Random Advice From A Random Guy At A Gas Station

Brick and wires. Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Brick and wires. Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Day 108     September 25, 2014

Gadsden, Alabama  to  West Memphis, Arkansas

On the road again…this time, to Birmingham, Alabama…partially out of respect for its place in the history of the civil rights movement (which, by the way, could still stand to keep on moving forward), and partially just out of curiosity, since we were driving right by it anyways. Even if we just did a drive through, we were curious to see what Birmingham looked like.

Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Brick and wires. Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Brick and wires. Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Back alley. Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Back alley. Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Photogenic downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Photogenic downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Lots of brick buildings in downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Lots of brick buildings in downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

Downtown Birmingham, Alabama

A random guy we met at the gas station near downtown, recommended that we eat lunch at El Barrio. We did. And we thank “Random Guy at Gas Station” for turning us onto this place. El Barrio was jam packed, and no wonder, due to its fun decor and vibe and its delicious food! I had one of the best quesadillas I’ve ever had. This seemed to be a theme with us as we travelled across the south…the theme of amazing food!

El Barrio

El Barrio

Trying to blend in with the crazy murals at El Barrio

Trying to blend in with the crazy murals at El Barrio

One of our favorites! Coffee oatmeal stout

One of our favorites! Coffee oatmeal stout

The rest of the drive across Alabama was uneventful. The only thing I noticed that was remotely remarkable, was the overabundance of shredded tire tread on the highways. I don’t know what’s going on in that state, but when dead tires outnumber regular roadkill…hmm…things that make you go “hmmm.”

We continued our drive west on Rt 78, briefly crossing into Mississippi before crossing back into Tennessee. And then we drove briefly through Tennessee, across the river, to Tom Sawyer’s Mississippi River RV Park in West Memphis, Arkansas.

Hello, Mississippi

Hello, Mississippi

Hello, Tennessee

Hello, Tennessee

Crossing the bridge into Arkansas

Crossing the bridge into Arkansas

Hello, Arkansas

Hello, Arkansas

Tom Sawyer’s Mississippi River RV Park was right on the river, which was uber cool, ‘cause we got to watch the river barges going up and down the river all evening long. Barge-watching proved to be quite a relaxing and hypnotic way to end the day.

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Another Day, Another Ticket-Free Parking Violation

More chocolate goodies!

Chocolate heaven in Knoxville, TN!

Day 107         September 24, 2014

Pigeon Forge, Tennessee  to Gadsden, Alabama

On our way out of Pigeon Forge,  we went to see if we could get a peek at Dollywood. I mean, a peek from the outside, without paying to go inside. All we could find was the entry to a parking lot. I guess the likes of cheapskates like us weren’t welcome there, so we left.

Our actual first stop would be in downtown Knoxville, where we lucked into the most perfect parking space. Well, it wasn’t perfectly perfect, as it was in a 30 minute zone, but that had never stopped us before. I’m not condoning breaking the law or anything, but, when you have 27’ of vehicle to park, you often just take what you find, and take your chances. And hey, in almost four months, we’d only gotten busted once, so, whatever. We could afford another $45 parking ticket, so we took our chances.

So, the risk of getting a parking ticket was well worth the goodies that we found in Knoxville. We were parked right by the pedestrian mall, right out front of an amazing coffee and chocolate shop, right down the block from some really cool boutique shops.

First we hit the coffee and chocolate shop, appropriately named, “Coffee & Chocolate. ” Among other chocolatey things, we had a dark chocolate truffle that was to die for! The bacon truffle, uh, not as great, but still pretty darn good!

@ Coffee & Chocolate

@ Coffee & Chocolate

More chocolate goodies!

Deliciousness!

Yep, tried one of these jalapeno ones too!

Yep, tried one of these jalapeno ones too!

After checking out a few of the small artistic boutiques, we took a walk through the pedestrian mall, where we discovered the mid-day farmer’s market. And within the farmer’s market, we discovered the Good Golly Tamale food cart. 

We bought a few tamales to share…the “Classic,” the “Calabacitas,” and the “Vegan Soul.’ OMG! OMG! Best tamales we’ve ever had, and believe me, living in Southern California for so many years, we’ve eaten a lot of tamales. But no tamale I’ve ever devoured, could hold a candle to the tamales from Good Golly Tamale!!

How did tamales this divine end up in Knoxville, Tennessee??!! No offense to Knoxville. Knoxville seemed like a really great city. It’s just not the city, state, or region of the US of A that one would expect to find spectacular tamales!

Now the trifecta of our little downtown visit, was finding the coolest t-shirt shop, “Nothing Too Fancy.” Mark and I both love and adore, and live in, t-shirts, so this place was a bonanza discovery for us. Their t-shirts were all super soft, with awesome graphics by local graphic designers. It took a lot of self-control, but we walked out of there with only two t’s for Mark, and one for me. Seriously, I could have bought about 10 t-shirts, but I knew I didn’t really “need” them. Damn. I’m way too practical.

Having overstayed our 30 minute parking by at least an hour, we got back in the Space Shuttle and went on our way. No parking ticket, by the way. (smiley face emoticon!)

We stopped in Chattanooga to have a quick look around. Sucked in by the billboard advertisements, we purchased tickets to ride the Incline Railway to the top of Lookout Mountain. Glad we did! It was pretty cool riding up (and down) the 72.7% grade in this open-air rail car of sorts.

On the Incline Railway

On the Incline Railway

The view down, from inside the rail car

The view down, from inside the rail car

Nice views from the top of Lookout Mountain

Nice views from the top of Lookout Mountain

An old fort, turned park.

An old fort, turned park.

The view from the fort/park

The view from the fort/park

The view from the fort/park

The view from the fort/park

The view from the fort/park

The view from the fort/park

Statue in the fort/park

Civil War memoria in the fort/park

Downtown Chattanooga

World of Beer in downtown Chattanooga

Climbing wall on the exterior of this building in downtown Chattanooga

Climbing wall on the exterior of this building in downtown Chattanooga

On our way out of town, we took Rt 59 south, to Gadsden, Alabama, where we spent the night at the River Country Campground. All in all, we’d had another great day…coffee, chocolate, tamales, t-shirts, railway rides…pretty much a perfect day!