Birmingham, AL to Mobile, AL

The two weeks leading up to my departure for California, I’d been having a lot of trouble sleeping.  I could get to sleep alright, but it had been really hard to stay asleep.  I’d wake up throughout the night, heart pounding.  I’d get up, get something to drink and try and get to sleep.  I could usually manage a little more shut eye, before giving up for good and going outside with Remy for a walk.  I kept thinking that once I hit the road the anxiety would dissipate–that I’d just leave any worry behind.  Sadly, waking up in Birmingham at 6 in the morning, I realized I had not.

Luckily, being on this trip, there is always somewhere to go, always something to do and see.  Which brings me to Day #2 of the road trip: my journey from Birmingham to Mobile.

I’d driven through Mobile once before, heading back from New Orleans to Columbia.  I didn’t remember very much (in fact, the most memorable part of it was seeing Jefferson Davis’ house in Biloxi), but I had an intense desire to touch the Gulf Coast, to put my feet in the water, and smell the salty air.  Have you ever heard that saying, “The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea”?  I think there is a lot of truth in that.  There’s something that makes you feel so rooted and harmonious to be on the coast.  On the other hand, looking at the grandness of the ocean, how can you not be humbled?  Your problems are immediately diminished.

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So, I found myself heading south from Birmingham to Mobile.  About halfway into my drive, I realized I was coming up on Montgomery.  I hadn’t planned to stop, but thought it would be a good chance to stretch and walk around and I’m so glad I did!

Montgomery is a city of juxtaposition.  Take for example this monument to Jefferson Davis’ inauguration that stands outside the State House:

It’s right across the street from the church where Martin Luther King worked as a pastor:

I wonder if Jefferson Davis could have ever imagined that just across the street from where his inaugural parade marched as the band played “Dixie” there would be a church served by an African American pastor who would change the landscape of civil rights in America.

Just down the street from the Baptist church is the Civil Rights Memorial. There is a beautiful water installation in the front of the building.  There are two parts of the installation.  One is a stone waterfall bearing part of the Martin Luther King quote, “We will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

  The other part of the installation was a disk shaped fountain.  Carved into the fountain in a circle were the dates of killings of African Americans by the Klan, Civil Rights activists by officers of the law, lynchings and so forth.  Some of the names, like Emmett Till, I recognized.  But so many others, I had never heard of before.  I was so moved by this memorial.  I hope it doesn’t seem trite to say so.  Given the state of race relations in this country today (which I won’t use this blog as a forum for), I think this was an incredibly relevant place to visit.  It gave me a lot to think about as I completed my drive down to the Gulf Coast.

Distance traveled: 277 miles

High: The Civil Rights Memorial in Montgomery

Low: Eating Thai takeout for dinner in my hotel room while watching E!

Columbia, SC to Birmingham, AL 

Leaving Columbia was surreal.  While I rationally knew I was leaving the next day, it was hard for me to emotionally accept it.  I mean, I was sleeping on an inflatable twin size mattress and the only pieces of furniture left in my apartment were a folding table from Target and two particle board chairs from Ikea, but it still felt too sudden to wake up on Wednesday and say, “This is the day I leave.”

I started off the morning with one of my favorite activities, a barre3 class with the one and only Lizzie Troutman.  Knowing that this was the last class I was going to take at a studio I have come to love so much I tried out to be an instructor, and with the gal who encouraged me to do so made me so sad.  We all strive to create a community for ourselves.  Barre3 was one of my communities in Columbia, full of badass, supportive women who lift each other up instead of tear each other down.

After doing all the last minute things that I, of course, put off doing until the last minute, like cleaning out my freezer, the car was packed with everything I was taking with me and I was off.  I thought that I was going to be more emotional about leaving, but honestly, all of the stress of the previous week, that morning trying to get all the last minute to-dos done, I mostly felt a sense of relief as I got on the freeway and drove away.  

I got on the road about 3 hours later than I expected (no judgement!), and I was stressed about 2 things: getting stuck in traffic around Atlanta and getting into Birmingham too late to see anything.  As I drove through South Carolina towards Augusta, I made a few last minute phone calls and sent out several texts.  While I had been thinking about moving out to California for several weeks, when I finally pulled the trigger and decided to go, everything happened so quickly and I didn’t give everyone who deserved it a proper goodbye.  If I’m completely honest, I also hate saying goodbye, and I think in some circumstances I avoided it so I wouldn’t have to face the fact that it might be last time I saw some people who had become very dear to me.  

The drive to Georgia went by very quickly and before I knew it I had hit the state line.  I pulled over at one of those welcome centers, stretched my legs, let Remy out, and took a selfie to commemorate the first of many state line crossings.  

  

That’s when I realized.  I looked terrible.  I had a really romantic idea about what this road trip was going to look like, aesthetically speaking.  There was going to be a lot of red lip and ripped jeans.  Here I was, hair still wet in a messy bun, yoga pants, no makeup on.  Note to self: try and look a little cuter next time.  

