Tuesday, December 23, 2014

'Tis The Season...

'Tis the season! Get it? OK, it's a bit lame but it is, indeed, the start of my season again. The fact that it coincides with Christmas is purely accidental since they both share winter. Besides, if I was doing a Forgotten Australia, it wouldn't work and I'd have to come up with a catchier title. But I digress. For eight months out of the year I await the onset of winter. Not that I like cold weather. I detest it with a passion so much so that mere words fail me. But, for those of you who are reading my witty reparte' for the first time, winter is my season to shoot. My reasons are varied but to summarize, the leaves have fallen from the trees, the kudzu has gone dormant and the winter skies are stark and gloomy. All these create a significant part of my canvas and are necessary evils.

So far I've managed to get two days in which is not too shabby considering December is a month fraught with distraction. My first outing, Saturday the 13th, started at 4:40 AM. I had previously found a house in east Alabama that sits in a field. There are no trees. There's pretty much nothing except the house. I wanted to get there at sunrise because the dawn sun would make an awesome backdrop to this otherwise lonely structure. Unfortunately I got caught by a stopped train that cost me a good 15 minutes. Then there was the requisite distractions I encounter along the way. One was this house north of Alexander City on AL 22. As you can imagine, things like this are my shiny object. My reasoning is always "Will I ever pass this way again?" and the short answer is probably not. Carpe Rustium I always say and stop to get a few shots. As you might imagine this will, of course, throw me off my timetable. It's a sacrifice I'm willing to make to create my masterpiece.

(Insert winky face here to denote not taking myself too seriously)

As I mentioned at the beginning, tis the season which means chances are I'm going to find a Christmas parade in some small town in Alabama. This was the end of the one in Hollis Crossroads. Merry Christmas by the way. 

Any trip that does not include the famous Elephant gas station in Roanoke is a trip wasted don't you think? But, as it turns out, according to the site roadsideamerica.com, it was built as rocky cliffs and a lighthouse to catch tourists heading to Florida. According to the story, as told by a descendant of the original owner, the lighthouse made the roof leak and it was removed. The structure was later modified to accommodate a used car lot. The remaining structure resembled an elephant and a subsequent owner added the eye.


This past Saturday, the 21st, I was further north. Mostly Cleburne and Cherokee Counties. I had stopped at an old cotton gin when I was accosted by a Cherokee County Sheriff's deputy (my third time to be queried by law enforcement btw). He was passing by and saw my truck and wanted to know what I was doing. I held up my camera and then asked if I needed to get lost. He just shook his head and said nope. As long as I wasn't out stealing scrap metal he didn't care. We struck up a conversation and then he started giving me ideas of places I might like to see. Even gave me his fold-up map of Cherokee County. I went to one of the places he told me and he caught up with me. We chatted for a good 15 mins more. This little store was one of the places he suggested. I can assure you that nobody here would have found this place because of how remote it was but he described in detail its exact location. Corporal Gene Knowles was his name. He doesn't do Facebook so he'll never even know I mentioned him but a good guy nonetheless.

As I was passing through Anniston on Greenbrier Dear Road I just happen to spot this on the side of the road. An abandoned miniature golf course named Putters. Instant goldmine in my particular view of things! I whupped (yes, whupped is a word. Any true Southerner knows this word and not always for good reasons) around and parked. This place was kind of odd in that there were no bright colors so to speak. While it followed the normal designs of things of this nature there was nothing to suggest this was meant to be a fun place for the whole family. I'm thinking it was meant for golfers to practice their putting skills even though there were some odd twists and turns like the normal putt-putt golf places have. Needless to say, another cool thing to see if you like abandoned and forgotten things.

I wanted to try something new on my blog. I bought a cheap dash cam and carry it with me everywhere. I decided to document my day so y'all would have a clue of what happens. So you know, a normal day is about 14 hours and around 400+ miles. This past Saturday started at 4:30 AM and ended about 7:00 PM that night. By the time I made it home I had added another 488 miles to my old Dodge. A few notes about the video. For some odd reason it did not record my first three hours. It picks up at just shy of 8:00 AM. I banged it out with Windows Movie Maker and it's not the best (it glitches at every edit even though it looks ok in preview. (editing video can be an arduous task when you don't have stellar software) but it gives you a good idea of what happens on a typical day with me. Most of the places I go I knew about from mapping them out during the summer of 2013. There are plenty of extra stops for things I see that I missed on Google Streetview. Just a couple of side notes. It's cool to watch for a while but don't feel obligated to watch the entire thing as it does get a bit tedious. I will say, however, it is kinda cool watching it get dark as I wind my way back home.

