Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fall Break; Florence, UNA, Una, & Erik's first Camping Trip

Our final destination Friday afternoon was Florence, Alabama. We'd heard good things about this area and figured we might was well check it out. It's right on the banks of the HUGE and beautiful Tennessee river, in the same neighborhood as the childhood home of Helen Keller, and according to what we'd heard has a great historic downtown area that is neat to see. We crossed the river and the road spits you pretty much straight into the downtown area.

Which, by the way, is NOT all that interesting. I think Starkville has about as much to offer by way of fun downtown buildings and shopping. We had planned to find a parking place and then wander around town, but when it didn't really catch our interest we just kept going. The road we were on dead ended into the visitor parking lot for the campus of the University of Northern Alabama, which looked kinda interesting so we decided to walk around and check it out. From the paw prints on the road way to the statues lining the side walk, it didn't take us too long to deduce the UNA mascot.

 The first thing that caught our eye was this gorgeous fountain. Erik was pretty sad that we wouldn't let him climb in and go swimming.

 As we were enjoying the fountain I was looking around and noticed an unusual looking enclosure and just HAD to go check it out.
Meet Una and Leo III. The real live mascots for UNA. SO COOL!
Leo III, I love the wrinkles in his face!
Leo was VERY uncomfortable with all the attention. As more people started to gather (not fair, we were there first!) he got more and more worked up. He was pacing and growling and throwing a pretty major fit. The lion keeper (in the striped shirt) had to come out and talk him into quieting down. She was reaching in and petting he and Una, and is way more brave than I think I'll ever be. 
 After we'd had enough of the university, we headed into town to see if we could find anything cool. There were a few little things here and there that caught our attention, so it wasn't a complete flop.
This park had another great fountain that Erik splashed in for a while. 

Florence is the home of W.C. Handy, "Father of the Blues"

Any "Big Bang" fans out there? If so, you'll understand why we had to get a picture in front of the comic book store!
This is how Erik spent most of his time in the stroller. He refused to sit up straight, even after his fingers got run over. 

We finally decided it was time to figure out where to stay for the night. We remembered reading about a city park that had cheap camping, so we started driving around trying to find it. When we were totally lost, we finally admitted that we needed to find some internet and look up directions. We saw signs for tourist info and figured that they'd have maps and maybe even internet, so we followed the signs and wound up at the welcome center. Which happens to be located at the base of the Renaissance Tower, a huge tower that goes up  200+ feet above the tourist center and has a fancy rotating restaurant inside. Being the dorks that we are, we jumped in the elevator in our grungy travel-wrinkled clothes and headed up to check it out. (There was a menu at the bottom of the elevator and there was NO WAY we could pay to eat there, we just wanted to look out the windows.) The doors opened right into the restaurant, and the host greeted us and kindly (though not without a glance at his watch to see if he could afford the risk of having the dinner rush see us) allowed us to step inside to look around. It was breathtaking! The sun was just setting directly over the river on one side, and there was a lock and dam on the other side. You could see the city sprawled out beneath you, and it was just amazing. It was also a little trippy to watch the dining area spinning around us as we stood in the middle.

 We finally went back down and found a map to the park with the camping. We drove over there just to find out that the only tent sites were right on the river bank with nothing separating you from the water's edge. There was no way we were going to spend the next while chasing Erik away from the water on one side and the road on the other, so we headed east of town for our back-up campsite at Joe Wheeler Lake State Park. As you may have realized, if the sun was going down while we were in the tower, that means that by the time we were ready to set up camp, it was pitch black. "That's okay", we thought. "We've got flashlights!" After a few increasingly frantic minutes of searching we were forced to conclude that the flashlight had not actually made it from our house to our car. We were out of luck in a big way. We used the headlights on our car to set up camp and then used a couple of emergency candles I'd randomly thrown in to get our tinfoil dinners and banana boats on the fire and to play cards after Erik went to bed. It wasn't quite what we'd envisioned for Erik's first camping trip, but so far it wasn't going too bad.

1 comment:

  1. What fun! Yeah, he won't remember it, but the next time you go with him you will remember flashlights!!! Sounds like you guys had a grand ole' time. :D