Day 29: Birmingham to Tuscaloosa, AL
Jen was on call on Sunday and got called into work that morning, so Mark made pancakes and eggs for breakfast. By the time we had packed and were ready to go, Jen had returned, so she and Mark walked us downstairs. Mark had to go to work this time, and he rode with us as far as his office, just a few blocks west of their apartment.
The first 15 miles of the ride were actually very depressing to me. The homes were all run-down, very small and close together, and Garmin kept sending us down narrow alleys that were littered with trash (and sometimes broken glass). The weather didn’t help. It was cloudy and misty for most of the day. We couldn’t pick up any speed because we weren’t on any roads for long enough before being sent onto unpaved, bumpy pathways or turning onto another ally. Old American cars with pimped out wheels seemed to be in style, and many homes had been patched with random materials for example, the top surface of a small corner desk had been nailed over the bottom corner of a broken window).
Conditions improved after we stopped for lunch. We were finally out of the city and the mist had lifted, but it was still cloudy and the roads became hilly.
When we finally reached Tuscaloosa, the last stretch looked like a war zone. Joe, our host, later explained that an enormous tornado had gone through in April, picking up everything in its path. Trees, cars, houses – entire neighborhoods – were now completely gone.
For dinner we went to Dreamland BBQ – a place that was rated number one for their dessert (banana pudding) and runner-up for best barbecue, according to the Best of Tuscaloosamagazine. The ribs were good, but the banana pudding was incredible. I’m already thinking about how I could get some more of it before we leave Tuscaloosa.
From there, Joe brought us to the University of Alabama campus to walk around and see the Walk of Champions, outside of the Bryant-Denny football stadium, where a bronze statue was erected for every coach who won UA a football national championship. Ever since we reached North Carolina, it became increasingly apparent that college football is a big deal in the South. The UA football stadium can seat 104,000 people, and another 50-60,000 usually just tailgate outside. Joe told us that home games always sell out, and games can generate over $20 million.
Joe’s roommate, Kenny, came home shortly after we returned to Joe’s apartment. Both Joe and Kenny had to wake up early the next morning, so we had a relaxing evening and watched a movie before going to bed.