Friendly people are everywhere in the south. You simply do not walk past someone without at minimum a “good morning” or the equivalent. Short of the intrusive comments about my ‘huusband’… (Whers yur huusband? What dus yur huusband think about chu traveling all by yurself? What dus yur husband do fer work?) southern folk are the nicest people I know. Yes m’am, no m’am, thank you, have a nice day (or a blessed day, or a bless’ed day, or a great day in Jesus) all delivered with genuine gratitude and humility. The vast majority are happy. Not happy in a smug-pious because they know they have the one true religion or they have things that make them special. More of a today, right here, right now I am content, loved, OK, and trying to be like Jesus so might as well smile and laugh and enjoy myself. Things move slowly, no one can seem to get worked up enough to pass judgment. Things just are what they are (unless someone breeches proper manners and then there are instant threats of telling their mama or grandma and or statements such as – I know your mama raised you better than that).
I resonate with the culture there on a cellular level. The energy that is shared makes me feel alive and connected. It’s like they really understand me. When asked if I hike a lot in SLC, I replied “Not really, I don’t feel drawn to the mountains”. The retort was “That’s cuz yur a beech girl! You need to get chur-self moved down here. Can’t cure the beech fever.” Huh – how did a perfect stranger explain myself to me so easily?
After a few hours of much needed beach therapy, I scouted Dauphin Island for a bar or restaurant that might have a spot I could charge my phone and hopefully get online to figure out where I was going to stay. I ended up at Finn’s – a fun local bar. Jimmy the owner and Mama Sue, the 73 year old bartender, were more than happy to unplug some fish Christmas lights so I could use an outlet. I sipped on a very potent margarita and was soon chatting with the locals who hang out there. Deb is an implant from 25 years ago and Janie is a born/raised Dauphinian. They chatted, told stories, asked questions, gave me the inside scoop on buying in Coden and introduced me to everyone at the bar. When I excused myself to see if I could get online to arrange for a place to stay there was a resounding “You don’t know where you are staying?!” We have an extra bedroom honey, you just come stay with us…” WHAT? Seriously, they knew me for all of an hour and were willing to welcome me to their homes. I was still in need of some alone time so I passed on the offer and headed to the camp grounds instead (more on that in the Car Camping post).
The next morning I found a new property online – Daphne area, waterfront, listed for $14K (an obvious typo, but I was still curious) so I headed towards the other side of the bay. After finding out the real price of the property- $269K, I headed on towards Elberta to see if I could find the owner of the old farm-house I found on my last trip. I was in pretty severe need of coffee and running water for a sponge bath so I stopped at “Biscuits & Gravy” in downtown Elberta. The owner greeted me warmly, “Good morning Sunshine, we are so glad you stopped in to see us today!” I didn’t catch his name. He was so busy walking around visiting with everyone, refilling coffee and water, making sure everyone’s food was OK, asking how watermelon planting was going, how someone Aunt who ‘took sick’ was doing, etc. etc. Chris, the cook took, an instant liking to me. He hovered, told me that he gets in early to make the biscuits for the day so in the future I was welcome any time after 4:00 am and he would cook me something special (yes, I believe there was an intentional double-entendre with that offer), brought me my food himself, explained that he put extra grits and gravy on my messy biscuits (that is what they are called, they really aren’t messy) and offered for the fourth time to make me some fried eggs to put on top. Nathan, a very quiet cowboy, sat next to me at the counter-bar, tipped his hat, ordered the ‘usual’ and listened politely while Chris and the owner helped me brainstorm ideas on how to find the owner of the old farm-house (more on that in the Farm House post). One of the local farmers chimed in about other homes for sale in the area that would be worth checking out. It was like having a family breakfast. Plus they had a bathroom with a really big industrial size sink with lots of hot water that worked perfect for a Puerto-rican shower. The whole group walked out to wave good-bye, wish me good luck and tell me to come back as soon as I could. I left feeling uplifted, accepted and loved.
While looking for the Baldwin County courthouse extension building, I drove past a place called the Copper Kettle. It reminded me of a Hansel and Gretel house. It was hot and I wasn’t in the mood for tea but made a mental note to check it out the next day. Boy am I glad I did. I got there a little before they opened and was sitting outside enjoying the sunshine and a cigarette. The owner walked outside to hang up flower baskets and insisted that I come inside. She had just brewed a reserve blend coffee and didn’t mind having company while she opened up shop. It was a treasure trove of amazingness. Teas, coffee, home-made desserts, an amazing lunch menu, local artist wares, jewelry, soaps, antiques, gifts, gourmet honey. I spent over an hour in about 200 square feet; completely mesmerized the whole time. Two sisters own the place – they moved from Connecticut to Alabama fourteen years earlier. One runs the front, the other runs the kitchen. Her passion about tea and creating a center for artists and the community was palpable. She recommended I take my move there slow, “Be patient, wait for the right place. It will come.” She gave me cards for two real estate agents that ‘weren’t shady’ and encouraged me to follow my dream and my passion. She hugged me. A huge wave of emotion hit me – I quickly paid for the coffee and trinkets I found, all the while crossing my fingers that the tears wouldn’t start until I was alone in the car. My pity party lasted for a minute. It wasn’t fair – why am I not brave enough to just go for it? Why can’t my sister Ali and I have something like that? When was it going to be my turn? Then I remembered an inside joke with Terah and the “IT ISN’T WHAT I WANTED” temper tantrum and had a quick chuckle at myself, put on my new cool dragon earrings and headed for the beach.
After spending three days on the gulf shores beach (More in the Beach Therapy post), I was looking forward to heading back to Dauphin Island. I had finally figured out my phone issue (user error of course – no surprise to a Luddite like me) and wanted to get pictures. I showed up to the country club well before opening, but Jason and the waitresses remembered me from Monday. They let me come in to use the restroom and Jason let me on the beach early. After my 5 mile round-trip walk around the bay I headed back to the Pirates Pleasure for a delicious bowl of grits and some hot coffee. They had just opened their salt water pool and outdoor bar and I was excited to go check it out. That is where I met Philip. Pirates Pleasure is his restaurant– I swear he was a pirate in another lifetime. Gray pony-tail, raspy voice, huge hands and a very take charge presence. He bought me a beer, visited and then invited me to take a dip – layout – hangout. A few more locals arrived, everyone was so nice. A daiquiri magically arrived poolside for me. The music was so loud I couldn’t hear who to thank for it, but the whole group nodded when I raised my glass and smiled. Lunch was offered (on the house by sweet Philip who was genuinely disappointed when I declined due to being stuffed from grits, beer and a daiquiri). When it was finally time to head to the Airport, there were pictures and hugs and reminders of my promise to return soon.