One of my favorite things about our crazy baseball life is that it has given us the chance to get to know areas of the country we otherwise never would have looked twice at. Case in point: Alabama. We spent most of last year’s season living in Montgomery, Alabama.
To be honest, going into it I wasn’t pumped to be calling Alabama home, even if I knew it was only going to be for a few months. It’s just one of those places that I did think would have enough for me to explore. I’m happy to report that I was wrong, and I really grew to appreciate and enjoy Alabama and our time there. Of course, as with the other places we’ve lived (Arizona, Florida, and Wisconsin) I learned a lot about Alabama in just a few short months of living there.
It’s rich in American history
As a self-proclaim history nerd, this was probably my favorite part of this state. Alabama played a huge role in the American Civil War. There are several Civil War sites that you can visit, including Fort Morgan and Fort Gaines. The state’s capital, Montgomery, is where delegates from Southern states met and seceded from the union to form the Confederate States of America. Today, you can visit the exact spot where the Confederacy’s first president, Jefferson Davis, took the oath of office, and tour the First White House of the Confederacy.
In the years following the war, some of the biggest events of the Civil Rights Movement took place in Alabama. In 1955, Montgomery is where Rosa Parks famously refused to give her bus seat to a white man. Thus starting the Montgomery Bus Boycott. Martin Luther King Jr. spent a large portion of his life living in Alabama. Today you can visit the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the Montgomery church he was a pastor at. The cities of Huntsville, Birmingham, and Selma were all locations of historic moments during the Civil Rights Movement.
Football is a BIG deal
Football is a big deal in the entire south in general, but it is king in Alabama. You’re probably thinking, “Carrie, Alabama doesn’t have a pro-football team”. That’s correct, but it is home to two of the most dominate college football teams in the entire country, the Auburn Tigers, located in Auburn, and the Alabama Crimson Tide, located in Tuscaloosa. These two teams have arguably the most intense rivalry in all of college football, and because the two universities are located a short 2.5 hour drive from one another, the rivalry rages on allllll year long. I learned very quickly that the football team your loyal to is a big deal.
The heat and humidity is no joke
Ya’ll, summer in the south is brutal. Summers in Alabama are some of the hottest in the United States, with high temperatures averaging over 90 °F throughout the summer in many parts of the state. Southern Alabama, especially areas close to the coast get lots of wind – courtesy of the Gulf of Mexico – which keeps them a little cooler on average. Central and Northern Alabama – cities like Montgomery and Birmingham – have average summer time temps in the mid-90’s. That’s not even taking into account the humidity. Most days, just taking Gatsby on short walk resulted in me coming back sweating considerably.
They know how to do BBQ
BBQ is the southern cuisine of choice. The entire state is littered with BBQ joints, most of which are local, family owned and operated. Each place has their own spin on the Southern classics and their own speciality. Alabama is a chameleon of sorts when it comes to their BBQ style. Most of the state is partial to the tradition Memphis style BBQ sauce, meaning the sauce is tomato based. There are a few places in Northern Alabama that favor the North Carolina vinegar based sauce, and in the very eastern part of the state the South Carolina influence of mustard makes an appearance in their sauces giving it a little tang.
Southern BBQ joints are no frills kind of places. They’re not about killer presentation. They’re about good food, done right. Pork is typically the most popular meat of choice, but I learned they’ll BBQ anything and everything. Some other BBQ Southern classics: macaroni and cheese, corn bread, fried okra, baked beans, coleslaw, and of course, pecan pie! Straight soul food, friends.
Sweet Home Alabama
Alabama has made its mark in the pop culture world over the years. First and foremost by the Southern rock band, Lynyrd Skynyrd, who took the world by storm in 1974 with their hit Sweet Home Alabama (is it stuck in your head yet?). This song is not only extremely catchy, the lyrics reflect a lot of the culture of the American south at that time, including slavery, racism, and politics. Strangely enough, of the three members of the band who wrote the song, none of them were actually from Alabama. Never the less, it is arguably one of the most popular rock songs of all time.
A number of movies have used Alabama as the backdrop for their stories. One of the most popular and well know movies being the Tom Hanks hit, Forrest Gump, which was set in the fictional Alabama town of Greenbow. Most of the movie was shot in areas of South Carolina, and sadly Forrest’s beautiful childhood home was built for the movie and then torn down after filming.
In 2002, the Reese Witherspoon romantic comedy, Sweet Home Alabama, burst onto the scene. The film centered about Witherspoon’s character’s home town of Pigeon Creek, Alabama. This is a fictional town, and most of the movie was shot in Georgia. The beautiful Carmichael plantation – which Melanie (Witherspoon) claims belongs to her family – is the Oak Hill Berry Museum, a historic landmark in Georgia which is located on the Berry College campus in Rome, Georgia.
22 State Parks
I never thought of Alabama as a very outdoorsy state, but I was happily surprised to find out the state has 22 state parks. I expected there to be some beautiful forests and lakes, but the state has so much more to offer than just that!
Beautiful Cheaha State Park is the highest point in the state at 2,407 feet above sea level. From the top of Cheaha Mountain you can see panoramic views of the entire 2,799 acre area.
Buck Pocket State Park is nestled in the beautiful foothills of the Appalachian Mountains. The stream running through the park is a prime spot for bass fishing.
Rickwood Caverns State Park and Cathedral Caverns State Park are home to huge and beautiful caves that contains 260 million year old formations that were created by nothing more than mother nature.
Chewacla State Park is a great place for hiking and biking, and home to one of the state’s 18+ waterfalls.
The Beautiful Coast
Alabama probably isn’t the first place you think of when you think of beautiful ocean beaches, but it has 60 miles of coastline on the Gulf of Mexico. It may not be a lot, but they make the most of it. The coastal towns of Orange Beach, Gulf Shores and Dauphin Island are hugely popular with amongst Alabamians and out-of-state tourists. Homes and condos here can cost anywhere from $200,000 to upwards of $1 million. The tourism industry on the Alabama coast alone provides more than 50,000 jobs and brings in more than $2 billion (with a B) in annual revenue.
Some other cool facts
- Alabama was the first US state to declare Christmas a legal holiday in 1836.
- The Saturn V rocket (which was used to lunch Apollo 11) was designed in Huntsville. The rocket, which led to man’s first steps on the moon, remains on display at the U.S. Space & Rocket Center in Huntsville.
- America’s first Mardi Gras was celebrated in Mobile in 1703, 15 years before New Orleans’ carnival began.
- Alabama is the only state with all the natural resources on hand to make iron and steel.
- More than 100 historic plantation homes still stand in Alabama.
- Alabama is the only US state to have an alcoholic beverage (Conecuh Ridge Whiskey) as its official beverage.