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Coden, Alabama ~ What’s Happened

Royal Oaks’ one of the last remaining majestic old homes from pre-Katrina days along Coden Belt on the Gulf of Mexico in the western Alabama enclave of Coden. The entire first story with the exception of the supporting timbers was washed away during Katrina.  The second story and the old growth live oaks remained. The owner, being of some substance, was able and willing to restore the first floor and the home and grounds in general. My guess is all are thankful that it remains and was restored.

Much of the remainder of the populace of Coden was not near as lucky.  Through a twist and turn of time and politics, Coden remained an unincorporated coastal fishing village; a ward of Mobile County if you will; the illegitimate sibling of Bayou la Batre. The citizens of Coden were disenfranchised and unrepresented. In the aftermath of Katrina many residents of Coden lost or suffered damage to their homes and property. While the towns with political representation were able to successfully vie for the governmental relief and assistance dollars that were available, the residents of Coden had no one, no governmental structure or entity to represent them, whether in Mobile, Montgomery,or Washington, DC. The beautiful thing about Americans that are disenfranchised or taxed without representation, whether in the 1700’s or 2000’s, is eventually folks stand up on their hind legs and speak truth to power. Democracy, government can and does work for the people when people educate themselves to how it works and then make it work for them.

Apparently something along these lines happened in Coden.

A mixed group of local citizens took it upon themselves to become organized and educated. In the end after speaking truth to power at the county, state and federal levels, Coden now has a viable advocacy and representative entity in the form of the Coastal Response Center.  Local citizen, governmental and private sector dollars combined to renovate an existing warehouse structure (7385 HWY 188) to provide a facility and site within Coden in the event of future need.  Aide and assistance to folks in need of housing began to find its way to Coden as well. There is now a place that citizens of Coden can go to to meet, to organize, to represent themselves whether in a crisis or to deal with the more mundane day to day business of being citizens.

(Note the bank of batteries in the closet to the right. These store two days worth of power generated by the solar panels on the roof.)

This is good stuff. This is the stuff of which democracy should be made. Shun the bluster and buffoonery, get organized, educate yourselves and go out and accomplish constructive things. Congratulations to the Coastal Response Center and the citizen groups of Coden, Alabama.

Speak truth to power!

Thank you to Stephanie Bosarge.

(If I have missed anything necessary or said something in error please feel free to correct me via e-mail or in the comments.)

30 Jan 2011

Coden, Alabama ~ What’s Happening!

So you’ve heard Coden (pronounced Co-De-N), Alabama is the end of the road and nothing is happening there. You would be right on one count but wrong on the other. Coden is the site of South Bay R/C Racing and that’s what’s happening Saturdays.

Grown men, kids and families alike gather at the Coastal Response Center (7385 HWY 188, Coden Alabama) with radio controlled model cars, good intentions and visions of what will be. I had the pleasure of meeting Bubba and Stephanie Bosarge at the Blue Heron while everyone was their for lunch.  Bubba is a talker, and before you know it it is Saturday mid-day and I am out photographing the South Bay R/C Racing group’s Saturday racing extravaganza.

Kids of all ages, young and the worldy-wise, gather to race, banter and share  friendship and support in the aftermath of the one-two punch that was Katrina and the BP Oil Spill.

The vision of  three men, three families, a community, is an R/C drag strip, currently in place, and an oval raceway and an off road challenge course. They hope to provide a positive and constructive activity outlet for the youth of the South Bay communities. Something that would put Coden, Alabama on the R/C map, oh my, it would put Coden on the map period. These folks have a vision and the energy and persistence to accomplish that vision. If you would like to help or contribte to this vision in any way shape or form call Bubba Bosarge at 251-423-9826.

Be a part of rebuilding the Gulf Coast.

Here to prove ‘electric’ cars do have a future; at least on th R/C circuit.

Good clean fun and it’s happening on Saturdays in Coden, Alabama. Check it out!

30 Jan 2011

Dauphin Island Textures

Images ~ Nothing More

29 Jan 2011

Bayou la Batre ~ A Real ‘Bubba’ Gump

We got onto Dauphin Island (Alabama) late, after dark on Thursday. Our lateness being occasioned by more on the road ‘house’ maintenance. (Another story to tell some other time about the havoc a single ‘Wet One’ can wreak.) Getting into a place late always leaves me wondering what the ‘big picture’ looks like when I awake. Feeling that way this morning we took off to survey our surroundings. The movie Forrest Gump has always left me wanting to visit the Alabama fishing village of Bayou la Batre. Checking out Dauphin Island quickly became a trip onto the mainland to Bayou la Batre.

