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Alabama – Heart of Dixie


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Searching for the Heart of Dixie? Look to Alabama for some Southern surprises.

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Searching for the Heart of Dixie? Look to Alabama for some Southern surprises.


Traveling the north-south corridor of Alabama, Interstate 65 is neatly hemmed in by pine trees. The margins are thick and wooded and there’s hardly a peek at what’s behind the pines. But if you divert from the highway you’ll find that Alabama holds some real treasures and unique surprises.


Point Mallard in Decatur offers a large and pleasingly priced campground. This 750+ acre family park sports a golf course, waterpark, ice rink, and campground that easily accommodates big rigs. Events such as the Alabama Jubilee, Spirit of America festival, and civil war reenactments are held annually at Point Mallard.


In Birmingham I met Alabama’s most unique folk artist - Joe Minter greeted me at his home wearing a decorated hard hat and an elaborate necklace of chains and padlocks. Joe is a junk sculpture artist, and has spent the last 20 years building the African Village in America in his backyard. It’s a testament to African-American struggles, and divinely inspired as his life’s work.


Mr. Minter lives on a quiet side street next to a formerly segregated cemetery with a 200-year history. At first glance his place looks like a jumbled junk yard. But Joe is quick to point out the monuments - the tragedy section, the reparation section, the hope section. As you pick your way along the maze-like paths you begin to comprehend the collections and artistry. There are grottos and crèches, huts and gazebos, sculptures and paintings. And endless inspirational messages and psalms painted on surfaces or constructed of found objects.


Should you find yourself in Birmingham, stop by and see the African Village on Nassau Street. It will be worth the stop. If you’re traveling in your RV, proceed with caution on this narrow street and leave yourself some room to turn around!


A bit further south I had a chance to enjoy Oak Mountain State Park in Pelham, AL. This is Alabama’s largest state park which offers good camping accommodations for RVs and equestrians. Beaches, boat rentals, horse stables, hiking trails, and many more activities can be found in Oak Mountain’s serenely wooded setting.


In the summer season it’s worth a diversion off the highway to take advantage of the numerous peach and fruit stands near Clanton. I found delicious local goodies at Durbin Farms Market, and enjoyed a deli-style lunch at their cafe.


For a more rustic and rural experience, Sweet Home Alabama campground in Andalusia, Al is situated on a fishing lake. The check-in office is also the bait shop, and owner/manager Tom will rent you a boat and provide fishing tips. Further south, lovely little Florala, AL sits on border of Florida and Alabama and is a worth a stop to stretch your legs and have a look around.


If you’re searching for the Heart of Dixie, take a side trip off the highway to enjoy Alabama’s generous hospitality and unique southern charms.











May 17, 2023

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