Southern Places: Huntsville Alabama’s U.S. Space and Rocket Center remembers the 50th anniversary of the moon landing

Some moments in history take our breath away. Fifty years ago, America’s moon landing millions had millions of Americans holding their breath. The Saturn 5 rocket took off from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on July 16. Inside the rocket were three men. Two of the men, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, would make history as the first Americans to walk on the moon, with Armstrong uttering one of the most iconic phrases in our country’s history.  Michael Collins piloted the command module Columbia. Armstrong and Aldrin took the Eagle, the lunar model to the moon, hence the phrase, “The Eagle has landing.” Eight days after blast off the three men would splash down in the Pacific Ocean.

The U.S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. is commemorating the 50th anniversary of the moon landing with an exhibit, “Apollo, When We Went to the Moon.” The exhibit runs until the end of the year so you still have time visit. The Space and Rocket Center also has a permanent exhibit of a Saturn 5 rocket, which is one of only three in the world.

Display at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center

I had not visited the Space and Rocket Center since I was in 6th grade when we took an impromptu visit recently. I have few memories from that trip 40 years ago but the ones I have are unforgettable.  I remember seeing Miss Baker, one of the animals America sent into space. I also remember the G-Force Accelerator, which I got on and got off of for fear I would be sick. I was worried my friends would think I was chicken for getting off but I don’t recall any teasing—at least about that. Miss Baker died in the 1980s and I knew better than to get on the G-Force some 40 years later (my husband, who is normally daring, also declined).

We were there mostly to see the Apollo exhibit, which we found first. The exhibit was more than just displays of memorabilia. Like many of the exhibits at the Space and Rocket Center, the exhibit was interactive with things kids (and big kids) will enjoy. We enjoyed sitting in a ‘moon buggy.’ And I made that ‘one small step for man (or woman) and one giant leap for mankind).

Steve and I try out the “moon buggy”

For me, it was some of the items that some may overlook while enjoying a walk on the moon or time in the buggy. I was moved by a letter from former First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy, who asked that the contributions of her late husband not be forgotten. It was President John F. Kennedy who passionately stated “we choose to go to the moon” in a speech he delivered on Sept. 12, 1962 in Houston Texas’ Rice Stadium. Kennedy was assassinated in November of 1963  and never lived to see the moon landing  The speech is part of the display and you can hear at the exhibition which includes the famous words: “We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard; because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one we intend to win, and the others, too.”

The exhibit does not gloss over the turbulent times of the 60s. The battle for civil rights was blazing. Martin Luther King Jr. and others were leading marches and peaceful protests. King’s life would end by an assassin’s bullet in April of 1968. An unpopular war was taking place in Vietnam. The moon landing brought all Americans together on July 20th to watch Armstrong make those historical steps.

One of the displays in the Saturn V Hall at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center

The Space and Rocket Center does not stop telling the story of the historic moon landing with the Apollo exhibit. Saturn V Hall has one of only three of the Saturn V’s on display. You can learn more about the science behind our space journeys. Something I found interesting: the three men had to continue living together in a small space even after they returned to Earth. They were quarantined in an Airstream RV until they were medically cleared. You can sign up for a guided tour of the Saturn V Hall or walk through at your own pace. The hall includes some play areas for kids.

Shuttle Park at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center

The main purpose of our visit was to see the Apollo 11 exhibit. But the Space and Rocket Center has several standing and changing exhibits, rides and experiences. Kids can climb the Mars Climbing Wall or take a ride in the Hypership simulator. Two great exhibits are outside.  Rocket Park gives you a sense of just how big the rockets are. A large space shuttle is the centerpiece of Shuttle Park.  Families can find a diverse menu at the Mars Grill that is reasonably priced. I enjoyed a burrito bowl and my husband had a grilled chicken sandwich and fries. You can spend an entire day there and not do everything.

Huntsville also has several other fun places for families to visit including the Huntsville Botanical Gardens and the Earlyworks Children’s Museum. We will be back to learn more about all of Huntsville has to offer!

