On the Flora-Bama

I first learned about the Flora-Bama on our first trip to the Alabama coast in the early 2000s when we visited my in-laws wintering in that area. My father-in-law raved about it, so we went for dinner and music while not knowing what to expect.

“Honky tonk” is a good first-impression description. The weathered siding – floors probably hosed down at the end of the day. The room was full of patrons engaging in food, beverages, and conversation while listening to music in a room with many pieces of underwear hanging from above. I recall enjoying watching the patrons.

However, over time I learned that “honky tonk” isn’t applicable – after all, I introduced it to you in this past post as the Last Great American Roadhouse.

My in-laws would change locations every few years, so time passed between my visits to this local icon. The next would be between 2005-2007 they rented about 2+ miles away. It’s also easy to remember because in September 2004, Hurricane Ivan brought havoc to the area – including upon the Flora-Bama. National news even reported that Ivan devastated it.

Despite the fake news (I couldn’t resist), the legendary Flora-Bama would not die. Battered and sand-filled, it re-opened after cleaning and a bit of restoration that probably included nails and hammers.

We took this image dated 13 February 2005

I recall it seems more rickety than ever – but that was part of its charm. Refrigerated trailers were in front of the building for storing food and beer. A temporary shack sold souvenirs.

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The housing-financial collapse of 2008 delivered another crushing blow as the principal owners filed bankruptcy because of failing real estate investments. The long-time owners became minority owners and the new ownership restored the venerable venue.

The trailers and the souvenir shack are gone, but the rustic weathered look remains. The new Flora-Bama is a mixture of old and new that maintains the original character. The original area I first sat remains as another music area – as does the adjacent large tent area.

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Inside the new brick front contains a large area for merchandise with a main lounge and stage on the second floor. The decor is a display of pictures, framed news articles, fishing nets, underwear, musical instruments, license plates, and more to go along with the countless names written with a black marker onto the walls.

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With 3 stages, music is plentiful at the Flora-Bama. Yep – there are times when three musical acts are playing at the same time! On this night, only Rhonda Hart and Jonathan Newton were performing. We enjoyed them so much, we heard them three times.

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The Flora-Bama is alive and well. The colorful place with a colorful past that includes a large cast of colorful characters remains. A place for a wide range of ages from different places – from northern snowbirds to colors – from retirees to young adults. From low-key weekday afternoons to raucous weekend nights. If you are ever in Pensacola, Perdido Key, Orange Beach, or Gulf Shores, consider stopping by the Flora-Bama Lounge Oyster Bar and Package Store

Entering from the beach – Notice the tents to the right!

 

One of the opportunities to take a picture.

 

Because many enjoyed the Kenny Chesney song about the Flora-Bama in my previous post, it’s still appropriate here.

On a Slice about Americana

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There it is … sitting along a beautiful beach sandwiched between a high-rise condominium to its right and a parking garage of another high-rise condo to its left. A place where friends meet. A place where others become friends. A place for good times and good music.

It’s a local legend, yet a place well-known throughout the South. A place that northerners in the condos as vacationers or snowbirds came to know. The place actually straddling the Florida-Alabama state line – although it is mainly in Florida. A place that was a very short walk from where we stayed in January.

There it is – A place displaying a weathered look while sitting along the beach since 1964. A weathered look of normal wear and tear that beach side brings, plus the occasional hammering by storms and hurricanes.

The Flora-Bama -a colorful place with a colorful past that includes a long list of colorful characters.

The Flora-Bama – a place featuring music seven days a week by local and regional musicians songwriters. Some who made it to the national stage of hits and awards while others maintain their local craft.

The Flora-Bama – with its more than eclectic collection of artifacts adorning its walls and ceilings – plus walls with names of patrons written in permanent markers – let alone the framed signed pictures of visitors and performers – and yes, even there is even more to see.

The Flora-Bama – an institution to many, no wonder country music star Kenny Chesney wrote a song about it. No wonder he performed his only concert of 2014 along its beach to celebrate its 50th anniversary.

Before I tell you more in another post, I’ll let his lyrics and his music video introduce you to this slice of Americana – the place its documentary called The Last Great American Roadhouse. Welcome to the Flora-Bama Lounge Oyster Bar and Package Store.

On Alabama Tidbits

Although I’ve been to the state of Alabama before, staying a month allows ample learning opportunities. I present tidbits you may not know about the state of Alabama.

