Alabama, Where We've Been

Helen Keller’s Birthplace & Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum House

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RV Update

Now that the outriggers were fixed, we turned our attention to another problem we’ve had on the back burner for a few months. One of the tracks to the bedroom slide had become bent. We had taken it in to get fixed at a trailer place earlier in the summer, but they didn’t have the right equipment in order to permanently fix it. They added a few screws to help hold it in place so that it wouldn’t fall out of its track and onto the road as we were driving. 

This seem to be a problem with the intrinsic design of the Schwintek slide mechanism, so we did some research and devised that it would be best to replace the entire track with a Vroom mechanism. This way the slide would not fall prey to the bending and twisting that the Schwintek mechanism was prone to doing. Appointments for the Vroom system are scheduled months in advance due to the demand for a better system. So we prayed the temporary fix would hold until we reached Alabama and it did. 

We made an appointment at Custom RV months ahead of time, came in Thursday evening for an early morning appointment on Friday. We pulled the rig into the bay and after a few hours, the owner came out and told us that the parts for our rig had not yet come in. The package was delayed by FedEx, but that they should be in that same day. Fine. We continued to wait until after 5pm, when he finally gave us another update that the package had still not arrived. He sent his people home for the evening and asked us to keep an eye out for it should it come in by 8pm since we needed to spend another night in their parking lot (foregoing the site we had already paid for at the RV park because we were supposed to have an installed Vroom system at this point). The package never showed up. 

Come to find out, the parts were only ordered a week before our arrival (previous Friday after 5pm) and were subsequently not shipped out from Vroom until Tuesday. That was issue #1. Delayed or not from FedEx, they literally had months to order these parts. No excuse.

Issue #2 was the lack of communication with what was going on. We had to wait hours for the initial “the parts are not here” and until 5pm to hear that they still weren’t here and that we’d need to stay another day and hope they would show up. We weren’t planning on staying longer than a day and had only enough water in the tank to last us one day.

Issue #3 occurred the next day. The next morning, Saturday, I decided to find this package myself since we weren’t getting much communication from the owner. I used the FedEx tracking number given to us to track down this package. I spoke with multiple FedEx representatives who initially told us that the package wouldn’t be delivered until Monday because Custom RV was closed on Saturday. I took it up the ranks and finally spoke with a manager who was able to work on tracking it down for us. He told us that the package was being held at the FedEx hub in Mississippi about 45 minutes away. I told him that I was willing to come and pick it up, but my name wasn’t on the package. Custom RV’s name was on the package and they would need to pick it up. We gave the owner a call and told him what we had found. His lack of enthusiasm to pick up the package was apparent, stating that he “…had some metal to go pick up there so [he] would combine the trip and go pick it up.” Some of his metal parts he was picking up for another job had an issue and he was delayed further. We waited all day until around 3pm when he returned with a couple guys to start working on the slide.

Finally, parts in hand, the guys started to work on the slide. We had a long drive ahead of us and prayed this install wouldn’t take long so we could get on the road and arrive to our first stop of our 10 hour drive before it got too late. Unfortunately, this is where issue #4 happened. We were waiting in the waiting room and the owner called us out to talk about a problem they’d run across. Apparently, the Vroom system requires rollers under the bottom of the slide to support the new tracks. For some reason, our model didn’t come with the rollers. “Is this something you could not have seen the first day, in the first hour?” we asked. “We have never come across this before.” was the reply. While Vroom holds most of the blame for this issue, Custom RV could have saved us nearly 47 hours in their parking lot by determining that in the first hour we were there when we rolled it into their bay.

By this time, it was nearing 4-5pm. Frustrated that we had wasted all that time, paid for a site at the RV park we couldn’t use, didn’t end up with an installed slide we had been looking forward to for months, they added a few extra band-aid screws on our twisted slide track, packaged everything back up and sent us on our way… free of charge. Charging us for that “fix” would have been issue #5.

We found an overnight spot and pulled in after 10pm, being quiet to not disturb other guests. To say we were not happy is an understatement.

There were a few good things about Alabama though besides the lack of good RV mechanics.


Helen Keller’s Birthplace

Florence, Alabama is the site of Helen Keller’s birthplace. Helen Keller was the girl who became deaf and blind due to an illness when she was a young child. Not understanding the world through her new limitations, Helen regressed in her abilities and social skills. She became entitled and a bit of a troublemaker and those around her felt pity for her and treated her as one who could never learn. What she needed though was the right teacher.

