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Posts Tagged ‘Alabama’

We’ve stayed at Monte Sano State Park before.  We get the same site (I look up an older blog post where I was pretty intrigued with the peeper frogs here at our site, #19).  But it’s so coooold here (we’ve run our heater every night on this southern spring trip) we don’t get the big symphonic chorus again.

Alabama Constitution Village

Alabama Constitution Village

But we do have a really beautiful, almost warm day to tour the Alabama Constitution Village in downtown Huntsville the next day. It’s in a lovely area of historic homes, and the Navion slides nicely into a regular metered parking space right in front.  We’re glad of its nearness, as we slip back for additional coats and sweaters, and some cheese and crackers – which allows us to pay closer attention to the costumed interpreters. Everyone learns better when not hungry or cold.  Jaded living history museum visitors that we are, we enjoy it all and pick up a couple of new things.  We’ve never seen an “Ugly Jar” before – a jar/jug with an ugly face used to warn children, really anyone, that something bad was in there, like poison or alcohol. The other thing we’d never seen was a pair of andirons, shaped like snakes, which when a fire was lit in the fireplace would look really scary to children and keep them back from the fire, and being burned.

We got a combination ticket to the Depot Museum, where we tour briefly – they’re closing in half an hour, then sit in their scenic parking lot to use internet and plan the next few days, before heading back to our non-tech campsite.

Depot Museum

Depot Museum

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I’m now really regretting using the post title “Montgomery to Selma” . We haven’t been to  Selma yet, but there it is in every title. If there’s anybody out there reading this, how annoying is that!   I originally thought I’d be able to sum up this week in one or two posts. But, too many memories, and too little ability to put them into words.  We ARE going to get to Selma though.  For anyone who’s hanging in there .  (That will be Dick and I in our rocking chairs, in the not-too-distant future, yelling to each other, “Hey!  Did we ever go to Selma?!”)

At this point, we’re still in Montgomery, staying at Gunter Creek Campground every night. Not a bad spot to call home for a few nights.

Gunter Hill Campground - view from campsite

And we go back to Montgomery on our third day in the area, and  take the trolley tour, visit the Rosa Parks Museum ( I could write another whole post on that and call it Montgomery to Selma Part 4, but I’m restraining myself.  I’ll just say it’s powerful and well worth visiting.)

We’ve parked our  Navion every day we’ve been in Montgomery, in back of the Visitor’s Center – the railroad station/trolley stop (VERY convenient if you have a small rig). So, tonight (and a couple other nights)  we walk to a recommended restaurant – “Dreamland Barbecue” and pig out. On our first night, we get a huge sampler of ribs, chicken, barbecued pork etc.  with all the sides, AND Dick orders barbecued sausage as an appetizer. It’s a fun place, and the owner/manager? is really friendly and sits at out table, telling us about the major changes underway.  Like a very cool outdoor bar with an amazing number of artisan beers on tap.  We talk about small breweries in Wisconsin (where we’re from) – he makes a note of our beloved New Glarus Spotted Cow.

All right.  I’ll get another day here into Part 3.  The Biggest One.

Martin Luther King.  His home.  Our visit starts with a pretty funny encounter with one of the guides.  While we’re parking our tiny motor-home, this beautiful senior African-American woman (in a gorgeous red dress) comes out to tell us that a tour will start in a few minutes.  While I’m listening to her, I’m taking off this large man’s white shirt I wear over my regular clothes when we travel- so our old cat can sit on me and shed. She gives me a lot of grief.  Kidding me about being a stripper- it’s goes on, we have some great give and take, before and after our tour.

But now, we really are on hallowed ground.  After a brief orientation, we go into Martin Luther King’s home. It’s so  amazingly accessible. We’re allowed to wander around in the living room, it’s not roped off at all. It’s an overwhelming feeling – the thoughts, fears and plans that happened in this place.  It’s awesome to see the dining room table, where SNCC was born and where all those tough decisions about the boycott were debated and made.