I'm pretty sure this winter is all I need to finish gathering material for my book. I certainly hope so. 14 hour days take their toll and I'm not as young as I used to be. 

But on the plus side I still have my natural good looks and unwavering modesty...

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Where I Go From Here (Alternate Title: Now What?)

To be perfectly honest I don't have a good answer. It is now May. I have not finished. I'm a lot further ahead than I was but that's like saying I'm 300 miles closer to the Moon than I was last November. My season is over for now. This past December I could look out my window and see my neighbor raking leaves in his yard. Now that winter has passed and spring is taking a firm hold I cannot even see their house anymore. 

I'm torn about whether I have enough material for a book. Finding a publisher is a bit of a task in itself. Then, of course, the realities of life are there to remind me I have responsibilities that are not even remotely related to my dreams. 

Why we were in such a hurry to be adults I will forever ponder.

I've gone back through my pictures from last couple of seasons. I found this Texaco sign by accident down in LA somewhere between Enterprise and Ozark. To be honest when you drive thousands of miles two things happen. One, you begin to lose track of where you've been. Keeping good notes was what I gleaned from that. And two, you tend to go over the same roads at times which, while seemingly contradictory to One it's not really. I won't remember an exact location but I'll sure remember I've been here before. I say this to say the next time I passed through here this sign was gone.

The old drive-in north of Clanton. I can only imagine how popular this place was back in its day. Small town America is a great place to grow up but we all needed distractions.

Movies were our window to the world. And I'm sure many a romance started with a date to the drive-in.

The former US 31 bridge just south of Garden City. It's a little difficult to get to by design but well worth my effort to get here. It's a fairly long bridge (100 yds or more) for bridges of this nature. I noticed that its clearance is only 12'-9". Too low for today's truck traffic. In fact it would make the truck I drive for my job a convertible.

Believe it or not this is a motel. At least 12 rooms or more. I have no clue what its name was but Pineview seems appropriate. Just north of Camden at the intersection of AL 28 and AL 221, this motel seems very out of place now. Motels took advantage of busy highways to lure guests in. When looking at where this is on a map I have no clue why folks would have been going this way. It's close to nothing.

A big safe is all that remains inside this building in Saint Clair (not to be confused with St Clair). I'm guessing it was too heavy to move but then I wonder how the door came to be laying on the ground next to it. 

My intent, as many of you well know, is to publish a book of my photos. To the handful of publishers I have talked to they all seemed to like my work but they don't deal in my genre. That's not exactly true. A couple seemed interested but they had requirements I could not meet. I don't fault them for this. Publishing, like a lot of things, is a gamble. They want to sell books and there's a lot of people out there who think they have the next 50 Shades of Grey. While I have no clue what somebody else thinks is literary genius, the bottom line is you have to convince any publisher to take a risk on you. I'm not Ansel Adams. I'm just me. And I would wager they are plenty of better photographers than me out there who can't get a book either. To that end, I will most likely end up going the self-published route. I've made some good contacts who will guide me through the process and I will most likely do this through Amazon. 

Good Lord willing, maybe I can put something together before Christmas. 

That's a qualified maybe by the way.

Maybe no one will notice I neglected to mention a year either...

Friday, April 11, 2014

Pay No Attention To That Man Behind The Curtain

With apologies to The Wizard of Oz, I speak metaphorically about spring. There is no denying it's here. Sure took its own sweet time getting here but it's here whether I like it or not. And with the onset of spring is the ebbing of my season. I always feel a sense of urgency as the weather becomes more moderate. I know the warmer it gets the more things will grow, especially my nemesis, kudzu, among other things. Don't get me wrong. I love spring. I love not being cold. But I also love shooting old and forgotten things.

Well duh...

