"Two roads diverged in a yellow wood... And sorry I could not travel both. I took the one less traveled by. And that has made all the difference." --Robert Frost

Monday, May 3, 2021

Southern Alabama - It's the WATER!

Coffeeville, Alabama
Service Campground COE

If Mississippi was all about the skies, then Alabama was all about the water!  We have loved that all of out campsites have been on lakes or rivers.  It's strange to hear about low water and drought conditions back in California and most of the west when there is water EVERYWHERE here!  So many storms and flooding.  Seems Mother Nature is either dishing us feast or famine.

We spent our few days here just relaxing and watching the boats and barges drift by on the Tombigbee River.  This river is huge.  It runs 200 miles through Mississippi and Alabama emptying out into the Gulf of Mexico.  It is one of the principle routes of commercial navigation running through several locks connecting it with the upper Tennessee River System.
Service Campground is another great example of the Army Corp of Engineer (COE) campgrounds.  They are always spaced out with plenty of foliage, grass, trees and large sites.  We had 50amp and water.  There is a dump station and garbage on the way out.  It's a smaller campground with most riverside sites and a few across in the woods.  Our time mid-week here was very quiet.
Site #14, $26.
The water was moving very quickly so we didn't put the kayak in  We just enjoyed the scenery.

The barges were enormous.  They carry mostly coal and grain.  Some are over 400 feet long.  They are very quiet and if you aren't looking they can drive right by and you wouldn't know they are there. 

You have to always be watching the weather as the storms can be brutal here and come up quickly.  We can always move and dodge some of them best we can.  This particular storm kept building and was so big there was nowhere for us to go as it was moving dead east.  We couldn't go south and we couldn't move east.  Looks like we'll have to hunker down.  The staff was great about giving us plenty of warning and reminding us that the bathroom would remain open as a shelter in case of tornados touching down as there are no sirens out here.  We put everything away and filled our fresh water tank.  This helps in case the power goes out we can pump from our fresh water tank and it also gives us a bit of weight for ballast.  The winds hit us light a brick wall right on time and we brought our slides in.  It was a bit nerve wracking for about a 1/2 hour then just like that, the storm tracked more NE and the worst of it skirted us.  Whew.  We've been really lucky with the storms this trip so far.
The next day I drove around while Steve worked and wanted to see one of the locks while I looked for a grocery store.  Of course I had to drive down one of the dirt roads.  How's this for red, dirt roads?  The lock I went to was very lacking in interest.  It just looked like a very old, worn dam.  I didn't even bother to take a picture.  This trip we have really stayed on the back, BACK roads.  Not many towns to even speak of.  In a 3 hour loop I went though a few towns but NO grocery stores!  Makes you wonder how far people have to drive out here for services.  I always wonder what folks do for fun out in places like this but some people just like privacy.  I did find one "store" but it was an abandoned looking gas station from what looked like the Twilight Zone.  I did not go in.  I'd pass an average looking home, then a couple old beat up trailers, then a mansion, then a tiny church.  Then another tiny church.  I don't think I've ever seen so many churches scattered about in the woods.  A church for every 5 houses it seemed.
The next day was cooler and sunny.  It was May 5th.  We have fun wondering where we'll be on Cinco de Mayo when we plan our years trip.  We always end up somewhere fun.  This time we had to drive almost an hour north to get to the town of Butler.  I should've drove north when I was looking for a grocery store.  This is a much larger town and had 2 of them.  It was very cute actually and we wish we had more time to explore.  By time Steve was finished with work and we arrived here it was 7 o'clock.  For a small town all closed down, this was the only Mexican restaurant and it was packed!  We still had to wait almost an hour to get seated.  It sure was good though!  And it wasn't a dry county so we enjoyed margaritas.  Well, just one margarita!
I had the small since I was driving. The food was delicious too!  At Don Rafa they really take care of you.  They even gave us a margarita to go!

Opp, Alabama
Frank Johnson State Park

As we move from the lower western side of Alabama to the lower center, we have one of the lakeside campsites.  This is a smaller state park but nicely kept and spaced out with deep sites.

FHU, $36, #17.
The 3 days we were here we went on walks and kayaked the lake.
Our neighbor had a cute Airstream.  I'm guessing they upgraded from tents.  Cute name!

The Lillypads were blooming all over the lake.

We had a planned side trip to hike Florida's High Point.  Back in 2017 we hiked 29 or so highest points/peaks of elevation in each state.  Since we were at the bottom of Alabama, it was only 30 miles to get to Britton Hill.  The High Point is actually in a small park in Lakewood, FL, at the northern border.  It is the lowest High Point at 345 feet.  It required a "tiring hike" of about 50 feet from the parking lot to the marker.  You really don't even notice the miniscule uphill.  It is described as:
You can summit without a Sherpa.  Your grandmother can get to the top without breaking a sweat.

