Archived Story

Banks gets ready to take on rest of Mobile Bay

Published 12:00pm Wednesday, September 12, 2012

By Harold Banks, Special to the Outlook

Editor’s note: This is the 18th installment in a fascinating diary chronicling a 400-mile paddle down the entire length of the Alabama River. 

April 18, 2012 – Day 18

High 75, Low 57 – Rainy early then partly cloudy

Wednesday night – Mile 359 – Baron’s Inn, Fairhope

I don’t get my usual bird wakeup call, but still wake promptly at 5:45 a.m. even though the room is very dark.  I try to go back to sleep to no avail, so I get up, shower, and get ready to walk downtown for breakfast.  But when I look outside it is still raining.  Rats!  I would have to walk over a mile to get to a restaurant that serves breakfast and a check of the Weather Channel shows the rain will probably continue another couple of hours.  I make do with trail food from my pack.

The rain moves out mid-morning and I walk along the bay front toward downtown.  Fairhope deserves its reputation as one of the prettiest towns in the U.S.  The city’s waterfront park is almost a mile long and very appealing with interesting outdoor sculptures, butterfly gardens, and attractive plantings along shady sidewalks.

Strong winds from the north-northwest are crossing a lot of water before they get here and waves are crashing against the seawall as I walk through the park.  Even if I had not planned a holiday, I could not have paddled in the bay today.

At the huge Fairhope pier, I turn right onto Fairhope Avenue toward downtown.  The high-priced homes in this area are all gorgeous and beautifully landscaped.  Every street corner has planters filled with flowering plants and hanging baskets overflowing with blossoms hang from corner street posts.  Downtown is filled with quaint shops and restaurants, and this affluent town seems artfully designed to extract every dollar from the senior citizen tour groups that frequent here.  Fairhope claims to be the world’s oldest and largest single tax colony.  All the land in the city is owned by the Fairhope Single Tax Corporation.  Formed in 1894, the founders stated they wanted to establish “… a model community or colony, free from all forms of private monopoly, and to secure to its members therein equality of opportunity, the full reward of individual efforts, and the cooperation in matters of general concern.”  Residents and business owners enter into 99 year renewable leases with the corporation and own only the improvements.  Rent paid to the corporation is used to cover all state, county, and local taxes and to enhance the community by supporting such things as public parks, the library, and the historical museum.  This socialist arrangement seems to have served this proud community well.  Arden, Delaware is the only other city in the U.S. that operates similarly.

At 11 a.m. I go into Julwin’s Southern Country Restaurant and am pleased to find they serve breakfast all day.  I get the eggs I earlier craved in the form of a big western omelet.  I pile on more needed calories by slathering the whole wheat toast with lots of butter, strawberry jam and orange marmalade.

After lunch I go to the public library that is magnificent for a town this size.  An accommodating young librarian helps me find tide, wind, and wave information for the next two days.   I then wander the city streets and boutique shops, but don’t really find much that interests me.  I have to admit I am bored and lonely.

It seems odd that I should feel this way when surrounded by crowds of people but was not once bored or lonely when truly alone at remote, wilderness campsites.

I eat supper at Wintzel’s Oyster House and find plenty of good conversation at the bar.

For dessert, a big serving of bread pudding dripping with melted, buttery icing really cheers me up, and I am ready to take on the rest of Mobile Bay.

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