Sloss Furnaces was our first introduction to the city. Iron, one of the founding industrial components of the city, is memorialized with a huge statue of Vulcan, Roman god of fire and forge. Ever vigilant, he watches over the entire city of Birmingham. After watching a live iron pour, we were in the heart of US history. A tour of the 16th Street Baptist Church was a difficult, but important, stop of the day. Early on September 15, 1963, a bomb was denotated in the basement of the church, killing 4 young girls, and injuring 22 others. At the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, we were reminded why we have the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which outlaws discrimination “based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin” to the benefit of our nation. This day was a mixture of emotions, but brought us a deeper understanding of the Civil Rights struggle.
Our next day started with an intimate tour of Regions Field, the crown jewel of Birmingham’s newly developed Parkside District. The field offered us unique views of the downtown skyline, Vulcan, and the Red Mountain. Our meals, throughout the tour, were of Southern culinary delight…yum! Of particular note was the Irondale Café, the Original Whistle Stop, for its fried green tomatoes (also a movie’s name that made the café famous) – 60 to 70 pounds served every weekday! We ended the day walking off all those tomatoes at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. Racing Porches in the 60’s, George Barber took 63 first place wins and in 1988 began collecting and restoring classic cars. Later, a sizeable motorcycle collection was added. Over 1,500! There’s much to tell about the Museum as it continues to grow, becoming a ‘living museum’.
On day 4, we headed north to Guntersville, AL. A quick stop at the Guntersville Museum offered a unique vantage point on history and cultures of the region. A relaxing stop at Lake Guntersville State Park Lodge was an unexpected treat. Overlooking Guntersville Lake among a thicket of pine trees, the lodge feels more like a resort than a state park. We had lunch here, stretched our legs, and enjoyed the scenery. Afterwards, we had an unusual shopping experience. The Scottsboro Unclaimed Baggage Center is where anyone’s lost or unclaimed luggage is ‘found’! One of our travelers was chosen to process an unclaimed bag and got to decide what items would be thrown, donated, or sold. Then we shopped!
Our step-on guide Jacque, showed us Huntsville’s highlights and some southern charms of the city. Dinner was at the Huntsville Depot, one of the oldest surviving train depots in the United States. The next day just didn’t have enough time to see all of the US Space and Rocket Center – and we have to keep up our energy, so we headed over to the Huntsville Botanical Gardens for a lunch treat from Table – all the while taking in the explosion of spring flowers.
Much to the surprise of the group, we headed into Tennessee on our last day. We stopped to visit two working distilleries and compare the differences. One, Prichard’s, is family operated and the other, the world’s largest, is Jack Daniel’s. Have you heard of both of these? We were in Lynchburg, home to Miss Mary Bobo’s Boarding House and Restaurant, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There, we were served a sit-down, boarding house, home-cooked meal. Then on to the Nashville airport for our flight home and preparations for our next Mystery Tour! For some clues about this, please click here.