Bayou la Batre is a welder and painters dream; shipyards on both sides, up and down. Lots of hardware and investments seemingly sitting idle, but then again I do not know the world of commercial fishing. In addition to a fishing fleet and boatyards there were processing houses. Bayou la Batre the ‘seafood capital of Alabama’.

The area seems to be getting back up to its knees after being flattened by Katrina. I am not sure what impact the BP Spill had, certainly did not help. We are sitting in a small  local cafe, the Blue Heron, eating excellent food (great daily specials or try the ‘Seafood Tater”) when in comes a local gentleman who has just gotten back into the area after trucking shrimp to ‘I don’t know where’. He has called his wife and is meeting her at the Blue Heron for lunch. Something about that or an egg sandwhich at home. I am checking out some old photography gracing the walls and ask him if he can identify any of it for me. Turns out he is born and bred in the area, lived here all his life. His name is ‘Bubba’ and proud of it. ‘Bubba’Bosarge. If my memory serves me correctly Bosarge is an original French surname with some local history attached to it. Bubba proudly (and rightly so) proclaimed his involvement in an effort to provide local families and local youth with a constructive activity outlet, that being Radio Controlled drag racing. Saturday in Coden at the Recovery Center on HWY 188.  See you there!

28 Jan 2011

Travel As A Poitical Act ~ Rick Steves

Rick Steeves’ book, Travel As A Political Act, carries a number of messages and carries them well. Steeves’ uses his travels to various overseas destinations as the vehicle to broach, discuss and consider and reconsider a number current of social, religious, economic and political issues. It becomes apparent fairly quickly that Steeves is a progressive thinker and doer in his politics, religion and world view. Steeves does not flinch from espousing a progressive, dare I say it, liberal view point through out.  He is firm in his beliefs and firm in his opinions yet he does not bash or condescend to anyone who might think differently or disagree. A breath of fresh air on both counts. His experiences are the origins of  his world view.

While much of Steeves world view is preaching to the choir for me it was refreshing to see and hear that world view articulated well and advanced in print. Steeves has a voice that might turn some readers off but it is consistent throughout the book and I found it sincere and experienced as opposed to pompous or arrogant. After eight chapters of traveling in different countries and cultures to make  a point regarding an issue or perspective (war, Europe’s socialism v America’s  capitalism, legislating morality and human behavior, religion and Christianity, taxes and government, secular Islam, being smart on drugs) Steeves takes the final chapter to challenge the reader through an outline of specific ‘walk the talk’ actions that a traveler could take upon his/her return to their home country to impact the status quo and put one’s new found perspectives into action.

Lots of new-to-me tidbits of information:

“In the Bible God calls for a Jubilee Year (Leviticus25:10) – every fifty years, the land is to be redistributed and debts are to be forgiven. Perhaps God figured that, given the greedy nature of humankind, it takes about fifty years for economic injustice to build to a point that drives asociety to violence. Rich Christians can’t image God was serious.”

While Iran is an Islamic country (Shia), Iranians are Persians not Arabs. Huge distinction.

Travel makes you wiser but less happy.

On proselytizing Democracy throughout the world: “Democracy in countries that function as the quarries (oil fields ~ my insertion) of capitalism reminds me of a bonsai tree. You keep it in the window for others to see, and when it grows too big, you cut it back.”

Whatever level of traveler you are or aspire to be read this book; it will make you think. I am sending it home to my youngest daughter and her husband to read as they are divided in their politics.

World Hum Interview ~ Rick Steeves

Language Is Music Web Site Review

Matador Network Review

The Changelog Review

26 Jan 2011

Thoughts On Leaving Florida

Route 98 along the Panhandle up against the Gulf of Mexico is a beautiful drive.   Drove through a town named  ‘Panacea’.