Nearby is the Veterans Memorial Scenic Overlook.

On our last day we decided to take a nice walk around part of the lake.

The sun was setting and it was just gorgeous.

This large sign literally sits in front of the beach/swimming area.  We did see some swimmers.  Crazy as we did see an alligator not far from here.  They say there is a net around it but what keeps the gators from walking around the shoreline and getting in that way?  Crazy!
We watched the sky turn bright orange and reds and then soft pinks and purples.  What a nice restful stop along our route.

Abbeville, Alabama
Hardridge Creek COE Campground

Our last stay in Alabama was near the NE bottom of the state.  It's yet another great campground run by the Army Corp of Engineers (COE) sitting on Lake Eufala.  Our site sits out on a very narrow peninsula with water on both sides of our site.
W/50a/Dump, $26, #41.
We had one of those crescent shaped pull throughs with a large pad and lawn.  Most of these sites have lots of vegetation, bushes and trees between sites for privacy.  The only downside were the ants.  Those tiny ants.  When you drive through and you see powder squares on the ground you know there is an ant problem.  They don't like Ajax, Comet or Diatomaceous Earth.  So if you sprinkle some around all of your contact points (jack legs, hoses, steps) you have a better chance of not having a problem.  Even if it rains, it usually stays in place.
The only downside to some COE campgrounds is the late check-in times.  The check-in time here is 4:00p!  That's the latest I've seen.  And they enforce it to the tee.  Even though our site was empty, we had to wait.  They were nice enough to let us drop our trailer in the parking lot and suggested we drive back, 20 minutes, to the town of Abbeville for dinner.  Well, we just drove through it to get here but we went back to look around as it did look like a cute town.
It was cute, but mostly closed down.  In all fairness, it was a Sunday.  We walked around and looked at the County Courthouse, movie theater, churches, water tower etc.  We hoped to get a drink and maybe an appetizer at a place called Huggin' Molly's, but it was also closed.
Some unique history here.  The town of Abbeville gets it's name from an old Creek Indian adapted meaning.

We got a laugh out of this creepy story and hoped to come back at night for a another walk through town to see if we'd have an encounter with Molly, but alas it didn't happen.  I think it was just a way to get the kids to be home at night on time!

Old Methodist Church circa 1896.
The next day we couldn't wait to get onto the lake.  We had a nice paddle before Steve started work.  Here is a pic of each side of our campsite viewed from the kayak.
It was definitely a favorite site!  

This lake is known as the top Bass fishing lake of the world.  There are many tournaments held here each weekend.  We were here during the week and there were bass boats all over the place scoping out their favorite spots.
We paddled mostly back in the shallow coves where the boats weren't allowed.

We took a day trip up to the town of Eufala at the north end of the lake for a couple of reasons.  One it is just an adorable town with tons of history, and two, that pipeline shutdown had made finding diesel a bit tricky for us.  Turned out instead of filling up at the only station nearby for $3.09, there were more stations than I thought in Eufala with diesel closer to $2.79.  I called a couple and they were out of diesel, so better safe than sorry.
Eufala sits along the Chattahoochee River which flows into the Apalachicola River then the Gulf of Mexico.  The town was ceded from the Creek Indians in the 1820s.  It's also known as one of the last battles of the Civil War in 1865.  It is home to many gorgeous old homes and businesses.  The downtown is vibrant and busy.  It does look like there are many other buildings falling into disrepair that look to have so much potential.  Homes as well.  Someone with some big bucks could really do well in this town.
There are fountains and memorials everywhere.  It is also known for some unusual things.
First off is the story of the Largemouth Bass, LeRoy Brown.  I love this story:

On a sunny Eufaula Lake day in 1973, Tom Mann caught the bass that changed his life. “Dad knew something was different when the line yanked,” said his daughter, Sharon Mann Dixon. “Leroy weighed less than 2 pounds but fought hard because he was a king and knew it.”

Most fish caught in Eufaula – “Big Bass Capital of the World” – are destined either for the trophy case or a rendezvous with tartar sauce. In addition, the boisterous bass was not reeled in by an angling amateur. Tom Mann was an expert, owner of Mann’s Bait Company and Tom Mann’s Fish World, and a fishing lure inventor.

Typically, gamefish and fishermen are adversaries, but not this time. The little fish with the barracuda attitude went home with Mann and was placed in the family’s cement pond. Later, Leroy Brown was transferred to Mann’s Bait’s 18,000-gallon aquarium. Dixon noted, “He instantly owned the tank.”

The aqua-pet was hand-fed minnows. When Mann walked to another side of the massive aquarium, Leroy followed from the inside looking out.

“He was also a ladies’ man,” said Eufaula Mayor Jack Tibbs, who fondly recalled the fish’s life and times. “Leroy had several girlfriends and shielded his love interests from would-be suitors.”