Pretty much the reason you're here and reading this. Some ask why I only shoot in winter. Because it's dark and gloomy. It enhances the abandonment...the forgotten loneliness of my subject matter. And yet I pretend there is still time. I still can gather a few more things. I will admit to being insatiable. When I was plotting out my journey last summer I, via the wonder of Google maps, managed to find around 2000 potential targets. Oh sure, a lot were old but not necessarily aesthetically significant. In other words, a 100 year old block building was still just a block building. It was suggested to me that I narrow my focus to the more interesting targets. Reducing 120 stops down to 20. Sometimes I could. Other times I would have to have 30. If you read my blog called 1412 miles in Three Days I mentioned I had 102 stops. That was out of over 300 I could have gone to. But being insatiable I always think I don't have enough.

And then spring had to show up. Thanks. Thanks a lot.

This place I didn't even know about. I was in Spring Garden up in Cherokee County. I always thought Cherokee was a cool name for a county but I digress. Anyway, I was looking for something else in this neck of the woods so I accosted this sweet lady at the Post Office. Not only did she take me to what I was looking for but also asked if I knew about Hurricane Mill. As it turned out I did not. So, even with fresh groceries in her car, she then took me to find this place. I wish I had caught her name because she was so helpful. I'll just say thanks anyway because she took time to help a stranger but I guess she figured I didn't look too dangerous.

I don't always see the little things that give a place character. But when I do I'm delighted to find them. This is still hanging on the front of the large building in Billingsley...the one with "Billing-sley (It didn't fit as a single word) proudly painted on the roof. This particular morning it was eleventy-leben degrees.

The old church south of Brent. As interesting places to shoot go this one was pure gold. In a funny sort of way I find it easier to accept decay as opposed to vandalism. Nature is much more methodical as it reclaims its victims. Even though it's sad to see a church in such disrepair the relentless yet gentle onslaught of nature will ultimately win.

To know me personally you would think I'm pretty easy going and perhaps a bit cynical. I must confess both would be accurate. But, I can also be a bit of a perfectionist. Not annoyingly so....at least according to me. I remodeled a bathroom one time. I noticed after the mortar had dried on a bullnose tile on the edge of the sink it was slightly crooked. Almost nobody would have noticed but it drove me crazy. I say all this to say I am my own worse critic about my photography. I might really like one out of 100 shots I take. This picture of the old shrimp fishing boat Capt Chris was one of those shots. The clouds, the angle, the lighting among other things made this a photograph I was proud to call my own. Oh and so you know, it is abandoned so to speak. I was told a guy here buys old boats and resells them in South America. So it's service in the Gulf is long past.

I know the end is near and no I don't mean the upcoming blood moon. But the end of my season, for now, makes me realize now I have other things that require my attention.

Being an adult can be such a drag at times...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

To Quote Rod Argent, It's The Time Of The Season

What's left of the gym floor at Marengo County High School
Today is a pretty day. As I sit here writing this I glance out the window and see the reminders. The dogwood trees are starting to bud. Daffodils are everywhere. The weeds in my yard are tall enough that I cannot ignore them much longer. Yep, Spring is upon us. After this brutal winter (below 50 degrees is brutal to me) it looks like dawn is starting to break after the long dark night. While I embrace the onset of spring as much as Cato (my cat) embraces catnip I know it's the time of the season. Soon my journey will once again find safe harbor and weather the onslaught of kudzu. I always get melancholy at this time. I'm tired of being cold but since I only shoot in winter cold is my friend. Friend is not a good word. Evil accomplice is more appropriate.

When I set out to do my project my goal was to cover the entire state this winter. To have enough material to actually fill my impending book. Ambition and reality seldom share the same space. December is always a tough month to get anything done. My job, although freelance, still consumed much of my time. And then there was my Dad's health issues and his eventual passing. Even though I knew it was inevitable it was still a blow to me. It's all part of life and life happens on its schedule and not mine. 

As I have come to discover time and time again, I manage to find things I had missed previously. This house was not part of my itinerary. But I saw the beauty of it and turned around to get a picture of it. This is on Dallas County 45 between Marion and Marion Junction

As I was passing through Orrville on my way to something else I saw this bank. It's still pretty intact inside from what I could tell. Old banks used a lot of marble and I'm betting that marble came from Sylacauga.

I have no idea what this place was called other than "Motel". I don't think it's been abandoned that long but as you can tell from the sign the kudzu and other weeds are permanent residents now. US 11 north of Eutaw.

