The Non-Definitive Guide To Life

If you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with rain" - Dolly Parton

Posts for Alabama

AL: A Stop in Spectre


The movie Big Fish is my favorite Tim Burton movie, Edward Scissorhands being my second favorite, and when I was first planning our road trip across the south I had come across the fact you could visit Spectre. The magical town in Big Fish where Ewan McGregors’s character Edward Bloom stops in for just awhile, until he remembers the life he needs to return to.    I had forgotten about Spectre until we were driving through Alabama on our way to New Orleans and Dan was looking at Roadtrippers. It’s a fantastic app for those that love detours. It tells you anything from points of interests to places to eat along your route, if you’re planning a road trip you must download the app.

Anyways,  Dan had said there is this place called Spectre we could visit, and I lit up! I started to tell him all the things I had learned about the place beforehand and that we had to ask a little old lady for the passcode to get through the gate.  He was up for the adventure and off we went to explore Spectre. It’s a solid 15 mins from the major highway and very secluded. We had no idea what to expect and after crossing over some train tracks we were in this little area with a few houses and a gate that clearly separated us from Spectre. Since the direction on Roadtrippers also confirmed the need to talk to a little old lady, we searched for one and found a woman who was muttering to her dog and picking up her mail. I walked up to her kindly and said that there is a rumor that she was the one who had a code to see Spectre. She asked me, “what?” and I explained to her what the app said and she confirmed she could give us the code. She told us the town was really run down since it’s just a movie set, and that they had to demolish a few buildings. That the church was still standing, but mostly everything else was sad looking. We didn’t care, we wanted to see Spectre.

After a friendly chat, we got the code and followed the one dirt road to Spectre. As we followed the road for a sign of the old set, we saw other trucks and people there fishing and enjoying a beautiful sunny day. Spectre is in the center of this private peninsula and once we spotted the church steeple,  Dan and I pulled over and got out to walk around the dilapidated set. We didn’t go inside any of the building as there was a lot of overgrown plants and honestly, I was chicken, afraid of getting hurt. But still I was just thrilled to say I had made a stop in Spectre.  I went to YouTube to find a clip of Spectre in all it’s glory and saw a few recent vlogs of people visiting the set, it seems like it has been cleaned up a little since we went 2 years ago. Makes me wonder if you still have to talk to a little old lady to get the code.

Spectre Big Fish Road Trip

Spectre Big Fish Road Trip

more photos after the jump…

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AL: Sweet Sounds Alabama



“Buy a chevy get a gun!” announced the radio commercial somewhere in Mississippi followed by another commercial with a sultry women’s voice enticing the listener, “ever wanted to get into exotic dancing, come down on talent night and make lots of money”.

Bowerbird at Muscle Shoals

Leaving Memphis we drove through Mississippi and Alabama to get to Muscle Shoals. The trees in Mississippi have vines growing all around them, connecting each tree with an overgrowth that sweeps down up and around. Men drove tractors on the side of the freeway keeping nature away from the road, pulling trailers that pushed down on the long grass and probably cut the vines.

I’d seen the documentary earlier in the year, and it motivated me further to start planning actual stops on our road trip. Bowerbird and I being music nerds, Muscle Shoals was a must see destination followed by Fame Studio which is around the corner and down the street. The documentary is a little confusing when it comes to the timeline of both studios, but Muscle Shoals Sound studio was established after the partners at Fame studio decided to go their separate ways.

Trying to be a prepared tourist, I messaged Muscle Shoals Sound earlier in the month to make sure they we’re open the 8th as I know the studios will be restored. I got a friendly reply back saying the studios were open till 2pm that day. Bowerbird and I do not arrive places early together, more like right on time. So when we of course left Memphis a little later than intended, we tried to be light hearted and joked the entire way to Muscle Shoals, looking at our GPS which read ETA 1:57 and every time we increased our arrival time I’d chime “we will have 6 minutes at the studio – damn now only 3 minutes – come on sweetheart I know we can get 9 minutes.”


As we drove up I saw someone from the studio come outside and remove the open sign from the front lawn. I had Bowerbird flip a Dukes of Hazard u-turn and hopped out of the car before we officially parked. Opening the door to the studio, the adrenaline was pumping as I asked the guide if we could still look around. She kindly said yes, her name being Georgia.

The Muscle Shoals tour is informal with a capital I. You walk around this hallow ground, where Mick Jagger and Keith Richards wrote music, Simon and Garfunkel recorded, the sound of a generation was shaped at your own speed. Pictures hung on the walls with the famed musicians working in the studio, writing is physically written on the wall like playful boys marking their spot. The toilet seat from which “Wild Horses” came into fruition. Georgia shared stores with us, explained the structure of the building, and how tiny it felt when it was originally in operation due to how large engineering equipment used to be. To think now most people just make music on their laptops, and before it took an attention to detail and agility to make sure everything was laid right because the last thing you can afford is a botched recording.

Apparently one of the Swampers haunts the property today, and most of the photos I took are blurry, so it makes you wonder. Although I didn’t feel any spooky spirit, not like I did in West Virginia but that’s another story. Here are a few of my favorite shots from Muscle Shoals.



After Muscle Shoals we visited Fame Studios for a tour. Still an operating studio, we only saw Studio B as they were recording in Studio A. The history of Fame was shared along with the stories that directly came from Studio B. My favorite being guitarist, Duane Allman camping outside Fame Studios until Rick the owner would give him a chance to perform and record. He slept in the parking lots for weeks till he was given a chance, and I just loved the story of commitment and roughing it out to get what you want. It’s a metaphor for all success, because the road to success sure isn’t comfortable.


We are in South Carolina right now, and clearly in the second half of the trip, 3rd quarter. I’m trying not to get sad, while already on it. Mourn the loss of the trip, while I still have more states to go to I’ve never seen. Tonight is Atlanta, the day after possibly southern Alabama and next Monday – New Orleans! Ok I’m no longer mourning, I’m just excited. So many wonderful things have happened on this trip, even a few weird things. But all together I’m living my dream, I’m seeing new sights. Yesterday I picked cotton off the side of the road. I’m experiencing life in a way I don’t normally get to, and that in itself is the greatest part of this adventure. It’s new!!  For me, a full life is achieved when you seek out new experiences, break routine, and get out of your comfort zone. Whether it’s a thrill seeker going to a silent yoga retreat or a shy introvert going on stage and belting out their voice. Variety is the spice of life they say, so let’s spice it up!

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