After blissfully missing out on any truly terrible traffic around Atlanta, it wasn’t much longer until I got to the Alabama/Georgia border.  Selfie take two!

  

When I crossed the border, I had a happy surprise.  I had totally forgotten that Alabama was an hour behind East Coast time!  Which meant I’d be getting into Birmingham a whole hour earlier.  This lovely phenomenon will continue to bless me as I make my journey, giving me an extra hour to continue on my little adventure.  

When I got into Birmingham there were two things I know I wanted to do: sit down somewhere for dinner and see the Rainbow Tunnels.  The Rainbow Tunnels are really an Art Deco underpass transformed by artist Bill FitzGibbons with thousands of LEDs that change colors.  I’d seen pictures of them on Pinterest and wanted to see it for myself.  Since I knew I’d be leaving in the morning, I’d have to see it tonight.

Having my dog, Remy, on the road has been equal parts blessing and challenge.  On the one hand, he is a precious dog, and it’s awesome to have a cuddle buddy and adventure partner in such a compact and easily transportable size.  On the other hand, it can be a real pain in the ass, because I don’t like leaving him alone in a hotel room and during the day it’s just plain too hot to leave him in the car.  So many of my decisions on this road trip will be determined by where he can go with me.

  

After checking BringFido.com for a dog friendly restaurant.  I found my way to Rojo, a Mexican restaurant in Birmingham’s Highland Park neighborhood.  Highland Park is my kind of neighborhood, lots of stately houses, parks, and a good sprinkling of restaurants/bars mixed in.  I parked about 2 blocks away from the restaurant so I could check some of the houses out.  While they can’t compare with Charleston, still beautiful.

   

   

When I got to Rojo, I ordered some tacos and a Corona Light to treat myself.  Traveling solo is not something that I’m used to.  I’ve traveled a lot but always with at least one other person.  Eating dinner by yourself is probably one of the hardest things, it’s such a social meal.  Luckily, a couple fellow patrons struck up conversation with me.  As I was leaving, I did see someone also eating by himself.  I wish I would have noticed earlier and I would have asked him if he wanted to eat together.  I want to take advantage of this trip to get out of my comfort zone, meet new people, share some kindness, and be joyful.  And completely selfishly, if someone saw me eating alone, I’d hope they would ask me to join them too! 

After dinner, I went in search of the Rainbow Tunnels.  In case you ever find yourself in a similar predicament, the easiest way to get to them is to GPS the Amtrak station.  Because I tried to put in some other address I found online and wound up in a sketchy neighborhood trying to walk down what may have been an underpass and may have been the secret entrance to some kind of cult.  Or Narnia.  Who knows?

When I got to the Rainbow Tunnels, I couldn’t help but smile.  The bright colors and flashing lights looked straight out of a child’s dream.  The craziest thing to me was that no one else was there!  I thought that I’d be fighting with other people to try and snap a pic, but I was the only one.  It made me think, how many cool things have I missed out on in the places that I’ve lived?  To do: be more conscious of this kind of stuff when I’m back in CA.  

  

After getting a few pictures, I headed back to my glamorous suite at the Four Seasons home for the night at the La Quinta off of 65.  I drove through downtown Birmingham and looked up at the beautiful Art Deco “skyscrapers”.  I parked my car, grabbed my purse and dog and headed back to my room.  And, without bothering to take off my makeup (don’t tell my mom) crashed.  It’d been a long day.  

Distance traveled: 360 miles

High: Birmingham’s Rainbow Tunnels

Low: Getting hit on by a 10 year old at a gas station outside of Augusta

Saying goodbye

Saying goodbye is always hard.  This is my fourth time moving as an “adult” – heading off to college, heading off to my first job, heading off to South Carolina, and now moving back to California.  I ran across this on Pinterest a few weeks ago, after I had made the decision to move back to the West Coast.

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I’m so going to miss all the darling friends I’ve made in South Carolina.  I remember the first few months of living in Columbia, and just feeling so out of place and lonely.  Over the last 2 years I’ve found my own little place there, and all my own people.  Preparing to leave I’ve felt completely surrounded by love and friendship, it’s been both heartwarming and heartbreaking at the same time.

Even more than that though, I feel like I’m leaving behind this version of myself and growing and becoming a new, different me.  Let’s hope I can do it with some grace.

It’s hard to say goodbye to you, Soda City.  Thank you for the memories.  Thank you for the warm summer nights.  Thank you for teaching me what palmetto bugs are so I never have to live anywhere with them ever again.  Thank you for the endless supply of Gourmet Shop chicken salad.  Thank you for teaching me to like sweet tea and Bojangles.  Thank you for showing me how amazing it is to be friendly to strangers.  Thank you for teaching me how to drop a casual y’all.  Here’s to you.

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