1) These people are football crazy! During the month and no matter the day of the week, the newspaper’s Sports section features college football – even weeks after the season is over. Ohio is enthusiastic about football. Texas thinks they invented the game – but Alabamians are just bonkers over football.

2) Grapefruits and oranges in the store were of pathetic quality. I get better tasting citrus in Ohio. Being close to Florida, one would think the quality would be better. After all, Florida thinks they invented grapefruits. Why we couldn’t find pink grapefruits from Texas is beyond me.

3) We stayed in Orange Beach – where sales tax is 10% on everything!

4) The Alabama coast is only 100 miles (160 km) – but the beaches are very good.

5) Restaurant menus offer many fried foods – they may be willing to fry anything.

6) Politically, Alabamians are very conservative, therefore all troubles can be traced back to presidents who were Democrats – especially Obama and Clinton.

7) Alabama is home for manufacturing/assembly plants for Toyota, Airbus, Honda, Hyundai, and Mercedes-Benz.

8) Alabama is home to the first Mardi Gras in the U.S. (Mobile).

Image from Tennessee’s Boll Weevil Eradication Program

Image from Tennessee’s Boll Weevil Eradication Program

9) The Atlas rocket that launched astronauts to the moon was built in Alabama (Huntsville).

10) Alabama is home to the monument honoring an agricultural pest – the Boll Weevil (Enterprise).

11) Alabamians described President Trump’s inaugural address as uplifting, refreshing, unifying, powerful, great, and amazing.

12) Alabama has the longest Constitution in the world: over 300,000 words and 775 amendments.

13) Alabama is the only state naturally possessing all the raw materials for steel. No wonder a statue of Vulcan sits on a hilltop above Birmingham.

14) I’ve never seen so many billboards advertizing attorneys – and the number of TV commercials for attorneys is very high. I saw this commercial 10 times in 45 minutes – while wondering about the content. Any thoughts?

On a Month Without

For us, January 2017 started with change questions. What would a month be like without ballroom dance, without handbells, without volunteering, without our friends, and without our normal routine?

Jan 1: We left Cincinnati on a cool, foggy morning for a day of driving, which included a light rain that occasionally became more – but not a constant rain. We noted the slow increase in the temperature.

Jan 2: The final 4.5 hour drive, again with intermittent rains of varying strength. Dry at the time of arrival, but the view of the surf while unpacking told a different story – the dangers of a nearby tornado – so down to the lower lobby we went. The evening storms off the coast provided an extraordinary light show that was worth watching – but the next morning would be a positive omen.

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Jan 3-5: Cool but comfortable days. Sometimes shorts, sometimes jeans, but always long sleeves and usually a jacket. Good enough to find our routine of breakfast, lounge, walk, lounge, lunch, lounge, walk, lounge, shower, dinner, cards/television, and sleep.

Jan 6: A stormy day that also brought falling temperatures – a good day for a movie (La La Land).

Jan 7-9: The northerly winds delivered quite the chill, yet no matter how cold, it was warmer than home. Walkable days, but shorter distances.

Jan 10-19: After the initial transition day, a string of days of sunshine and 15-20 degrees F (13-24 C) above normal. Perfect days to continue the routine. Days that would treat us to glorious sunrises, colorful sunsets, and brilliant nightly moons.

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Jan 20-21: Although temperatures remained above normal, unstable air delivered an angry sea and occasional storms – even tornado watches and warning severe enough to interrupt normal television. Good days for movies (Hidden Figures and The Founder).

Jan 22-25: The normal routine returns as storms are gone, but the above normal temperatures remain. It’s been quite a streak of warmth.

Jan 26-27: Normal temperatures finally arrive – 60 F (15 C) by day – 40 (4 C) at night. The breezes are cool. Sweatshirts and jackets are the order of the day. Some people in shorts, others not.

Jan 28-29: Noticing the temperature decrease during our return drive home – a home not along the sand and waves, but one of wonderful sunsets when the sky is right. Home – the permanent one, not the temporary. A home with colder temperatures and light snow in the air. Home – the place (while we were gone) that had 1 sunny day, 6 partly sunny/party cloudy days, and only 7 precipitation-free days in January (although overall temperatures were above normal). Home – the place for ballroom dance, handbells, volunteering, friends, and normal routines – just not the routine of January 2017.