I had passed this church south of Moundville on AL 69 back in November while going from Mobile to Tuscaloosa. I found it odd to find these plastic flowers still sitting on a post near the front of the sanctuary. Kind of a sad reminder of what it had been at one time. Now they seem more to mourn its passing.

A moment of self-indulgence. Normally I consider selfies to be nothing more than narcissistic reminders that we exist. Add to that that I don't consider myself as particularly photogenic. But I saw myself in the mirror and in my element and realized that this actually looks pretty cool. Soooooo...forgive my rare foray into self-aggrandizement.

Life is short and I have so much left to do. Alabama is a veritable goldmine of abandoned and forgotten structures. I want to see them all.

I wonder if that's even possible....

Friday, February 28, 2014

Spectre, "The Best Kept Secret in the State of Alabama"

The town of Spectre
My trek through my beloved Alabama has taken me to many, many places. Places I never knew existed. Places I did. Most are your normal run-of-the-mill old houses or stores. After seeing dozens and dozens of them they start to look alike. But then there are the really cool things. The, as I call them, Holy Grails of my journey. This one, Spectre, Alabama, was one of my hardest to get to. It's on private land and is behind a gate that requires a code. And $3 a head. Guess that's to maintain the gate I suppose. But fortunately a friend of Forgotten Alabama, Gerald Nix, happen to be one of those with the code. It took a while to get our schedules to match but we did.

The columns from the witch's house
The Mayor's house. Only interior used besides the witch's house. Pie anyone?

I have to say the island (it's actually a peninsula) is quite peaceful. The spanish moss hangs thick on the trees there. I've often wondered why there is such a preponderance of it around Montgomery for something most likely to be seen much further south. As we rode down the gravel road I was getting excited. Like I was entering Alabama's version of Area 51. I could see the rooftops as we drew close and then as we rounded the curve there it was. Time has not been kind to the old buildings but then again they're movie props and not built to code. All show obvious signs of age and deterioration. In retrospect they were mostly still intact. The fake bricks were coming off of the chimneys and walls. None of the buildings had floors save for the Mayor's house. There are two large open and quite obvious spaces in the middle across the street from each other. These were the stores and businesses. Apparently both suffered their ultimate demise as victims of an an accidental fire. How that fire jumped across 30' of road between them is a mystery though.
Looking back towards the Jumping Spider woods. At top is the fake trees as Ed enters Spectre for the first time. The pole at right was one of the poles that held the wire that the shoes were suspended from.

What pretty much every building looked like inside

I watched Big Fish again. Mostly because I wanted a reference to accurately describe things. I have to admit it's worth watching. I didn't give it much thought initially but there were a lot of big names in the movie. Albert Finney was perfectly cast as was Ewan McGregor. It also had Jessica Lange and Billy Crudup. Robert Guillaume, Danny Devito (who was perfect for his role) and Steve Buscemi (who was not). And of course Miley Cyrus made her acting debut back when she was sweet and innocent. Oh...little known trivia (I love that interweb thingy) This was supposed to be Steven Speilberg's movie and he wanted Jack Nicholson to play the elder Ed Bloom. I like Jack Nicholson but there's no way he could have pulled this off like Finney did.

Nothing happened at the church. It was truly a prop

In the big picture (pun unintended) the town of Spectre wasn't really a significant physical part of the movie. The only interior of any building you see is the Mayor's house. Well, the witch's house too but it had fallen into such disrepair that it was removed. Only the piers exist now where it once sat. I have to admit it was quite fascinating walking around Spectre. And equally fascinating seeing a movie set as they actually are. I was told that Tim Burton and his wife stayed overnight at the Mayor's house. I was also told that rather than disassemble Spectre he offered the property owner compensation to let it sit as is. I'm glad he did.

As I've come to discover time and again, it's always a little weird walking around once busy places that are now abandoned.

Spectre was no exception.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

1412 Miles In Three Days

My day began at 3am. You may not realize this but 3am is pretty dang early. As is always the case though, I only have so much winter and a lotta ground to cover. Up to this point of the 16 sections I had planned to visit I had made it to a whopping five. And five ain't gonna cut it. Time to step things up a bit. On this particular endeavor I was going to be ambitious. Three of my 16 in three days. 102 separate stops. And, as it turned out, 1412 miles round trip. Granted my trips would best be called circuitous but even I was surprised it was that long.

