The second-best thing about the Amey family’s spring-break trip to Huntsville, Ala., is that we left a lot of things on the table to do the next time we’re down there.
The best thing, and the reason we’ll be going back, is Nathaniel Halbrooks, our great-grandson (and by the way, Jenny and I are pretty ticked off that nobody has yet told us we are way too young to have such a thing).
Nathaniel lives with his parents Danielle (our granddaugher) and Daniel in the little village of Arab (rhymes with Ahab, for you Ray Stevens fans) which is just a short drive down U.S. 231 from Huntsville (or, to put it another way, just a little ways down the road from Greencastle and Cloverdale).
I hadn’t been terribly optimistic about the scenic possibilities of Alabama, but the drive from Huntsville to Arab is gorgeous (and a couple of mountains just outside Huntsville are among the things that have yet to be explored).
The kids also kept telling us as we were planning the trip that there’s nothing to do in Arab, but they were too modest. Even though we didn’t see a real sidewalk on our two trips down there, Arab is big enough to have a Wal-Mart, a McDonald’s and three or four stoplights, not to mention a couple of restaurants that we’ll also revisit.
We didn’t see Arab on our first day, however. It’s almost 400 miles to Huntsville, and by the time we’d driven most of the day to get there — with a thunderstorm, Nashville traffic and a huge wreck on the other lane of the interstate to deal with — we just wanted to settle into our hotel.
We found the place without getting lost and without help from a GPS, which might actually be a first, but that didn’t mean our evening was uneventful. For one thing, we got there on the final night of the Little People of America convention — JoJo was thrilled to be one of the taller people in a crowd of about 100 as we checked in — which was kind of quirky. Then, in trying to plug in some of our electric equipment, I managed somehow to disengage the support that served as the back legs of an end table in our room, sending it crashing to the floor (I blame Union Hospital’s Center for Fitness and Performance for my brute strength).
By the next morning we were ready to meet Nathaniel (almost seven months old by now) so we were off to Arab. Daniel and Danielle weren’t sure we could find a restaurant open (it was Sunday), yet we wound up with probably our best meal of the week. The kids know the owners of Sierra’s, a Mexican restaurant in town, and if you are ever in Arab it should be your first stop. Darcy doesn’t have many favorite foods but ribs is one of them and — because she can’t usually finish a half slab — I was able to enjoy some of those after I finished my enchiladas suizas.
I’d never thought about the fact that Mexicans could be good at barbecue, but I was fairly confident that native Alabamans would be. So the next day, when the kids brought Nathaniel to us, we got to one of Huntsville’s landmarks, Little Paul’s. As good barbecue places should be, it’s kind of a nondescript little building (vaguely reminiscent of Big Shoe’s, right down to one of its vinegar-based sauces) but the food is good. It’s also right across the street from Huntsville Hospital, where Danielle works, and she clued us in to the necessity of avoiding the lunch-hour rush. (I talked them out of the ingredients to a couple of their sauces, including a unique white sauce that I’d never tried before.)
Jenny was content to spend the rest of that day with the baby, and Daniel and Danielle — who don’t often get days off at the same time — were amenable to that too. JoJo and I went to see ”Hunger Games” while the rest went to a mall, and that enabled he and I to be the only ones in our family to enjoy another fast-food franchise new to us: Zaxby’s, whose menu is limited (mostly chicken strips and wings) but whose execution is impeccable.
With only one more full day to go, we had to visit Arab one more time, especially since we hadn’t had our Midasburgers yet and because we had one more gift for Nathaniel. The previous day Jenny and all the kids had picked the only mall in Huntsville with a Build-a-Bear Workshop to walk around in; you can’t sneak those past Darcy, so both she and the GGS now have new stuffed animals.
As far as lunch was concerned, Jenny had even found mention of Midasburgers on one of the food websites, and Arab is the only place in the world that has them. They are really chicken sandwiches and not burgers (gold in color, Midas, get it?) but they are big and tasty and have a secret sauce to go with them. (No, haven’t procured that recipe yet. Maybe next trip.) And for our last big dinner in Alabama, went looking for one of Huntsville’s famous restaurants, and couldn’t find any of them.
But high-end restaurants and mountain scenery aren’t all we still have to look forward to. Here are a few more things.
