Cousins

There are 31 first cousins in my generation of my father’s family.  My dad was the youngest of 8, well, really 9 because one child (Robert) died as a baby.  There were five females: Elizabeth (Liz), twins Jane and Catherine (Cass), Mary, and Teresa and three males: Harry Kirby, known as Kirby, George, and my dad Joseph (Joe).  They had a rough life growing up; my father’s mother died when he was a baby and his older sisters helped raise him and his next older brother, George.  Their father married a woman with children of her own and according to family lore, life became the stuff of cliched fiction with the stepmother favoring her own kids and leaving the stepkids to fend for themselves.  One story states that she would often get upset with the youngest two boys and sit them out on the front stoop with their belongings so one of the married sisters would come and get them. As an older adolescent, my dad lived with my Aunt Jane and Uncle Charles till he joined the Air Force at the tender age of 17. Now most of these family members are gone except for Teresa, Mary and George.  My dad died first, at the very young age of 42, from lung cancer. The rest have passed on as they became older and suffered health issues.  I really miss all of them and have fond memories of that generation of “Rices.” It makes me sad to know that there is so much information and history that is lost to us and I wish I had taken the time to learn more from my dad, aunts, and uncles when we were all younger. Here are a few recent pics of just a handful of relations.

 

 

Most of my cousins grew up in New Jersey, some within a few miles or a backyard of each other, while my family lived a nomadic Air Force life, only returning to New Jersey on vacations and between assignments.  We also had our “Chicago cousins” —  Cass’ eight kids, whom we only saw rarely, and Uncle George’s kids who lived in Utah so we hardly knew them at all.  But mostly I remember the NJ cousins and as a kid I was quite envious that some of my cousins seemed to be best friends and did a lot together, while we were the outsiders who only came to visit on occasion.

Over the years we’ve had a few reunions that many of us attended and I regularly see many of the NJ cousins to this day when I return to see my mom.  We aren’t the best at keeping in touch but thankfully some of us are on Facebook and get to follow each other’s lives a little bit that way.  And sadly we are all getting older and we have already lost a few cousins.

Recently my sister let me know that one of our cousins and his family were coming to San Antonio because their son was completing basic training in the Air Force and would be graduating.  So Rich and I decided to drive out and visit for a couple of days.

My cousin Tim is my Aunt Mary’s youngest son.  Funny side story:  His real name is Thomas but when he was a child, he was very small so everyone called him Tiny Tim which got shortened to Tim.  I always knew him as Tim and never knew the story behind it–just thought that Tim was his given name.  When I was visiting in NJ not all that many years ago, a bunch of us had gone to a softball game and then back to Tim’s house.  I heard his wife Brandi call him Tom and I thought I had misheard.  Then someone else called him Tom and Brandi called him Tom again and I finally said, “Did you call him Tom?”  She said, “Yes, that’s his name!”  What?? I always thought his name was Tim! So they explained that they’d originally met when they worked at the same place where he’d been hired under his official name and everyone there knew him as Tom.  She had always known him as Tom and most of their friends call him Tom. She laughingly said, “Your whole family calls him Tim but all of us around here call him Tom.”

We had a great time in San Antonio with Tim/Tom and Brandi, their daughter Veronica and their son Trevor, new AF airman Aaron and his girlfriend Jamie.  My sister had a potluck dinner on Saturday attended by her daughters Alana and Rachel and their hubbies and kids, her son Ryan and his wife and kids, her son Eli, and her ex-husband Alan, along with Rich and me and the NJ crew.  We enjoyed good conversation and catching up with my nieces and nephews and all of their adorable kids as well as the cousins.

 

 

Once upon a time I had an idea that it would be a cool project to photograph and interview each of my first cousins and put it together for posterity. I suppose I could have started this weekend but it didn’t even occur to me.  🙂  Maybe on the next NJ trip!

