May 14, 2017
After visiting Georgia next on our list was Alabama. Although it is generally speaking a very scenic state with tons of great little roads to drive through the hill country, it isn’t necessarily the most touristy state in the country. Especially not when you, like us, decide to skip Mobile and only visit Montgomery and Birmingham. Unless you are a serious US history enthousiast, neither of these cities had much interesting. That is not to say that there is nothing because you can always find something quirky to make your visit worthwhile. For us in Alabama this was the Town of Spectre and the Sloss Furnaces.
Being a big fan of almost all Tim Burton movies you can imagine the joy when we found out that one of my favourite movies, Big Fish, was in part filmed in Alabama. And not only was it in part filmed there, a major location in the movie was built entirely on a private island close to Montgomery and film crew never bothered with breaking it down again after filming finished. The owners of the island never bothered with breaking it down either and if you call them and ask nicely they will give you the code that locks the big gate that will give you access to the island.
The island itself is beautiful and the Town of Spectre looks relatively well preserved given that it has been 14 years since they stopped filming. After the film crew left the town, goats have taken over the town and are vandalising the buildings. When we got there we heard one of the goats make a lot of noise and when we got the animal it turned out she was just bitten by a snake and unfortunately died right in front of us. When we called the owners of the island to tell them of the goat and its whereabouts they said they had never lost a goat before. Apparently we don’t bring luck
As the name implies, Sloss Furnaces at some point in time was an active iron producing blast furnace. From 1882 until 1971 the furnace was one of the reasons Birmingham strived and the main reason for its strong economy. After the furnaces shut down, the site was preserved and openend to the public. Nowadays its greatest claim to fame is being considered as one of the most haunted properties in the country. Rumour has it a couple of nasty ghosts call the furnaces home now. However after the goat died in front of us, even the ghosts seemed to be worried about our presence and as a result we could stroll around the premises without problems.
After two not so interesting cities Nashville came at just the right moment and after the first evening I already knew that Charleston has just been surpassed by Nashville as favourite city on the trip so far. Nashville calls itself “Music City” and not without reason; everything and everyone in the city seems to have something to do with music. No matter when, no matter where there is always some live music just a corner away. On our first evening we managed to see performances of five different Singer-Songwriters who all were all delivering high quality songs. And when you are bored of all quality original songs, broadway and its broad variety of Honky Tonks has you covered. Bar upon bar where cover bands are showing their talents, hoping to one day impress just the right person.
One and a half hour north from Nashville in the middle of Kentucky is where we came across Mammoth Caves which is the longest cave system in the world. Right now the cave system is in total a little over 400 Miles long, but new tunnels are being discovered constantly.
Since we started our trip, we have almost always been the only tourist wherever we came. 400 Miles driving on the Blue Ridge Parkway? We passed two cars. Visiting The Lost World Caverns in West Virginia? The only living things in the caves besides us? Some rodents. Not so much at Mammoth Caves. On arrival we learned that you can’t do any self guided tours, you will need to go with a group. We also learned that the majority of the different tours were already fully booked way ahead of time. Fortunately they had two spots left on one of the tours later that day that we could join and after hours waiting, we learned the tour was rubbish. It was a two hour tour through the caves, however the only reason it takes two hours is because the group size was 120+ who all need to descent and pass through narrow walkways single file. Which is probably fine when all 120 people in the group are fit and healthy, but turns into a disaster when half of the people are walking with a cane. Now I am the polar opposite of a fit young guy, but I am pretty sure I could have done the entire tour on my own pace in 20 minutes.
Leaving Mammoth Caves for our next destination, Metropolis, Annemarie found another potential interesting road side attraction on our route. A toy museum. Or so we thought. Arriving at the location at 6:00 PM we expected a quick 10 minute walk around the museum before we would go en route again. Little did we know that three hours later the owner, Keith Holt, would still be walking us around the property. The Toy Museum itself is the size of a small bedroom, but still manages to showcase thousands of items. However just as interesting, if not more so, is Keith’s garden which has been turned into a massive collection of Folk Art pieces or how he often refers to it “Hillbilly Art”. Throughout the graden there are dozens of installations which are all based on a pun or wordplay. As an example we have “Throne Henge” (photo 2) or the “re-TIRE-ment home” (photo 3). Keith has a long interesting story with each of the different installations, which is the reason our planned 10 minute stop cost us more than three hours in the end.