U.S. Space and Rocket Center, Huntsville, Ala.

Admission: General Admission is $25 for those 13 and older. Admission is $17 for those ages 5-12 and children 4 and younger are free. Senior and military discounts are available. You can purchase several add-ons including movies in the planetarium and guided tours.

Parking: You can park for free right outside the center.

Directions:  Huntsville is located right off U.S. You know you are getting close when you see the large replica of the Saturn V rocket in the distance. Exact directions from your location can be found here.

Dining: The Mars Grill is located inside the center. The food is reasonably priced and you have a lot of variety. Huntsville has several well-known eateries and local restaurants for everyone’s taste.

Where to stay: Huntsville has several brand-name hotels near the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. We booked an apartment through Airbnb that was reasonably priced and had a kitchen just in case we wanted to save money and cook for ourselves.

For more information:

U.S. Space and Rocket Center website

Huntsville/Madison County Convention and Visitors Bureau website

Southern Places: The Noccalula Falls Experience is a must see for the summer

At the top of Noccalula Falls in Gadsden, Ala. is a statue of the Native American princess named for the stunning waterfall. The story of the young woman who jumped into the ravine to avoid marrying a man she did not love has been told thousands of times. This summer, Brian Clowdus has brought Noccalula’s story alive with an immersive theater experience set where the events unfolded.

The Noccalula Experience features classically trained actors who not only act but sing and climb on the Gorge Trail that leads to the bottom of the falls. The audience can walk down the slope to the play’s setting or be assisted by park staff in a Gator.

Sarah Elaine as Noccalula

Once the audience is assembled, music begins and Noccalula appears. Portrayed passionately by Atlanta actor Sarah Elaine, we quickly learn the princess is in love with Wa-ya, portrayed by Jonathan Varillas. The actors expertly portray the joy of two young people in love.

But their joy is short lived as Noccalula is told by her father, portrayed by Pedro Ka’awaloa, that she must marry Tsu-la to broker peace with another tribe. Woven throughout the story is the voice of Noccalula’s mother, who guides her daughter to her fateful decision.  Irene Bedard, known as the voice of Pocahontas in the 1995 Disney movie, provides the voice of Noccalula’s mother.  

Theater lovers will revel in seeing the story told on the path where the Native American legend was born. Once at the play’s first setting, the walk through the journey is an easy one for adults and children. Benches are provided in some of the areas for those who need them but the audience should be prepared to stand for about an hour during the performance.

A scene from the Nocculala Falls Experience

After the play, the audience can take the rocky hike down to the gorge or return to the trailhead. Park admission is included with the theater ticket. Noccalula Falls has beautiful winding trails filled with historic cabins and beautiful foliage. My favorites are the covered bridge and old-fashioned post office. Everyone will enjoy seeing the animals in the petting zoo. And if you get tired, just catch a ride on the train that winds through the park. A miniature golf course is adjacent to the park. Adults can play for $5 and $4 for children and seniors.

Here’s what you need to know about the Noccalula Falls Experience

When: Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday through July 7. Shows are performed at 2 p.m., 4 p.m. and 6 p.m.

Where: Noccalula Falls Park, 1500 Noccalula Road, Gadsden, Ala.

Admission: For 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. shows: $15 for adults. $10 for seniors, military and kids

For the 6 p.m. show: $25 for adults. $15 for seniors, military and kids.

You can purchase tickets and get more information here.

Other information: You do need to walk down a steep incline to get to where the play begins. A driver in a Gator is there to assist you if you don’t feel comfortable walking down. The play is performed on the trail but relatively easy to walk.

