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Alabama: more than just college football

Birmingham skyline.
Birmingham skyline.

For those of us living in Southern California, Alabama is not what one might call a vacation destination. Driving along Highway 59, I can’t help but think that if history had run a different course, travel to Alabama might have required a passport today. And in some ways, it still feels like another country in its own right.

I flew into Atlanta and rented a car; driving is really your only option if you want to see the state. I took Route 85 to Auburn and stopped to walk around and get lunch.

Although Toomer's Corner is sadly a site of the past, Auburn is a pretty town – despite what Alabama fans will tell you. I’m not a Tigers fan, but the bar scene in downtown Auburn is fun, especially during football season. If you want to see this town in full swing, go for the Iron Bowl in Auburn and you can witness one of the greatest rivalries in college football.

Continue down Route 85 to Montgomery and visit Hank Williams’s gravesite in Oakwood cemetery. Montgomery was the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War and also where Martin Luther King preached to his congregation in a small chapel. Though a small city, Montgomery has earned its place in American history. The Cloverdale neighborhood is an elegant garden district reminiscent of New Orleans.

If you spend the night, be sure to visit 1048 Jazz and Blues with live music till 4 a.m. And check out Railyard Brewery for your craft beer fix before cruising out of town.

You’ve probably heard of the Robert Trent Jones Trail if you’re a golfer. If you want a challenge, visit Capitol Hill in Prattville for a round of golf. Opt for a round on The Judge or The Senator, and see how you fare.

They joke that “the sun never sets on a Robert Trent Jones golf course.” You’ll understand once you play a round.

Lake Martin is a popular summertime destination for many. Stop through the charming town of Wetumpka where several scenes in the movie Big Fish were filmed. Get lost on some of the roads around Lake Martin. Money can go a long way down here, and if you’re looking to get away, this is the place to do it.

The end of the cotton industry meant hard times for many small towns in Alabama. In some ways, I think traveling through some of these small towns is the best way to understand how a failing economy atrophies into extreme poverty. The city of Detroit may have declared bankruptcy, but visit the once-thriving city of Union Springs and it’s not a very different story.

Through much of the South, especially in areas of extreme poverty, you’ll see that civil rights and equality didn’t do much to remediate the situation. If there’s a will, there’s a way, and people have found ways to get around the laws handed down to them.

We think of vacation as a chance to get away, but I think it should also be a chance to think about the world at large and our place in it. Yes, some of the stereotypes about Alabama hold true, but upon visiting you'll understand how they came to be. This beautiful state has a lot to offer recreationally, but it also has a lot to teach us about our past as Americans and where we stand today.

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Birmingham skyline.
Birmingham skyline.

For those of us living in Southern California, Alabama is not what one might call a vacation destination. Driving along Highway 59, I can’t help but think that if history had run a different course, travel to Alabama might have required a passport today. And in some ways, it still feels like another country in its own right.

I flew into Atlanta and rented a car; driving is really your only option if you want to see the state. I took Route 85 to Auburn and stopped to walk around and get lunch.

Although Toomer's Corner is sadly a site of the past, Auburn is a pretty town – despite what Alabama fans will tell you. I’m not a Tigers fan, but the bar scene in downtown Auburn is fun, especially during football season. If you want to see this town in full swing, go for the Iron Bowl in Auburn and you can witness one of the greatest rivalries in college football.

Continue down Route 85 to Montgomery and visit Hank Williams’s gravesite in Oakwood cemetery. Montgomery was the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War and also where Martin Luther King preached to his congregation in a small chapel. Though a small city, Montgomery has earned its place in American history. The Cloverdale neighborhood is an elegant garden district reminiscent of New Orleans.

If you spend the night, be sure to visit 1048 Jazz and Blues with live music till 4 a.m. And check out Railyard Brewery for your craft beer fix before cruising out of town.

You’ve probably heard of the Robert Trent Jones Trail if you’re a golfer. If you want a challenge, visit Capitol Hill in Prattville for a round of golf. Opt for a round on The Judge or The Senator, and see how you fare.

They joke that “the sun never sets on a Robert Trent Jones golf course.” You’ll understand once you play a round.

Lake Martin is a popular summertime destination for many. Stop through the charming town of Wetumpka where several scenes in the movie Big Fish were filmed. Get lost on some of the roads around Lake Martin. Money can go a long way down here, and if you’re looking to get away, this is the place to do it.

The end of the cotton industry meant hard times for many small towns in Alabama. In some ways, I think traveling through some of these small towns is the best way to understand how a failing economy atrophies into extreme poverty. The city of Detroit may have declared bankruptcy, but visit the once-thriving city of Union Springs and it’s not a very different story.

Through much of the South, especially in areas of extreme poverty, you’ll see that civil rights and equality didn’t do much to remediate the situation. If there’s a will, there’s a way, and people have found ways to get around the laws handed down to them.

We think of vacation as a chance to get away, but I think it should also be a chance to think about the world at large and our place in it. Yes, some of the stereotypes about Alabama hold true, but upon visiting you'll understand how they came to be. This beautiful state has a lot to offer recreationally, but it also has a lot to teach us about our past as Americans and where we stand today.

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Comments
3

Awesome article!!

Aug. 1, 2013

Nice article. However the photo is mis-captioned. It is the Birmingham skyline. The reason I know this is that the long brick building with the white cupola in the foreground is my former high school, Ramsay.

Aug. 2, 2013

Fixed - thanks!

Aug. 2, 2013

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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