Montgomery, Alabama, Governor’s Mansion
The fifth state on The Greatest Road Trip Ever Taken is the great state of Alabama! The 22nd state admitted to the Union, Alabama was originally eastern Mississippi Territory. In the early 19th-century settlers poured into what is now Alabama. They were said to be stricken with “Alabama Fever” and the desire to farm the fertile cotton fields.
Folks in Alabama are just as enthusiastic about their state today. Full of regional pride, Alabama is a state with its eyes on the future, but its memories are toward a time when the nation was a burgeoning and growing entity. Sweet Home, Alabama isn’t just the name of a song down here. Those words are a way of life in a state whose residents are proud of who they are, and who they intend to be.
Alabama ranks 23rd in population. It is 30th in land mass. That makes Alabama the third consecutive urban state we have visited in the deep south.
Alabama was admitted as the 22nd state in 1819. At the outset of the Civil War, there were nearly a half million slaves amongst the one million people who lived in Alabama. The economic impact of that many slaves, as well as the geographic placement of the state, made Alabama’s decision to secede an automatic one. The state contributed 120,000 soldiers to the Confederate cause, and not one to the Union side.
Alabama’s southwestern border is the Gulf of Mexico. Florida provides the balance of the southern border. Georgia is on the eastern border. Like in so many states, the long east-west reach of Tennessee provides a border to Alabama, this time up north. The western terminus of the state is provided by Mississippi.
Montgomery is the capital of Alabama, but Birmingham is the state’s largest city. Those two are joined by Huntsville and Mobile as cities with populations exceeding 100,000.
The lowest point in Alabama is on the warm shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Alabama’s highest point is atop Mount Cheaha in the north-central part of the State, 2,413 feet above sea level. The geographic center of the state is in Chilton County, 12 miles southwest of Clanton.
The vast majority of Alabama claims the Central Time Zone. Just Phenix City, hugging the Florida border on the Chattahoochie River, claims the Eastern Time Zone. The state, in its entirety, observes Daylight Savings Time.
Major Airports in Alabama:
Over a quarter million people a year use Mobile Regional. Over 500,000 passengers a year enplane at Huntsville International. The largest airport in the Alabama, by far, is Birmingham–Shuttlesworth International. That is where 1.3 million passengers converge annually. The most common destination from all three airports is Atlanta.
Top Movies Filmed in Alabama:
Alabama Moon (2009)
To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)
The Little Foxes (1941)
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
Military/Politics: George Wallace, William Weatherford, Ralph Abernathy, Coretta Scott King, and Rosa Parks.
Actors: Tallulah Bankhead, Jordan Fisher, Kate Jackson, Jim Nabors, Debbie Ryan, Felicia Day, Laverne Cox, Sunny Mabrey, Octavia Spencer, Dylan Riley Snyder, Courteney Cox, Channing Tatum, Nolan Gould, Drew Roy, Alex Christian Jones, and Grayson Russell.
Entertainers: Lionel Richie, Hank Williams Sr, Bobby Goldsboro, Breaunna Womack, Yelawolf, Gucci Mane, Nat “King” Cole, Lionel Hampton, William Christopher Handy, Emmylou Harris, Jimmie Rodgers, and Stephen Twitch Boss.
Authors: Marva Collins, Zelda Fitzgerald, Helen Keller, and Harper Lee.
Athletes: Carl Lewis, Willie Mays, Terrell Owens, James Winston, Charles Barkley, Julio Jones, Bo Jackson, Mia Hamm, Jesse Owens, Philip Rivers, DeMarcus Cousins, and Joe Louis.
Weird and Wonderful Facts About Alabama:
Alabama was named after the Alabama River which was, in turn, named after a Native Tribe called “Alba-Amo” which means vegetation gatherer.
Before 1836, Christmas wasn’t a national holiday anywhere in this country. Alabama declared it such.
Mail is delivered by boat in Magnolia Springs, Alabama. This city has the only all-water mail route in the United States.
Alabama is the only state to have an alcoholic beverage as its official drink. Whiskey, specifically Conecuh Springs Whiskey, gets the nod…and the stagger.
Apropos of the above, the state bird of Alabama is the wild turkey.
New Orleans is the Mardi Gras center of the world, but Mobile hosted the first ever M.D. celebration in this country. Mobile and New Orleans both have floats, but parade-goers in The Big Easy get beads tossed their way. Mardi Gras revelers in Mobile throw Moon Pies.
Helen Keller was born and raised in Alabama. The official state quarter was the first such coin anywhere to include Braille letters, in Ms. Keller’s honor.
The Confederate States of America was formed in Montgomery, which was the capital of the Confederacy.
Let’s Take a Trip Through Alabama:
A lot to do, and just a few days to do it, baby. This may be a smallish state, but the trip through it will be a little more than 700 miles in length. Let’s get cracking!
Students of NASA will remember the hub of early space travel in the United States in Huntsville, Alabama. So we’re going to begin our trip up there. The U.S. Space and Rocket Center is worth a whole day and we won’t shorten it for the sake of expedience.
Home to both Space Camp, and Aviation Challenge, the U.S. Space & Rocket Center is the most comprehensive U.S. manned space flight hardware museum anywhere in the world. Facilities here include Spacedome Theater, Rocket Park, and the Education Training Center. This is a place to walk amongst the space gear and imagine what it was like to be a part of that frontier, both so long ago, and yet so recent.
What a day! We will stay one night at the Clarion Inn for $69.
Selma, Alabama was the center of the action during the long (and not entirely complete, even today) Civil Rights strife. The Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma is our next stop. It’s a key landmark of the marches that brought an end to the south’s Jim Crow laws. Not all car trips are about cotton candy and waterparks. Our children should see Selma, and know what happened here.
Next, it’s on to Montgomery to see the Rosa Parks Museum. The actual bus in which Ms. Parks and her tired feet refused to move to the back is on display. We will stay at the Country Inn and Suites-Montgomery Parkway. Rooms for $66.
After Selma and Montgomery, the educational portion of the trip will be complete. Time for some sand and water! I-65 out of Montgomery will have us smelling salt air in a little over three hours. Gulf Shores is our destination. The beautiful white sands of Gulf State Park, in particular, draws our attention. It is one of the cleanest parks in America with adventure (zip-lining, wind sailing, etc.) for the adventuresome spirit. We’ll stay at the Beachside Resort Hotel. Rooms for $49!
A little nightlife, you say? Birmingham, it is! It will take a little over four hours to get there. When in Birmingham we will check out the Loft District. Loaded with bars, clubs, and restaurants this is the place to hear the sweet, sweet, Alabama sound. We’ll spend our final night on the road at the Hilton Garden Inn, Birmingham SE/Liberty Park. Rooms there are $80/night.
Alabama is a place with much to teach us, while it fully entertains us. That’s the best kind of road trip. Don’t you agree?
Next up: Louisiana.