her suggestion, we met at the Five Rivers Delta Resource Center - a fascinating place. This huge complex is built on the acres and acres of fill dredged to build the bridge on I-10 across the Mobile Bay. There is an exhibit hall loaded with both live and preserved animals found in the area; a classroom where children of all ages are encouraged to handle the animal pelts, bones, and read about the critters in that room. Two of the employees were giving tours to a group of school children. We listened in on the snake talk in the exhibit hall and stood in line in the classroom with the children to pet Amelia the skunk.
There is a large theater where we watched an interesting movie about the Mobile Tensaw Delta, as well as listening to the Resource Center's manager tell more about the center to a group of educators there at the same time. Lots of decking overlooking the marsh, a huge hall that can be rented for weddings, etc...picnic pavilions, boat landing....and other than the boat tours - no admission fees but donations are welcome. They have several eco-boat tours leaving from their docks - we'll plan on one next month. Don't miss a stop at the gift shop - they've got some really fascinating, unusual and reasonably priced items for sale there.
Mountain View, Arkansas friends Steve and Diane were staying at the RV park in Dauphin Island so off we went one day. Karen and Galen headed for the ferry and we took our own car so that we could leave earlier now that we have Daisy. We opted to drive the entire way rather than depend on the ferry's schedule, giving us a little more control of our time. As it turns out, the day was so foggy, which never lifted, that the ferry was cancelled so Karen and Galen had to do a lot of backtracking to get to Dauphin Island.
Steve and Diane and several others, also from Mountain View, arranged a dulcimer jam, with a potluck lunch provided by our hosts. We all had fun playing music for a couple of hours and enjoying meeting some of the other folks over lunch. We'll have to return on a clear day - there is so much to see and do on the island.
Back at the Rainbow Plantation, we started a Thursday afternoon dulcimer jam, primarily for acoustic instruments. There are Monday, Wednesday and Friday afternoon jams that are geared more towards bluegrass music. These jams are quite popular with guitars, dobros, mandolins, fiddles, some of which are amplified. Dulcimer music would be drowned out, thus the Thursday jam. The first week was well attended with appreciation that the dulcimers had their own jam here at the clubhouse - we'll continue this through the end of our stay here.
We finally got some fresh Gulf shrimp, driving down to Bon Secour where you buy it almost right off of the docks. We stopped at both Aquila Seafood and Billy's Seafood, getting at least a pound at each location. Of the two, we prefer Aquila, not only because it was a little cheaper, but because the shrimp appeared to be better quality. Maybe we caught Billy's on a bad day. We froze some of the shrimp for a later meal and thoroughly enjoyed grilling some that evening, using a marinade thrown together with existing ingredients in the cupboard. The shrimp and marinade was scrumptious - Lucille wrote down what she used to remember for next time.
Back in 2005, we met fellow Escapees Mike and Darlene in Du Quoin, Illinois, at the Fall Escapade. Along with Karen and Galen, the six of us volunteered serving coffee and donuts during the rally. Mike and Darlene have now settled in nearby Fairhope - we met them for lunch at the Mellow Mushroom and spent some time catching up. We hope to see them again before we leave the area. They gave us several tips of places and things to see and do while in the area.
We attended our first Geocaching event with Karen and Galen - a poker run held in Foley. The four of us played just for fun and against each other - Karen held the winning hand. It was a great way to get in some exercise and see a bit of downtown Foley.
Some of the sightseeing we did during the month:
Foley Railroad Station and Historic Depot Museum: Built in 1909, this depot was the city's hub of activity for over 60 years. When the Louisville and Nashville Line discontinued service to Foley in 1971, the building was going to be demolished. It was purchased for a dollar and moved to Magnolia Springs serving as a warehouse for the phone company, then deeded to Foley in 1995 and moved back to its original location and turned into a museum.
The exhibits now on display highlight not only Foley's history but also how the railroad impacted the development of this area. On certain days the model train exhibit is open - we'll have to return to see this - we heard it is quite impressive. Admission is free but donations welcome.
Holmes Medical Museum: This museum is now in the building that was originally Foley's and Baldwin County's first hospital, serving the county from 1936-1958. Dr. Sibley Holmes, with his wife Philomene, a nurse, and later on, son Dr. William C. Holmes, ran the hospital. On display there is antique medical equipment, a recreated operating room, patient rooms, x-ray and pharmacy rooms, and a collection of quackery medical devices which were never part of the original hospital.
Dr. Holmes was the town physician and didn't have the time to go back to school to be certified as a surgeon so whenever surgery had to be scheduled, a surgeon from Mobile would come to the hospital.
This wasn't a very big hospital. The men's and women's wards each had four beds and private rooms were available. In 1941, the cost of a week's stay in a private room and delivery of a baby in the hospital totaled less than $100. In 1952, the cost of a private room was $8.00 a day. Wow!
This was a fun place to visit - lots of history. Admission is free but donations welcome.
National Naval Aviation Museum in Pensacola. We have been there several times but this was a first for Karen and Galen. We like to visit the museum when we are in the area because there are always new exhibits to see. Several rooms and an additional building house displays of early aircraft - fixed wing, helicopters, dirigibles as well as today's aircraft. There are several video monitors showing films related to specific eras in time as they relate to aviation and military history. It is very hard to describe all that can be seen there - you'll have to make a trip there. The museum is located on Naval Air Station Pensacola but a military ID is not needed to get on to base - all you need is a picture ID and proof of vehicle insurance. Museum admission is free but donations welcome.
After lunch at the Cubi Cafe at the Naval Aviation Museum, we drove across the street to the Pensacola Lighthouse and Museum. This is the oldest and tallest lighthouse on the Gulf Coast and is still active as a navigation aid. First lit in 1859, its beacon is visible 27 miles out to sea. It is built of brick and rests on a man-made 40-foot deep granite foundation. The walls are ten feet thick at the base and three feet thick at the top with 177 cast iron steps spiraling up to the lantern room. Of the four of us, Larry was the only energetic one to climb to the top. The museum has several rooms dedicated to lighthouse history and the families who lived there.
Graham Creek Nature Preserve is located in Foley and is a work in progress. There are walking, running, bicycling trails as well as a canoe/kayak launch. There is a disc golf course, picnic areas and pavilion. This is an ideal spot for birding and on the 484 acres of the preserve are over 700 plant species and a gopher tortoise colony. We went there on a pleasant sunny day after several days of rain. Daisy joined us so she could get some exercise along with us, and boy did we! We had difficulty finding the trail we chose, a little over two miles long. Trail markers were sporadic - some on official posts, some on a stick. Because of all the rain, some of the trail was under water. We were all a muddy mess when we finally found out way back to the car - it looks like went mud-bogging, on foot!
So ends February. We'll be here in Summerdale through the end of March, then will head to Mountain View, Arkansas for a couple of weeks, then on to Springfield, Missouri for Habitat's RV Care-A-Vanners 25th Anniversary Build and Rally with over 100 RVs expected - should be fun! After that, we'll slowly head east to end up at our site at Klondike Camping Resort in Otis, Massachusetts for spring, summer and part of fall.