I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville wife and mother with a passion for family travel, (mostly) healthy cooking, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries with you, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark.
October 18, 2018
On an overcast morning in Gulf Shores, Alabama, we loaded the kids up in the car and set off without telling them where we were going.
“Won’t you give us a hint?” my son pleaded. “Does it involve video games?”
“Nope,” I said firmly. “Definitely not.”
“Does it involve dessert?” my daughter asked hopefully.
“Uh, no,” I said, then looked over at my husband. “Not intentionally, anyway.” Whether I liked it or not, Dennis’s sweet tooth ensured nearly all of our outings eventually involved dessert. He gave me a wicked smile.
“Okay, I’ll give you one clue,” I said, turning around in my seat to look them in the eye. “This outing involves an eccentric billionaire.”
With that, the kids were all in. Their eyes gleamed with excitement. And why not? When you think of all the great storylines that have hinged on those who were both filthy rich and at least slightly unhinged — Fantasy Island’s Mr. Rourke, Iron Man Tony Stark, Jay Gatsby — you know that anything involving an eccentric billionaire pretty much guarantees adventure. We drove out of our bustling beach town and circled Wolf Bay before reaching the tiny town of Elberta, where our own adventure was about to take place. Once I saw the sign, I gave them a little more information.
“So this story actually starts in Virginia,” I told them, “where a guy named Mark Cline builds life-sized dinosaurs and other things out of fiberglass. One day, he was working outside his studio when a man in an old, beat up pick-up truck drove up and asked how much it he’d charge to make some dinosaurs as lawn ornaments for his brother. Mark thought he was nuts and gave him some crazy-high price. Two weeks later, the man came back and ordered seven dinosaurs for his brother George Barber, who’s a billionaire here in Alabama. George put the dinosaurs in Barber Marina, and he liked them so much that he asked Mark to make a replica of Stonehenge for the marina as well. He named it…” I paused for dramatic effect.
“And we’re about to see it,” I concluded. The kids looked suitably impressed.
“And here it is,” I said as we turned into the landscaped entrance of Barber Marina. After the story I’d told, we all felt a bit like we were entering Stark Industries. Acres of pine trees stretched in neat rows on either side of us as we drove down the road — but there were no signs of people anywhere. “According to Google, Bamahenge should be coming up on the right,” I announced, looking at the map on my phone. Sure enough, there was space on the side of the road to pull off, and a sandy path leading into the woods.
Just a little ways down the path, we spotted it:
It was definitely impressive… but it did look maybe a leetle beet smaller than I had imagined. And it is. Although the stones are the same size as the originals at Stonehenge and supposedly aligned with the summer solstice like the original (you’ll have to visit Bamahenge at sunrise on the longest day of the year to find out for sure), this is only a partial replica. The real Stonehenge has at least 50 stones.
Even though the rocks of Bamahenge are made of fiberglass according to Roadside America, they were designed to withstand tropical storm winds. Mark Cline anchored them to the ground with concrete and telephone poles half-buried in the ground. In other words, even if winds are high on the day of your visit, it’s unlikely you’ll be flattened by one of the stones at Bamahenge. So just cross that off your list of concerns.
Yeah, Bamahenge was cool and all, but the day was hot and the dinosaurs beckoned. We got back in our car and started hunting. And this was where things got really fun — Because while some of the dinosaurs were easy to find…
Others? Not so much.
A stegosaurus and triceratops roam right out beside the road in plain view, which is good, because that lets you know the other hidden dinos are close by. My son, a dinosaur fanatic, jumped out of the car to get a picture with each one.
This kid had as much enthusiasm posing with fiberglass dinosaurs as most people have posing with their celebrity crush.
“Okay, lie down underneath this dinosaur,” I suggested, “and act like it’s about to eat you!” My son looked at me like I’d lost my mind.
“Mom,” he huffed. “The stegosaurus is an herbivore.”
“So?” I said, “Just lie down. It’ll look great!”
“I can’t lie down underneath an herbivore!” he said, horrified.
I made do with a photo of a gentle head pat — as one does with stegosauruses, apparently.
Our photos taken, we circled back a few hundred feet to another path in the woods, where we came upon what has to be one of the best photo ops in America.
This, my friends, is the moment every 11-year-old boy lives for. But it didn’t seem fair that he got to have all the fun. My daughter and I made an attempt to get in on the action, too.
Yeah, we might need to leave the posing to my son…
We knew from my research that there was at least one more dinosaur hiding somewhere nearby. It took us some time to find it, though. (HINT: It’s on the other side of the road from the other dinosaurs, and the trail to get there isn’t plainly visible.)
“Oh look!” I said as I spotted the dinosaur peeking through a cluster of trees. “It’s a brontosaurus!”
“MOM,” my son said, incredulous over my abject stupidity. “That is NOT a brontosaurus. It’s a diplodocus!”
“Oh look!” I said, ignoring him. “It’s a diplo-something!”
(My son just happened upon me as I was loading the pictures for this post. “Be sure you tell people that’s a dipldocus and not a brontosaurus,” he instructed me. Mkay, son. DONE.)
I’d read that Mike Cline also created stone knights that are hiding among the trees somewhere nearby. We didn’t look for them because it was hot, humid, and buggy. You might want to, though.
We did, however, continue on to the marina itself — I had one more surprise for the kids.
The marina is definitely worth seeing — Everywhere you look, you’ll see interesting outdoor art and sculptures, starting with the 30-foot-tall Neptune Fountain at the marina’s entrance. It looks like it came straight from some Italian piazza. Park in the lot and walk down to the end of the public docks and you’ll find what has to be the most bizarre of Mike Cline’s creations:
The infamous Lady in the Lake!
You can read the hilarious story behind this fiberglass sculpture at Roadside America. All I know after reading it is that I now really want to meet George Barber! Mark Cline said he designed the lady to be a combination of Sara Evans and Catherine Zeta-Jones — I wonder how they’d feel about that if they knew…
Cline says the Lady is supposed to be a country girl skinny dipping, but I personally see a woman doing Lamaze breathing during a water birth. I guess art is in the eyes of the beholder.
I’m not sure how my son felt about this particular masterpiece, but he did agree to pose for a photo, so I left happy.
Our Barber Marina excursion had come to a close, but we weren’t quite done with this adventure.
Remember what I told you earlier about dessert?
OF COURSE we just happened to be driving past one of the south’s great bakeries on our way back. OF COURSE.
Sweet Southern Scratch is an unassuming bakery in a Foley, Alabama strip mall. We stopped in at around 2 on a weekday and it was packed with Southern ladies picking up baked goods, gumbo, and chicken salad to go.
What makes this bakery stand out is its devotion to Southern baked goods you’d have trouble finding anywhere else. Here, you’ll find whoopie pies, lemon dream bars, something called ‘mud hen’ that was delicious, Amish crackle bars, lemon icebox cake, and much more. Over in the refrigerator, be sure and pick up Lisa’s Chicken Salad- It’s divine.
We picked up a big bag of goodies to take home with us and headed back to our condo. It was a fun way to spend a couple of hours while in Gulf Shores or Orange Beach– and it’s a great way to add a little interest to your next beach photo album!