Wednesday afternoon in Oxford was great, as I was able to stake claim at a local coffee shop and catch up work and writing. On a trip such as this one, everything is go, go, go, so a few hours to catch up is always beneficial. Plus, taking in the atmosphere at Ole Miss while doing this was really neat. Matthew Porchivina, one of our chapter’s undergraduates at Ole Miss, picked me up a little after 3pm, and we headed towards Hamilton, Alabama to meet Lynn Chapman, who would be taking me the rest of the way to Birmingham. It was great to catch up with Porch, and Rudy and Deb, you know this already, but Matthew is awesome.
Porch and I found a gas station where the custody drop would occur. Lynn had her daughter Amelia with her and we headed to Birmingham. This would be my second trip to Birmingham, as I came down for the Mercedes-Benz Half Marathon a few years back. It would be fun though to fully explore the city this time. Lynn and I have become friends through our work within the Greek community. She is now on Zeta Tau Alpha’s council and will do great things. It was great to hear about her experience so far. Her passion for the organization is amazing. She showed me around her alma mater (Birmingham Southern College) once we arrived in town. Neat school!
Lynn has also contributed to this blog, showing off Birmingham. Oh by the way, her post is the most read post to date on the blog. It was awesome. You can read it by clicking her picture below.
The Chapmans were kind enough to welcome me into their home for the evening, and Lynn’s son Ethan even gave up his room for the weary traveler. Thanks E! I was even welcomed by my new canine friend Max/JT. The family adopted Max a few months back, and it was hilarious to learn that Max still responds to his old name JT. Too funny. He is a dachshund/chihuahua mix and can run a mean hot lap in the backyard.
Lynn, Amelia and I headed out for a quick bite to eat, where I learned that a young boy had recently professed his love to Amelia. If you’re reading this little dude, she’s not interested. She also had Lynn and I laughing when she told us that another boy had tried to stick his fingers between her toes one day when she was wearing sandals. I have added this move to my list of things to teach Cal not to do.
The three of us headed back to their house and waited for Lynn’s husband Chris and son Ethan to arrive home from soccer practice. Chris and I then planned out our route for the morning. It was early to bed and early to rise.
The Chapmans are Alabama Crimson Tide fans, and I’ve learned that the Alabama fans are fans of the Iowa State Cyclones. Our victory over Oklahoma State secured their spot in the national championship game that they ended up winning. While the Cyclones helped Alabama a few years back, I do remember us beating the Crimson Tide in the Independence Bowl a few years back. No big deal.
We started our day at the impressive Vulcan statue in Vulcan Park. The Vulcan statue is the largest cast iron statue in the world, and is the city symbol, reflecting its roots in the iron and steel industry. The 56-foot tall statue depicts the Roman god Vulcan, god of the fire and forge. It was created as Birmingham’s entry for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition (1904 World’s Fair) in St. Louis. It is the seventh-tallest free-standing statue in the U.S. Here, I thanked my mother-in-law Julie and her husband Rob once again.
From Vulcan Park, we headed downhill to the Storyteller statue and fountain in front of one of Birmingham’s Methodist churches. Birmingham has the second highest ratio of Christians, and the greatest ratio of Protestant adherents, in the United States. The main figure in the fountain is “Ram-Man” who is telling a story to his friends. Here, I thanked my good pal Ross Roti. Ross works for Wells Fargo and spent a good amount of time in Birmingham in 2012. Ross and I get seats together for the ISU football and basketball games.
From the Storyteller, we ran to Sloss Furnaces. Sloss Furnaces is a National Historic Landmark. It operated as a pig iron-producing blast furnace from 1882 to 1971. After closing it became one of the first industrial sites (and the only blast furnace) in the U.S. to be preserved for public use. The site currently serves as an interpretive museum of industry and hosts a nationally recognized metal arts program. It also serves as a concert and festival venue.
We headed downtown, and right when I began to struggle we passed this sign that perked me up a bit.
