Once I moved to the west coast, I became aware of the term “flyover state” which meant the great swath of land between Los Angeles and New York City (or San Francisco and Boston, wherever your east coast and west coast allegiances lay.) Up to that point, I hadn’t used the term, but I had a similar idea that had festered in my head for my long road trips – the idea of drive-through states. Most of Kansas is just a drive-through state from Missouri to Denver and vice versa. Nebraska serves the same purpose for Wyoming; Iowa for Minneapolis and the Boundary Waters; Arkansas for New Orleans; and Alabama and Mississippi for the beaches of Florida.
I’ve passed through parts of Alabama several times, but haven’t really gotten to know it. Mostly it’s through the southern tip, but obviously there’s much more to the state than that. So, as fall changes to winter and thoughts of the southern warmth invade our heads in more ways than one, I figured it was time to research a trip to get to know one of the major cities of one of my drive-through states.
Stay at Tutwiler Hotel
The Tutwiler Hotel doesn’t look like anything special when you bring up the webpage and see the Hampton Inns & Suites logo. Then I saw it’s a building that’s almost one hundred years old. Then I saw this from Weird Alabama about mysterious knocks on the door and lights that refuse to go out in the bar. Maybe Hampton Inn & Suites got rid of the ghosts during the remodeling and then again maybe not. I know listening for knocking will be in the back of my mind as I drift off into a restless slumber (or if I bring my running shoes, maybe I’ll try to recreate the ghost myself and try to bring Major Tutwiler back in the minds of other guests.)
Look over the city at Vulcan Park
I love to have a bird’s eye view of a city fresh in my mind. It helps to create that connection of where I’m going as I walk and explore a new place. A trip to see Vulcan Park for the largest cast iron statue built for the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair seems like a good place to start on my first day in Birmingham.
Eat Soul Food and BBQ
Two types of meals remind me of home – BBQ and soul food. I remember big picnics of my youth with pork steaks slathered in barbecue sauce. I remember my grandmother cooking fried chicken for the whole family and saving the neck for herself. So, with cities of the south, I have to find those two cuisines and I think I have with Saw’s BBQ and Eagle’s Restaurant. The stuffed taters of Saw’s sound wonderfully unhealthy as the loaded potato has bacon, pork, chicken and BBQ sauce in it. At Eagle’s I could try the neckbones, my grandma’s favorite cut of meat, but I may stick to my personal favorites like meatloaf on Tuesday or fried pork chops on Thursday.
Explore the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
I immediately put the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute on my list because I want to see and read more about the civil rights movement in the south. Two things jump into my mind when I think about the south and civil rights: Rosa Parks on the positive side and Emmett Till on the very negative side. (The link goes to a documentary – “The Untold Story of Emmett Till” – that floored me when I saw it.)
Tour the Golden Flake Factory
I saw a tour of the Golden Flake snack factory in lists of things to do in Birmingham and realized what goes into a chip is a big hole in my food knowledge. I’m not sure if I’ll like knowing or not (kind of like sausage and hot dogs), but at least it will satisfy a bit of my curiosity.
Any suggestions for things that I missed? Any additional recommendations for the area? Just let me know in the comments.
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