Driving Rt 98 across the panhandle of Florida with Bayou la Batre, Alabama as our goal in a day or two; the weekend in coastal Alabama/Mobile Bay. Lots of state prison prisoners working on the roads here.  In fact lots of state prisons in Florida, seemed to be one every where we went. The US incarcerates a similar percentage of it’s population to that of the Soviet Union; weird but not surprising when you think about it.

Reflecting on the first half of this trip I have come to realize that the places where we had the most consistent exposure to people and saw a fair cross section of people was in WalMarts. Sad commentary in my mind. It is an urban myth that WalMarts across this country allow you to overnight your RV in their parking lots.

Route One North, Portsmouth, NH and Kennebunk, Maine beat Route One South, Homestead, Florida hands down.

The Waffle House, all along the way, wins the award for breakfasts. Every single employee greets you the moment you walk in the door.  Friendly and inviting. Have you ever noticed that the size of the bench seat space at all booth tables whatever the restaurant are uneven, one side having markedly less space than the other?

Enjoyed the people of Florida. Did not met a single Floridian whom I did not enjoy; as we all do,  they present better individually than as a group.

Leaving the Eastern Time Zone for the Central Time Zone sometime today.

Citrus groves and scrub cattle ranches were more enticing than the crowded coasts.

Kudos: Florida’s State Parks have it figured out.

I enjoyed and appreciated all the photographic opportunities that Florida had to offer. Great birding and wildlife!

26 Jan 2011

Whole Again ~ Another Chapter, Certainly Not the Last, In the Smart Car Saga

So we are whole and complete again to the point that we were allowed to bed down with the ‘big boys’ on I95 last night. Florida’s provision of night time security at interstate rest stops makes good sense. Not all states do it that way; makes more sense to provide the service to and for truckers (and travelers) rather than to prohibit the over-night use of rest areas. Again the question of whether or not you can legislate human behavior, but I digress …

A shout out and thank you to one Juan Flores of Smart Center Weston.  This young man dealt with frustrations, disappointments and setbacks, of no one’s particular making, while we waited for our tow car to be repaired. The frustrations and disappointments and then the resulting emotions on our part and his were dealt with in a consistent, controlled and professional manner.  He will go far in his chosen endeavors in life; he seems to have those ‘people skills’ that one may only be born with.

So the Smart Car saga chapter!

The steering rod part from Germany finally arrives and is installed.  We arrive at Smart Center Weston late afternoon close to the cessation of the business day. It turns out that unbeknownst to us (how come?) Horace Mann, our insurance company, has sent the big check meant for Smart Center Weston to our home address in northern New Hampshire.  We do not intend to be there for another couple of months. Frantic phone calls to Horace Mann and the passing of cell phones and Tax ID numbers back and forth between Juan and I and Horace Mann result in a plan.  The car will be released to us no matter what, that afternoon (now quickly turning into that evening), the big Horace Mann check sitting in our mail box probably soaking wet and or frozen solid from the blizzards in the northeast of late will have a stop payment placed on it taking 24 to 48 hours, and a second big big check will be cut by Horace Mann to Smart Center of Weston, once the stop payment is in place, and over-nighted to Smart Center Weston (who knows how long the overnight will take, as we have learned).

Whew!  Yikes! Scary!

Without that car being released to us we would either be stuck waiting another week or leaving a big chunk of our funds hanging out there until everything cleared.  Ah but all is well and the car is released to us.

The car has been on the alignment rack. Good! A Smart Center Weston staff has driven it around the lot and pronounced it road worthy. Great! We have signed all the paperwork and written a check for the insurance deductible. Grand! Now it is late and dark but we can sense that we will released and on the road again, free and untethered, shortly. The dealership is shutting down around us. Juan departs.  The mechanic offers to help get the tow package set up and attached but we demur and he is gone. The tow package is finally set up (minus one finger tip) and the wiring harness set.  The Westfalia started up and lights go on. Lo and behold all is well between both vehicles except for the rear driving light on the driver’s side, the damaged and repaired side of the Smart Car. Debbie and I sense the worst once again. Damn, stuck another night in southern Florida. We soldier on with our diagnostics and undo the wiring harness between the vehicles to find that the malfunction is in the Smart Car. Small consolation, but still. Seemingly everyone has left the Smart Car Center but a light is still on; the General Manager, a young pert gal who I only know as Raquel is still at her desk. She startles as I walk in and explain where we are at.  In a take charge manner she is up and out the door striding towards the offending Smart Car. I-Phone in hand calling Juan, I am not sure whether she intends to kick the crap out of the vehicle out of pure frustration or what. Instead she starts that problem solving logic common to all good mechanics while removing pieces and parts of the vehicle, deductive and inductive reasoning flying right and left, to get at the offending light bulb. Off she strides into the darkened dealership to emerge with a new bulb. She repeats the process finding it easier than the first time and … ‘viola’ … a functional lighting package. We are truly whole again.  Raquel is immensely pleased with herself as are we with her.  This must not be part of her normal job description. She questioned herself repeatedly at the outset, urged herself on as the job commenced and expressed some pride when she finished the job successfully. Thank you, Raquel!