The Broken Bow Incident

My friend Tammy planned to travel from Alaska to Missouri this summer to see some of her family,  so we decided we would meet somewhere for a day or two.  We contemplated a few locations and most of the more “appealing” sites were too far for one or the other of us.  Eventually we just looked for something about halfway rather than somewhere we really wanted to go.  Our search informed us that Broken Arrow, OK, was about equidistant and not a terribly long drive for either of us.

Tammy and I  chat regularly via Facebook messenger and our planning began months ago.  As time moved forward, we began to talk about getting hotel rooms v. renting a place to share.  Also as time went on, in my mind I somehow changed the name of the meeting place to Broken Bow, not Broken Arrow.  Tammy went along with me and soon we were both planning our trip to Broken Bow without question.  In fact, one time she said, “I keep wanting to call it Broken Arrow!” and I replied, “Me, too!” and we laughed and went back to arranging our meet-up in Broken Bow( totally oblivious to the mistake).

Apparently, Broken Bow has a very popular lake and lots of fly fishermen like to vacation there.  We were told it was the busy season and it might be hard to find a place. There were some cute cabins for rent but all required a two night stay and we were only going for one.  We finally settled on an apartment I found on HomeAway, a little funky looking,  but we thought it would be okay, and it was located “downtown” near shops and restaurants.  It would be fun to walk out our door and wander around, right?

We talked about meeting around noon since we each had about a 3.5 hour drive and didn’t want to have to leave too early.  The day before our trip, Tammy texted me and said she would not be there by noon because it was a 5.5 hour drive for her. WHAT?? I was so confused!  I thought we were meeting halfway!  I looked online and sure enough my trip was right at 3 hours and hers was 5.5.  I was still puzzled about how I could have misunderstood the driving distances when I thought we planned something that would be about the same for each.  I started digging back through our messages and finally found the error–yes, we were supposed to meet in Broken Arrow and we had made plans for Broken Bow!  OMG.  I felt so horrible about it!  Of course, because we’d rented an apartment, we couldn’t cancel and get a refund at this late date so we were stuck unless we wanted to forfeit our money.  Tammy was such a good sport about it and said no biggie, she was on vacation and it was all fine.  Thank goodness for kindhearted friends!

Rich and I headed out on Sunday morning and arrived in Broken Bow around 1 PM.  I texted Tammy that we were there so we could meet somewhere for lunch. No reply so I figured she was driving and her two teen girls were asleep so no one could text.  We decided to drive over to find the apartment and make sure everything was okay there.  It was a little difficult to find (as we’d been warned by previous renters on the website), with the address on one street and the entrance on a side street, connected to a business, so it wasn’t obvious that there was an apartment there. We had to get a key out of a mailbox, which we did, but then we couldn’t get into the apartment. The key unlocked the deadbolt but the doorknob was also locked and the key didn’t seem to work.  I messaged the owner to ask if there was something else we needed to do and didn’t hear back from him.  We decided we’d give him some time to reply while we waited for Tammy, who eventually called to say she and her daughters were in town but their AK phones apparently did not work in OK and she had a hard time finding someone who would let her borrow a phone to contact us. What the hell.  Several people told her no before some kind soul at a store let her use a phone! We then met at a Mexican restaurant and had a great time chatting and catching up.  Tammy is full of stories and always lots of fun and it was good to see Rosie, who’s in art school in Portland, and Mary, who’s a high schooler back home in Unalaska.

After lunch, we drove back to the apartment.  We figured out that the key DID open both locks and walked into a foyer area that had three separate doors in it.  We weren’t sure which one was the apartment so we tried them all and none of them would open.  I finally called the owner and he said he was out of town for work but that the apartment door should not be locked. Well, it was! He seemed very puzzled about this but after we tried some more, he told us to open a different door that seemed to be stuck but we finally opened with a strong tug, taking us into a large industrial type garage.  He told us to walk through the garage and there would be another entrance to the apartment, call him back if we had any more problems. I had barely hung up when we walked into the apartment and realized that it had not been cleaned! There were towels all over the bathroom, three beds were messed up and unmade, coffee pot sat on the counter with residue in it, trash in the trash can, etc.  So our little misadventure continued! I called him back to tell him and he acted like he was shocked.  He could not understand why the apartment was not cleaned.  I asked “Are you sure you didn’t have someone here last night?” because he had earlier sent us a message saying he hoped we’d “enjoyed” our stay and to leave the key in the mailbox.  Then immediately after that, he sent another message saying, “Sorry, I just realized you are there tonight, not last night.”  So this made me think that he DID have people there the night before and he’d somehow gotten mixed up.

