Days 72-75 – Visiting Family in New Digs and Seeing a Different South

Thursday October 16 (Muriel)

We left now fairly familiar Savannah.  What we had seen of the Low Country of South Carolina and Georgia was more delightful than we expected.  We now headed east toward Birmingham, Alabama, where our daughter and son-in-law settled almost two years ago.  About half way, we stopped in Atlanta at a Trader Joe’s, to replenish our car supply of almonds and to get some goodies to take to Rhandie and Richard’s home.  We found a Zaggat’s-rated take out place in the shopping center for lunch there.

We continued to Rhandie and Richard’s home in Trussville, AL, one of Birmingham’s many suburbs.  Leaving the Interstate, we drove through several suburbs.  The area was very green, featuring homes on very large lots, with lots of grass and wooded areas.  There were several commercial areas and occasional small industrial developments.  After reaching Rhandie and Richard’s home, we settled in for several days of catching up.

Friday October 17 (Muriel)

We spent a quiet day visiting, doing laundry, shopping, and refilling prescriptions at a Costco.

Saturday October 18 (Muriel)

Allan and I seem to be bringers of rain on this trip.  When we woke up, it was raining.  The night had been cold and wet.  Whereas the trees had been mostly green with just a few hints of fall color, now some of the trees were quite colorful.  Trees that had been entirely green were now showing tinges of color.

The rain stopped by midmorning.  The air was crisp and clear, the sky blue.  The four of us drove to Vulcan Park in downtown Birmingham.  There an enormous statue of Vulcan, god of the forge, stands on a tower at the top of Red Mountain.

Before taking an elevator to the top of the tower, we visited the adjacent museum.  It had fascinating displays about the history of Birmingham and the production of steel.  The displays brought out the poverty of rural Alabama before World War II and the hardships of working in coal and iron mining and the iron industry.

It was heartening to see that the displays discussed racial issues and history in an evenhanded and positive manner.  Likewise, the visitors to the museum, like the staffs of restaurants and stores and their customers, were integrated.  There was also an inlaid geology map of the area showing the coal and iron that created the city.  I photographed the group standing on that map.

We tried to visit the Birmingham Art Museum, but there was no parking available because of Homecoming at the adjacent UAB (University of Alabama at Birmingham).  Instead Rhandie and Richard took us on a tour of the woods on their almost 4-acre property.  It was almost a bushwhacking.  Vines clung on many of the large trees and to each other.  Way too many of the vines resembled barbwire for our comfort.  We got trapped by the “barbwire” vines a few times but emerged from the walk without injury.   Allan took a photo in the woods.

Richard and Rhandie took us out to dinner at a wine restaurant in a large upscale shopping center.  Again, we were pleased to note that the restaurant staff was integrated, as well as the customers.  Other than varying degrees of Southern drawls heard, you wouldn’t notice we were in the Deep South.

Sunday October 19 (Muriel)

We said goodbye to Rhandie and Richard and headed to New Orleans.  We drove southwest through Alabama, stopping – with some trepidation – for lunch in Meridian, Mississippi.  Our only knowledge of this city of some 39,000 was the 1964 murder of three civil rights workers — other than the recommendation in the AAA guide of a buffet restaurant.  The food was good, with outstanding vegetable dishes, and again we found an integrated restaurant staff and customers.  Since this was early on a Sunday afternoon, many of the customers were dressed up in church going attire.

Short of reaching the gulf coast, our route turned west and took us into Louisiana.  Soon we were crossing the eastern side of Lake Ponchartrain on a very long causeway and bridge.  For the first time on our trip we saw smokestacks (from oil refineries?) belching brown smoke and soon spotted New Orleans ahead of us.  We saw only a couple dirty smokestacks, but suspected they were responsible for the smog visible in the city.

We checked into our hotel in downtown, a couple of blocks from the French Quarter, relaxed a while, and walked to the French Quarter in the dark.  We had to cross the street several times because the sidewalks were closed for construction in many places.  (We were to learn later they were closed for repair of Hurricane Katrina damage.)  As soon as we crossed Canal Street, we were in the French Quarter on Bourbon Street.  The blast of sound almost knocked us back to our hotel.  Amplified music bellowed from every doorway.  Crowds of people filled the sidewalks.  A crowd of young adults stood around admiring the wildest jazzed up car I have ever seen.  Its most memorable feature was a lovely neon sign in the open trunk that announced, “Bar Open.”  There were restaurants, bars, costume shops, and lots of people.

We found our way to one of the restaurants recommended by our hotel, where we chatted with a few tourists and a waiter who had not been in New Orleans much longer than we had.  He was from Michigan, attracted by the warmer winter weather and opportunities to do volunteer work.  I enjoyed crayfish etoufee , and Allan a combination of typical crayfish dishes.


1 Response to “Days 72-75 – Visiting Family in New Digs and Seeing a Different South”

  1. 1 Jim Hardesty October 29, 2008 at 2:43 am

    Hi folks,

    Glad you’re having a great time. I’ve enjoyed riding along (virtually, that is). By the way, I imagine the “jazzed up” has been replaced in today’s lexicography by “tricked out.” It’s not easy keeping up with the young-uns!

    Happy Trails!


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