A final leaving and we exchange business cards. I did not realize that Raquel was in fact Raquel Case, and I am guessing here, daughter of Rick Case, owner of multiple automobile dealerships within that area. One competent young lady following in her dad’s footsteps.

We are on the road. It is raining and we are closing in on I10. Gettin’ ready to go west to the bayous!

I 95 N, a rest area south of Port St Lucie near midnight

25 Jan 2011

Kissimmee Lake State Park ~ Images

Wood Stork

Palmetto & Pine

Sand Hill Crane

Epiphytes in Live Oak

24 Jan 2011

‘Gabby’ Paxton ~ Cow Camp, Kissimmee, Florida, 1876

Seventh generation cracker cowboy, confederate blood in his veins, the pride of  Stonewall Jackson’s heritage evident, interpretive presenter ‘Gabby’ Paxton leaves one wondering when, if ever, he shifts out of his 1870’s Florida Cracker cow hunter character. ‘Gabby’ presents his everything-out-of-my-mouth-is-true rendition of an 1876 cow camp  at Kissimmee Lake State Park, ‘up on the ridge’ as they say, in central Florida. This is a must see in my book for history buffs, aficionados of good story telling and folks who appreciate quality. This, from someone who clearly loves what he is doing and loves the character and heritage he is presenting.

‘Gabby’ Paxton!

Before or after seeing ‘Gabby’s’ presentation the interested traveler could make him or herself familiar with any or all of the following works:

Cracker: Florida’s Enduring Cowboy duotone images by Jon Kral

Frederic Remington’s work depicting Cracker Cowboys

Florida Cow Hunter: The Life and Times of Bone Mizell by Jim Bob Tinsley

Bone Mizell: the Cracker Cowboy of the Palmetto Prairie

Cracker: the Last Cowboys of Florida ~ a feature length film byVictor Milt

A Land Remembered by Patrick D. Smith

CRACKER COW, A Narrative of Florida History by Barbara Cairns

23 Jan 2011

Kissimmee Lake ~ Wood Storks and Sand Hill Cranes

Palmetto and Pine

Sand Hill Crane

Epiphytes on Live Oak

Bestial Beauty ~ Wood Stork

Kissimmee Lake State Park ~ Florida

22 Jan 2011

Porter, Maine & What About Maine and New Hampshire?

Enjoying south central Florida, currently at Kissimmee Lake SP. Checked out the visitor center for a grower owned citrus processing plant cooperative, Florida’s Natural; a brand we actually see in the stores up north. Well done en lieu of a tour of the plant itself.

Back at the campground we ran into a fellow traveler/adventurer from Porter, Maine. A husband and wife team who sold the log cabin in Porter, Maine (raise your hand if you know where Porter,Maine actually is) and have been on the road for the past 8 months. It was certainly enjoyable, both ways, to talk and share with someone from the great State of Maine. In the process we all recognized how few ‘on-the-road’ encounters we have had with anyone else from Maine or New Hampshire since we left the far north east.

What is that all about?