Our next stop was Railroad Park. Railroad Park is a 19-acre green space in downtown Birmingham that celebrates the industrial and artistic heritage of the city. Here, I thanked my sister and brother-in-law once again. Railroad Park provided me with my annual near-injury moment. While running and simultaneously trying to turn off the camera on my phone, I stepped down into an in-ground fountain. Luckily, I landed on my feet. It was pretty funny.
Near Railroad Park is the new home of the Birmingham Barons. Many of you might know the Barons as the place where Michael Jordan began his baseball journey after he retired from basketball for the first time. The stadium is under construction, and it’ll be interesting to see if they can get it ready in the next few months. The area was mostly closed off, so we were limited to our picture options. Here, I thanked Todd & Candice Thomas for their donation again. Yup, definitely put Tom on the sign. Sorry Todd.
I was really excited for our next stop, Good People Brewery, for obvious reasons. The landmark was one of the first few purchased when I started my fundraising efforts. My cousins Matt & Jessi Good snatched it up. It did not disappoint. Chris had the great idea of going inside to find brewmaster Jason. Jason is part owner (maybe full owner?) of Good People and was kind enough to take a picture with me. Killer beard!
With the last name Good, there was so much cool stuff in this brewery.
While we did not have the luxury of sampling a few brews, we carried on to our next stop. On the way, we were tempted to stop and get a snack.
The next stop was the Alabama Theatre. I love structures that have majestic signs, and the Alabama Theatre is one them. Here I thanked Haley Abel, formerly Haley Griffith. Haley is the sister of my best bud Griff and recently got married to her husband Taylor. They live in Iowa City with two new pups! Thanks Haley, you’re awesome!
In the 1950s and 1960s Birmingham received national and international attention as a center of the civil rights struggle for African-Americans. Locally the movement’s activists were led by Fred Shuttlesworth, a fiery preacher who became legendary for his fearlessness in the face of violence, notably a string of racially motivated bombings that earned Birmingham the derisive nickname “Bombingham”. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is now located in Birmingham. Here, I thanked my fellow Iowa State Phi Delt Tyler Cronk. Tyler is a few years younger than I am and is one fantastic dude. Tyler is an Iron Phi! Thanks brotha.
Right next door to the Civil Rights Institute is the famous 16th Street Baptist Church. The 16th Street Baptist Church in was bombed on Sunday, September 15, 1963 as an act of racially motivated terrorism. The explosion at the African-American church, which killed four girls, marked a turning point in the U.S. 1960s Civil Rights Movement and contributed to support for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Here, I thanked my buddy, “The Nuc”, Rob Pasquinucci. Rob is the editor of Phi Delta Theta’s magazine, and I work with Rob with our communication efforts. Rob always provides a great laugh.
As we ran downtown, we passed this wonderful fountain.
And then passed a statue of Alabama’s most well-known coaches – Paul “Bear” Bryant (Alabama) and Ralph “Shug” Jordan (Auburn). Football is obviously big in Alabama. I asked Chris if they had plans to add Gene Chizek to the statue. Although, if they did, it’d probably be standing for two years and then change locations. Zing.
The final stop of the run was at the headquarters building of the Southeastern Conference. I told my buddy Mario Villa that I’d support the Big 12 on this run, and I came through. Mario is a former colleague of mine and one giant University of Texas fan.
Mario has also contributed to this blog. You can see his tour of Austin, Texas by clicking the picture below.
By the end of the run, I was cashed. Today has been the toughest run so far this week. We headed back to the house to get showered up prior to my bus ride. Lynn was a trooper and hauled me over to Rickwood Field, the oldest surviving baseball park in America. As a baseball fan, this was really cool for me. Here, I thanked Uncle Tom and Aunt Colleen again. I thanked them at Babe Ruth’s birthplace in Baltimore last year, so I thought this would be fitting. That is a picture of one wiped dude.
Lynn dropped me off at the bus stop, and I said farewell. I just realized that I never did get a picture with she and Chris. Darn. Sorry guys. I took one last pic before I jumped on the bus. Pretty neat. I’m off to Hotlanta!