Virtual Travel – Alabama

I was born with ‘that travelling bone’, and since I was very small I wanted to see every place in the world. Since my family rarely went very far from home, I did most of my travel via maps and charts. Since that time I have always enjoyed maps and charts, eventually amassing a fairly large collection.

Now that we are all hanging around our respective homes it seems like a good time to check out the maps, and do some virtual travelling.

Each state in the U.S. has a Department of Transportation, who has traditionally published a new road map every year or two. While this is waning, the maps that they created often were works of art – promoting tourism and commerce in their state.

This posting series will features those maps, one posting for each state, along with some highlights of my photographs of travels to those states. Since there is no good way to prioritize them, we will go alphabetically starting with… Alabama.

 

 

The oldest map from Alabama in my collection is from 1946. The cover of this map features the State Capitol. Dating from 1850 this building has some infamous history – serving as the location for the swearing in of Jefferson Davis when the southern states seceded from the union in 1861.

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The rear cover is more innocuous – an unnamed waterfalls.

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The map itself is reflective of the times; a network of national and state highways. The interstates system was still 12 years from starting, so if you were making a trip through Alabama (or any state) it was a slow trip punctuated by numerous little towns.

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Contrasting that with the newest Alabama map in my collection from 2018. Between the interstates, and numerous 4 lane roads and bypasses, the trips are much faster.

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A look at the Alabama State Highway Maps over the years.

We jump ahead almost three decades to 1974. In an unusual move the cover is actually just part of the overall backside of the road map, so the state name is truncated. The family’s outfits however make this map classic – nothing like plaid to say ‘1974’.

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The late 1970s were fairly boring for the artwork. The state seal was on the 1977-1978 map, and just photo and text graced the 1979-1980 map. This map is the only one I have out of thousands that has just text for the cover. The rear is even more plain – HELP written across it in 40 point font.

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By the 1980s the State Capitol has made a return to the map.

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Alabama is unusual in that most of the maps issued covered two years. The one below for 1985-1986 features the State of Alabama Highway Department building in Montgomery. It is also unusual in that the maps orientation is horizontal, a theme they continue on the next map as well.

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The Mobile Bay I-10 Bridge is featured on the 1993-1994 map.

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The following year the map returns to the traditional vertical orientation. It also features a new governor (Fob James) and transportation director. The 1995-1996 map (left) features Lookout Mountain Parkway in DeSoto State Park near Fort Payne. The next map in the series from 1997-1998 (right) has the U.S. 431 Bridge over Guntersville Lake on the cover.

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Another governor, another style. Governor Don Siegelman was elected in 1999 and served one term. The first map we have from his administration is also from 1999 and features two happy couples hanging out on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico. The second, and last in my collection from this era features a golf course.

Alabama has for many years done heavy advertising for their ‘Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail’. Jones was famous for his golf course designs, having completed over 500 in his lifetime. The ‘Golf Trail’ in Alabama covers 468 holes at 11 locations, with the theory being you spent however much time you need golfing them all to come up with a cumulative score.

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The next administration of Bob Riley covers 4 maps in the collection. All features happy people in happy places starting with Cheaha State Park on the 2003 map. This park contains the highest point in Alabama, the 2413 foot high Cheaha Mountain.

In 2004 the Alabama Renaissance Festival was featured. This festival takes place each year in Florence, Alabama.

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In 2005 they went back to the biennial approach, with the map covering 2005-2006. This map continues the happy people approach with the family at Orange Beach in Gulf Shores. The 2007-2008 featured a non identified park full of wildflowers with a couple of bicycle riders.

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We jump ahead a few years to the 2011-2012 map. This map ironically is back at Orange Beach on the Gulf Coast. The following map for 2013-2014 features a place called Gorham’s Bluff. Located on top of Sand Mountain in far northeast Alabama, it is the southern tip of the Appalachian Mountains. Both maps feature the ‘dual Adirondack Chairs’ look that is most famous throughout Canada.

This map is also the first to use ‘Sweet Home Alabama’, from the famous Lynyrd Skynyrd song of the same name.

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The last two Alabama State Highway maps in my collection feature yet another Gulf Coast park for the 2015-2016 edition. The newest (for now) returns to the historic buildings, this time with the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Birmingham. This church was home to Dr Rev Martin Luther King from 1954-1960.

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I have only been in Alabama a few times, but the most recent one was easily the best. During the summer 2019 road trip we passed through Huntsville and Birmingham.

Highlights of this trip include Cathedral Caverns….

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The U.S. Space and Rocket Center and NASA Marshall Flight Center in Huntsville….2019 05 15 162 Huntsville AL US Space and Rocket Center.jpg

 

 

And my favorite, the Barber Motorsports Museum near Birmingham.

Alabama – our first virtual visit.

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Across America – May 2019 – Random Scenes Part 2

Central Tennessee – Bus Graveyard







Northern Alabama – Rock Zoo





Scottsboro, Alabama – Did you ever lose your luggage on an airplane and never get it back. It likely ended up here, as they buy all of the unclaimed luggage from the airlines and sell it in essentially a thrift store.





Pawhuska, Oklahoma



Bartlesville, Oklahoma – Phillips 66 Petroleum Company Headquarters







Vinita, Oklahoma – Will Rogers Rodeo



Eastern Oklahoma – Pensacola Dam. A mile long and releasing a lot of water because of the recent rains.





Joplin, Missouri – America’s 2nd largest truck stop.



Southern Missouri – Presumed dead armadillo



Somewhere else in Southern Missouri – Coke Machine Graveyard



Scenes around Cairo, Illinois – At the confluence of the Ohio River and Mississippi River – with flooding.