21 Jan 2011

Open Statement to Verizon Wireless

I have been here before with Verizon and I did not like it then any more than I like it now. Your business and corporate structure may work well for you but it is not consumer nor customer friendly. It is only because of a few face to face encounters with quality folks who work for Verizon in some capacity or another (the latest being a Mr. Keithley McCutcheon) that Verizon retains our business.  The ‘ 5 Spot’ seems like the Edsel of ‘wifi’ cards: it did not serve us well and was costing us money in terms of the amount of time it was down or the amount of time we were on the phone with a Verizon tech support person.  Those tech support people ought to be trained not to keep a customer on the line any longer than 20 minutes, 30 minutes max. And then after failure to resolve the issue never ever shift gears into droning on reading legalese.  That is sure to have your customers eyes rolling back in their heads.  Another issue: too many different outlets are advertising Verzion Wireless or advertising as Verizon Wireless and selling to the consumer. In the end the consumer can only deal with one of the many as opposed to any or all.  Not consumer friendly.  Last but not least we find after lots of time on the phone, reading e-mails, reading print that we are unable to access billing details online through our account without a charge.  The same information that we will receive in print at the end of the month in the mail. Once again not consumer friendly.

Verizon Wireless get a clue.  You need to be customer friendly and consumer advocates otherwise it feels like we are being peddled cells phones and wifi products and contracted services by the used car sales stereotype of the past.

21 Jan 2011

Fifty Years Ago Today ~ A Different Time and Place?

In my lifetime, fifty years ago today John F. Kennedy was inaugurated as President of the United States.

Life Magazine slideshow.

Were we a different people back in the day or did we live in a different world?

Oh, to have been a Life photographer assigned to that event!

Where are the Life magazines of today?

20 Jan 2011

Kissimmee Prairie Preserve

More of the real Florida; Florida does a nice job with it’s State Parks.

Interesting place; great people!

15 Jan 2011

Okeechobee Livestock Auction ~ Charolais Bull Sale

Working cattlemen (and women) come to central Florida to buy bulls.

“Jus’ a’  look at this ‘man’ will ya!”

That’s the photojournalism show; check out the gallery for all the images.

Interesting day’s shoot.

15 Jan 2011

Ralph ~ All State

Leaving South Florida, both coasts,  heading inland and north: No more walled insular set-aside housing developments which just shout, “We’ve got ours, now the rest of you go away!”  Greed and fear, exactly what the politicos and admen are selling this country.

~     ~     ~

Individual people always present so  much better than the crowd.

~     ~     ~

Good Samaritan and Good Guy ~ Ralph from All State

Thank you!

12 Jan 2011

Everglades – Florida Bay and Flamingo

The Florida Bay/Flamingo area of the Everglades and the 30 mile road in gets higher marks than the Gulf Coast – Chokoloskee/Everglades City side.  Images rivaling Sanibel.

More images can be viewed in the Everglades gallery.

12 Jan 2011

New Directions ~ Same Old Destination

The body panels arrived to Smart Car Weston today! Late in the day the car was complete and taken for a test drive.  A steering rod is bent and could pose serious problems, needing to be replaced.  The part has been ordered from … you guessed it; Mercedes-Benz, Germany. Five to seven days out is the estimate for completion.

We are heading a days drive north of Weston/Davie to visit a number of Florida State Parks and check out some photo ops: State Parks -Kissimmee Prairie Preserve SP, Highlands Hammock SP and a return to Myakka River SP; photo ops – Sebring Raceway, Okeechobee County Fairgrounds, and Lake Okeechobee.  All the while waiting for a phone call telling us to return from whence we came.

A waiting game.

12 Jan 2011


Weather events elsewhere have conspired to way lay us in Davie/Weston, Florida too long.  Waiting on body panels for the Smart Car.  Overnight freight can not get around the winter weather elsewhere.

So here we sit.  Lots of time for processing images. New gallery additions and image postings later today.  Staying in a Cracker Barrel parking lot off of I75, WalMart’s RV welcome is a myth.

We have had the opportunity to go see some first rate first run flicks in the theatrer: The Black Swan and True Grit. Two very good and very different movies. One is a study of the darker side of the ballet and a descent into madness and insanity. Oh so well done; was with me the next day. The Coen Brothers’ remake of the John Wayne classic based on the Charles Portis novel is true to the novel.  The quirky use of the English language is essential to this film’s success. That and the acting of Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon and Josh Brolin who are all excellent but outshone by a new comer to the screen Hailee Steinfeld. Great flick!

12 Jan 2011

Family ~ Ian Frazier

Family by Ian Frazier (author of Great Plains and On the Rez – read them both) was a good read. It is well researched and well written. The Frazier’s family history walks the reader through much of this country and it’s history. It will certainly make you reflect on your own family and then some. A good read but it does not match up with Frazier’s  Great Plains.

11 Jan 2011