That was our January in Orange Beach, Alabama. A time when we had a different routine – one of first-time snowbirds. A time when I drafted over 20 posts the old-fashioned way – on paper – so I now face the daunting task of getting them ready.

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On Finger Lakes

Smooth as glass

Seneca Lake smooth as glass at Watkins Glen

Last fall we spent some time in New York’s Finger Lakes region. Given May was Finger Lakes Wine Month, thus I missed the perfect chance to look back. Oh well, better late than never

The Finger Lakes region is in central New York, far from the hustle and bustle of New York City. On the map, there are a series of long, narrow, parallel lakes looking like fingers, which are actually very deep.

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For many years I’ve heard of people vacationing to the Finger Lakes region – but the urge to go never overwhelmed us enough to act on a trip. Given last year’s change of address, 2014 turned out to be a good time for a driving vacation.

As people who enjoy the fruit of the vine, wine was our primary focus. Although known for many years for its sweet, low-cost wines, todays Finger Lakes winemakers produce very respectable wines.

View from Dr. Frank's

View from Dr. Frank’s

Anyone expecting hardy reds will be (for the most part) disappointed. Reds as Cabernet Franc and some blends are good, but far from the deep, rich reds from California or Washington.

Riesling is king of grape in the region. Although I prefer a wide variety of red wines, Rieslings have captured my attention for a long time. Similar to their Germans and the French Alsatian counterparts, Finger Lake winemakers produce Riesling in a variety of styles, which range in sweetness and dryness.

Most tasting rooms have a small fee ($3-5) for a series of wines. To me, the following wineries were exceptional (lake name in parentheses)
Domaine LeSeurre (Keuka)
Dr. Frank Konstantin (Keuka)
Herman Wiemer (Seneca)
Lamoreaux Landing (Seneca)
Ravines (Seneca)
Thirsty Owl (Cayuga)

Towns as Watkins Glen, Hammondsport, Seneca Falls, and others are small, but large enough to have restaurants, small hotels, and bed & breakfast inns. Besides wineries, the region also includes state parks, hiking trails, local artisans, and museums.

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Taughannock falls

 

Ithaca is one the region’s largest cities (30,000+), and is home to Cornell University. Because one of my Bucket List oddities is to visit all the Ivy League universities, we enjoyed the campus, the botanical gardens, and arboretum.

3 daily bell concerts at the famed Cornell tower

3 daily bell concerts at the famed Cornell tower

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Visitors Center at the Cornell Botanical Gardens

Visitors Center at the Cornell Botanical Gardens

 

Corning (population 11,000+) is less than an hour away, and home to the Corning Museum of Glass. Our original itinerary didn’t include a stop, but to me, this was the biggest surprise of our trip. Simply fabulous!

Corning Museum of Glass

Corning Museum of Glass

A masterpiece by Tiffany at the Corning Museum of Glass

A masterpiece by Tiffany at the Corning Museum of Glass

For readers in the northeastern US and eastern Canada, the Finger Lakes region is a worthwhile destination – so, consider it.

Useful References
Finger Lakes Wine
Cayuga Wine Trail
Seneca Wine Trail
Keuka Wine Trail
Cornell University Botanical Gardens
Corning Museum of Glass

On Exploring the Most Beautiful: Part 1

We like to travel, thus have seen some places. Then again, the world offers so much, yet I have seen so little. How would you answer this question: Where is the most beautiful natural view you’ve ever seen? The Grand Canyon? Victoria Falls? A mountain view? A local scene? … after all, beauty is also close to home.  For me, the answer is easy … the Na Pali coast on the west side of Kauai. Enjoy.

On a Big Apple Dawn

After an evening of dinner, a show, and some dancing, we returned to our cabin for the final night …
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… only to rise early for the special treat from the deck to the east …
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… but the show we came to see was to the west …
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… as we approached the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge …
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… which the ship cleared with a little to spare …
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… to eventually dock on the New Jersey of the river with a wonderful view of Lady Liberty and the Manhattan skyline featuring One World Trade Center, the Empire State Building, and the morning clouds getting ready to make a break.
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From the dock, our return home started as we went directly to the airport, so we couldn’t connect with NYC area bloggers as Lame, Guapo, Kay, and Weebs. But if you are late joining this trip, click here to get you to the start, plus each post will end with the next stop.