It was just over three hours, as I was racing sunrise, to get to my first target. As I had mentioned previously I was looking for a windmill. I got a few suggestions and debated their merits. But, oddly enough, as I was coming back from Miami for my job a few days earlier, I rolled right past this perfect example. I was so excited to find it! Funny thing was...as I was leaving to move on to my next stop I saw the sign on the side of the road. Windmill Farms. Heavy sigh. It was a prop for a farm and not abandoned nor forgotten.

C'est la vie...

Not far from the windmill was this cool old sign for WTVY in Dothan. Now, granted, WTVY is alive and well but this was at their old studios in Webb.

There was a time when TV and radio stations went with really extravagant signage. You rarely see them anymore. I would call this an excellent example and I hope they don't let it deteriorate beyond repair. It's worth saving.

About half way between Geneva and Samson is this little gas station with its really cool sign. In business since WWII, the Harry Wilson store is a neat little stop along the way. It's still in business but I just couldn't pass up shooting something so old and yet still in business. I met Mr Wilson as he was closing up for the day and he was a nice guy. Sounds like a character from "It's a Wonderful Life". Everything about the place seemed frozen in 1962 so perhaps the sequel.

Just down the road from Red Level I found this old tow truck. A late 1940s or early 1950s Chevy. Suffice it to say the trees that now surround it are not near as old as that truck was.

Way down in Bon Secour I had two things I had to get. The Morning Star shrimp boat and this boat, the Jamie Jen. Only problem was that neither of them were easy to get to. I was pretty distraught about that until I found a crab fisherman who was about to go out and check his traps. I offered him $20 if he'd run my down the river to see these and he said yes. Trust me. This was the highlight of my day to get these boats and worth every penny. That fisherman, Nathaniel, was a super nice guy and helped me out with backgrounds on both the Morning Star (which you can see on Facebook/Forgotten Alabama) and this boat, the Jamie Jen. Seems she was a victim of Hurricane Ivan. The storm was so fierce (I actually covered Ivan when I worked in TV) that she was lifted out of the water and then crashed down on a pier post which impaled the long-liner to the dock. I wondered why it was still floating till Nathaniel pointed out how shallow it was there. It's actually sitting on the bottom of the river.

So you know, I have plotted out literally hundreds of old and abandoned structures in Alabama. Close to 2000 actually. But in that 2000 I have about 20 I consider my Holy Grail targets. By Holy Grail I mean those are places I have to find and shoot that I consider sensational. This coal tipple I found in Flomaton is one of those. Built in 1943 for the L&N Railroad it sits as a silent monument to steam trains and is a significant piece of railroad history.

1412 miles, 888 pictures, three fillups and a lotta gas station chicken. I will admit to being ready for this trip to end. When I finally finished with number 102 I was happy to be done and heading home. Now if I can get spring to wait a few more weeks I may make it.

I'll just pretend I didn't see those daffodils blooming on the side of the road...

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Five Down, Eleven To Go

My cryptic title? Well, I've got my work cut out for me. My goal (ambitious for sure. Practical? Not so much) was to cover the entire state in a single winter. As I have stated previously, I had divided the state into 16 sections. So far I've made it to five. And winter is more than half way over. It's beginning to look like my plan is becoming unrealistic.

(insert heavy sigh here).

Life gets in the way and you have to prioritize things. My job, while only freelance, still cuts into my already busy schedule. And then there's my elderly Dad. I love him but he's slipping away. I figure in a year he may not even know who I am. It's tough to witness this but it is my reality and taking care of his needs is more important. So I rearrange things or change priorities. Such is life...

I can still find some time to get out and see things. Today's venture was more or less (they're all more or less but within a laid out grid) from Alexander City to the Georgia state line, Hackneyville to Pittsview.

I actually wasn't looking for this place but what was next to it. What I think was the old Marble City Cement Company. It's still a sturdy concrete structure (which makes sense when you think about it) but anything that could decay certainly was. This chair was pretty typical of what was inside. Broken glass and collapsing wooden walls were everywhere. There was a calendar on the wall from 1992. As much as this place has declined you would have thought 1962.

Friends of my Forgotten Alabama Facebook page, Kathy Bassett Brown and her husband Ronnie, graciously gave me a tour of Hackneyville. Part of the tour was in the woods near there where this old truck was sitting. Called a "GI" (Govt Issue. Also known as a Deuce & a half) and was used to ferry logs from the woods to bigger trucks that would take those logs to the mills. I think it's fair to say this truck might have been used in WWII.

