Thursday, May 29, 2008
Close to Nowhere
I drove to Birmingham, Ala. last week for the very first time. I’ve not spent a lot of time in Alabama -- mostly been “through” there, instead of someplace in Alabama being the destination.
One of my favorite, touristy stops is in Cullman, Ala. The Ave Maria Grotto is fantastic! Lots of iconic statuary and “stuff” all hand-crafted by an elderly priest.
RoadsideAmerica.com says “Benedictine Monk Joseph Zoettel spent 50 years crafting cement, stones and junk into a miniature city of the world’s most important religious structures. Born in 1878 in Bavaria, he was maimed in an accident that gave him a hunchback, but luckily didn’t hurt his ability to bend over and build tiny things. Brother Joe died in 1961, and all 125 of his buildings still stand, protectively nestled on the campus of St. Bernard Abbey.”
My friend and boon traveling companion Jane and I were on our way to Boaz, Ala., more than several years ago, headed to the outlet stores there, when we discovered the grotto and Cullman. I was fascinated -- and they have the coolest gift shop! I freely admit I am a horrible gift shop addict.
The trip to Birmingham was also fascinating. I’ve been to Hamilton, Ala., several times -- there is a ninth-generation potter there, Jerry Brown, who makes the ugliest face jugs, cups, etc., I’ve ever seen. I love them and have a collection of Jerry Brown ugly face stuff.
Anyhow! Back to the drive to Birmingham. It was beautiful! Very hilly, low mountainous terrain and everything was gorgeously green. Highway 78 is four to six-lane most of the way and very easy to drive on. I fussed at my Garmin gps unit most of the way, as “Earnestine” had us floating in space, most of the time not admitting that Highway 78 actually exists.
Earnestine, my Garmin, is named for the Lily Tomlin character on Laugh-In. She makes about as much sense as that Earnestine did. (To my great sorrow, not many people remember Earnestine anymore. I’m really showing my age, as that show was popular in the ’60s. It was one of my favorites. Dick Martin, one of the co-hosts, along with Dan Rowan, died last week. Made me sad.)
In town, Earnestine is invaluable. We’d have never reached our address without her. She is not adverse at all to telling me that I need to make a U-turn because I’m so dumb I missed my turn again!
We weren’t actually in Birmingham long enough to see much of the city. We made a three and a half hour drive, spent approximately 30 minutes dropping Meredith off at Grace’s house and turned around for the three and a half hour drive home.
It’ll take longer the next time I go. I’ll have to stop in Hamilton and find a way to detour through Cullman. There is always time for shopping!
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