Visiting a few small towns across Alabama, our main focus was Monroeville – home of Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird, as well as Truman Capote’s childhood home.
And the crazy-ass, endless Deep South Road Trip continues. We’re in the homestretch now!
We left NOLA and headed for Mobile, AL to meet some friends for lunch. We met them at FOY Superfoods, which was this awesome little health food cafe that they had found. We were able to get “energy bowls,” which basically was a bowl of vegetables and meat. My kinda place.
They even had extra meals from a meal delivery service that they run that were Paleo, so we purchased a couple to have for dinner. (Both were delicious – mine was an orange chicken over cauliflower rice, and Brandan’s was thai spareribs with a side of green beans and mashed sweet potatoes!)
One of the guys working there came around as we were finishing our meal and offered us free samples of their “energy” shots, so we took a gamble. (They’re big on energy here, apparently.) Wrong gamble. It was supposed to be ginger, tumeric, lime, honey, and a couple of other things. In reality, it tasted like you were drinking straight lime juice. It made for a cute picture, but neither of us finished them.
After lunch we got back in the car. (For something new and different!) I had booked a place in Atmore, AL that was actually halfway between Atmore and Monroeville. All of the spots in Monroeville that I could find were not pet friendly, and there was nothing on Airbnb at all in Monroeville, which seemed crazy to me. They put on a production every year of To Kill a Mockingbird, and from what I can tell it’s a pretty big deal in the area. Regardless, I found a “country getaway” about 15 minutes away. It said no pets, but I was running out of options, so I sent the owner a message with an offer to vacuum and/or pay an extra pet deposit, and he was fine with it. Yet another reason I love Airbnb.
You never know what you’re going to get with Airbnb. Most of the places I’ve booked have been fairly represented, and I would say that a decent number of them have been under-represented: they often have more space or more positive features than are displayed in the listing. I wasn’t quite sure of this place, but we didn’t have any other options, and the reviews were great, so I booked it.
What a pleasant surprise it was. The place was incredibly well equipped, had everything you could need, and was completely spotless. Well, except for the ladybugs. I turned around after closing the door, and there were ladybugs everywhere. All over the ceiling, door, window, and curtains. There were probably between 50-100 of them. I’ve always thought ladybugs were pretty, but I’m here to tell you that in mass quantities, they are no prettier than any other insect. They just make you itch. I’m itching right now just thinking about them.
Our host Ronald was very nice about it, and he apologized and went in and vacuumed them all up, then sprayed all the exterior windows and doors. He said there had been about four or five of them that morning that he had vacuumed out before our arrival, but that he’d never seen anything like that in there before. While he cleaned and sprayed, we took a stroll down the dirt road with Folly, who saw cows for the first time and kept trying to insist we let her go into the cow pastures with them. (We informed her this was probably not the best idea.)
We had a fun time the rest of the night as ladybug ninjas, randomly sucking them up with the hand vacuum whenever we saw one. Sometimes when you’re on the road for two weeks, you find entertainment in the little things. Also, if you can find entertainment with your partner in vacuuming up bugs, you know you found the right partner.
We left early the next morning and headed to Monroeville. First stop, the home site of Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird. Her childhood home has since been torn down, and in it’s place is Mel’s Dairy Dream, which if you ask me is a pretty crappy way to honor history.
Next door is a vacant lot, which is the site of the home where Truman Capote spent some of his younger years with his cousins and aunt. All that remains is a rock wall that previously surrounded the house.
We then headed to the Monroe County Museum, which is for the most part dedicated to these two authors. It is housed in the old courthouse, which is where Harper Lee’s father used to practice law. They have a few rooms set up as they would have been for a lawyer’s office in those days; the rest of the building is dedicated to Harper Lee and Truman Capote.
The circular courtroom used in the movie version of To Kill a Mockingbird is actually a set that was recreated from the courtroom in the Monroe County Courthouse. The real Monroe County Courthouse was not used in the film, which apparently is a pretty large misconception.
Aside from the museum, the rest of Monroeville, AL was somewhat sad and very similar to all the other small southern towns we’ve passed through or stopped in: small, forgotten about, with lots of businesses struggling to keep their doors open and others whose doors had been long closed. It seemed to me that it being the home town of these two very popular authors and having this museum, they would have a bigger tourism industry, but it appears to stay limited to just the museum and the annual reenactment of the courtroom scene from the movie.
Burn Corn, AL
The museum included recommendations for driving tours of Monroe County, and a town with the name of Burnt Corn caught Brandan’s eye, so we decided to take a drive through it. If the places we’ve been visiting can be categorized as forgotten about or left behind, I’m not quite sure what label to put on Burnt Corn. The first thing that comes to mind is abandoned ghost town. The town only consisted of about five or six structures, all closed up, with peeling paint and not a soul to be found.
This building has a sign above the door that says “Burnt Corn Post Office.” It also served as a general store, and was closed in 1997, despite the town’s protests. According to this article, the Lowery General Store closed in 2007.
When you walk up to the door and peek in the windows, this is what you see. I know it might sound crazy, but there was just enough stuff inside that I could picture what it was like in full swing as the center of the town, people coming and going, sitting on the porch. Ladies mailing their packages, kids buying candy for a nickel.
We left the forgotten town of Burnt Corn, AL behind, and continued northeast to Cullman, AL, our second to last stop.
Life Lesson: Appreciate what you have when you have it.
You never know when the day is going to come that things are going to change, be turned upside down on their head. You never know when your house will be replaced by Mel’s Dairy Dream, or torn down and replaced by a plaque, or your historic town post office and general store will be closed, rendering your town one of the “forgotten” ones.
The world changes so rapidly these days. Historic buildings are torn down and replaced by WalMarts, food is no longer obtained from the farmer down the street but from giant factories, loaded with sugar and additives to keep you coming back for more. People order and consume an entire meal without ever leaving their cars.
Just stop for a minute and think about the people in these towns 100 years ago. Would they believe you if you told them the way the world would be today? Probably not. We’ve got no idea what the world will look like 100 years from now, but there’s something to be said for the way things “used to be.”
I know I sound like I’m 90 years old right now, but this trip has been eye opening about the way people live in America. Just don’t forget to stop, take a look around once in awhile, and appreciate what’s around you. Maybe for you it’s a home cooked meal with family around the table. Maybe it’s the untouched scenery in the mountains, or at the coast. Maybe it’s a family tradition that’s been going on for generations that’s been left to you to continue.
Whatever it is, just make sure you don’t forget to enjoy the little moments. I often find myself looking back on the little moments and realizing they were actually big moments, I just didn’t know it at the time.
Ferris Bueller said it best: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and take a look around once in awhile, you might miss it.”