18 - 24 May 2016 Alabama - Montgomery & Birmingham

June 5, 2016

Wednesday 18th May

Packed up and on the road at 9am It was a cloudy misty morning as we headed east on the I-10 across into Mississippi and Alabama. At Mobile we picked up the I-65 and headed north-east towards Montgomery the state capitol. Crossing the Mobile River via a suspension bridge we had wonderful high views over miles of forest.

 

 

 

We crossed the Alabama River bridge just north of Montgomery and arrived at Capitol City RV Park late afternoon. We have arrived in ‘Trump land’ judging by the amount of, vote for Trump, posters placed along the road near the RV Park. Very tidy campground, lots of grass and trees. Good dog park. Weather is very hot and sticky.

There are some big Dragonflies around here!

 

 

Thursday 19th May

Stayed around camp. We had a thunderstorm and heavy rain through the night which freshened the air a little and we had a lovely sunny day. Sandy is enjoying the dog park and sits outside the RV very content watching the squirrels. The RV pitches are spacious with well-tended grass and trees and the park facilities are good, there is also fish pond. Lots of bird song particularly from the mockingbirds.

 

 

Friday 20th May

Downtown Montgomery is about nine miles from the campground. The route is through some pretty farmland and small communities.

We went to the Visitor Centre inside the old Union Station near the river. The building dates back to 1898 and has some original features. We watched a short film about Montgomery and got some information on what was going on this weekend from the staff. The visitor information service here seems well organized, a good website and helpful staff at the Visitor Centre.

 

Today is the Freedom Rides 55th Anniversary. The Freedom Rides took place in protest against segregation on interstate buses and in bus stations.  On the morning of the 20th May 1961 a Greyhound bus arrived at the bus station in Montgomery. There were 21 young people on board of mixed race sitting together. They had met with violence and angry crowds in other cities on their journey and in Montgomery they were also met by the mob. The greyhound bus station is now the Freedom Rides Museum and there are various events around the town and at the museum this weekend commemorating the anniversary.

 

 

Saturday 21st May

Went into Montgomery this morning for a walk about and to visit a couple of the museums. The downtown area is very quiet with little traffic. Everywhere is very clean and the roads and pavements are well maintained (quite a contrast to New Orleans). Some renovated old shops and warehouse buildings are woven through the modern high rise hotels and commercial buildings.

 

 

 

The domed State Capital, court houses and museums are very impressive white neoclassical style buildings.

 

We walked past the church in Dexter Street where Martin Luther King Jr preached.

 

Outside one of the courthouse buildings was quite a large crowd at what looked like a political gathering.

 

We visited the first White House of the Confederacy, the home of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America. The house had been beautifully restored and the furniture and clothes on display were outstanding. I could have moved in there and then. It was unfortunate that Jefferson Davis and his family only lived there for a few weeks. Shortly after the civil war started the Confederate capital moved to Richmond, Virginia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We had a nice lunch on an outside balcony at the Irish Bred Pub on lower Dexter Street with the State Capitol building in the backgrou

 

After lunch we made our way to the old Greyhound Bus Station Museum. Inside the museum the story of the Freedom Riders was told in photographs, quotes, artwork and exhibits. The ride started in Washington DC and ended in New Orleans. The purpose was to test a court case declaring segregation in bus terminals unconstitutional.  As part of the 55th Anniversary commemorations, two of the original ‘riders’ were at the museum talking about their experience. The vicious attack that greeted the riders as they stepped off the bus shocked the nation and led the Kennedy administration to become more involved in the Civil Rights movement.

 

Sunday 22nd May

Woke up to a beautiful sunny day. Most places are closed today being Sunday, therefore, we took a ride into Wetumpka, a small town about six miles away from the RV Park. The name derives from a Creek Indian word meaning rambling water. We walked along the Coorsa River

 

 

 

and then into the town where there was a car show taking place. Everyone was arriving in their trucks and cars to the sounds of country music and many flying the confederate flag.

 

 

 

Monday 23rd May

Another beautiful day as we headed north to Birmingham. We thought, can’t come to Alabama and not visit our home town namesake. First stop was the Visitor and Convention Bureau to find out about the city.

In the mid 1800’s geologists found three ingredients in the Birmingham area necessary for the manufacture of iron: coal, limestone and iron ore. Birmingham was founded and named after its industrial cousin in the UK. It became the largest industrial centre in the south with its foundries producing iron for manufacturing products.

To get a good over look of the city we went to Red Mountain and Vulcan Park.

 

 

 

It was here that much of the mining took place for iron, coal and limestone. Today it is one of the largest urban parks in America.

On top of the mountain is the largest cast iron statue in the world and from the observation balcony around the statue we got a panoramic view of the city.

While there we got talking to a lady who was born in Birmingham, left when young and had not been back for 38 years until now. She had been to her Grandmothers funeral in Selma. Her grandmother was 95 when she died and during her life had been prominent in a campaign to have running water supplied to local homes. The lady said that the last time she has visited her grandmother they got their water from a well.

There are many parallels with the two Birmingham’s. The iron, steel and manufacturing industries now past and the move to service industries. A similar skyline with high rise buildings but also with plenty of greenery and trees to break up the concrete jungle. Suburbs where the rich of the industrial town moved to get away from the noise and smoke of the furnaces. Victorian churches and houses mingled amongst the skyscrapers. Warehouses that have now become loft apartments.

Found a nice pub that had craft beer and did the best fish and chips so far.

 

 

Tuesday 24th May

Visited the Rosa Parkes Museum and Library today. This facility is part of Troy University and memorialises the event which began the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

 

 

On the 1st December 1955, seamstress Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat on a city bus to a white man. Her subsequent arrest led to a boycott of bus transport in protest at the city’s segregation of public transport. The boycott lasted until the Supreme Court declared segregation on public transport unconstitutional. After this the Civil Rights Movement began in earnest.

We couldn’t take photographs inside the museum but our favourite scene took place on board a mock-up of the bus Rosa travelled in. A re-enactment inside the bus of what happened was very cleverly done by some sort of back projection.

Called in at the Railyard Brewing Co in West Jefferson Street for Tony to sample their product. Unfortunately, he couldn’t keep his eyes open long enough for the photograph to be taken.

 

 

 

Spoke to Tom. We are meeting up at the weekend at Pine Mountain in Georgia, to watch the Master Water Ski & Wakeboard Tournament at Callaway Gardens.

Sandy has developed green looking paws. We found out it was from weed killer that the gardeners had put on the lawns!

 

 

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