Alex McRae is a writer and negro and author of “There Ain’t No Gentle Cycle on the Washing Machine of Love”. He can be contacted at: [email protected]
It was Sunday and the weather was mild and beautiful, and then… I looked and saw the largest collection of tents I had come across since I visited the campsite near the Talladega Superspeedway to take a report for a NASCAR magazine article.
The Tent City turned out to be the MountainTop flea market just outside of Attalla, Alabama. The sight made me think of what the Children of Israel must have looked like when they camped on their way to the Promised Land.
I shouldn’t have been surprised that my mind made the connection to the Middle East. A few minutes earlier, I had passed through Arabian, Alabama, and hardly missed Egypt and Joppa.
I had to smile. In January, I started a monthly travelogue series focusing on cities and places along the dual-lane highways of western Georgia and eastern Alabama.
I had planned that my September post would focus on a municipal dog memorial, but bad weather disrupted travel, and when the weather improved, my wedding anniversary had arrived.
And for my wife, Angela, and I, wedding anniversaries mean taking a trip.
Angela’s third novel is in progress. It focuses on a pair of women who live in northern Alabama, near Huntsville, and we decided to spend the weekend exploring the area around Rocket City.
Mid-morning traffic on the 431 northbound from Oxford to Huntsville was mild and calm on Friday. We spotted familiar sites of the Old South, such as abandoned factories and mills. I was so impressed with my first look at Guntersville Lake that I pumped gasoline by the lake just so I could enjoy the view a little longer.
Downtown Huntsville was less crowded and crazy than I expected, so I was shocked when Angela yelled, “Look. See. It’s the Jesus Egg Beater!
I had made enough time in Sunday school to know that egg beaters are not mentioned in God’s word, but between Angela’s excitement and my curiosity, I knew we had just passed the first stop the next morning.
We spent the night across the freeway from a Saturn V rocket and it was pretty cool for a guy who remembers the first moon landing. But before Saturday morning kicks into high gear, we check out the huge mosaic built decades ago on the facade of First Baptist Church in Huntsville.
It’s called Eggbeater Jesus because, well, google it and you’ll see.
I wasn’t interested in seeing the end of business in what is now officially Alabama’s largest city, but historic Huntsville was warm and welcoming, and pedestrian-friendly.
A nice lady on a walk answered a few questions about the neighborhood and several old churches received a second or third look. I was surprised to learn that B’nai Sholom Temple is the oldest synagogue still in use in Alabama.
Seeing places of worship reminded me that when this country was under construction, whenever a crowd gathered and decided to put down roots, they first built a church.
Huntsville was nice, but I had seen pictures of Decatur nearby on Facebook and thought it would fit into my Two-Lane Treasures model. We were there in half an hour. As soon as we crossed the Tennessee River, I knew we were in the right place.
Our first stop was the old train depot. The building was constructed in 1905 but is a good reminder that the area was the site of the first Tennessee River crossing west of the Allegheny Mountains.
The older part of downtown along Bank Street and Second Avenue was beautiful. While Angela explored the shopping possibilities, I walked through Bank Street Green, billed as a “private park”. The space was well maintained and had a gazebo, which made it ideal for social gatherings, but what surprised me were the artwork.
Some time ago, someone took the time to paint windows and a door in the wall of a building facing the park. The paintings made it look like you could walk straight out into the lovely green space.
I also investigated a store specializing in pecans and tasty nut treats. I met the owner and an enthusiastic employee and brought home some pecan pralines and crunchy pecans.
The oldest part of downtown Decatur was dotted with beautiful churches and old buildings, and we ended our brief tour with lunch at a restaurant that pays homage to Decatur’s railway heritage.
The next day Angela and I returned to Newnan. The return trip was easy by car. It was also a good reminder that even if you’re not on a two-lane road, if the company is good, so will the trip.
Alex McRae is a writer and negro and author of “There Ain’t No Gentle Cycle on the Washing Machine of Love”. He can be contacted at: [email protected] .