Huntsville is probably most famous for NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center, a research and testing facility that helped develop the Saturn launch vehicles for the Apollo space program and more recently the rockets for the space shuttle program. Werner Von Braun worked in Huntsville after defecting from Germany more than 60 years ago. We haven’t toured that yet.
The city has a cozy little downtown area surrounded by a whole community of historic homes. We saw a few of them and could stand to see more. We didn’t get to the city’s art museum either.
The home opener for the Huntsville Stars, the Double-A team of the Milwaukee Brewers, wasn’t until a week after we left, so we haven’t yet experienced Joe Davis Stadium (he was a former Huntsville mayor), interacted with mascot Homer the Polecat or enjoyed (?) the atmosphere of a place that’s not-so-affectionately called “The Mausoleum.” Former Indiana State pitcher MItch Stetter might be starting his second stint on Don Mincher Drive in Huntsville as you are reading this, and former Sycamore Joe Thatcher once pitched there too.
One of several things in Huntsville named for Von Braun is the city’s hockey arena. Maybe the most avid hockey city in the South not only has the Havoc, who were hosting the first game of a second-round SPHL (Southern Professional Hockey League) playoff series against the Columbus (Ga.) Cottonmouths the day we left, but also the only Division I college team in the South. The University of Alabama-Huntsville — Daniel’s alma mater — was host school for the Frozen Four in Tampa a few days ago.
So there’s plenty more for us to do and plenty of reasons for us to return. We even found a nice food stop along the way in La Fontanella, an Italian restaurant in the Tennessee countryside just this side of Nashville (near the Fontanel Mansion). To steal a trademark line from Bob Arnett, we’ll be back.
• It’s a new phone — In case 124 of you are wondering why I haven’t tweeted much lately, there’s been a phone upgrade. I’m still learning to negotiate my new keyboard, and my children are not very patient teachers.
Andy Amey can be reached after 4 p.m. at (812) 231-4277 or 1-800-783-8742; by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org; by mail at P.O. Box 149, Terre Haute, IN, 47808; or by fax at (812) 231-4321. Follow @TribStarAndy on Twitter.
The second-best thing about the Amey family’s spring-break trip to Huntsville, Ala., is that we left a lot of things on the table to do the next time we’re down there.
- Sports Columns
TRACKSIDE: Local drivers, owners looking to have strong night at Tony Hulman Classic
In its rich 43-year history, the Tony Hulman Sprint Car Classic has long carried on a strong local racing tradition.
From its early beginnings starting in 1971, the U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned event has been the annual centerpiece of the racing calendar at the Terre Haute Action Track as well as a key stop on the USAC sprint schedule and one of the most sought after wins in big league sprint-car racing.
Shooters compete to fight cancer
A team of employees at Taghleef, formally A.E.T, would like to give a personal invite for you to join in on a lot of fun while helping save lives.
Cindy and Mark Wilguess are the inspiration behind the Taghleef Team. Cindy herself fought this battle with cancer and won. Last year she led her team to be the No. 1 fundraisers in the Relay for Life.
TILL IT'S OVER: Terre Haute Triathlon's new race director seeks more events for his hometown
Today is the day for the Thunder in the Valley, and the Terre Haute Triathlon is under new leadership in 2013, the 28th year for the event at Hawthorn Park.
A former Terre Haute North track and cross country standout, Ethan Page is the race director as the race falls under the reign of Page’s new company, Crossroads Events.
TODD GOLDEN: Don't give up on ISU baseball just yet
If you had to pick one word that would describe the 2013 Indiana State baseball season, it would have to be frustration.
TRACKSIDE: Terre Haute's Carmichael enjoying strong spring in modifieds, stocks
It might have been cold and blustery at Charleston Speedway on Saturday night, but for Terre Haute driver Kenny Carmichael the evening couldn’t have been more pleasant.
From Terre Haute to the major leagues: Phegley's play could earn him promotion to Chicago
Josh Phegley's debut in the Major Leagues could be coming to a ballpark near you.
There's an expert at Parker's Archery
As I was driving the winding roadways of southern Indiana, a rustic building caught my attention and the sign on the front revealed it to be an archery shop called Parkers Archery.
TRACKSIDE: Rain still a pain for Wabash Valley racing organizers
Soggy weather conditions, which have rightfully drawn the ire of Wabash Valley race fans and crews in recent days, continue to plague promoters where it hurts the most — their pocketbooks.
RAMBLIN’ RECK: Pacers having a ‘Garden Party’
The Indiana Pacers are back in form and looking good.
