Courageous Travels: Birmingham, AL

Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5

Day 1

The travel team has often said there are forces, call them Guardian Angels if you will, that watch over the travelers. It is amazing how we will have something planned for a day that rain, for example, is forecast and it will suddenly clear up and we will have a great day. Well, this weekend someone watched over us once again and the snow was not as bad as it was predicted to be for the roads we needed to travel. We were able to keep our schedule as planned. Our travel intern, LinsiAn and I left Camp and picked up Kari F. in Coralville then moved on to Marion and picked up Mike R and our Travel Companion, Mike Sacora. We arrived at camp and checked in Rachel S, Bartek W, Allan F, and Dirk M. One of  Camp’s  year-round volunteers, Sebastian joined us for the trip as well. We then settled in to Pitlik and everyone got a good night’s rest.

-Travel Team

Day 2

Sunday morning, we all woke up early, got ready, packed and cleaned up the cabin before loading the bus and heading to Davenport.  Here we picked up our last 3 travelers, Bryan S, Mary Ellen W, and Bill S. We then headed south in search of warmer weather. We enjoyed a few movies on the way and stopped at a Denny’s in Lynchburg, Il for lunch. We retuned to the road after filling our bellies. We passed the time with more movies and visiting with our fellow travelers. We stopped at a McDonalds for dinner and then got back on the road. We made it to the hotel safely Sunday evening. Everyone got checked in and found some much needed sleep. Tomorrow we finish up our drive to Birmingham and start exploring the city!

-Travel Team

Day 3

Today started out with some chilly weather in southern Nashville, almost 30 degrees. We all had the usual hotel breakfast before setting out for our destination. It was only short 3 hour drive before we were pulling into Birmingham, AL.

Our first stop was the Birmingham Zoo. Built in 1955 the Birmingham Zoo is the largest zoo in Alabama. The first thing we did was get some lunch at the zoo cafe. After everyone was finished we set out to explore the zoo. We noticed the Sea Lion feeding and training performance was about to begin so the group headed for the Sea Lion enclosure. Mary Ellen loved this show so much. We then moved on to the bird exhibits. Everyone loved seeing the colorful birds. The reptile house was next, Allen enjoyed the reptile house. He spent the most time looking and waiting for the animals to move.  We moved on to the African animals, who were in their winter exhibits. Kari managed to get some great zebra pictures with her phone. She took lots of pictures of the animals today. While we were watching the zebras, Rachel told the group the zebras were white with black stripes, which she learned from the informational sign near the enclosure. Bryan liked watching the Red River Hog  “because he is wild”.  Next up, we walked through the “Native to Alabama” area of the zoo.  Bartek, Mike and Dirk stopped to watch a river otter bring pebbles from the water, place them onto the rocks, push them back into the water and dive back after the pebbles again. They all laughed each time this little otter would push the rocks back into the water.  The group then stopped at the barn to play with the sheep and goats. Once everyone visited with the barn animals, we moved on to a traveler favorite, the gift shop!! Everyone found something they loved.
After purchases were made, we loaded the bus and headed to Dreamland BBQ, a suggestion by Dalton, one of the camp counselors who is from this area of the world. The food was great and the service was amazing! After our bellies were full we headed to our hotel and got checked in. Everyone got settled in, relaxed and went to bed. We have a busy day for tomorrow……stay tuned and see what Tuesday will bring for our group!
-Travel team
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Day 4

This morning the travelers got to sleep in a little this morning before having breakfast and heading to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. We were greeted by our guide, Grant, who took us to the 3rd floor where we began a scavenger hunt. Bryan really liked all the memorabilia from Alabama, his favorite college team. He made sure he took photos of everything to show his family. Allan walked down every row and made a few comments about how he remembered games from when he was a kid. He enjoyed the football and boxing collections the most. Kari was set on finding each item for the scavenger hunt, she enlisted the help of volunteer Mike to help her find the needed items on the list. David found a painting of athlete Derrick Thomas who looked so much like him they could be brothers so we had to take a picture!  The group worked their way down the building finding the items on the scavenger hunt list and finally ended in the gift shop. The travelers each got a little notebook for participating in the scavenger hunt. There were a few travelers who found souvenirs they couldn’t live without, like Bill who picked out a cool golfing umbrella. The group thanked their host Grant and left for lunch.