The highlight is the kitchen, where we get to stand around the very table, where Martin Luther King bowed his head over a cup of coffee, weary and worried,  and asked God if what he was doing was right. God answered.  The rest is history.

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We start our tour outside of Tuskegee, with the  Tuskegee Airmen Museum.  We’ve had it on our list of places to see since we bought this motor home a year ago.  African- American  pilots in World War II  proved themselves here. They hadn’t been allowed into pilot training schools or allowed to fly missions previously.  These graduates went on, after being tested and tried in all kinds of conditions, to prove themselves not only capable, but superior.  It’s such an amazing story.  Look for those red tail wings, and their statistics, in the history books.

Next, we drive into Tuskegee, and onto the grounds of the Tuskegee Institute.

Booker T. Washingon founded this historic college – he was ahead of his time, taking advantage of opportunities, and providing opportunities. He gets George W. Carver to come here to teach. (And, if you don’t see God’s hand in nature, after learning about this man, there’s something wrong with your eyesight.)  Together, they do so much for academics for black students, for agriculture, and for the farmers in the region. From history classes, I remember their names and the peanut research – but I’m totally blown away by the philosophy of how they approached learning. A new world started here.

The museum and the films are awesome and inspiring – but at some point we get hungry and ask where we might still get a bit of lunch – we’re told that the Kellogg Conference Center on campus might still be serving?

Indeed.  We’re welcomed into the dining room by the hostess at the desk.  We ask if we’re dressed appropriately (we’re in travel mode -but she assures us we’re fine). The rest of the dining room is really well- dressed , suits and ties, for the men,  dresses or nice business attire for the women.  Ordinarly I don’t count, but this time it seems worthy to note that we are the only white faces in the room.

So there it is.  We’re in the minority.  Not dressed well. No credentials.  And we are treated with such graciousness, friendliness and acceptance.  Everyone smiles, nods, acknowledges us in some way.  The Mayor of Tuskegee, who happens to be having lunch at an adjacent table, comes over to our table, asks us if there’s anything he can do for us, and tells us that we have a friend in the Mayor’s office if  there’s anything we need.

We have a wonderful lunch – the food is all delicious, we try new things, standing next to one another at the buffet.

It hurts my heart to think about what the reverse situation has been.

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We came to Montgomery to see where Rosa Parks made history by taking her seat on the bus and not giving it up,  to learn more about the Montgomery bus boycott and to visit the home  and church of Martin Luther King.

I haven’t visited this part of the south since I was in early grade school – what I remember most vividly from that trip was my Dad drinking out of the “colored only” drinking fountain and using the “colored only” restrooms.  It caused some ugliness from white people that made me uncomfortable and afraid, while at the same time I felt proud of my father.  It was a small gesture he made, I guess, but it said  a lot to me.  I expect that times will have changed in so many ways.

Check-in at our first RV park:  Friendly staff recommend the top 3 sights to see while we’re here;  The State Capitol, The State Archives, and the White House of the Confederacy. We head downtown to the Visitor’s Center to check out parking and get oriented.  Our friendly staff person there recommends the same three sights. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King are second tier. What is this?  Is it the color of our skin? I’d hate to think that.  I don’t begrudge them their pride in their Capitol building, etc. (well, actually, I take exception to one of their rather inferior paintings in the rotunda – with a title something like, “when wealth and leisure led into the golden antebellum age” – sure, wealth and leisure arrived while you were sitting on that pretty veranda).   It’s just that I don’t understand their relegation of this city’s great Civil Rights heritage onto a back burner, when for us, it’s the major reason we’re here. We’re looking forward to anything else the city has to offer, but that’s just frosting on the cake.

I guess I’m not going to get rid of conflicting emotions on this trip.  We switch campgrounds the next morning, and because it’s too hot to be in downtown Montgomery, drive to Tuskegee.

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