Southern Eating: Tips for eating out with diabetes

Traveling can be challenging and eating out with diabetes adds a new challenge. I am a diabetic and honestly, I don’t always eat like I should. We are on the road to somewhere nearly every weekend and sometimes through the week. That means we eat a lot of meals on the road. I love hamburgers, fried chicken and sweets but my blood sugar does not. I try to avoid buns and potatoes which is challenging when you are looking for quick eats on the road. And while I will have a salad on occasion, I really don’t like them.  Luckily, some restaurants offer some decent choices for diabetics. One thing to keep in mind, even if the restaurant/fast food fare is low in calories and carbs, it still may have a lot of sodium. I am not a nutritionist but here are five of my favorites.

Chick-Fil-A

The best meal is grilled nuggets and a side salad. I don’t really like salad so I get fruit and pick out the melons, which usually spike my blood sugar numbers. And if I am really bad, I get the fries and Chick-Fil-A sauce anyway. I am not a fan of wraps but they have several options on the menu. They also have salads if you like them. Chick-Fil-A tops this list because of their app that lets you accumulate points to get free food and often randomly offers freebies.

Captain D’s

I love their grilled fish options and their broccoli is great. Unfortunately, the grilled items are served with the best breadstick I have ever tasted. I sometimes let myself have it anyway since I am not eating their delicious hush puppies. Of course, my favorite there is their two-piece fried fish meal but it’s another meal my blood sugar doesn’t like. They have a rewards program but I have not signed up yet.

Cracker Barrel

My Cracker Barrel Meal

I don’t think I could survive diabetes without Cracker Barrel’s grilled tenderloins, green beans and pinto beans. They always bring me the biscuit but luckily, I have a husband who can take that off my hands. Cracker Barrel does have salads that some of my friends say are great. Another low carb option–egg whites and turkey sausage. Breakfast is served all day there.

The Big Chicken in Marietta

KFC

When I was following Weight Watchers’ points system one of my go-to meals was a grilled chicken breast and green beans—three points. Their grilled chicken is delicious but I am not a big fan of the green beans but I eat them. I just have to avoid that biscuit!

Wendy’s

Wendy’s has some great salads but I love their chili. It has 28 carbs without the crackers but it only has 8 grams of fat, a trade-off for me. Their grilled chicken sandwiches are also great but I have to leave off the bun. Wendy’s also has an app that offers discounts.

Managing diabetes is all about watching the carbs. Here’s how I eat out with diabetes and keep it low-carb, at least most of the time.

Mexican restaurants

I usually order a salad without that yummy shell. I do allow myself to indulge in some chips and queso but I try not to eat the entire basket of chips (believe me, I could!). When I am at fast food Mexican restaurants, I have been known to order tacos and dump out the contents. Sometimes my husband will eat the shells so they are not wasted.

Italian restaurants and pizza

I just don’t think it is healthy to avoid Italian food all of your life. While it seems impossible, there are ways to limit the carb impact. I try to plan my meals in advance so sometimes I will just reduce my carbs slightly at other meals and have a small portion of pasta. I can always take it home, portion it out and enjoy it for a few days. Let’s face it, most restaurants give you several portions. You can also ask for whole wheat pasta. This is what we always eat at home and I actually prefer the taste now.

Pizza is another challenge. Some restaurants will have the cauliflower or broccoli crust. But everything is about moderation. Just have a slice instead of an entire pizza. Load it up with veggies to get the fiber benefit.

American dining

Most restaurants offer low -carb options and at least a salad or salad bar if you want to get your veggies on the plate. You can plan your meals ahead by looking at the restaurant’s menu. My favorite discovery was at a Chattanooga-area restaurant called Merv’s. This cheeseburger salad tastes just like a Big Mac without the bun and carbs. And remember, I don’t like salad! If I want a burger, I sometimes ask for it without the bun, anyway.

Asian food

Asian food is a bit more challenging. My favorite is sesame chicken and rice or hibachi. I have tried eating the chicken without the rice but that didn’t satisfy me. I usually just try to plan ahead and treat myself. On days when I can’t I just forgive myself!

