Vandiver (Lawley), Alabama.
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Gymno-Vita Park, Vandiver (Lawley), Alabama.
This is a report of our visit to Gymno-Vita Park in July 2008. My wife called it the friendliest nudist resort we had ever visited and we would definitely go back. G-V is located about 20 or 25 miles east of Birmingham, a few miles south of I-20. It is about an hour's drive from Birmingham. Directions are below.
I have to say that Gymno-Vita's owners are old-timers who operate in their own fashion, which might unintentionally be off-putting to some. When I telephoned (something I always do before visiting a nude resort), I told the lady who answered that my wife and I would like to visit and we were AANR and TNS members. I asked for directions, and she told me she could not give me directions from out-of-state. She wanted to mail us a brochure instead. When I said we wanted to come down that day or the next for the weekend, she told me to drive until we got close (I said I had found Vandiver on a state map) and then to call for directions. Honestly, if we had not been invited to meet another couple there, we would never have left home. As it was, however, we assumed G-V was legit, in spite of these first impressions.
The next day we drove several hours and when we got close, we called. No answer. Yikes! What had we gotten ourselves into? As we kept going and got even closer to Vandiver, we called again. Fortunately, this time the same lady answered and I introduced myself and said we were close. She immediately turned the phone over to a gentleman, who gave very fine directions. I was told later by a member that the wife (Lisa) is not a native English speaker, and is "shy" on the telephone.
When we arrived at the front gate, the husband-owner, Bob Truett, met us and invited us into the gate house. He took our photo IDs, AANR and TNS membership cards, and went over the rules, which for the most part were the same as any other nude resort we have been to, with a few idiosyncracies that we actually liked for the most part. We then signed the standard form, paid for our visit, and he took us on a tour of the lodge and introduced us en masse to the folks at the pool, and then left us on our own. Bob was friendly, informative, and helpful. Lisa had come out to meet us at the gate house and also was very nice. "Matt" had come over to meet us too at the gatehouse. It appeared he is going to or does help Bob with the duties.
On the drive to G-V, twice it had poured rain on us, and now at the Park, it began to rain again. Everyone crowded under the small pavilion next to the pool and began introducing themselves and chatting with us. It was a cozy and friendly atmosphere in spite of, or because of, the rain. Soon the rain stopped and a small fun contest of "hoola hoop" was held, including me and my wife as guest performers! The ice was broken and we felt like part of the group.
The sun came out and I swam a bit just to try out the pool. It is not really deep enough to be a "swimming" pool, but is perfect for water volleyball. The weather had kept too many folks away to get up a good game that afternoon, so we all just relaxed, enjoyed the sun when it peeked out, and made plans for dinner. G-V has no food nor food services. Fortunately, we had been told that (by the couple who invited us down), so we had stopped for lunch before arriving. Plus, we and they had brought food to share for dinner.
Either because of the rainy weather or the friendly locals, or both, we were soon invited to join a group at one of the camper/RVs, to grill our hamburgers with them and share a communal dinner. We were happy to be invited. So, besides getting to know the couple who had invited us, we also got to know other couples. Dinner was a normal, generous, make-yourself-at-home, here-have-some-of-this, eat-a-thon and talk-a-thon. The G-V locals are a friendly, inclusive, funny, social, talkative bunch.
After stuffing ourselves at this Park-with-no-food-services, we all joined another group around a fire ring at another RV and chatted into the evening, enjoying the friendly fire. Everyone made a point to introduce themselves and welcome us. As the evening wore on and the bugs came out (but only a few) our new friends (the couple who had invited us) and we excused ourselves to the lodge club room to play cards. Others also came inside. There was no live music, but someone put on some recorded music and we danced a few songs in the dance hall. One nice thing was that there was no DJ who mistakes "loud" for "good" dance music. Then someone put on a movie to watch, but our friends had seen it, so we went back to playing cards. Bob Truett came around to check on things and make sure we were enjoying ourselves and didn't need anything. Finally, we finished our card game and our friends had to leave to head home. My wife and I headed upstairs to our room, but not before being invited to coffee and breakfast more than once with some of the locals. Very nice, again since G-V has no food service, including no coffee service.
We slept comfortably in our queen-size bed in a spacious room with an effective window air conditioner. Codes requires bathrooms be separated by gender, but Bob hasn't let that rule hold him back. When you open the "Boys" or the "Girls" doors in the hall and step inside, the dividing wall inside is only as high as the lavatory sink counter level! So, you can still brush your teeth next to your Honey, while standing in Codes-compliant separate bathrooms! LOL Each side has a small shower and does have a semi-private alcove for the commodes.
The next morning we feasted on a huge Southern breakfast cooked for us by a super nice couple who have a camper/RV there. They said that the first time they came to G-V, they had not been told that there was no food available, so they had not brought any, and everyone just took them in and fed them. So now they do the same for new folks (even though we had brought a coffee pot and bagels for breakfast, just in case). Again, it was just fun sitting and talking with nudists. Nudists can be the nicest people!