I did find it ironic that the trees will eventually engulf it.

No trip is complete without the requisite long-since forgotten bridge. This is in Horseshoe Bend military park. All that remains of a covered bridge that spanned the Tallapoosa River. I have to tell you this had to have been an interesting ride. The river's got to be at least a 1000' wide at this point and these piers are spaced a long ways apart. Being a wooden bridge it would have flexed and creaked a lot.

When I first started scouting maps and found Seale I was quite excited to go there. Most of the town moved away from where it was but there was still a strip of old stores that just got forgotten. There were four structures. The old Post Office, a drug store, feed store and the fourth I'm not sure of. All in declining condition. It was neat to see them. Then I found this just down the street. The Bank of Seale, Jan. 1, 1909. Still pretty much like it must have looked 100 years ago. Well...minus a roof and back wall and other minor details.

As my day was drawing to a close there was one thing I absolutely had to find. Not a Holy Grail so to speak but a very important thing that I hoped still existed. And to make matters more complicated it was best guess where exactly it was. All I had was an approximate location. You cannot see it from the air on Google maps. I was getting anxious as I got close to it because the sun was setting and I'm hoping I get lucky. And then Boom...there it is! I was stunned. Just a mere 100yds off of Chambers County 222 and no more than two miles from the Georgia state line was the Chattahoochee Valley Railway depot. Still there. Still standing. To say it's in a significant state of decay is like saying it's cold at the North Pole. As far as I know the only remaining remnant of this little shortline save for an old locomotive in a museum in Georgia. It only had 45 miles of track at its height and by the time it was abandoned in 1992 was down to ten miles. This was a major find in my journey so today was a good day...

I'm still going to try and salvage my tour of the state. Only problem is too much state and too little winter. Even now I still can't believe I dread the end of winter. We'll chalk it up to temporary insanity.

Yep...that works.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

It's A Good Day To Shoot

And why, you might ask, is today better than other days? As I have stated more than once, I have such an aversion to winter that mere words fail me. Even bright sunny days are nothing more than nature taunting me into thinking it's nice outside when in fact, as we speak, it's 32 degrees. I must say I feel bad for those of you who feel as I do and still have to go out in to winter's cruel embrace in order to forge out a living. Be that as it may, if I have to endure the cold (pun intended) hard reality of winter I might as well use it to my advantage. As such, I need it to be dark and dreary. I only use available light and at least when it's overcast I'm not fighting the sun. I couldn't begin to count the number of times I had to change my position because my shadow was in the frame. Add to that that the winter sun is much lower on the horizon and this becomes an all day ordeal. I say all this to say today was cloudy and dreary. Just a miserable day. But from my point of view the first good day I've had since I started this season.

Today was day two of my foray into northeastern Alabama. Mostly Madison, Jackson and Dekalb counties. In fact I was so far northeast the GPS sent me through South Pittsburg, Tennessee to get to Bryant, Alabama. I started this morning working my way up through Jackson County. One of the early things I found was in Scottsboro. A large inverted cone shaped thing. And no...I have no clue what it is. It can best be described as an igloo made out of concrete blocks. Most things I can figure out but this one is a mystery.

Further down the road was this piece of machinery sitting on the side of the road just outside of Stevenson. While I have never actually seen one I suspect this is machinery from an old cotton gin. Why it's sitting here is a mystery but it was adjacent to an antique shop so maybe for display purposes.

While in Bridgeport I had encountered a police officer who wondered what mayhem I was causing on the other side of town. I laughed when I saw this a few minutes later as it could have possibly been my new residence had I indeed been up to nefarious endeavors. This is the town's old  jail across the street from Bridgeport City Hall. I shot this through the bars of the front door.The front door was just that....bars. I can only imagine how miserable that would have been on a cold winter day but it would be easy for the town's folk to come by and "see" you.