Desserts

My husband is a good man and he will often order a dessert just so I can have a taste of it. I try to be careful and keep it to just a “taste” but I sometimes get a bit carried away! Many restaurants have no-sugar options that are good. Just check the carb count if you can. Another option is a small serving of ice cream. It’s a little heavy in carbs for me, it’s a better alternative.

Other tips

The Australian Bakery
  • Buffets: I love them but I have no self-control. I have to be very good for a long time before I will treat myself to a buffet. Maybe you have enough self-control but I don’t!
  • I order salads to complement my meals. I was dying to try the Shepherd’s Pie at the Australian Bakery in Marietta. I just added a salad. I will admit to indulging in their Pavlova cake. It’s my new favorite dessert!
  • I always try to walk at least a mile every day. Exercise burns off calories and carbs and makes my “mistakes” less painful.
  • I am never too hard on myself. You may see me post some food that is not really the best for a diabetic. Many times, it’s someone else’s plate but sometimes, you just have to give in and enjoy what you really want. Even if I don’t burn it off with exercise, I don’t sit around and lament over it. I just do better.

What are some of your helpful tips for eating well while traveling? I would love to hear them!

Atlanta Braves baseball is back!


Steve and I love baseball. And while we have visited other stadiums and cheered for other teams our hearts are with the Atlanta Braves. Our love for “America’s team” began when we were young. Steve is older than I am and he remembers when the Braves came South. I asked him to write about what it was like to watch the team from its beginning and cheer on one some of the best players in baseball. Kim

Seeing the Braves in Cincinnati

Back when I was a kid in the late 1960s, I was getting old enough to appreciate professional sports. The Atlanta Braves came South in 1966 and I began following the team on the radio.  The Braves brought several popular players from Milwaukee including Hank Aaron, Eddie Mathews, Joe Torre, and Phil Niekro, who are all Hall of Famers today.

I became a serious fan and began to learn the rules of the sport of baseball, the names of the players, the announcers, the other teams of both leagues, the standings and the finer points of the game.

The Atlanta Braves won their division at the time–the National League West–in 1969. The 1969 Braves were that kind of team that captures the imagination of youngsters looking for heroes and role models. I was so excited I clipped pictures of the game where they clinched the division from the Atlanta Journal that my dad brought home and took them to school the next day to pin to the bulletin board in my sixth-grade class. I was so excited! I can still remember…they beat the Cincinnati Reds 3-2. What I did not know until later was that was the very first year of divisional play in Major League Baseball ever! Wow!

By Monday of the next week, I was majorly disappointed that the Braves were swept by the New York Mets in three games. The Mets later defeated the Baltimore Orioles in five games to win the World Series. They were the Amazin’ Mets of ’69.

Through the 1970s the Braves had several disappointing seasons. But there were some great moments. In 1970, Rico Carty batted .366 to win the NL batting title. He also made the All-Star team as a write-in candidate. He was not officially on the ballot, but because of his performance that year and his comeback from tuberculosis in 1969, he was a sentimental favorite and won enough votes from the fans to earn a spot in the outfield along with Hank Aaron and Willie Mays.

The Hank Aaron statue at SunTrust Park

The Braves best finish in that decade was in 1974 when they finished in third place in the NL West. That was the same year that Hank Aaron tied and broke Babe Ruth’s all-time home run record with his 714th and 715th home runs of his career. It was famously called the “shot heard round the world,” as a parody of the start of the American Revolution. President Richard Nixon called him personally to congratulate him on the milestone. They were his first two round-trippers of the 1974 season, and he finished with 20 at the end of that year.

At the age of 40, his career was winding down, and “The Chase” as the media called it, had taken its toll on him. His home run production was down. Racism was still rife in the South at that time and Aaron had received death threats because he was a black man chasing a white man’s record. This put a lot of pressure on Aaron about the record and the safety of both he and his family. The decision was made at the end of the 1974 season to trade Aaron to the Milwaukee Brewers for first baseman Dave May. Many fans were disappointed to see Aaron depart from the only major league team for which he had ever played.

