Thursday, September 8, 2011
Disney World Reflections: Prelude
Doug: Over the next two weeks Karen and I will give our thoughts and share a few photos of our trips to Florida. My family went around the first of August; Karen's just recently returned from a trip that ended August and began this month. While her family flew across the country, my entourage jumped on I-65 and drove south, and then across the panhandle of the Sunshine State. Along the way we visited some important and interesting sites, so today we'll kick off our vacation memories with a brief synopsis of my preliminary travels.
We arrived in Nashville for a quick look around LP Field, home of the NFL's Tennessee Titans. The stadium wasn't open, but we did manage to look around. It seems like a nice field, situated right downtown. Adjacent to the stadium is a footbridge that links gameday crowds to restaurants and watering holes. But our main purpose for stopping in Music City was tickets to a Triple-A baseball game: the Nashville Sounds (Milwaukee Brewers) vs. the Round Rock Express (Texas Rangers). First off, it was super hot and super humid, so our willingness to have a good time was in question -- and we are a baseball-loving family. Secondly, I would expect a bit more out of a Triple-A ballpark. Having seen the Indianapolis Indians (Pittsburgh Pirates) play at Victory Field in downtown Indy, our expectations were high. The Sounds stadium, however, is situated in an older part of Nashville. The field wasn't as nice as the field my sons played high school ball on (which is admittedly one of the nicer on-campus fields in Illinois high school baseball). We stayed for seven innings, and then beat it. We'd planned to drive a bit more after the game, and the humidity and still-87 degree temp made the decision to cut out early a bit easier.
Arriving in Alabama, it was rest area time! Now, not to gross anyone out -- that's not my purpose; what is my purpose is the attraction at said rest area. Say what?? Huntsville, AL -- an integral part of the U.S. space program, is right near our stop. And what was the attraction? Only a rocket, man! And if that wasn't enough, we encountered an armadillo on the way back to our vehicle. Weird looking critter that was!
After a night's rest, we headed to Montgomery. As I've said around these parts in the past, I am a high school history teacher. I'm lucky in that the rest of the family also takes an interest in such things, so we often try to build that into our travels. Our first stop in Montgomery (which for a state capital, by the way, is a pretty small town -- nary a skyscraper in sight!) was at the stadium of the Montgomery Biscuits, Double-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. I said we were baseball junkies... As the stadium was being cleaned, we were able to get into the concourse and have a look around. It was much nicer than Nashville. What was neat about the Biscuits stadium was the fact that it was built into an old train depot. The concourses had been the halls of the depot, and they just built the seating out from there. Very interesting. But our real purpose in stopping was to see the important sites of the Civil Rights movement.
Heading downtown, we visited the square where Montgomery's slave auctions had once been held. Adjacent to that spot was the bus stop where, in 1955, Rosa Parks boarded the bus on which she'd refuse to relinquish her seat only two stops later. A very short drive of only a few blocks brought us to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where King was pastor from 1954-60. In the street level fellowship hall of that building meetings were held to organize the Montgomery Bus Boycott; Rosa Parks attended many of those meetings, which Dr. King and others led. We did not get to go into the building, as it was a Sunday morning and services were in session. What absolutely floored all of us was the proximity of the church to the Alabama statehouse -- literally one block away.
How symbolic was it, that the site of the beginning of the Civil Rights movement should sit basically in the shadow of the first capital of the Confederate States of America, and on whose steps Jefferson Davis took the oath of office as its first President? My oldest son, a college sophomore, expressed difficulty in wrapping his mind around the events of that morning's learning.
Back on the road, we headed to Florida and a stop in Tallahassee at Florida State University. In addition to baseball and history, we always try to stop at major colleges when on vacation. FSU's facilities were all open, and my sons had a blast walking around and taking photos. We went on to Gainesville, where the next morning we did the same touring at the University of Florida. They were most excited to get in to The Swamp, Florida's renowned football stadium. And after Florida, it was on to Disney World!
Tune in the next two Wednesdays for thoughts on the Magic Kingdom, and beyond!