This day, no rain. The sun came out and so did more guests and members and the small parking lot filled up. The pool began to fill up to and soon water volleyball was well under way. Nothing cut-throat about these gracious folks. The games were for fun and went on all afternoon. Someone brought out cold sweet watermelon, which hit the spot. Finally, as the afternoon did wear on, it came time for me and my wife to leave. We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses with some of the folks who hated to see us go as much as we hated to leave. All invited us to come back soon. We had loaded our car earlier (room check-out time was strictly noon), so we just threw the last things in, reluctantly got dressed, and drove out the drive. Bob was at the gatehouse and we stopped to tell him goodbye and that we had a wonderful time and only wished G-V were not so far away.
Here are a few odds and ends:
G-V is inexpensive! It cost us $65 for two days, including the room. Cost us more than that in gas to get there.
The web site is only a single page, but has a photo of the lodge and contact information. http://www.gvpark.com
Their phone number is 205-672-7105, but they do not do fax nor email. Call and they will mail you a brochure.
They have a very reasonble membership fee structure ($45 for the year, and they pro-rate during the year).
The gate is open from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., not including winter when the Park is closed. So, visitors must arrive by 5:00 or leave by 5:00 if they don't want to be locked out or locked in.
The rules posted on the driveway in make it seem that out-of-state visitors might be able to arrive after 5:00. I don't know those details, but was told on the phone I had to be there by 5:00.
The lodge has large covered porches upstairs and downstairs, with chairs, tables, and swings. Nice!
The lodge has a refrigerator for guests to use and also outlets on the porches for coffee pots and cooking. There are also has charcoal grills (bring your own charcoal) on the lawn.
In the lodge, there is a pool table, a ping-pong table, and card tables inside, along with a dance hall/theater room, with raised stage for performances.
Our bedroom was spacious and had two bedside tables, a regular wooden chair, and a stuffed chair, along with extra pillow and blanket for the bed. There were only two coat hangers, on a set of hooks on the wall (no closet). The floor was linoleum or some sort of plastic tile, not carpet.
There is NO HOT TUB. Not a problem for our summer-time visit.
There is a bathhouse next to the pool.
There is a horse-shoe pit and a sand volleyball court, though neither get much use.
The owners rescue local dogs dropped off on their dirt road, which means they have a bunch of dogs. We didn't have any trouble, but some members said the dogs jump up on cars stopped at the gate house and scratch the paint, so beware.
There is a small lake or pond and a one-mile-long nature trail.
G-V is a clothing-optional resort/park.
There are two areas or drives for RVs and campers and there appeared to be about a dozen of same, though we only walked around one of the loops.
G-V has no wireless internet service of its own, but one of the full-time locals has his own (unsecure) network and apparently let's visitors piggyback his service. We did and were able to check our email and do Google searches. Sadly, G-V does not allow singles. Not every nudist is in a mixed-gender couple.
Google Maps (Satellite view) shows the park nicely on "Seven Bark Road" approx one-half mile off of "Magnolia Lane" and "Wolf Creek Road" (County Road 55) intersection. It shows Seven Bark Road as continuing past the driveway into Gymno-Vita, but that isn't so, or perhaps only by 4-wheel drive vehicle.
RULES: (These rules are on the bulletin board at the entrance gate.)
1. From Birmingham, Alabama, take I-20 East towards Atlanta. Go approximately 20-25 miles to Exit #147. If coming from Atlanta, Georgia area just go on I-20 to the same Exit #147.
2. From Exit #147, go south two-tenths of a mile on Kelly Creek Road and turn sharply left (east) on US Highway 78.
3. Go on US Hwy 78 for 2.0 miles and turn right on Camp Winnataska Road.a short distance after crossing bridge over railroad tracks.
4. Go on Camp Winnataska Road 5.5 miles until it dead-ends into "Wolf Creek Road" (St. Clair County Road 27).
4. Turn right and go on St. Clair County Road 27 for 2.2 miles. It will become Shelby County Road 55.
5. Watch for an old bridge with rusty side-rails, which you will drive over. Two-tenths of a mile later, turn right on Magnolia Lane (a gravel-dirt road). (If you miss it, don't fret, go another two or three hundred feet and make a sharp right turn on Seven Bark Road (unmarked, but paved),-- they form a very small triangle.)
6. From Shelby County Road 55, go on Magnolia Lane about one or two hundred feet. There will be a power substation on the right, surrounded by a chain-link fence. Turn right on Seven Bark Road (unmarked, but paved). Be careful, Seven Bark Road is only wide enough for one-way traffic most places.
7. Go one-half mile on Seven Bark Road (it will become gravel and dirt) to the entrance driveway for Gymno-Vita Park on the right. There is a visible sign.
8. Turn right into the G-V driveway and stop at the gate house. Toot the horn if need be. The owners' home is near the gate house.
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