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Ruins and Revelations: Chronicles of Forgotten Spaces

Updated: Apr 3

Straw Men

~ As my wife and I hit the road for Alabama, the air was thick with the promise of adventure. This time, she was joining me for one of my explorations. Our first pitstop? An old school in the southern part of the state that I had zipped past once but didn’t have the chance to really check out.

We scoped out the place, and at first, it seemed like we might be out of luck with getting in. But as luck would have it, the other side was wide open, just inviting us in. We made our way through a subfloor and popped up inside amidst a scatter of desks and chairs—the usual school stuff. But then, we spotted this funky TV and cassette player combo right on a table. I didn’t know what it was, so I shot a pic and tossed it up on Facebook. Turns out, it’s a Hitachi SPR 771 Automatic Sound Projector. Imagine that—old school tech with a 7-inch screen for 35mm film strips and a built-in cassette deck for the audio. They don't make 'em like that anymore!

Upstairs, the classrooms were pretty bare, which was a bit of a bummer. But hey, the colorful doors and those fun murals? Totally made up for it. They gave the place a bit of life. We turned a corner and—bam—found ourselves in the auditorium. No chairs in sight, just a stage piled high with all sorts of stuff from the classrooms. And then, there were these straw guys, all decked out in regular clothes, just leaning against the wall. Super creepy, but in a cool way, you know?

We snapped some pics of the outside too—couldn’t miss that—and then hit the road again. On to the next hidden gem Alabama had in store for us! ~


Amish Lunch

Starving from our day of exploring, we stumbled upon this little roadside diner tucked away off a back highway in Alabama. Walking in, we were greeted by an unexpected sight: the front part of the place was an Amish market, full of all kinds of goodies. We browsed around for a bit, checking out the homemade jams and handcrafted goods, before our stomachs reminded us of the mission at hand.

We grabbed a table in the dining area, which was almost empty except for one other customer enjoying their meal. The setting was quirky—none of the tables and chairs matched, but it was kind of charming, like eating in someone's eclectic dining room. We ordered burgers, which turned out to be absolutely delicious, just the fuel we needed.

After settling the bill, I couldn't help but let my curiosity drift to a house across the street. It was half-hidden by the trees, with that look of mystery that I just can't resist. Was it abandoned? There was only one way to find out. So with our adventure caps back on, we headed out to uncover the stories that house was waiting to tell.


China Dolls

Crossing the street, the Jeep's tires crunched to a halt amid a thicket of azaleas, the blooms a colorful guard to the mystery that lay ahead. There was a whisper of hesitation—was the house beyond truly abandoned? I figured a polite knock would clear that up. But as I approached, the sight of the collapsed front porch answered my question; this place hadn't heard a welcome in ages.

Peering through the open windows, the emptiness stared back, draped in a cloak of dust and dotted with nests—nature's reclaim was in full swing. We ventured inside through a side door that seemed to invite us into its forgotten world. The kitchen stood still in time, dishes poised as if the owners might return at any moment, though the layers of grime spoke of years gone by.

The bedroom door creaked open to reveal a scene frozen mid-moment: a half-made bed, a jewel-toned chair standing sentinel, and walls papered with the echoes of familial bonds, from school achievements to wedding bliss. The foyer held a peculiar sight—a pair of China dolls perched on a table, their delicate features an uncanny contrast to the abandonment around them. In the living room, a vintage radio and stacks of National Geographic magazines struck a nostalgic chord, reminiscent of childhood days spent in the thrall of far-off places and adventure tales.

Venturing further into the heart of this time-capsule home, our next discovery lay behind the bathroom door: a stunning mural depicting a city perched upon a mountain, its colors vibrant against the backdrop of decay, complemented by an elegant ball and claw bathtub that seemed untouched by time. As I stepped in for a closer look, the tranquility was shattered by the sudden appearance of a bat, darting towards me in a flurry of wings. With a swift retreat, I narrowly avoided an unintended close encounter, only to watch the bat veer off in pursuit of a new target—my wife.

Thanks to her quick reflexes, honed from years of cheerleading, she masterfully dodged our unexpected guest, bobbing and weaving with the agility of a seasoned athlete. The bat, finding no welcome with us, finally took its leave, disappearing into the maze of rooms. Our hearts racing, we couldn't help but burst into laughter at the absurdity of the moment, jokingly debating the merits of rabies treatments as we regained our composure.

As we explored, each room held its own, still furnished, the sunlight and rain occasionally breaking through the weariness of the ceiling. On the side porch, amidst the remnants of domestic life, sat a fireman's helmet—a silent tribute to bravery, perhaps, or another layer of story this house was steeped in.

