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Sweet Home least for 3 days

Updated: Mar 28

Meaher State Park is a public recreation area located on Big Island, an island at the north end of Mobile Bay that lies within the city limits of Spanish Fort, Alabama. The state park occupies 1,327 acres along the shoreline of Ducker Bay, at the junction of Mobile Bay and the Mobile-Tensaw River Delta. It is surrounded by wetlands of the Mobile Bay estuary. The campground has 61 RV campsites with 20, 30 and 50 amp electrical connections along with water and sewer. They also have 10 improved tent sites with water and 20amp electric on each site. The campground also features a new bathhouse with laundry facilities for overnight campers.

We arrived on Sunday, March 25 in the afternoon and parked our rig in site 10 for the next three days. The sites in the campground are paved and spacious with an expansive view of Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Our plans include a trip to see the Battleship Memorial Park, home of the USS Alabama.

Monday, March 26 we drove the six miles west to Battleship Memorial Park, a military history park and museum on the western shore of Mobile Bay in Mobile, Alabama. Its notable aircraft and museum ships include the South Dakota-class battleship USS Alabama and Gato-class submarine USS Drum.

Citizens of the state of Alabama had formed the "USS Alabama Battleship Commission" to raise funds for the preservation of Alabama as a memorial to the men and women who served in World War II. Alabama's school children raised about $100,000 in nickels and dimes from lunch money and allowances to help the cause. The ship was awarded to the state on June 16, 1964, and was formally turned over on July 7, 1964 in ceremonies at Seattle, Washington. Alabama was then towed to her permanent berth at Mobile, Alabama, arriving in Mobile Bay on September 14, 1964, and opening as a museum ship on January 9, 1965.

Alabama is 680 feet long overall and has a beam of 108 ft 2 in and a draft of 35 ft 1 in. She displaced 37,970 long tons as designed and up to 44,519 long tons at full combat load. The ship was powered by four General Electric steam turbines, each driving one propeller shaft, using steam provided by eight oil-fired Babcock & Wilcox boilers. Rated at 130,000 shaft horsepower (97,000 kW), the turbines were intended to give a top speed of 27.5 knots (31.6 mph). The ship had a cruising range of 15,000 nautical miles (17,000 mi) at a speed of 15 knots ( 17 mph). She carried three Vought OS2U Kingfisher floatplanes for aerial reconnaissance, which were launched by a pair of aircraft catapults on her fantail. Her peace time crew numbered 1,793 officers and enlisted men, but during the war the crew swelled to 2,500.

We spent three hours walking the three different tour routes throughout the ship and ended up walking over a mile and a half and eight flights of ladders, from the engine room to the battle bridge. The museum inside is very comprehensive about the ship's history from its construction in the Norfork Naval Shipyard, through commissioning, shakedown and her duty in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters during World War II. The ship itself is in remarkable physical condition; there are a few places with rust but overall well preserved and cared for by the parks management and volunteers. One of the exhibits that got my attention was the Navy Hard-Hat Diver display. These divers wore 80 pounds of lead to help keep them down during repairs! I will never complain about 40 pounds with a drysuit ever again.

After three hours of walking up and down ladders and through hatches fore and aft we decided to call it a day. The park admission also includes a tour of the USS Drum (SS-228), a Gato-class submarine of the United States Navy. Additional military aircraft and armor static displays are on the property, but we were done for that day and headed back to the trailer.

With the local weather deteriorating with heavy winds and thunderstorms in the forecast, we decided to hunker down to stay inside for the remainder of the afternoon and evening.

Tuesday afternoon was predicted to clear up so we ventured into Mobile, AL to check it out.

Mobile was founded as the capital of colonial French Louisiana in 1702 and remained a part of New France for over 60 years. During 1720, when France warred with Spain, Mobile was on the battlefront, so the capital moved west to Biloxi. In 1763, Britain took control of the colony following their victory in the Seven Years' War. During the American Revolutionary War, the Spanish captured Mobile and retained it by the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1783.

Mobile first became a part of the United States in 1813 when it was captured by American forces and added to the Mississippi Territory, then later re-zoned into the Alabama Territory in August 1817. Finally on December 14, 1819, Mobile became part of the new 22nd state, Alabama, one of the earlier states of the U.S. Forty-one years later, Alabama left the Union and joined the Confederate States of America in 1861. It returned in 1865 after the American Civil War. Mobile had spent decades as French, then British, then Spanish, then American, spanning 160 years, up to the Civil War.

Alabama's only saltwater port, Mobile is located on the Mobile River at the head of Mobile Bay on the north-central Gulf Coast. The Port of Mobile has always played a key role in the economic health of the city, beginning with the settlement as an important trading center between the French colonists and Native Americans, down to its current role as the 12th-largest port in the United States.

We took a leisurely walk down the historic Dauphin Street, Mobile's version of Bourbon Street in New Orleans and stopped for a latte and some Beignets. The city is remarkably clean and colorful murals adorn many of the streets in downtown.

Did you know that Mobile is the birthplace of Mardi Gras? The first carnival observance occurred at 27 Mile Bluff in the year 1703, continuing the cultural traditions settlers in Mobile (the "Port City") began back in their homeland of France. Celebrating Mardi Gras gave Mobilians the chance to enjoy a fine meal, some wine, and reminisce with families and friends. Mardi Gras in Mobile keeps tradition alive on smaller scale.

Wednesday, March 27 we will continue west on to Mississippi and Louisiana. We plan to drive US 90 to avoid all the commercial trucks and see the gulf coast communities of Biloxi and Gulfport. It will be a longer drive but more to see on this scenic route.


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