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Deep South Road Trip Extravaganza, Day 12: Cullman, AL

A road trip of adventures across the Deep South brings us to Cullman AL, where we spend the night inside an old juke joint and get a refreshing reminder that time waits for no one.

old buildings on side of the road

It’s crazy sometimes how the world puts people in your path.

We left Monroeville, AL early the next morning and took a long, lazy, winding drive all the way up through Alabama. By the time we got to Cullman, it was already dark, and we still didn’t have a dinner plan. We were shocked when we pulled into town and saw an actual town, with things like Jim n’ Nicks and Home Depot.

We ignored it as best as we could, as that wasn’t what we were after, and we headed down to Smith Farms Smoked Meats, which was a little meat shop I had found on Google Maps, to try and grab something for dinner to take back to our Airbnb. Tonight was the night for the craziest of all the Airbnb’s, an old juke joint/speakeasy turned accommodations.

Smith Farms was selling a lot of stuff that wasn’t meat, and a lot of stuff that wasn’t theirs – think gift shop/jams/cheeses/wine/etc. That being said, we were able to get a jar of Beef Vegetable Soup as well as some smoked pork tenderloin to eat for dinner. A word of caution – apparently corn and beans are both categorized as vegetables. Regardless, the soup was good and got the job done, which at this point in the trip was really all we were looking for in food.

inside of family store with dried meats hanging behind butcher counter

The place we stayed was even crazier than in the photos. It was dark when we arrived, so we couldn’t see a whole lot. As Oscar, the owner said, “This is kind of a knock-around place.” Yes, yes it was.

I was too cold to remember to take pictures of the inside, but I did get a couple of photos of the outside the next morning before we left. The space was decorated with stuff from some of his favorite places, and it felt a little bit like we had come full circle. The Shack Up Inn, Ground Zero Blues Club, and Molly’s on the Market signs hung on the walls; Mardi Gras beads decorated any available surface.

This is the part we stayed in. We couldn’t see anything in the dark when when we arrived, but I got a shot of the whole thing from across the street in daylight. The owner lives in the other side – the green part with the big metal door.

old building with vines climbing outside
front of old building storefronts on road

Are you kind of in shock? We were mostly amazed that the city allowed him to live in it. But, it’s zoned residentially – it’s smack dab in the middle of the downtown residential area, between nice houses with big southern front porches.

Definitely not up to any sort of code, but then again, I don’t think Cullman, AL runs their town the same way Charleston, SC does. That is, with all the rules on what you can and can’t do to your own property. The whole thing reminded me a bit of my favorite children’s book, The Big Orange Splot – “my house is me and I am it.”

After we ate our soup, we huddled in the bedroom because we couldn’t figure out how to work any of the heaters except for the one in there. Oscar, the owner, got home a little later and came over to meet us. He’s a local football coach, but he’s moved around a lot over the years, and he sat and chatted with us for a little while.

We talked about his travels and his career, the economy, how he came to own the property and why he was back in Cullman (he came back to help his brother take care of his elderly mother).

As he was getting up to leave, he somewhat randomly turned to Brandan and said, “If you’ve got something you want to do, just go do it. At the end of the day, you can’t have a 5 year plan, ’cause you never know what’s going to happen tomorrow.”

Brandan looked at me and smirked. “Oh, his check is in the mail, right?” I’ve been telling Brandan from the time we met that you can’t have a 3-year plan, or a 5-year plan, or a 10-year plan, because you have no idea what your life will look like when you get there. Every time something changes for us, I tell him to look back to three years ago, and see if he ever saw it coming, or knew what was in store.

Oscar’s parting words to us hit home, and they are today’s life lesson. As he walked away, he said,

“No matter what you’re doing, it’s still a job. Just do something that you enjoy and you hope makes a difference. I mean, don’t sell all your stuff and go live in a van, but as long as you can pay the bills, just do something that makes you happy.”

And he’s so very very right. If you’d told me 5 years ago that I would no longer be working in law enforcement, and instead I’d be trying to make it on my own, I wouldn’t have believed you. Jobs evolve. People change. Your interests change. Don’t do something just because it’s what you’ve always done. There’s adventure in the unknown. Sure, it’s scary. But most things in life that are worth it usually are.

sunset over farm in alabama
Deep South Road Trip Extravaganza, Day 11: Monroeville, AL
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