KENNY BAYLESS: Sponsors sought for 'Ladies Only' event at Terre Haute Sporting Clays
Sponsors are being sought at the Ladies Only event at Terre Haute Sporting Clays on Saturday at 10 a.m. Sponsors should be willing to donate $1 or more for every broken bird. Each lady is allowed 25 shots. Flat donations are gladly accepted. Also, organizers are looking for more ladies to participate. Ammo, clay birds, and guns (if needed) will be furnished.
College Report: Lively earned collegiate upgrade with strong play
Hillary Lively signed to play Division II basketball at Maryville (Mo.) during her senior year at North Vermillion, but those plans changed and she would up at nearby Danville Area Community College — where she recently concluded an outstanding two-year career.
Lively was impressive enough to earn a Division I scholarship to Southeast Missouri State of the Ohio Valley Conference, and both her future and past college coaches think she will continue to succeed there.
“She fits what we need,” SEMO coach Ty Margenthaler said. “She has college experience, she is strong and physical and plays well around the basket and moves well.
“Her strength, rebounding and touch around the basket will be a big help. On the defensive end, she’ll be able to guard a true center.”
RAMBLIN' RECK: It’s May … a time for horses and horsepower
It’s the first day of May, a great month for sports.
It begins with the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. My Old Kentucky Home is played before the start of the race on which hundreds of bets will be placed by folks who ordinarily don’t bet on thoroughbred horse racing.
A week later, practice begins for the Indianapolis 500.
Terre Haute runner sets up race to help Boston
Having competed in the Boston Marathon once before in 2003, 35-year-old Majel Wells of Terre Haute thought she should give it another try in 2013.
“My goal was just to finish and enjoy Boston,” she reflected this week. “I had an injury [runner’s knee] beforehand, so I wasn’t too worried about beating my time from 2003 [4 hours, 10.20 seconds].
“But nobody cares about what your time is at Boston anyway.”
From what I’ve heard over the years, she’s right. Unless you’re a super-serious runner, the Boston Marathon has been more about taking in the atmosphere and having fun than placing in the top 50, although Wells was pleased that she beat her previous time by finishing in 3:55.19 on April 15.
Obviously, her race time wasn’t the most vivid memory that Wells took away from her 2013 Boston experience.
Amey Takes Aim: NHL playoffs to put TVs to good use
If Jenny had known, she probably wouldn’t have bought that TV.
But four or five years ago, my Fathers Day present — for those unfamiliar with Amey family traditions, the Fathers Day one is “let’s get something we all really want and pretend it’s a gift for Dad” — was a 42-inch Vizio. It’s been used even more than the cell phone I never would have bought for myself, or the TomTom that disappeared since Jenny’s smartphone arrived.
And it came with high-def.
I’m not going to insult you by telling you how great high-def is, because to do so would be to imply that you are even farther behind the technological curve than I am. I’m guessing, however, that not all of you have yet discovered what it does for hockey.
Foot Notes: ISU track athletes looking to keep improving at Drake Relays
Indiana State’s track schedule has helped its men’s and women’s teams escape the glacial Wabash Valley weather and enjoy warm days in Auburn, Ala., and Knoxville, Tenn.
With the Sycamores’ track facility basically laid to rest for competition and construction on a new one planned near the Wabash River to begin in 2014, major kudos go to everyone involved for continuing to produce athletes that are NCAA contenders who race with some of the world’s best.
Some of ISU’s current athletes are hoping for season-best performances this weekend against strong competition in the Drake Relays.
Former Sycamore NCAA pole-vault champion Kylie Hutson, who competes professionally for Nike and trains in her hometown of Terre Haute, also has been in Des Moines, Iowa, to compete in the Pole Vault in the Mall on Wednesday night.
REDNECK QUAKER: Variety of birds to search for in turkey hunting
My father-in-law, Donnell Dunn of Jacksonville, Fla., is a retired engineer from J.I. Case and an avid reader and loves information on anything he takes interest in. He has five patents under his belt during his career.
Donnell took great interest in the Turkey World Slam display at Gander Mountain and thought each bird needed some info to help people understand more about them.
TRACKSIDE: USAC racing picking up, including Sunday's stop in Terre Haute
With a break in the weather, U.S. Auto Club-sanctioned racing will kick into high gear on the area motorsports scene this weekend with events scheduled at three Indiana ovals.