We tread lightly, respecting the narrative cradled within these walls. Our cameras captured the beauty of the exterior as a gentle goodbye. With memories in tow and hearts full of the home's lingering spirit of kinship, we ventured onward, leaving the house to its peaceful slumber. ~


Camping on a Lake

En route to our campsite, we detoured to an intriguing site: an old school that had found a second life as a community center. The building, clearly seasoned by years past, perched on a rise that lent it an air of quiet dignity. Its windows, like watchful eyes, sat just too high for us to peek into its current life, and the doors held fast their secrets, shut tight and locked as if to protect the hum of activity that still echoed within its walls.

There was a palpable sense of history here, layers of stories tucked into its wooden facade. Even without access to its interior, the structure itself was a narrative. It stood as a testament to the community's dedication to preserving a piece of their collective heritage, repurposing the old for new needs while honoring its legacy.

We respected the boundary set by the closed doors, content to capture the essence of the place through our lenses from the outside. Each shot framed the stately old building against the backdrop of its continued relevance—a bridge between yesterday's lessons and today's gatherings. With a final glance at the community's cherished landmark, we gathered our memories in digital form and continued on our journey to the campsite. ~

Pulling into the local grocer's, we grabbed supplies for a lakeside dinner and tomorrow's breakfast, eager for the rustic simplicity of campfire cooking. The Jeep reversed into our chosen spot by the lake, our chairs unfurled to face the tranquil waters as we settled into our temporary haven.

Gathering firewood became a prelude to the night's comfort, with flames soon crackling and dancing before us, their warmth a cozy embrace as dusk fell. The grill, an extension of our campfire, became the hearth for our evening meal—a delicious endeavor under the open sky.

Dinner done, we lounged by the embers, the fire's glow dwindling as conversation and laughter filled the air. Eventually, the call of the Jeep's back was too tempting, and we nestled inside, the day's adventures lulling us into a deep sleep.

Dawn broke with a cool spring zephyr, prompting an invigorating walk around the lake, with nature trails winding through awakening woodlands. The freshness of the morning was a pristine setting for our breakfast in the wild.

With spirits high and the campsite cleared, we set off once more, the old grist mill our next waypoint on this journey of discovery.


Fink's Mill

Arriving at the grist mill, its age was immediately apparent, suggesting a genesis around the turn of the century. Where once a paddle wheel churned with the flow of the water, now there was only the quiet stream passing beneath the aging edifice, a silent testament to the passage of time and the evolution of industry.

The mill had adapted to the absence of its wheel, now powered by a tractor—a modern workhorse—its belts and pulleys meticulously rigged to assume the task once performed by the flow of the river. It was a mesh of the old and the new, a testament to the ingenuity of preservation.

Amidst the rustic charm and the mechanical marvels, there was an unexpected find—a mug perched nonchalantly on a shelf, emblazoned with the insignia of the house of Harry Potter. It was a jarring yet delightful anachronism, a piece of popular culture finding its way into the relic of a bygone era. It was these little surprises that added a layer of wonder to our explorations, making each stop an unpredictable chapter in our adventure. ~


College Campus Deteriorated

Our next stop was a familiar one—an abandoned college campus I'd explored several times before. This visit, however, was different; the campus was a shadow of its former self, a stark canvas of vandalism and neglect. It pained us to see the extent of the damage—nearly every window was shattered, a silent cry from the walls that once hummed with the vigor of student life.

This kind of senseless destruction is precisely why explorers like us keep the locations of these fragile sites secret. Despite the disheartening scene, we roamed the halls, my thoughts drifting back to previous explorations with our daughter and the Krewe du Exploration. I recounted those memories to my wife as we navigated the remnants of the gym, where even the resilience of sportsmanship had not been spared—the shattered backboard a testament to that.

We moved through the dormitory, the arts building, and the library—each step through the administrative offices and the science lab revealed a landscape of ruin. The devastation was profound, not just in the physical sense, but in the loss of history and potential that the campus once held. I couldn't help but think of the alumni and former faculty whose memories of this place were now marred by such unnecessary destruction. ~


Headed Home

With heavy hearts, we concluded our journey and set off towards home. The drive back was reflective, filled with conversations about the stark contrasts of our trip—the discovery and warmth of the mill and the diner against the cold reality of the campus in ruins. But even in this dichotomy, there was a thread of adventure and the unspoken promise of the next discovery just over the horizon. As the miles rolled by, we began to lay plans for our next exploration, hopeful for what treasures and stories the future might hold.

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