Summerdale, AL - Events of Tuesday, April 16, 2013
The Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog is located only a few miles from Rainbow Plantation. It is part of a preserve that protects 6,000 acres of a fragile estuary system along the northern side of Weeks Bay, which lies on the eastern side of Mobile Bay.
We went to the bog a couple years ago. There is a nice boardwalk through the bog where visitors can see a variety of wildflowers and sometimes wildlife in addition to the pitcher plants. On Tuesday, we decided to take the 10-minute drive to the bog to check it out again. Pets on a leash are permitted, so we took Freeway along.
Pitcher plants are carnivorous plants that have tall, tubular leaves that are lined with downward-pointing hairs that trap insects. There is a pool of liquid at the bottom of the tubular leaf containing enzymes that dissolve the insect so the plant can absorb the nutrients. Pitcher plants are relatively rare because of their very limited range and habitat. There are several types of pitcher plants, but the primary type at Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog is the White Topped Pitcher Plant.
The tubular leaves with their white tops and red veins are very attractive on their own, but they are not the blossoms of the pitcher plants. Separate, red blossoms appear in spring.
Bogs are constantly moist, but they usually don't have standing water like swamps and wetlands. There was some standing water in the bog the day we were there because of all the rain we received only two days prior.
It was a little later in spring when we went to the bog the last time, and there were more pitcher plants to see (both the tubular leaves and the red blossoms) than there were this time. There were also a few more other wildflowers in bloom back then, but we did see some bitterweed flowers on our latest stop.
There were also lots of cinnamon ferns, which get their name from their spore-bearing fronds that look like cinnamon sticks.
The boardwalk winds through the bog and eventually ends up at the Fish River.
Looking downstream we saw a fisherman at a dock under the bridge casting a net.
As we headed back to the car, we stopped for a photo of some wild berry plants blooming alongside the boardwalk.
Even though there weren't quite as many pitcher plants and other wildflowers as there were on our previous visit, we had a nice time walking with Freeway and listening to the birds along the way.
Shortly after we got back to the motor home, we got a text from Pat and Mike asking if we were interested in going to lupper at Lambert's Cafe. They were leaving the next day, so we thought it would be an excellent way to see them off. Lambert's has three locations - one a few miles from Rainbow Plantation in Foley and two more in Missouri. Pat and Mike picked us up, and we all headed to to Foley.
We have passed by numerous times, but we have never stopped at Lambert's Cafe before. They specialize in southern comfort food, and they are "the only home of throwed rolls." Yeah, we know that's not correct grammar, but that's the way their slogan reads.
Earl and Agnes Lambert opened their first restaurant in 1942 in Sikeston, MO. Their son Norman threw the first dinner roll in 1976 when he couldn't get through the crowd to serve a customer. The customer yelled, "Just throw the danged thing." He did, and a tradition was born.
The side of the restaurant has a mural with likenesses of family members and others who are important to their business. We don't know who the man in the blue shirt and red suspenders is (maybe Norman?), but the roll he is throwing is painted on an air vent making the mural three dimensional.
Lambert's menu is similar to Cracker Barrel with southern favorites like fried chicken, country ham, chicken and dumplings, catfish, pot roast and meatloaf. The big difference is the portion size. The Cracker Barrel portions are adequate, and their prices are very reasonable with most meals costing $7 to $10. The portions at Lambert's, however, are huge. Lambert's prices are somewhat higher, but they're still reasonable considering the much larger portions. Most meals at Lambert's cost $10 to $16. Drinks are served in 34-ounce, insulated mugs with free refills. The dinners are so big they serve most of them in 12" skillets. The photo below shows Pat's barbecued pork steak dinner with three sides (cucumbers and onions, baked sweet potato and baby carrots).
We knew we would be getting a lot of food at Lambert's, so we both had chicken salad, which is a little lighter meal. It included a large scoop of chicken salad and two sides (shown below with sliced beets and white beans).
In addition to including two or three sides (there are about 20 to choose from), all meals also include what they call "pass-arounds." Servers carrying large bowls, platters or pots serve fried potatoes and onions, macaroni and tomatoes, black-eyed peas, steamed cabbage, and fried okra. There are unlimited refills on the pass-arounds.
Then there are the famous "throwed rolls." We saw rolls being thrown from all the way across the room, but the server will still toss the roll even if he is standing right beside your table. However, if you don't want to risk being embarrassed by missing the catch, you can request the roll be handed to you.
The rolls are also huge, so we thought we would be good and split one. They are served hot out of the oven. They were so delicious, we couldn't resist splitting a second one.
They also serve apple butter and sorghum syrup with the rolls. We had never had sorghum syrup before, and it is really yummy. Sorghum is a large plant that is a member of the grass family. Some sorghum is grown as a grain, but the the syrup is made from the juices of a sweet variety of sorghum in much the same way molasses is made from sugar cane. After the stalks are crushed, the juice is pressed out then boiled down to a syrup to concentrate the sweetness. We thought the sorghum tasted like a blend of honey and molasses.
Our only complaint about the rolls is Lambert's serves some sort of faux butter spread rather than real butter. However, the rolls are good enough, especially with sorghum, that we hardly missed having real butter.
Most people leave Lambert's with styrofoam boxes of leftover food. The big portions, the large number of included sides, the all-you-can-eat pass-arounds and the endless supply of rolls mean there is often enough extra food for lunch the next day.
When we got back to Rainbow Plantation, we all stopped at our rig to chat a while before we said our good-byes. Then Pat and Mike headed back to their rig to prepare to depart the next morning. They will be heading west this summer, and we probably won't see them again until we all get to Blueberry Hill in December. We'll miss Pat and Mike during the summer, but we'll stay in touch by e-mail, by text and by phone.
We've been eating out a lot on this stop. We have been in lower Alabama for about two weeks and we have eaten at two of our favorite restaurants (plus buying fresh shrimp in Bon Secour), and we have eaten at two new-to-us restaurants. We still have some favorite places where we want to eat, and we may also end up doing some sightseeing. We'll let you know what we're up to in our next post.