When Helen was around 8 years of age, Annie Sullivan was hired to fill the role as her teacher. She believed Helen was smart and could learn, but needed to devise a new way to teach. Annie taught Helen finger spelling in her hand so that she could feel the letters spelled out to her. They were just letters to her initially, but it wasn’t until she spelled “water” that she figured out that the letters spelled words and that the words meant something. 

If you haven’t watched “The Miracle Worker”, it is an inspiring movie that tells the tale of Helen’s schooling. 

This is the house where she lived and the dining room where she was taught to use a fork and place a napkin in her lap after a harrowing number of hours.

This was Helen and Annie’s bedroom that they shared. It was also the room where Helen locked Annie in causing her to have to climb out the window until the key could be found.

The tour guide also told us that Helen locked her mother in the closet when she was 5. This was when she found out what keys could do. Helen then sat on the porch laughing for hours as she could not hear her mother banging on the door, but felt the stomping and kicking through the floor boards she was sitting on.

Off to the side of the house was the window Annie climbed down to get out of the locked room.

Annie needed to take Helen away from her parents to ensure she would learn without leaning on them for support. This was the little cottage next to the house that Annie used for this purpose. 

Inside, Annie had it cleaned up and decorated to be a suitable living quarters.

Soon Helen learned to understand the world, grew to love Annie, and started to communicate with others. She then learned Braille and could read on her own. This was her Bible, or a portion of it, as Braille books were expensive and needed many more volumes than a traditional Bible. This book contained the gospels of Matthew and Mark. 

Helen was an advocate for the deaf and blind, telling her story to thousands over the years. 

In the corner here was a braille flag. “How can that be?”, you ask. The stars were raised to form bumps and the stripes were sewn in layers so that the shapes could be felt and its structure could be seen by the blind.

This was the well where Helen first had her revelation of the world. This is where she learned words had meaning. Water was a thing that could be felt, cooled the tongue, and could be splashed in to get wet. Here she made her connection to what she remembered when she was just a little girl around 2 years old asking her mother for wawa.



Frank Lloyd Wright’s Rosenbaum House

A few short miles from Helen Keller’s house, another house lit up on our radar as a place to go and visit. This was the 1940 Frank Lloyd Wright, Rosenbaum house. It was designed in a Usonian style, which Wright intended to be low cost housing for the middle class. Budgets are made to be blown when in came to Wright and his designs however and by nearly double in this case. The $8,000 home became the exorbitant $14,000 venture.   

The floor plan was designed in an “L” shape with the office and living room taking one side, kitchen and dining room in the middle, and the bedrooms running down the other side.

When it was being built, the neighbors said it was being built wrong because the floor and the roof were being constructed first. The walls were then hung in place in between them.

The rooms were small, but in typical Frank Lloyd Wright style, the house’s entryway begins with a low ceiling giving you a feeling of compression, followed by a high ceiling, as a feeling of release. This inspires an awe and a wonder in the main rooms of the house.

The door width were very narrow at only 2′ wide. This made the Rosenbaum’s have to turn sideways to get through the doorways in their house. 

Wright designed this house to be expandable and years later the Rosenbaum’s did call Wright back to expand the house as their family expanded. Wright had a playroom built with several bunk beds and game shelves. 

The Japanese style garden became the centerpiece of the house.

Ms. Rosenbaum also had an expanded kitchen designed as the first one was the size of a modern-day walk-in closet.




Florence AL RV Park

The campground is located on the northwest end of Florence. We checked in at the office upon arrival and received out site number. We had a pull-thru site for our 40′ fifth wheel that was a little difficult to pull into due to the sloping, loose gravel that led to the concrete pad. (site 17)  Nothing difficult, but the large, loose gravel made it so that we didn’t want to stop while pulling in.

The site was large enough to park the rig and the truck in and plenty of room in front for driving out. There are palm trees between the sites and a dog park in the middle of the campground. There was also a pool near the office. It was a heated pool, but the heat was turned off or wasn’t working the first few days we were there. The owner got it fixed on our last day.

There is a laundry on site that is free to use for 1 week or longer stays. Packages can be delivered to the office for pickup. They also allow RV washing at the sites for an extra $10. The interior road around the dog park was a little tight for our rig, but barely made it around. There’s no problem going around the main interior roads though.

We had no problems with the utilities either. Starlink gave us 32 down / 12 up. We had 1 bar on the Verizon phones (2.2/0.1) and 4 bars with the cell antenna (15/6). AT&T was 5 bars with the cell antenna (25/19). Wifi at 2.4g gave us 4 bars (11/5).