Helpful Hotel Haley

Haley at Cullman AL Sleep Inn 03-21-2015Cullman, Alabama, is a good first night or last night stop for me when I’m heading to or from Cape or Florida.

I also like it because it has a couple of motels that have treated me right.

Where’s Crazy Carol?

Road Warriorette Shari and I had a busy day with several highs and lows which will be recounted later. She said she’d be willing to pay more than $35.97 for a room since it was our last night. We pulled into the Comfort Suites where I have had good service in the past, but I really didn’t want to fork over $107 plus tax when there was the Sleep Inn down the hill where we had stayed on our last trip for a lot less.

We picked it the last time because Shari needed a smoking room (she’s since stopped). When we stepped into the lobby, we asked the night clerk, “Where’s Crazy Carol?”


“OMG,” the young woman said. “Carol and I were just talking about this couple who came in here and named her that. She said you were a real hoot.”

“That would probably be us,” I confessed. Then Shari and I went into our normal night clerk banter that had her in stitches. I’m not going to give away any of our lines because we may want to use them someplace else in the future.

Haley, that was her name, said, “I’m going to have to call Carol. We were just chatting when you walked up. She’s not going to believe you guys are here.”

Ice bucket condoms

After we checked in, I needed to get some kind of information from her, and I took along my ice bucket. “Would you demonstrate for me the proper way to apply the ice bucket condom? I’ve stayed in scores of lodgings, and after looking inside some of the ice buckets, I can appreciate why you would WANT that plastic liner, but I’ve never figured out how to unfold the darned thing, and when you DO get it in the bucket, as soon as the ice hits it, it collapses.”

With another customer watching intently, Haley gave her best Vana White ice bucket condom presentation. She got it unfolded, but it still pulled out when the ice flumpped in.

She’s not quite Crazy Carol, but she’s a close runnerup. If Crazy Carol isn’t there the next time we stop, we’ll ask for Helpful Hotel Haley. She was a nice end to a long day of driving.

Ave Maria Grotto

Ave Maria Grotto 10-14-2013Traveling up I-65 in northern Alabama, I must have seen the signs for Ave Maria Grotto at least two dozen times over the years. I’ve even stayed in Cullman, where it is located, at least four times. Every once in awhile, I’d consider checking it out, but the impulse flickered out before I ever acted on it.

When we were checking out of the motel in Cullmen, Friend Shari saw a brochure advertising the place. “Want to give it a look?” she asked.

Furrowing my brow and trying to figure out if she was kidding, I said, “I’m game. Are you kidding me?” (She knows the only time I’m in a church is if I’m photographing it.)

We qualified for the $5 senior citizen admission (and they didn’t even ask for proof of age). I have to admit that the first few objects didn’t impress me much. They were an amateurish collection of concrete, tile, marbles and other building materials thrown together pretending to be art.

Brother Joseph Zoettl

Ave Maria Grotto 10-14-2013When we got into areas where Brother Joseph Zoettl started doing miniature buildings, I was more impressed. What interested me more was the story of the artist described on the Ave Maria Grotto website.

Brother Joseph was born in 1878. In 1891, he almost died of the flu that swept Europe. In 1892, he left for America where he served as a housekeeper for mission priests. After that, he went on to work 17-hour days in the St. Bernard Abbey powerhouse, seven days a week.

Made 5,000 small grottoes

Ave Maria Grotto 10-14-2013In 1918, he started working with concrete and constructing little grottoes that could be sold in a gift shop. In 1932, after making 5,000 small grottoes to sell to support missions, he started on the project that you can see today. In 1934, the Ave Maria Grotto was dedicated, and he continued his work for another 40 years, using materials sent from all over the world. He built his last model, the Basilica in Lourdes, at the age of 80, in 1958. He died in 1961.

Ave Maria Grotto photo gallery

Here is a small sampling of Brother Joseph’s work. Click on any image to make it larger, then click on the side of the photo to move through the gallery.