Day 5 – Mobile, Alabama – 2014 Running Trip

Thursday brought with it my first trip to Mobile, Alabama, a city rich with history. Mobile was settled by the French in 1702 and has flown under six flags: French, Spanish, British, Republic of Alabama, Confederacy, and United States. I also learned that Mobile is the rainiest city in America, with more than five feet of rain annually. I saw none of it, nor I have I felt a drop of rain this entire week. It’s been an amazing week for weather.

Upon arriving at the Megabus station in Mobile, my good friends at Enterprise picked me up, just as their slogan says. The Mobile/Pensacola leg of my trip was definitely the trickeiest, as Megabus doesn’t go to Pensacola. Given this, I rented a car for the day to get around. It came in very handy, especially when I realized that I had left my tripod in Houston, a device that has helped me with my pictures along the way. I hadn’t noticed in New Orleans since Vinnie was taking the pictures the entire time. So my first goal was to find a new tripod! After a trip to Best Buy and Target, I found a small tripod, but it didn’t have the adapter to hold my phone. So I turned to the next best thing – tape. It worked!

My first stop was Hank Aaron Stadium, home of the Mobile Bay Bears, a double-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. It took me a bit to get used to my much smaller tripod, and you tell with my first picture. I thanked my cousins Matthew & Jessi Good once again. Matt is an avid baseball fan and has a great memorabilia collection. I’ve been able to thank him in front of many baseball stadiums throughout my journeys.

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I also took the opportunity to thank the Fort Dodge Baseball team once again. You’re probably seeing a trend of where I’m thanking them. I was going to attempt to see if I could get into the stadium, but the tripod fiasco had set me back a bit so I was in a bit of a hurry.

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The next stop was another stadium, this time of the football variety. Ladd Peebles Stadium is home to the University of South Alabama Jaguars. Here, I thanked my great friend from Fort Dodge Tiffany Conrad. Tiff and I have been friends since first grade, and our relationship started with a little competition. She showed up at Feelhaver Elementary School touting her running speed. So I challenged her to a race, and she smoked me. An early lesson in humility! We grew up just around the corner from each other. Tiff is wonderful and is one of the most fun-loving people I know. She now lives in Des Moines after some time in Los Angeles. Tiff and her parents were at the Des Moines airport when Tillie and I took off last Friday. I didn’t run into them, but Tillie did!

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Along the way, this old-school Whataburger caught my eye. The fast food restaurant is prevalent in the South, and I have seen them in all cities along the way. I figured that I needed to snap a picture of this great one. I thanked Ross Roti, and I knew he’d appreciate it since he used to live in Dallas. I’m not sure if he was a connoisseur, but he got a kick out of it when I sent him the picture.

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My next stop was in the Oakleigh Garden Historic District, a beautiful collection of neighborhoods just southwest of downtown. Full of really neat architecture and charm, I found the Oakleigh Historic House and thanked the Alexander family again. It was such a neat scene on that wonderful fall day.

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I then ventured into downtown Mobile for a collection of sites. The Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is an impressive place sitting on one of Mobile’s many city squares. Here, I thanked an Iowa State friend Leigh Thiedeman. Leigh grew up with Tillie in tiny Westside, Iowa, and they both joined Pi Phi at Iowa State. Leigh and I met while doing Yell Like Hell at Iowa State and were involved in a few similar things. She now works for Pi Phi, so we continue to have similar interests and passions!

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The next stop was the Mobile Carnival Museum. It’s a museum that chronicles over 300 years of Carnival and Mardi Gras in Mobile, Alabama. When most people think of Mardi Gras, they think of New Orleans. But the reality is that this celebration started in Mobile, Alabama. Pretty neat. Here, I thanked a Mobile native and fellow Phi Delt William Kneip. William is the chapter president at Ole Miss and is a standout college student. William was recently selected as one of twenty four students at Ole Miss to be a part of The Columns Society. The Columns Society is a group of twelve men and twelve women who serve as the official hosts for the University. The group is based upon the principles of humble service, leadership and integrity. The Columns Society serves the University of Mississippi at all functions where it is desired to have students welcome guests and visitors to the University of Mississippi. Well deserved, and I always enjoy working with William. I hope to run into him this weekend at the LSU vs. Ole Miss game.

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Just down the road, I found this wonderful mural on the side of The Bier Garten, a restaurant/bar where I would later have a delightful pretzel and beer to celebrate my run. I thanked Bret Zimmerman once again for his donation, and I know that Zim will get a kick out of it after his Munich Oktoberfest experience.