Anyway, he said since he was out of town he didn’t know what to do except refund our money and try to find us another place.  This went on for awhile with him texting us about other options but they were all more expensive and he never offered that he would pay the difference so I finally said we would just find our own place if he would refund our money ASAP.  He apologized and agreed that he would set a refund in motion through HomeAway, stating that it was his fault; he did have people there Friday and Saturday nights and forgot to set up a cleaning.  Meanwhile, the AK people with no service got to use his free Wifi for a little while.  🙂

He did call back and say he had found someone who could clean the apartment if we could wait 3-4 hours!  LOL  By now it was 4:30 or so and I told him we’d already wasted our afternoon, so no thanks, just the refund, please.

We found a lodge outside of town near the state park that had two rooms next to each other for about the same price, so we drove out there.  The weather was nice and there was a seating area right outside our rooms so at least we could sit there and chat.  We were still full from lunch so didn’t want any dinner at that point and by the time we decided we might want something, most of the restaurants were closed (well, the ones that had been open in the first place…it was Sunday and a lot of stores and restaurants were closed all day). Rich volunteered to drive back into town and get us some pizza so we sat around and chatted some more with our late night pizza dinner, then hit the hay. Whew! First day was quite a fiasco but at least we had fun hanging out!

Monday we had breakfast at the lodge and then set out to see “downtown,” which ended up being a bunch of closed down buildings from the past, one junk store/soda fountain, and one western-wear clothing store.  It did not take us long to see “downtown.”  From there, we decided to go to the Gardner Mansion and Museum, which houses Native American and pioneer artifacts.  I’d read online that it was a little hard to find, which proved true but we did locate it and drove up the dirt driveway past a sign that said “closed.”  The road was open, though, so we thought maybe they just hadn’t switched the sign to “open.”  We pulled into an area that said, “park here” and displayed two more signs, one that said, “honk for an attendant,” and the other that had prices listed to see the museum and “the tree,” or “the tree” only for fifty cents. Rich said he loves trees but he wasn’t sure what was so special about this one that made it worth fifty cents.  🙂  We honked but no one came out.  I looked up the phone number and called, but no one answered. We took a few pix and drove away, sadly.

I’d also noted the Forest Heritage Center Museum and the Peter Toth Totem Pole as places we might visit, so we had to drive back the way we’d come, out to the Beaver’s Bend State Park.  The Forest Heritage Center was pretty interesting, with a lot of history about the area and about the logging industry, the CCC camps, and the traveling timber towns.  I never knew that the logging companies would house people in the woods, then cut their houses in half and truck them to the next location when all the timber had been cleared.  We saw some interesting photos of the company towns of the logging industry in OK, which “despite the hardships,” are portrayed as just the most wonderful life anyone could have imagined.  Funny how history gets revised.  I was especially interested to read that the women worked themselves to the bone on a myriad of tasks but “these were the best days of their lives.”  I wonder if anyone really asked those women!  We also saw a 100 year old log cabin and an old Post Office.

The Peter Toth totem pole stood outside. According to the OK Forestry Service, “The sculpture is one in a 50 state series known as the “Trail of Tears” sculptures by Hungarian artist, Peter Toth. Mr.Toth came to Oklahoma to sculpt Oklahoma’s Indian monuments. Mr. Toth’s goal in life was to complete at least one sculpture in each of the fifty states. To date, he has done 67 monuments.”  When I was reading about Broken Bow, I learned that it was originally founded by some members of the Choctaw Tribe who had grown weary on the Trail of Tears and stayed at this location.  They lived in their community of Con-Chito for about 75 years before white settlers began to arrive and take over. Eventually, brothers Herman and Fred Dierks moved from Broken Bow, Nebraska and began a logging company, changing the name of the town and trajectory of history.