We walked about 1 block to  Subway where everyone picked out their favorite sandwich. The group ate their meal and then loaded the bus for the McWane Science Center. Each traveler decided which IMax movie they wanted to see. Rachel and Bryan wanted to see the Pandas, the rest of the group saw Oceans, Our Blue Planet. After the movies the group explored the science center. The bottom floor had river and ocean habitats in it. There was even an area that the travelers could touch a shark and a sting ray. Rachel, Mike, Bartek, David, Kari, Dirk and Mary Ellen all faced their fears and touched the animals swimming around. Bill showed me an aquarium and said they were all healthy fish, I asked how he knew and he said, (pointing to a fish in the aquarium) “there is a doctor fish in there.”  Up stairs in the science area Kari spent most of her time making bubbles, she made big bubbles and lots of little ones. Rachel and Bartek walked around using air to move balls through the hoops or dancing on the colored squares. On one experiment that used leverage, Bryan played “tug-of-war” against Volunteers Mike and Sebastian, and Travelers, Bartek and David. Bryan won! Dirk liked an experiment that showed how you changed weights on a wheel and it would travel differently. LinsiAn and Mary Ellen explored a mystery room that changed the observation of each person and it made Mary Ellen look so small and LinsiAn so big, but they were in the same room. Allen enjoyed the exhibits that had to do with sound and how it travels. Mike liked the harp that didn’t have strings, it had lasers light and when you interrupted the light it made a sound the string would make. Everyone hit the gift shop as the store was closing and made their purchases.
For dinner the group went to Little Donkey Mexican Restaurant.  Dinner was good and the service was great! We all really enjoyed this relaxing dinner. Tomorrow there is a “not on the itinerary” surprise, I can’t wait to tell them!
~The Travel Team
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Day 5

The day started out gloomy and rainy but that didn’t stop our travelers from exploring more of Birmingham, AL. Our first stop of the day is the Arlington Antebellum home and gardens.We were met by our Docent Terri who gave us the tour of the mansion. It was built between 1845 and 1850 and predates the city of Birmingham by over 20 years. Terri told us this home was build by a judge who traveled from town to town. Bill asked if he was a good judge and she told us that many people liked him even though he was not a supporter of the confederacy when the civil war started. This may be why his home was spared from being burned to the ground like many of the homes in the area were.  Some of the furniture was made of woven horse hair and the travelers enjoyed touching this fabric. They all agreed it was not very soft. After the first floor Terri took us upstairs and we saw how some of the bedrooms would have been decorated. Everyone asked great questions about where was the bathroom? Where was the kitchen? Where were the lights? They were amazed that people lived in houses without electricity, running water and plumbing. Allen was very interested in this tour. He wanted to see every room he could. He thought the house was very cool.

After the tour, we braved the rain and headed downtown to the 16th Street Church. We were met there by church member Ted Debroe who gave us some wonderful information about the church. It was built in 1873 and was the 1st “colored” church in the city. It was so beautiful he says the town was jealous and made them take the steeple down and change it. They did as they were asked but in 1911 a young black architect created parts of what still stands today. The KKK bombed the church in 1963, leaving 6 people dead, including 4 young ladies who were not any older than 12. This sparked riots and bombing but in the end, this event opened the eyes of most people and slowly change happened. The group was in awe of this beautiful church. Kari enjoyed taking pictures of the stain glass windows and the architecture.

Our next stop was the Vulcan Park and Museum. Our guide, Jenny gave us an informed introduction about the iron works in the Birmingham area. In this park/museum there is a large statue made of cast iron of the Roman God of fire and forge, Vulcan. He was designed by Italian artist Giuseppe Moretti and cast from local iron for the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, MO.  He had been looking over Birmingham since the 1930s.  Many items made from cast iron were on a collage on the wall. Everyone seemed to have a memory of one thing or another. The museum gave the group a real look at how the materials became available to make the iron, human labor in the mines. Dirk and Bryan read almost every photo and looked at each artifact. They really liked to see how all this raw materials became usable pieces.
After a quick stop in the gift shop, we returned to the hotel for a little freshening up. We then went to dinner at the Golden Coral Buffet, as you can imagine, this place was a big hit because there was something for everyone.
I then told the group we had a surprise activity after dinner! They were excited to walk into the Virginia Samford Theatre to see an early showing of the musical “Million Dollar Quartet” This story is of Elvis Presley, Carl Perkins, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis the last day they were all with Sam Phillips from Sun Records. Sun Records was the first recording studio that signed all 4 of the singers and Sam Phillips was the man that took them to stardom. Everyone loved the show. David and Rachel sat in the back singing and laughing at the show. David could barely contain himself from running down and joining the cast on stage.  They were dancing and singing along. After the show they got to meet the actor who played Johnny Cash and purchase a CD with some of Sun Records’ songs. I believe this was the highlight of the entire trip.
Well, back to the cold north wind tomorrow, BRRRRR
~Travel Team
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1 Response

  1. Paula Herring says:

    Hi! We are SO glad to have you stay with us here in Pelham, Al at the Comfort Suites. You have an awesome group of travelers! If there is absolutely anything we can do to make your stay better, please please just ask!! Thank you all for having the big hearts of helping angels… you will be blessed….