Ramblin’ Reck: Sato first Foyt winner since 2002
Takuma Sato made Izod IndyCar Series history Sunday when he won the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Former South players to play in Saylor benefit game
I had my first phone conversation with Mike Saylor since mid-February on Thursday and he sounded good.
The former Terre Haute South High School boys basketball coach, who’s been battling cancer this year, has been traveling back and forth to the MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston for chemotherapy treatments.
COLLEGE REPORT: Valley prep athletes getting ready for next level
The NCAA “regular” signing period begins Wednesday for all sports except football, field hockey, soccer, track and field, cross country and men’s water polo.
RAMBLIN’ RECK: Pacers closing out a nice season
In case you hadn’t noticed, the final games of the regular season will be played this week in the National Basketball Association.
Amey Takes Aim: Can’t bottle the joy of Amey vacations
The first bad sign was the Gatorade bottle.
In the Bataan-Death-March drive to Orlando that got the Amey family spring break vacation off to a bad start, seeing it between lanes of I-24 — as we zipped along at a 100-miles-in-five-hours clip — filled with an ominous yellow liquid was a little bit scary. And although we didn't stop to check for sure, I'm fairly certain I knew about its contents.
And the person stuck in the same traffic jam with us, the one with the existential license plate YMIHR4, couldn’t have asked a more pertinent question.
But, after seeing a lot more of Oak Grove, Ky., than we’d planned, and after enduring more traffic slowdowns in Nashville, we were on our way. Even some rain in the dark in the Smokies didn’t slow us down much, so you would think our first-day troubles were over.
You would be wrong.
Redneck Quaker: Mascari gets thrills from turkey hunting
Annie Mascari is a beautiful, vibrant, 26-year-old lady that loves the outdoors.
She comes from a large family of four brothers and a sister and lives the teachings of good family values.
Olivia Rightly let me know that I “should talk to my teacher at St. Pats School, Ms. Mascari, because she’s taken a turkey.”
As I shook Annie’s hand, I could feel the energy she has for life. As proof, the first time she went up in an airplane, she jumped out of it!
She’s also quite the hunter. Mascari picked up a used PSE bow for $30, one for a left-hander because her left eye is dominate for shooting. The Page Arrows are her choice for broadheads.
RAMBLIN’ RECK: Louisville gets two shots at NCAA title
Louisville met Michigan in the championship game of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament on Monday. Louisville faces Connecticut in the title tilt of the women’s tournament tonight.
REDNECK QUAKER: Learning to shoot clays a great experience
Tom Mitchell from Burnett is an all-around outdoor enthusiast. His passions are motorcycles, cars, and most of all, shooting sports. When he sights in on metal target shooting with a hand gun or rifle you will hear a lot of “clang” noises, he can shoot very quiet also, because he is licensed to own suppressers.
TRACKSIDE: Racing season picking up speed
With several tracks already open and others scheduled to get underway this weekend it’s a sure sign the area motorsports campaign has taken the green flag for the 2013 season.
RAMBLIN’ RECK: Out with the hoops, in with the bats
It’s a super week for sports fans — college basketball comes to a close and the first baseball games are played in the major leagues.
COLLEGE REPORT: Conferences honor Valley softball players
Several Wabash Valley area college softball players have been honored by their respective conferences for outstanding play this spring.
FROM THE PRESSBOX: Content McKenna has enjoyed seeing ISU's progress
It all happened so fast in June 2010.
One minute, Kevin McKenna was head coach of the Indiana State men’s basketball program. Then — poof! — he was gone.
McKenna resigned from his head coaching position at ISU on June 13, 2010 to take an assistant coach position on Dana Altman’s then-burgeoning University of Oregon staff.
FROM THE PRESSBOX: NCAA got it right with Louisville in Indianapolis
The worst decision and the best decisions made by the NCAA Tournament selection committee shared space on Lucas Oil Stadium’s hardwood Friday night.
The Midwest Regional’s opener pitted Louisville and Oregon, two teams that were on the opposite sides of the NCAA’s coin on Selection Sunday.
Oregon, winner of the Pac-12 Tournament and Pac-12 runner-up in the regular season, was shockingly seeded 12th in the Midwest Region.
- More Sports Columns Headlines
- TRACKSIDE: Local drivers, owners looking to have strong night at Tony Hulman Classic