Evansville, Indiana – Restored Greyhound Bus Station, now a hipster hamburger place. Manhattan prices in small town Indiana.

The interior looked nothing like a bus station.



Evansville, Indiana – County Courthouse



Scenes around Louisville, Kentucky







And after 3 weeks of running around the country – back in Ohio (in Cincinnati). Only 2 hours to home.






Vance, Alabama – May 2019 – Benz in ‘Bama

As you are driving down the interstate in rural Alabama one of the most unlikely road names you expect to see is Mercedes Drive!



That is until you exit and find car carriers leaving with new Mercedes Benz SUVs.



Over the last 25 years most non domestic car makers have built factories in the U.S., and Mercedes is no different. Their facility here is first class – an almost 4 million square feet manufacturing plant…



A state of the art training facility…



And a beautiful visitor center.



Normally you can go to the visitor center and take tours of the factory but they are retooling and the tours are shut down.

The visitor center however remains open with their museum to tour.



It features some recent models from AMG.



Lewis Hamilton’s Petronas F1 car.



The display included a concept car.



The museum portion have some very early examples of Mercedes.



The classic 1970s MB look.



The pre war years were very stylish.



It was disappointing that the factory tours are unavailable, but the small museum was worth the stop.

Leeds, Alabama – May 2019 – Barber Motorsport Museum

The Barber Motorsports Museum is located in suburban Birmingham in the town of Leeds. It is hands down one of the very best Motorsports museums in the world.

With over 1600 motorcycles from over 200 manufacturers it is the preeminent collection. Over 900 are displayed in the 200,000+ square foot museum, along with 100 cars. Oh yeah, a world class road course race track is on the grounds as well that Porsche uses for their racing school.

Please note with that many options for photos this posting is quite long, with over 40 photos. But words don’t do the venue justice so the photos will speak for themselves.















































































Birmingham, Alabama – May 2019 – Rickwood Field

Despite what Fenway Park, Wrigley Field, or even Bosse Field in Evansville, Indiana say, Rickwood Field in Birmingham is America’s oldest baseball stadium.

Opened in 1910 it is in amazingly similar look and condition to the day it was opened.

While it is no longer used regularly for the minor league Birmingham Barons, it still sees some use with a tribute game by the Barons, as well as other use.

Most frequently it is used as a movie set for retro baseball movies, as well as local colleges.


As you enter the stadium you are greeted with old entry gates, not metal detectors.


The lineups are written on a chalkboard.


Going into the box seats you have a fence surrounding the home plate area for protection from foul balls.


The seats are still all wood, not plastic.


For most a large roof protects you from the hot Alabama summer sun.


Looking down the stands towards the press box. The original press box was a tiny 4 person booth on the roof, but this one was added for a period piece movie and it was left as it is more functional.


We were permitted to go onto the perfectly manicured field to check it out. The center field fence seems far away from here.

Also note how much foul ground there is behind home plate – many would be foul balls likely turn into outs here.


Looking down first base toward right field show the unusual cantilevered light towers.


Left field is similar, with a ‘batting barn’ built further off to the left.


A view from home plate back towards the stands again show the foul territory.


Despite it’s minimal use, they keep the field in perfect condition.


The view of the right field stands are far longer than those along left field. When this stadium was built in 1910 Forbes Field in Pittsburgh had just been completed as the standard in stadium design, and the architects here used essentially the same design – albeit with much less seating than the major league stadium.


As we make our way into the outfield you can see the advertising along the outfield fence. This was a common practice in the early 1900s, and the advertising that is there is either period advertising, or new companies with the ads made to look period correct.


The scoreboard has been restored to the early 1900s look, with the scorekeeping done manually.

The teams listed would be those from the 1930s – Atlanta is still in the Southern League, and Brooklyn still has the Dodgers.


Birmingham is happy to see you.


Even the Vulcan is present.


The ads are very cool.


Another sign of the history of the south – there were all white teams, and all black teams. Rickwood Field hosted both Birmingham teams.

This practice ended in the 1950s.


The right field stands.


Rickwood Field is easily one of the best baseball ‘park’s I have ever seen. While it has been made retro for Hollywood , it really works nicely.





Birmingham, Alabama – May 2019 – Early Morning Visit to the Botanical Gardens

The Birmingham Botanical Gardens is located at the base of a large hill in the southern part of the city. Since it’s opening to this day there is no admission charge to the gardens, it is there for the pleasure of the residents (and visitors).


There are a few sculptures throughout the gardens.


By mid May the flowers in Alabama are in full bloom.







There are 30 different gardens on the 67 acres. The most interesting was the Asian gardens.

The Birmingham Botanical Gardens is a nice place to spend a couple of hours in the cool of a May Alabama morning.








Birmingham, Alabama – May 2019 – Views of the City

Some random views of Birmingham, Alabama. The city is known as the Magic City because of the fast growth in the late 1800s during the rapid expansion of the steel industry.



There are a number of classic old buildings downtown.



With the industry gone, today Birmingham depends on education (UAB) for much of it’s employment.



Eddie Kendricks grew up in Birmingham before moving to Detroit and starting the Temptations.



The Vulcan Statue is the symbol of Birmingham, reflecting the steel industry roots. It stands on a 180′ pedestal high on a hill overlooking the city.



The statue itself was made for the 1904 World’s Fair in St Louis where it was awarded the Grand Prize.

Today you can walk up the many stairs or take the elevator to the top for great views.



We took the elevator!



For a medium sized city Birmingham has a nice skyline.



With sunset, the lights came on around town.



The skyline lit up nicely from atop the Vulcan Park tower.