As I was heading up Lookout Mountain to find something on the other side of Mentone I happened to glance down into the valley to my left. The area, appropriately named Valley by the way, had been clear cut and was mostly barren save for a couple of lone structures. You'll notice the steeple on top which is what caught my eye. I debated turning around right then but figured I would come back this way instead. As it turned out the GPS led me back this way to my next target. What I had thought was an old school was actually a church. It was old for sure. Named "The Spoken Word Ministry", it was now just a run down old building clad in classic fake brick, asphalt shingle siding that has to have been abandoned for quite some time. The steeple was added on much more recently as it's made of particle board and was attached to a tin roof. I suspect whoever ran this little church was trying to make it more homey and appealing.

My last stop of the day. An old dock on the Tennessee River at the base of the mountain from Section. I was happy to see it because I was done for the day and heading home. By this time the temperature was hovering just above freezing and the wind was blowing a good 15mph.

I did see something that amused me. I was never one for fishing. I understand why folks do but I just never really got into it. But as I was leaving I saw this guy out on his boat. In full coveralls with a hood. It's cold, windy and miserable and yet here he is seeing what he can catch. There's the old expression "One man's junk is another man's treasure" to which I amend to say one man's crazy is another man's perfectly normal I suppose...

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dang It's Cold

Yes I know it's winter. And winter is cold. But today redefined cold. My bed was so warm when the alarm went off at 6:15. However winter is short when you've got things to do. I climbed in my truck in the garage and glanced at the temperature. It's 50 degrees down here so I'm sure it will be fine. Um....well no. I watched that digital display drop like a rock. It finally settled on 9. I sighed knowing that this day was going to be a challenge.

The morning sun peeked over the horizon as I climbed up on this old steel railroad bridge. I don't know the original railroad but I suspect the Atlantic Coast Line. Built in 1936 by the Virginia Bridge and Iron Company, it spans across Bessemer Super Highway (super in name only...trust me).

I go in every abandoned structure I can. Some are difficult but others you just walk in. This house sits more or less halfway between Harpersville and Vincent on US 231. I was struck by how much was left there. The kitchen table still had utensils on it but the bird's nest in the oven made me think it's been a while since it was occupied. The previous occupants were not what you would call fastidious. Looks like they just gave up and left. I debated checking the size of the suit jacket left hanging in the bedroom but decided against it.

One of my more prolific posters on my Forgotten Alabama Facebook page, Ken Balch, would know what this place was in Dora. If I had to guess it looked very much like the remains of a car dealership. Lots of big  windows and what appeared to be a service bay. It was cool walking through here and imagining a busy business and a lot of activity. Ivy and small trees are its inhabitants now. Btw, there are several old buildings in Dora along the railroad tracks. It's really weird. Like a small ghost town.

Sunday! Sunday! At the Childersburg Speedway. Street stock and late model modified racing! Bring the kids! Free parking!

I remember Friday nights at Huntsville Speedway from my youth. It wasn't a dirt track but many similarities. Sort of Nascar on a TV dinner budget. Those days are long past for this old track way out in the sticks on Plant Road. I found it by accident heading to someplace else. I'll tell you it was really weird walking around this place. It's still mostly intact although the dirt track is filled with rain-eroded ruts. Now the only thing racing on it are numerous yucca plants. It's a strange feeling walking around a place that probably had hundreds of people and dozens of very loud cars on race night. Strange in that the only sound I would hear was the occasional truck pass by. I go to a lot of these places and that apocalyptic feeling always pop up. Like I'm the last person on earth.

I've seen this tractor many times on my way to work. It sits in front of a scrap yard on US 280 between Harpersville (speed trap btw)  and Childersburg. I liked it because it's old and, well, cool looking. This early morning it was covered in frost. I'm sure its seen many a frosty morning in its long and I'm sure hard life.

Cascade Plunge
As I was getting close to finishing my second day out on the road I was following a more or less linear path home as the sun was setting in the west. I knew there was a place I had to get to before I ran out of light. The Elks Lodge #79 up near East Lake. For many years this was THE place to go. An enormous pool. A miniature golf course. A huge ballroom. I did not grow up in Birmingham so I don't know what it was like back in its heyday. But from what I've read this a significant part of people's lives for years. On this day (remember it's cold dang it!) the pool was frozen over except around the fountain and a home for catfish. One of the members showed up while I was shooting the miniature golf course and graciously allowed me to get a few interior shots. I'm guessing it's pretty much unchanged from the way it was 20 years ago but kinda sad seeing it empty now. Oh....it's for sale now if you're curious.

It was a good day but any day I'm out shooting is a good day. I do wish it was warmer though...