2007.06.16 Vulcans, Blues & Bar-B-Q, and the Long Road Home


Are we there yet? Everybody in our room woke up independently before 7:00 this morning, so I think everybody is ready to get home. We departed the hotel at 8:20 and had breakfast at the Cracker Barrel around the corner.


Killing time at the Cracker Barrel


One attraction we had identified we wanted to see in Birmingham, Alabama, was the statue of Vulcan. Vulcan is the Roman god of the forge, and made the weapons and armor for the gods. This is an exceptional exhibit that everybody should visit if you ever find yourself there. We had expected to stop by for just a few moments and take a couple of pictures, but we ended up staying for an hour and a half.


PK celebrates our arrival at Vulcan Park!


In the late 1800s, Birmingham was the Industrial Capital of the South. Iron forges were the main industry. About 7 months prior to the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, the town’s leaders decided to create a cast iron statue to represent Birmingham. In just 7 months, they designed and built a 56 foot tall statue. The statue won several prizes at the World’s Fair. (The official name of the 1904 World’s Fair was the “Louisiana Purchase Exposition”, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of that event.) It remains to this day the largest cast iron statue in the world. It is also the largest statue ever made in the United States, and the largest statue in the U.S., after the Statue of Liberty.


A picture of Vulcan, in Birmingham, Alabama


The statue now sits atop a 124 foot pedestal, even though the statue itself weighs 101,200 pounds. All of the iron used in the creation of the statue was mined from the very mountain (Red Mountain) where the statue resides today. The statue sits on a WPA (Works Progress Administration) sandstone tower in Vulcan Park (www.vulcanpark.org).

We spent most of our time at the “Vulcan Center”, which is the Visitor’s Center. They have a great walk-through exhibit that provides a history of early Birmingham, a complete history of how the statue came about, and also Birmingham’s role in the Civil Rights movement. Everyone in our group (above the age of 9) was very impressed with the Vulcan Center.


A view of the Birmingham skyline from Vulcan Park


Visitors are able to take stairs or an elevator to an observation deck about 20 feet from the top of the pedestal. Up there, visitors have an unparalleled view of Birmingham.


The Traveling Kings at Vulcan Park, in Birmingham, Alabama


We had a great time at this attraction, and we’re glad we included Vulcan Park in our plans. We were not in Birmingham long, but our quick assessment is that it is a very beautiful city. It is loaded with trees and it sits in a very hilly/mountainous region. With the terrain they have to work with, we did not find any straight roads. All of the people we came into contact with while in town were very friendly. The only downside we could see was that Birmingham was recently named the unhealthiest city in the United States. That tradition of manufacturing has been difficult to overcome. While standing atop Red Mountain looking down on the city, there was no denying the smoggy haze that hung over Birmingham. Once they get that cleaned up, this town will have a lot of potential.


We enjoyed some great ribs at the Blues City Cafe in Memphis, Tennessee


At 11:30, we departed Birmingham en route to Memphis, Tennessee. We arrived in Memphis around 4:00 and killed two hours there by eating some bar-b-q on Beale Street. KK had watched a show on the Travel Channel which promoted The Blues City Café as having some of the best wet ribs in Memphis. (It seemed like every bar-b-q joint on Beale Street had a gimmicky slogan. The Blues City Café had several, including “Best Meal on Beale” and “Put some South in your Mouth”.) We quickly found this rib joint, and ordered 3 racks of ribs and a catfish dinner. Whew! Everything was delicious! The place had a lot of atmosphere. An article in Bon Appetite magazine posted on the wall of the restaurant explained that the interior of the Blues City Café was used in the movie, The Firm, and also that President Bill Clinton eats there whenever he is in town.


KK enjoying Beale Street, in front of B.B. King's Blues Club


After dinner, we took a stroll down Beale Street to check out some of the blues clubs and bar-b-q restaurants – two things that Memphis is known for. Being Saturday Night, they had already blocked off the street to traffic by the time we got there at 4:00. KK purchased himself a guitar pick at the B.B. King General Store.


The Traveling Kings at Beale Street, in Memphis, Tennessee


We loaded up the cars and hit the road about 6:00. As we were driving through western Arkansas about 9:15, PK & KK decided they did not want to drive all the way back home tonight, so they pulled over in Russellville to spend the night. We felt excited enough about the prospect of getting home that we decided to press on, with the help of a couple of coffees. We pulled into the driveway at 12:18 a.m., after driving 3,315 miles on our two week journey.

We certainly had a great time over the past two weeks, even with the breakneck pace. It was a very neat experience to be able to travel with Mom & Dad, and share the house with them while in Orlando. While in Orlando, we got the opportunity to get to know Erin’s family a lot better. We’ll look forward to seeing more of them down the road. It was a successful trip, as we got Scott & Erin hitched, and the kids got to experience Disney World, and 3 beaches.

Thanks for following along!

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