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Just across the street was a great view of Mobile that represents the old and new architecture of the city. Here, I thanked Chris Shrader, one of our loyal Phi Delt volunteers and great friend. Chris and I have a common interest in rescue dogs, so we swap stories often. He also believes that nobody smiles when they run, so this picture disproves his theory! Chris lives in Indianapolis and has a Phi Delt son who is our chapter president at the University of Alabama. He jumped that football bandwagon quickly as his Miami Redhawks have won one game in a number of years.

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One of Mobile’s most recognizable areas is Bienville Square. You can find a number of these fountains throughout the town, but the overhang of the old oaks makes this square wonderful. It’s a pieceful place where I took a bit of a rest and took in the scenery. I thanked Bronk & Jess Harms once again for their donation.

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I then headed to Fort Condé. Fort Condé is a reconstruction of the original 1720s French Fort. Open to the public, I was able to venture around the square fort. It only made sense to thank my best Fort Dodge bud Travis Griffith and his wife Stephanie. Travis and I have been best buds since he moved across the street from me in Kindergarten (I believe). We were inseparable as kids and still remain very close. Travis and Steph are right down the road from us in Ankeny, Iowa, and it’s always a blast to spend time with their family. They have two adorable girls (Peyton and Sophie) who keep Travis on his toes. Steph is a natural, but Travis has to work at it. I get text messages from him when he has some time at gymnastics practice. I’m taking notes from him.

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My next stop was the Mobile Bay. I found a fellow runner to take a picture which is always a risky proposition. I think she captured her fingers in the picture. I thanked Rob & Julie Waltz again. I’m really striking out this year with their pictures! I’m sure that I’ll have many opportunities in the future to make up for it.

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After returning to my car, I drove through the tunnel under the bay to get to the USS Alabama. USS Alabama (BB-60), a South Dakota-class battleship, was the sixth ship of the United States Navy named after the US state of Alabama. Alabama was commissioned in 1942 and served in World War II in the Atlantic and Pacific theaters. Man, it’s impressive. I thanked Tyler Cronk once again. While my pictures for Rob & Julie have been poor on my end, I’ve knocked it out of the ballpark with Tyler’s!

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Upon arriving home, I had a running shirt in the mail from Mobile’s First Light Marathon! A few fun facts about the marathon:

  1. The First Light Marathon is one of the few marathons that award finishers with a handmade, wooden medallion, made by adults with intellectual disabilities at L’Arche Mobile.
  2. The race has had one of the largest temperature ranges for any marathon in the country. Their lowest record temperature was 18 degrees and their highest was 80 degrees.
  3. Mobile is the home of the Azalea Trail Maids. This is a group of young women who are chosen during their senior year of high school to be ambassadors for the city, and they have appearances all over the country. They come to the marathon to cheer on the runners in full southern regalia!
  4. Over 1/3 of the full marathon course is “under-the-oaks.” Hundreds-of-years-old oak trees line the streets and create a romantic, shady canopy to run beneath. I witnessed their glory!

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I then drove to Fairhope, Alabama, a beautiful little town on the Bay and home to a few members of one of Phi Delta Theta’s finest families – The Stitts. William, his wife Lori and their two sons Crawford and Hayden welcomed me into their home, a beautiful house that’s a stone’s throw from the Bay. I’ve been really excited to visit Fairhope, Alabama for awhile, for a few reasons. William is just an amazing dude and a great volunteer for Phi Delta Theta, but he is also a successful entrepreneur. He worked for many years for Ruby Tuesday but left the company to start his own little restaurant, Old 27 Grill. More about the Grill later in the post. Lori and I chatted for awhile before William’s father Billy picked me up. How about this for a view and a great conversation?!

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I’ve been blessed to meet many great men through Phi Delta Theta, and one of the greatest in our Fraternity is Billy Stitt. He’s an icon, and one of the nicest men in the land. Billy is a Past President of Phi Delta Theta and is currently our Chaplain. He is the patriarch of now three generations of Ole Miss Phi Delts. He’s full of history and has a great love for the Fraternity. Billy took me on a tour of Fairhope which was great. It’s always great to be with people who are very proud of where they live. We headed over to Old 27 Grill for dinner. What a place! William has done a knockout job with the restaurant and the menu. I couldn’t pass up the Holy Cow Burger, and it did not fail. It was wonderful to catch up with Billy. I wish I could do it more.

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Another look at the restaurant. Pretty cool, eh?

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There are certain luxuries that come with staying with a guy who owns a restaurant and who had been catering an event earlier that evening. William arrived back at the place with some delightful shrimp from the Mobile Bay. Fantastic!

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He also rushed into the house, woke up his high school son to let him know that he had seen a car hit a buck on the way home. Crawford and Hayden jumped out of bed, drove to the scene, and arrived back in 10 minutes with the buck’s rack in hand! That’s what I’m talking about. William was a proud father.

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We headed out for a few beers with William’s friend Jack and called it a night. Mobile/Fairhope was great!

 

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