Day 2: Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Jackson

Trip Start Mar 25, 2012
Trip End Mar 30, 2012

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Where I stayed
Quality Inn, Natchez Mississippi
What I did
16th Street Baptist Church Birmingham
Read my review - 4/5 stars
Vulcan Park - Vulcan Statue Birmingham
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park Montgomery
Read my review - 5/5 stars
Governor's Mansion, Birmingham Alabama
Tuscaloosa, Alabama
State Capitol Building, Jackson Mississippi
Arlington Antebellum Home & Gardens, Birmingham

Flag of United States  , Alabama
Monday, March 26, 2012

I got up at around 6AM this morning. I went to Wynton M. Blount Cultural Park in Montgomery. It's a very nice area with lakes and a huge theatre where they hold the Shakespeare Festival every year. A lot of people come here in the morning to jog around the park. When I finished here, I drove up Highway 65 N to Birmingham. It was a little dumpy here, lots of abandoned warehouses and the buildings were run down. First I went to Vulcan Park. It's located at the top of Red Mountain and overlooks downtown Birmingham with a huge statue of Vulcan, the largest cast iron statue in the world. The statue is 56 feet tall and depicts the Roman god Vulcan, god of fire and forge. It was created as Birmingham's entry for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1904 World's Fair in which it won the grand prize) and is the seventh-tallest free-standing building in the US. I got here a little early so there weren't many people, I would hate to come here when there are bus-loads of kids coming in on field trips! There's also a museum here and an elevator that can take you to the top of the statue (although you have to pay to get up to the top). Definitely a must if you ever come to Birmingham!

I also drove by the Governor's Mansion and the Sloss Furnaces. The Sloss Furnaces used to be an iron-producing furnace and is now a national historic landmark. It became one of the first industrial sites in the US to be preserved for public use. I think on certain days they conduct tours and it is supposedly a haunted location so they even have an annual Halloween Fright Festival. Once a year they hold a Ghost Tour and the location has even been on Ghost Hunters. It was closed when I went by but it was also a little weird getting here because I had to go through a gate and under the highway bridge to take a few pictures. There were some cars parked under here but I didn't see anyone around. It didn't look very safe to be here alone, so I snapped a few pictures and then left.

Next I drove by the Arlington Antebellum Home & Gardens which is a former plantation home. It was a little hard to find the entrance because the whole property is gated off. The entrance is down a side street. I walked around a little bit and took a few pictures, although I thought I heard a gunshot so I came back to the car. It could've been a car back-fire, but you never know!

Then I drove by the 16th Street Baptist Church, which was organized as the First Colored Baptist Church of Birmingham. In 1963 it was the target of a racially motivated bombing by members of the KKK during the American Civil Rights Movement. The church is still in operation today. Right near the church is Kelly Ingram Park.

I finally left Birmingham and set out for Jackson, Mississippi, stopping in Tuscaloosa Alabama on the way. I took I-20 W which only took me an hour to get to Tuscaloosa. Last year there was a horrible tornado that ripped through this town and I wanted to see if there was any damage left. There were spots around McFarland Ave and 15th Street where there was still damage. There was a lake that was semi dried up but had a lot of debris still in it like boards, shoes, metal scraps, and trash. I turned down a street into a housing development right near the lake. I didn't even notice until I got out of the car that there was an entire row of houses gone. I saw driveways that led to nothing and front porch steps leading to no house. I got a little emotional because it really puts your life into perspective. One minute everything can be perfectly okay and the next your house can be ripped off the ground. They had already started re-building a couple houses, but it seems it would take another year or two to get everything back to the way it was.

I set out for Jackson, which took me 3 hours traveling down I-20 W. Jackson was definitely different than I thought it would be. Everytime I think of Jackson, I think of the Johnny Cash and June Carter song. There wasn't much here to do. I went by the state capitol building which is beautiful. There's street parking around the building but it's specifically for people who work at the capitol, although when I arrived it was rush hour and people were leaving work so I parked on the street just so I could take a few pictures. I didn't stay here long because other than the capitol building there wasn't much to see. I was a little disappointed. Finally I drove to Natchez, Mississippi on I-55 S to US-84 W, which took me 2 hours. I was so tired from all the driving today that I wanted to just find a place to crash. There were a few of those flea bag "hour" motels that looked SO dumpy and I couldn't really find anywhere else except a Quality Inn, which wasn't too bad. I had lots to do in the morning and lots of plantations to see!

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