Good morning from our friends' home in Mountain Brook, Alabama where we'll be (off and on) until the end of the December.
I've not posted since the middle of last month when we were also located here.
Shortly after posting last month we traveled to Faunsdale, Alabama, where Melanie grew up and where her father still resides. We spent a couple of very pleasant and mild days there for the Thanksgiving holiday.
In past few years when in Faunsdale we've been able to park Miranda in a local church parking lot (thanks, George McKee) located behind the church sanctuary off the main highway and where we also had access to electricity. This year, thanks to overhanging limbs removed by the power company, we were able to drive Miranda down her father's driveway and park beside the home in which Melanie grew up.
Melanie pre-ordered the Thanksgiving meal to be picked up in Birmingham at Whole Foods. We got Dreamland BBQ to be eaten the day before and a few subsequent days afterwards.
After the holiday we left Faunsdale on Friday afternoon headed East towards the city where I grew up, Columbus, Georgia.
Friday night was spent about halfway to Columbus in one of our favorite campgrounds near Montgomery, Gunter Hill Campground. It was chilly, but we got a nice walk in after our arrival. The campground is located on the backwaters of the Alabama River and, as with most all Corp of Engineers campgrounds, the spots are nicely spaced and well maintained. Gunter Hill even offers full hooks ups.
I ordered lithium replacement batteries for our van from Costco just before thanksgiving and was able to place our remote thermometer in the battery bay to check the temp inside the bay when the ambient temps outside dip below freezing. The temp inside the battery bay was 45 degrees the next morning at around 6:00 a.m. That works for lithium battery performance and I was then even more excited about replacing Miranda's batteries.
We arrived in Columbus, Georgia on Saturday (11/27) morning. We'd made arrangements to stay in the parking lot of St. Thomas Episcopal Church for the weekend, but after I reminded our friends, the Tomlinsons, we'd be in Columbus for the weekend, they offered to allow us to park Miranda in front of their home and stay with them.
I was in touch with our friend Allison Kennedy Owen on Friday evening about the possibility of a bike ride on Saturday. She'd said she was available and so once we were parked at the Tomlinsons, I texted her, she was close by and within a few minutes we were cycling off headed towards Columbus' fine Chattahoochee River Walk Trail.
Saturday started out below freezing, but by the time we got to the river walk it had warmed to the 50's. We rode out to the a Dog Park along the trail and then back to the Tomlinson's house. Round trip 20 miles. Very nice ride along the river with Allison.
On Sunday morning, Melanie was at St. Thomas for Adult Formation telling those in attendance about peace and peace-making and giving folks an overview of the Episcopal Peace Fellowship.
After the morning services, St. Thomas' Rector, Reverend Grace Burton Edwards, Parish Theologian Denny Clark, his wife, Toni, took Melanie and me to lunch in downtown Columbus at The Animal Farm. It was great to break bread, make new friends and find out more about St. Thomas while eating some very tasty lunch. We recommend The Animal Farm.
During the evening hours, we were in St. Thomas' fellowship hall for a soup supper where Melanie discussed gun violence prevention. The fellowship and supper were outstanding and the discussion was very interesting.
We owe a debt of gratitude to Rick and Marquette McRae McKnight for introducing us to the folks at St. Thomas. Rick and Marquette make things happen in Columbus. We hope to catch up with them again over the New Year.
We left Columbus early afternoon on Monday and headed south to Eufaula, Alabama. It had been years since I'd been to or through Eufaula. We found a very nice Corp of Engineers Campground, White Oak Creek.
Most of White Oak Creek is closed during the off-season, but we were able to get a great afternoon walk in and enjoyed our Lake Eufaula campsite for adult beverages.
We'd booked two nights there but decided another day at the beach would be better so we headed out the next morning for Top Sail Hill Preserve State Park, one of our very favorite campgrounds along the Gulf of Mexico.
We got to Topsail relatively early and before official check in time so we made our way to Destin and the Whole Foods market for a few items we needed.
Making our way back to Topsail and after we set up in our campsite, Melanie took a walk to the beach and I got our bikes out. I rode to the Timpoochee Trail which begins directly across from Topsail and made my way towards Seaside, Florida. Due to bridge construction ongoing as I type, the trail and road are blocked off about 7 miles along. A 14 mile round trip was fine for my first time out.
Day two found us walking down to the beach in the morning hours. In the afternoon, Melanie worked while I took my bike out once again on the Timpoochee Trail intending to make my way to Seaside via the detour around bridge construction.
I made my way away from the trail along 30A on Old Blue Mountain Road and out to Highway 98, along 98 to County Road 283 South and into Grayton Beach. There's a nice bike trail along County Road 283 South that connects with the Timpoochee Trail at Highway 30A in Grayton.
From there I rode into Watercolor stopping at Happy Beach Cafe for an IPA before making my way back to Topsail. Round trip just over 30 miles.
We drove to one of our favorite local restaurants for dinner during the early evening. Dinner, while fine, wasn't what we were used to experiencing gauged by our past dining experiences there. The pandemic has closed many restaurants, those that remain open sometimes struggle to achieve their former greatness.
Thursday found Melanie and me riding into Seaside along the same route. We stopped in at Bud and Alley's for an afternoon glass of rose' and made a purchase of wine at the Modica Market there.
Friday was a travel day as we made our way back to Mountain Brook, Alabama to our friends' home.
Saturday, the 4th, was Melanie's birthday and she spent some of the day celebrating at the home of a long-time friend who invited other friends of theirs for a nice bit of celebrating.
We watched the SEC Championship game during mid-afternoon.
Our lithium batteries arrived while we were away at the beach and my friend Wade and I spent a fair amount of time trying to figure out how to install them.
Without going into too much detail about the install, my takeaway from the idea that the lithium batteries which replaced our deep-cell lead acid batteries are "drop in" is somewhat misleading.
But the important point for me is I should pay attention when I've asked for advice in an online forum about the install and then promptly forgotten the advice given.
I'm fortunate more damage wasn't done to the electrical system and components when we initially set the batteries up in parallel instead of in series like our old batteries. As of now, the only items I know of that were damaged are LED lights and our WIFI booster.
Now that installation is complete and up and running a few days, I can report the effort was worth the trouble. From all appearances we'll have much more capacity with the two new lithium batteries and I won't have to check water in the batteries periodically and the batteries should outlast our use of the van.
Saturday we'll drive Miranda to the Mercedes-Benz dealer in Hoover, Alabama to have our wheel sensors replaced. Our van is part of a recall for the sensors.
Thursday (hopefully) we'll get our cracked windshield replaced at Safelite in Homewood, Alabama.
We'll be traveling again Tuesday next headed east for a few days towards Savannah, Georgia before returning to Birmingham for another stay leading up to Christmas.
Happy Holidays, y'all.
Steven and Melanie