Sunday, December 29, 2013

It's 4am And Time To Go

First of all you should know up front that I detest winter with a passion. I like mosquitoes more than I like winter. The only good thing about winter is spring. But this year I could hardly wait for winter. For the trees to lose their leaves and the kudzu to abate for the season. I only shoot seriously in winter because winter makes for dark and dreary settings for my photos. Needless to say I was anxious for Christmas to be over so I could focus on my project.

I had spent the summer scouring Google maps of the entire state. Over the course of the last few months I must have spent 300 or 400 hours mapping out every state and US highway plus many county roads. I know where more old houses and country stores are than any normal person could stand. Streetview makes things easy as I knew what most things looked like before I marked them. By the time I had a workable map system set up I had divided the state into 16 sections. Each section had various placemarks denoting an old house or a barn or store or bridge or, well, you get the idea. Some sections had as few as 80 placemarks and some close to 200. I haven't added them up but I'm figuring I've found close to 2000 different places that would most likely qualify as old and abandoned. Now was the time to put all that research to work and the day after Christmas was my start date.

4am comes mighty early on a cold winter's morning but today was THE day. I dragged myself from my warm bed knowing I had a long two days ahead of me. One last check on the cats to make sure they were ok and I was off. On today's agenda was map section UA-Northwest. UA being Upper Alabama (since LA is Lower Alabama why not an Upper Alabama as well?). I pulled into Moulton around 6am (it's still dark at 6am but now I know) and waited for the sun to come up. My first stop was this little country store west of Moulton. The frost on the ground crunched under my feet as I moved around looking for the best angle. I tend to shoot from many angles because it's digital and you can't throw away pictures you don't have. It was very quiet way out in the country but also quite peaceful. I had finally started my winter's journey and today was going to be a good day.

This little former Chevron station east of Leighton looked better on Google Streetview than it did in real life but there were a few things to see. When's the last time you saw an oil can? And yes, it had church key holes in the top.

Just east of Florence is the Shoal Creek bridge. Traveling by car was still more or less a novelty when this bridge was built in 1924. While it looks quite dated now I'm betting this was state of the art back when it was built. It still looks sturdy even though the state has closed it off to even foot traffic.

Friday morning I was up before dark again because I still had a lot of places to go and there's only so much daylight. And add to that that the winter sun sits closer to the horizon and makes for challenging ways to get shots while avoiding getting your shadow in the picture. Thanks to Remember Tuscumbia for posting this former school on my Facebook/Forgotten Alabama page.  It was kinda creepy going through it. A lethal combination of the elements and vandals made this place feel eerie. Add to that that I think the temperature had to be in the upper teens as you can see from the frozen puddle in the picture. I was grateful for my warm car when it was time to move on.

Finally near the end of my day's journey I stopped at the old Meadow Gold Dairy Terminal (Thanks to Stanley N Carol Dean for the tip!) on US 31 between Athens and Decatur. Once again mostly destroyed on the inside. I did notice they spent money on some nice cultured marble on the facade. Not much to speak of inside other than a dead possum and this sign. I had forgotten about Ronnie Flippo. He was a former Congressman from the 5th district who resigned from Congress in 1991 to run for Governor. He wound up finishing 4th in the primary. I wonder if it was because his version of Alabama has a goatee?

By the time I got home I had driven 739 miles and taken about 650 pictures. My system needs refinement but at least I have a system. Before it was random and hope I got lucky.

It's good to be writing again and good to be back on the road. I love Alabama, warts and all, and looking forward to seeing much more of it.

Thank you for taking the time to read this. I appreciate y'all more than you know.