Happy AQversary!

Saturday, June 30, 2012 Road Junkies 0 Comments

Travelin' with Steven, Days 8-10:  Lexington, KY to Franklin, TN to Millry, AL

At the end of a week of adventure, all three of us were ready to take things a bit slower on Wednesday, so we searched for a few letterboxes near our route, including one on a trail near Mammoth Cave that we had missed on our way north.  The insect factor was high, so we skipped the box on another trail nearby because Ken was the only one who prepared by wearing Permethrin-treated clothes.  Steven and I offered to slackbox in the air-conditioned car while Ken retrieved the box from the other trail, but strangely he declined.

Mosquitoes had a field day with those bare legs
Remembering the great meal (and especially the dessert) we had at the Tex-Mex Chuy's in Bowlng Green, we stopped there for lunch on the way back south.  Steven and I could hardly eat our lunch in anticipation of the creamy goodness of the tres leches cake.

Chuy's Tres Leches
When it finally arrived, it was just as wonderful as we remembered, delectable without being overly rich.  Soaked in a mixture of evaporated milk, condensed milk and heavy cream, the sponge cake and topping are drizzled with caramel and crowned with fresh strawberries.  Like before, the portion size was huge, more than enough for the three of us.

Before we reached Franklin, we calculated that Steven was very close to his 100th letterbox find.  The last box of the day was Two Scoops, Please, a terrific Cheekee Monkey carve outside the Pied Piper Creamery, an independent ice cream shop in Berry Hill.  Just in case it was the 100th, and we thought there was a good chance it was, we celebrated with an ice cream cone.

F-100!  Hooray!
Over the course of the last few miles between the creamery and Steven's home in Franklin, we discovered that his first letterboxing anniversary would fall on the following day.  The coincidence was too good to pass up, so we checked and double checked on his finds, discovering that he actually needed three more to reach F100.  Ken had to be back in Atlanta the next day but I was staying on, so Steven and I braved the 105° heat on Thursday to enable him to find those last few boxes and record his F100 on his AQ-versary, the day he joined the Atlas Quest letterboxing community.  
It's soooo hot, but I'm still boxing!
A celebratory lunch at the Franklin Mellow Mushroom wouldn't have been complete without a chocolate brownie sundae, of course.  More sweets consumed in the last 24 hours than in the previous week!

On Friday, my mother was returning to her home in Alabama after visiting Woodie and family in Franklin for a couple of  weeks.  Since he missed the last week of her visit, Steven was going with her to spend some time with Nanamama in his dad's hometown, and I was along for the ride, too.  As we moseyd south, we stopped for an occasional letterbox or to check out a barbecue restaurant.  Approaching Cullman, we began seeing signs promoting Ave Maria Grotto, a place we had long heard of but never visited.  What better day than today?

The miniature world at Ave Maria Grotto
Located on the grounds of St. Bernard Abbey, the only Benedictine monastery in the state of Alabama, the grotto represents the lifelong handiwork of Brother Joseph Zoetl, who served as a monk at the abbey for nearly 70 years.

Brother Joe was born in Bavaria and came to the abbey in 1892, where he worked in the power house.  When he was not busy shoveling coal into the furnaces, he began constructing miniature buildings from whatever materials he had.  Originally these painstaking creations were scattered in the gardens, but as the number of visitors and the size of his collection increased, the current site was carved out of a former quarry.  Today 125 small stone and cement structures line a pleasant two-block pathway.  After the grotto was opened to the public in 1934, Brother Joe's reputation spread, and the donations of materials to his project increased.  From marbles to shells to empty cold cream jars, he incorporated them all into his tiny architectural masterpieces.

When we finally arrived at Nanamama's house, her cat Freda was delighted to see the car pull up but had a lot to say about Nanamama staying away so long.  Having completed his task at home, Ken met us there so I would have a ride home the next day.  As we drove away Saturday morning heading toward Georgia, we could see that Steven and Nanamama were cooking up some fun plans for their time together.  No doubt she'll enjoy her time with him as much as we did.

These two are up to something!





More Photos from Ave Maria Grotto

Brother Joe