Aaron served as a designated hitter for the Brewers for two years and compiled 22 home runs in that span to complete his career total of 755 home runs before his retirement in 1976.

During the remainder of the 1970s, the Braves had a lot of lackluster seasons with no division titles and some fifth and sixth place finishes. The team was owned by the LaSalle Corporation and the hometown support was really dwindling until the owner of a small TV station who had a vision of expanding the communications industry decided to buy the team. The man’s name was Ted Turner.

Turner was the son of an advertising executive in Atlanta whose company put up billboards. Ted inherited the company after his father’s death and bought a TV station, WTCG-TV, channel 17 on the old UHF band. Cable television was expanding and Turner needed a market for his team and his visionary idea of a station that could broadcast nationwide.

He also envisioned a “cable news network” that would eventually go worldwide. As the cable industry grew in the late 1970s, Ted found markets for his “Superstation.” He started putting the Braves games on the Superstation with new call letters, WTBS. Before long, the Cable News Network (CNN) was born. All he needed now was a team that could be competitive.

In 1982, he hired Joe Torre to be the manager of the Atlanta Braves. What happened next was unexpected. The Braves had players like Dale Murphy, Chris Chambliss, Pascual Perez, Glenn Hubbard, as well as the old knuckleballer himself, Phil Niekro. And there was Brett Butler, Bob Horner, Al Hrabosky (the Mad Hungarian), Rafael Ramirez, and Bruce Benedict.    

These seemingly unknown, ragtag players led off the 1982 season like no other Braves team has ever done before or since. They won their first 13 games in a row! They were on fire and the Atlanta fans were on fire and excited about their team for the first time over 12 years. They ended up winning the NL West with a record of 85-77. But again, the lost 3-0 in the NL Championship Series to the eventual world champion St. Louis Cardinals. The following year the Braves chased the Los Angeles Dodgers for the division title but fell short at the end. Dale Murphy won the National League MVP award for both 1982 and 1983. By the way, Murphy should be in the Hall of Fame. Hopefully, that will happen somehow.

Dale Murphy’s #3 jersey

Joe Torre was fired as Braves manager after the ‘83 season. The team then went back into the doldrums for about 7 years. In 1990, Bobby Cox became the general manager of the Braves after a successful stint as manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. 1990 was also the year that Larry “Chipper” Jones, Jr. was drafted in the first round of the MLB draft. He began his tour of the minor leagues.

The Braves finished in last place that year and the decision was made to let Cox return to the field manager position while searching for an executive to take the GM slot. A call was made to Kansas City and a meeting was set up with John Schuerholz, who was GM with the Royals. Schuerholz came to terms with the Braves, and they were off and running towards the next great chapter of their history.

The Braves acquired players such as Terry Pendleton, David Justice, and pitchers such as Tom Glavine. The Braves traded Doyle Alexander for John Smoltz. They acquired a first baseman, Sid Bream, from the Pittsburgh Pirates. Schuerholz and Cox, together with Director of Player Personnel Hank Aaron and some of the best scouts that could be found, cobbled together a team for the ages.  

In 1991, the Braves started out the season rather slowly but caught fire in the middle of the year. By season’s end, they were 94-68 and had won the National League West by 2 games over the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Terry Pendleton garnered the MVP trophy that year and the team went from “worst to first.” All the trades and draft picks were paying off and the organization had adopted a winning attitude. Bobby Cox was a big-hearted guy and a “player’s manager” but he could be a disciplinarian when the need arose. And he took up for his players, keeping them in ball games by getting ejected himself on close calls by umpires.

After defeating the Pittsburgh Pirates in the NLCS, the Braves went on to play the Minnesota Twins in the World Series. This was the Braves first World Series appearance since the team moved to Atlanta and since 1958. It went to seven games, with the Braves losing a 1-0 heartbreaker in Game 7, which went 10 innings.

