Happy New Year to y'all.
Sitting once again sipping a nice pour over at Revelator downtown Birmingham. Melanie and I are scheduled, so to speak, to leave Birmingham on this Sunday, January 6, 2019. We'll leave after coffee hour at St. Andrew's Episcopal where Father Tommie has graciously agreed to bless our new home on wheels. We hope all who may be interested and/or attending services will come and bid us farewell and see Miranda as she departs Birmingham.
As you may imagine, Christmas living in an RV was very different and that's no understatement. We were on the road for the holiday, traveling to Seale, Alabama, Columbus, Georgia (briefly) Lumpkin, Georgia, to Prairie Creek campground along the Alabama River, and finally to Melanie's hometown, Faunsdale, Alabama. The only Christmas decoration we put up this year was provided by one of Melanie's law partners, an ornament in the shape of an RV trailer which is still hanging from the rearview mirror. Perfect.
Our friends in Seale, Alabama, Mike and Jill Venable, were very gracious in giving us a send off party from their lovely home amid the pecan trees. Mike and Jill invited some long-time mutual friends to join us for a great evening of visiting and dinner. It was really nice to catch up with friends I've known since my high school days and their spouses. As we continue to grow old together, I am reminded of how precious are these friendships and of the fleeting time we get to spend in each other's company. We spent the night in a lovely spot in Mike and Jill's pecan orchard in front of their home and then made our way into Columbus, Georgia the next morning.
We stopped in Columbus briefly to meet and share a moment in Miranda in the Target parking lot with Allison Kennedy with whom Melanie and I are Facebook friends. While it may not happen often, meeting new friends from Facebook in person can really be a treat. Meeting Allison and talking with her was great for both of us and I hope when we are back through Columbus we can coax her husband, Mike, off the couch and out for dinner and a beer.
We were then off to Lumpkin, Georgia and a great moochdocking spot at the farm (Lynchburg) of friends, John Woodward and Gail Lynch for a few days. John placed our home on wheels in a prime spot out in front of their home which is located in a wonderful pastural setting.
John Woodward and I have been friends for many years. We've done our share of backpacking and hiking across this country (along with our friend, Trip, who was unfortunately under the weather and couldn't make it to Lynchburg this time around). He and his wife, Gail are family and it's always nice to catch up with them and spend time.
We all enjoy eating great meals together and, since I'd mentioned the addition of our InstaPot to the van and a favorite recipe out of Melissa Clark's Cookbook, Dinner in an Instant, we tried the barbecue recipe that can be found therein one evening. The barbecue is great on the brioche hamburger-style buns found at Whole Foods market. Simple-made dinner with a few sides and great wine and champagne.
Since we expected a vegetarian to be in our midst the following evening, I brought along Frank Stitt's recipe for Lentil Soup out of his Bottega Favorita cookbook. Melanie and I also brought along bread we purchased from Carol Griffin at Continental Bakery in Birmingham.
The weather cooperated reasonably well while we were in Lumpkin and we got a few days without rain, even if the temperatures were a bit on the nipply side. Melanie and I rode about 8 miles on a backroad that runs in front of the farm on Saturday. Sunday I rode most of a loop that is used for the annual Fair on the Square Bicycle Ride that Gail helps put on and which took me, as an aside, to Providence Canyon State Park. John and I used to rappel close by when we were much younger and I still resided in Columbus, Georgia.
The annual Christmas cookie bake-off happened at Lynchburg while we were there too. Gail and John's niece, Sarah Layne, and her high school-aged friends, came over and designed Christmas cookies Sunday night. While John had mentioned the tradition to me before, this was our first time getting to witness the joy.
Melanie and I left Lynchburg on Christmas Eve morning heading toward Alabama and an Army Corp of Engineers campground on the Alabama River. Prairie Creek is a great campground at which we stayed once before back in November 2018 when we traveled to Mobile on a work-related trip. There were at least 20 other camper vehicles in the park on Christmas Eve. It was a quiet night and Melanie and I were able to stream Christmas Vacation in the van after a nice dinner of left-over Lentil soup.
We headed to Faunsdale, Alabama, Melanie's hometown, the next morning with Christmas lunch for Melanie's dad, Dr. B. C. Merkle. We parked Miranda at the local Presbyterian church and walked the short distance to Merkle Manor for a great visit with Dr. Merkle. Before his recent retirement, Dr. Merkle was the only doctor available in this rural black belt community for miles around.
During many of our visits to see him over the years, it was not uncommon for him to either make a house call or have someone show up at Merkle Manor for care. He's a well-respected and beloved figure in the Faunsdale/Union Town community and I'm sure his practice is missed by those who now must travel great distances for medical care.
New Year's was spent with our great friends, Wade and Jen Anderson at their home in Mountain Brook, another great moochdocking spot. The Andersons have been truly gracious hosts and have gone out of their way in allowing us to stay in their driveway from time to time over the past couple of months. Melanie and I are grateful for their hospitality and generosity. We will miss them as we begin our travels this coming Sunday.
We'll be reporting to you from the road in a few days. Cheers.
Steven and Melanie