But the gilled guy’s heart belonged to Big Bertha, a 12-pound female tankmate. “They were inseparable,” said Dixon, who relayed a bittersweet love story. “A critically ill fish typically floats near the water’s surface when it is dying. In her last days, Bertha floated near the top and Leroy continuously attempted to push her back down, deeper in the water.”

The Mann family named their pet after Jim Croce’s popular 1970s song, “Bad, Bad, Leroy Brown.” The name fit and word spread. Eufaula was seized by fish fame.

People came from everywhere to behold the bass. He received fan mail from around the world. Leroy made the front page of The Atlanta Constitution. He was featured in Southern Living magazine and in news stories as far away as Africa and Australia.

In August 1980, Tom Mann discovered his prized pet floating. Silence had seized the fish that roared. Leroy Brown died of natural causes.

Tom’s close friend Ray Scott, founder of the Bass Anglers Sportsman Society (B.A.S.S), was consulted. They agreed that Leroy deserved a funeral. Approximately $4,000 was spent on a customized headstone. A casket was made from a satin-lined tackle box complete with strawberry jelly worms to accommodate Leroy in the hereafter.

At Lakepoint Lodge, about 800 people attended the funeral for a big mouth bass. Pallbearers included Roland Martin and other fishing celebrities. The Eufaula High School Marching Band played “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown” and Alabama Gov. Fob James declared a Day of Mourning for the fallen fish.

But at nightfall, something fishy happened. Leroy’s casket was not buried the day of the funeral because of intense rain making the gravesite too wet. The casket was stored in a freezer. Thieves in the night stole the body and left a ransom note: 1 million jelly worms for Leroy’s return.

Weeks later the remains were found at the Tulsa, Oklahoma, airport’s lost baggage department. The fish carcass was never returned to Eufaula nor the grave-robbers ever found.

For years, Leroy’s monument lay idle, to be discovered by Tibbs. “I was fishing at Ray Scott’s fishing lodge in Pintlala and saw it on the property,” Tibbs said. “I thought, ‘Wow, that’s Leroy Brown!’”

Tibbs met with Dixon to ask Ray Scott’s permission to return the stone to Eufaula. Scott agreed.

As cute as that story is, the town eventually thought they needed something, more, to attract tourists.  Along comes the 12 foot statue of Manny, declaring Eufala the Big Bass Capitol of the World.
Then there is The Tree That Owns Itself.  The tree is an oak tree in Eufaula that has been replaced several times. It was given the ownership of its land by the governor in 1936, with each of the two replacements receiving the ownership to the land too.
This is the current tree.
The Reeve's Peanut Company was built in 1903.
Memorial to those lost in WWI.
We could've spent more time in this town learning about the history and driving past all the gorgeous old homes.
One last paddle before we leave Alabama and head to Florida for our nieces wedding.  It's been almost a year since we've seen my brother, sister-in-law and niece.  I'm very excited!


  1. Whew, you must be exhausted at hiking yet another high point! Love the story about LeRoy Brown and the sunset shots are outstanding!

    1. Yes, it was such a difficult hike! I'm glad someone liked the LeRoy story! I thought it was very cute.

  2. Beautiful water sites! The late check-ins have kept us from COE parks since we usually arrive well before 2:00. But they sure are beautiful places! Love places with fun ghost and fish stories - adds such character to the town. Amazing sunset over the water, thanks for sharing!!

    1. The sites really were fantastic! There are so many great sites in Alabama. Eufala is a great town.

  3. I enjoyed reading about the leg of your trip through Alabama. Karen and I could not believe we spent something like 4 months in the state in the past year.

    Thanks for all the details, reading them make one feel like they are there. And thanks for the RV ant tip.

    We are in north Indiana heading to Michigan by June 6

    1. Thanks Mark. I hope we can catch up to ya but I think you'll be further up in MI before we get to Goshin, IN.

  4. Great post Debbie 😀, we were in Alabama until yesterday, now in Tennessee. Still wet here tho haha.

    1. Loved our time there. Hope it dries out for you. We haven’t had rain since then. Big chance of it though the next week here in Jax, FL.

  5. We have cruised up and down the Tombigbee river in our sailboat last year. We are about ready to head up to Demopolis, Alabama in a few weeks for hurricane season. We go through the locks at Coffeeville. Those campgrounds are very nice along the river.

    1. Hope you miss the hurricanes! They always are very nice campgrounds. I only saw one of the locks at Coffeeville. It was stormy that day I was driving around. Hope that area clears up some. Looks like they've had a lot of rain even after we left.

  6. Glad you're enjoying the COE campgrounds, we love them. Different projects have different check in times, ours here is 4pm but if you're site is empty you can go on it, only ran into a few that enforce the time.
    Can you tell I'm catching up on my blog reading :)

    1. Wow, 4p is so late. I like the 11 out, 12 in timeframe. Ha ha, ya sometimes it's a catchup!


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