The Braves returned to the World Series in 1992 on a base hit by Francisco Cabrera in Game 7 of the NLCS against a returning Pittsburgh team. Cabrera’s bases-loaded single drove in 2 runs, with the winning run being scored by a sliding Sid Bream on a wide throw by left-fielder Barry Bonds.

The Braves lost the ‘92 Series 4 games to 2 to the Toronto Blue Jays.

In 1993, the Braves won their division for the third time in a row on the last day of the season, squeaking by the San Francisco Giants by one game. But they lost the NLCS to Philadephia, who lost the World Series to Toronto on a Series-ending home run by Joe Carter.

There was no postseason in 1994 because of a players strike which lasted from August 1994 to April 1995. The Braves played a 144 game season in a new division, the National League East, which was brought about by divisional realignment in 1994. The Braves won the East in 1995 by 22 games over Philadelphia. After beating Colorado in the new Division Series brought about by playoff expansion they moved on to play Cincinnati in the NLCS. They swept the Reds 4-0 and found themselves in the World Series again, this time against the Cleveland Indians.

The Braves made history once again by beating the 100-game winning Indians in six games. Tom Glavine pitched a one-hit shutout, 1-0 in Game 6 to win the Braves first world championship in Atlanta. Glavine was selected the World Series MVP.

Since then, the Braves have been to 2 World Series, 7 league championship series, 13 division series, and one wild-card playoff game.   Last year, team won the NL East. Let’s hope for a repeat this year and maybe a return to the World Series!

Here’s to a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Merry Christmas Eve!

 I hope that you are having the happiest of holidays. I know that this time of the year is tough for some. I am still missing my parents and I can’t believe this is my third Christmas without them. Many of my friends and family are facing their first Christmas with an empty chair or two at the table. This year I struggled with Christmas but we got our tree up yesterday and I am trying. I can’t wait to see all of my siblings together later this week.

The past few weeks have been hectic ones at the Jarrett home. But we now have a new washer and dryer and a new SUV—and the bills that go with them. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have financial challenges and we are no exception. We will be working even harder this year on our financial future. And we hope to help others here and on our other blog. Our travels have kept me from losing my mind at times. I really should categorize it as “therapy.”

I cannot be thankful enough that my husband was not hurt in the wreck. He took a hard hit but survived well for a middle-aged man. He truly is my Superman. Just a couple of weeks before he was very sick. I had to do a lot of things without him. I appreciate him even more than I did before. I am so thankful that God put us together.

My Superman!

University Chrysler Dodge Ram Jeep in Rome, Ga. was great in helping us out after the wreck and they went above and beyond. I was skeptical about our new Dodge Journey but I love it now! We will be focusing a lot on our “journeys in the Journey” and we will be photographing our car a lot. And yes, I do highly recommend University Dodge. This is our second vehicle from there.

Our mission with this blog is to show families you can have fun without going broke. We are not always the most frugal but we try. And some things are just worth the money like The Ark Encounter in Kentucky.

Our Dodge Journey

The business side of my writing career is very busy so we are scaling some of our traveling back at least for the first three months of this year. We still have a lot of things to write and you will see us around, as always. We are going to focus more on events and places in Northeast Alabama, Northwest Georgia and Southeast Tennessee. But we also have some trips planned for the Midwest and further east than I have been for later in the year.

Look for some changes on the blog and some new features as the year progresses. Please, continue to send us suggestions and ideas. And if you are a tourism official, we would love to put you on our calendar for next year.

We all begin a new year with hope. Part of me is still scarred from 2016. We started the year house-hunting with plans to rev up our blogging. We hoped to take my parents on some trips and we were adamant that any house would be friendly for our parents, who had mobility issues. Steve’s mom passed away suddenly and my parents passed away within three months and a day of each other. I am hopeful for 2019 but I also remember the words of my late Mama whenever we would plan something. It’s all “If the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise.” So, we are making plans and putting it all in God’s capable hands. Whatever things we encounter on our journeys—good and bad—are in His control.

Best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from our house to yours!