Regina Garson's Blog

The Tour Bus Home

Eclipse

Eclipse Coffee & Books

Just as much as it’s been said that you can’t go back home again, it’s also been said that home is the place that you go when there is nowhere else left to go.

When I was younger, fresh to the world, I always loved to travel and see new places. Everywhere I went, I had the feeling that I was seeing part of this big wonderful world for the first time, that I was new here, and I would surely be back. Taking it all in, I always had the certainty that I would be back, that this was my world and I wanted to see all that I could and know all that I could about it.

At some point though, there was/is a change. It could have been too many days – too many times – on too many tubes in the hospital. That’ll do it to you. Suddenly, you realize that you too are mortal, and this journey called life is not a destination. It is indeed a journey. That is all it is, you are just passing through. If you haven’t figured that out already, you’ll understand it one day too.

Then in yet another blink of the eye, you wake up with the realization that this may be it. There are no guarantees. You may not be back at all. And just as assuredly as the very first time you looked around and felt that you’d be back again, you now have just as profound a feeling that this may be it, the end of the journey is getting near, and once more, you are looking around hard, taking it all in.

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So much for philosophizing, when I heard about the tour bus home, I had to go. Was there any doubt? I had never even heard of a tour bus to Montevallo. Shelby County, Alabama, the heart of the South. The date was coming up a lot quicker than most such that you plan for, but I sent a message and told the organizer that if there was room left on the tour, I sure would like to go. As luck would have it, there was room and I packed my day bag for a trip with the group.

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As independent as I tend to be, one thing is for sure, if you tend to travel solo, you are always the one doing the driving, and it’s hard to look and drive at the same time. I wanted to do some looking and it’s been a while since I had traveled those roads when somebody else was doing the driving. Bus trips have a reputation for being notoriously slow and that suited me just fine for this one. I was not in a hurry. The historical commentary along the way suited me just fine too, as I was more than a little interested to see what somebody else had to say about the area where I grew up.

I had a window seat. As my fellow travelers nodded off, I had my face pressed to the window, watching every tree that we passed. Roads I’d traveled hundreds of times over the course of my lifetime, now seeing every tree, drinking every tree. The first time. The last time. Connecting deeper than the roots of those trees in the land that I too sprang up from, nurtured my life and my spirit in the Alabama soil.

It was not a lovely day for a trip. It rained almost every minute. Actually, it stormed. But I wasn’t driving and I had my umbrella, which by the end of the day was a broken tangle. It didn’t matter. My feet were connecting in the land where I grew up. They were where they were supposed to be.

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McKibbon House, now a bed and breakfast.

Back on Main Street, Montevallo, where as a child I excitedly rushed into the Five and Dime, the “Ten Cent Store,” to buy trinkets with coins, my allowance. And the Dairy Delight, where I’d sit at the counter and savor every single bite of a hot fried coconut pie. My favorite. You never see those any more either. It’s all gone now. And “dragging Main”; that’s what the young folks did back in the day. Enough about that. There are a few still left, but many of the old houses in the area have been long since torn down in the name of progress, grand old Victorian houses replaced by chain stores and franchises, the merchants of even small town modern life.

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A carving by Tim Tingle.

Our tour group headed for lunch at Eclipse Coffee & Books. Although it’s new since I grew up in the area, it’s now one of the trendiest, if not the most trendy place, in all of Shelby County. Even by big city standards, it’s the epitome of a bohemian coffee shop, from the “Beat Era.” Art, books, poetry, food, and of course coffee, you half expect to see Ginsberg in the corner when you walk in the door.

Wooden sculptures grace the yard, actually pretty much the town, which also is home of the renowned Tinglewood Trail, at Orr Park. Creatures carved out of old dying trees by Tim Tingle; we used to call him Timmy, a quiet kid who used to ride to school on the same bus as me. There is so much creative talent in that area, a lot of music, art, and writers. Eclipse is most definitely where it should be too.

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Main Hall. The University of Montevallo.

The University of Montevallo, which used to be Alabama College, State College for Women, formerly one of two women’s colleges in the state, has had all kinds of arts and creative endowments. There we were, a small Southern town, smack in the middle of Alabama, with the most awesome creative opportunities, influences, world-class artists, and musicians.  But I digress. Except maybe tipping my hat to the creative spirit that flows through the area. My first piano teacher was a retired music professor, talk about classically trained. It was the real deal in those parts. But anyway.

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After lunch, it was off to American Village, which was also built since I grew up and moved away. If anything, American Village is the quintessential tourist site that I, as a local, had never visited. Ever. An old and familiar story it seems, but I have been there now. Patriotism and love of country run deep in that area. The American Village is most definitely in the right place too. It rained the whole time we were there, but that didn’t stop us one bit as we made our way through the reconstructions of various historic buildings, walking back through the early history of this country. Despite umbrellas and raincoats, every single one of us was sopping wet before we finished that tour.

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At the American Village

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Our last stop was Morgan Creek Vineyards, in Harpersville. Now, to put this into perspective, the county was dry back when I was growing up there. Although I shouldn’t admit it now, not sure I ever should, but back in those days, when folks wanted a little libation, they either made it themselves or they headed to a bootlegger. Although the hills and the backwoods of the south are famous for moonshine, they are just as famous for muscadine wine. My first sip of muscadine wine was made by one of Mama’s friends, just about as sweet a wine as you could ever put in your mouth, knock you on your booty too. My granddaddy used to raise muscadine grapes and make his own wine as well, but I was too young to have ever tasted his before he passed on. I sure did love eating those muscadine grapes though.

Digressing again, despite the fact that we were slated for a tour of the vineyards and the winery, we were all as wet as we wanted to be by the time we got there and were completely happy “to settle” for “a tasting.” What a tasting it was, the fruit of the vine where I grew up! I marked my list, sipped, tossed, narrowed my choices, sipped again, happily libated, and then headed back to the bus with a bottle of muscadine wine (I chose Magnolia, semi-sweet white). It tasted just like the wine that the old timers from that neck of the woods used to make. Talk about a souvenir.

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The road back home to Huntsville was no less stormy than it had been earlier in the day. I am not sure what any of us were thinking on that bus that day. But if you got to go, sometimes you just got to go. Although I am not exactly sure that is exactly what the saying was talking about. Whatever it is though, sometimes you just plain got to go. The wind was whipping and the rain pouring as I gathered my things, got off the bus, and hobbled to meet my son. But I was happy. Somehow or other, I was supposed to be on that bus that day. For all those who say you can’t go back home again, I’d say it’s worth a try.

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Main Street, Montevallo. Year unknown.

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See also:

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Copyright 2016 Regina Garson
All Rights Reserved

Image credit: Regina Garson: Eclipse Coffee & Books.
Image credit: Rivers Langley: McKibbon House in Montevallo, Alabama.
It was added to the National Register of Historic Places on December 31, 2001.
Image credit: Rivers Langley. Montevallo, Alabama Tim Tingle Tree Carvings in Orr Park.
Image credit: Library of Congress Print. Main Hall, Montevallo, Shelby County, AL.
Image credit: Regina Garson: American Village.
Image credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.
Main Street (Commercial Streetscapes), Montevallo, Shelby County, AL.

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