After lunch at a nearby diner, we said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.  It was really great to see Tammy and her girls and we had a lot of laughs and conversation about what will be forever known as The Broken Bow Incident.  As a funny side note, we discovered there was a Star Trek episode with the same name, in which a Klingon ship crashes in Broken Bow, OK.  🙂

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We decided next year we will have to meet in Broken Arrow as planned, or Rich says he is willing to drive further to Eureka Springs, which was suggested this time and we had vetoed it as “too far.”

Thankful for good friends with understanding hearts!

 

 

 

Reunions and Road Trips

We made some wonderful friends during our years in Unalaska and we’re always thrilled when our paths cross again.  A few months ago, Kelly and Steve noted that they would be in San Antonio for a work related trip of Kelly’s.  She’d be tied up for a conference but we could meet in the evening.  San Antonio’s not too terribly far (okay, nothing seems that far after living in remote Alaska, right?) and my sister and family also live there so it was a no-brainer to take a drive in that direction.

My sister Kathi and niece Jordan joined us for dinner with our friends at a nice place on the River Walk.  It was a great treat to get to hang out with family and to see Kelly and Steve again after a year and a half away.  I think there’s something about living in a far-away place that bonds people to stay close in heart even if many miles away.  Wish we’d had more time, but glad we had an opportunity to visit!  We then spent the night with Kathi before hitting the road the next morning when she went off to her long-term substitute teaching job.  For someone who has retired from teaching, she sure does teach a lot!  🙂

Sarah and Miles gifted us two nights in hotels on our way back as a “thank you” for helping them out with the grandkids on a regular basis.  Although we love doing it, it’s still awfully nice to be acknowledged and to know that we are appreciated!  Thanks, kids!

We decided to spend the first night in Kerrville.   We enjoyed the drive through the Texas Hill Country, though I think we’d already missed the peak of the yearly wildflower bloom along the roadways.  It’s known for its large annual folk festival and other happenings, but Kerrville was pretty quiet at this point and we didn’t find a lot going on. First we stopped at a hole in the wall Mexican restaurant we’d read about and had a good taco lunch, then walked around downtown which was kinda dead on a weekday afternoon and there weren’t a lot of shops that we were interested in.  We found the Guadalupe River and decided to wander along a pathway which was quite pretty.  We saw two deer, lots of birds, and a bunch of beautiful flowers as we wound our way back toward town.  By then we were hot and sweaty and ready to get to our air-conditioned car!  So spoiled, I know! We were still full from lunch so skipped dinner and had a nice night of relaxation in our hotel.  Well, I think Rich did go out late at night for a Whataburger or something! LOL  In the morning we stopped for breakfast (which ended up turning into lunch) at a place called Hippie Chick’s, then off to Fredericksburg for Day Two.

I used to love Fredericksburg when I lived in Abilene years ago–it was a cool little town with a number of unique and interesting shops, German themed bars and restaurants, and fun places to visit.  We found our B&B, checked in and dropped our stuff, and went out to walk around town, stopping in several shops but didn’t buy anything other than some peach butter and a dip mix!  Saw some cute clothes and some nice household decor but nothing we wanted to spend money on.  There was a farmer’s market that day and we *love* a good farmer’s market so we strolled through and took a look around.  Stopped in a bar to get a drink and cool off a little, and then had a very nice dinner at a German place called Otto’s.

The B&B only serves breakfast on weekends but gave us a voucher to use at one of three restaurants the next AM.  We chose a cute German bakery and diner that had huge German pancakes; of course I had to try one! We took the scenic route home, which took a bit longer but was more fun than lots of highway driving.  It was a great little getaway and we enjoyed our time off by ourselves!

Hoopin’ it up

Aidan is playing on the 7th grade basketball team at school and we’ve been wanting to go to a game all season long but it never seemed to work out.  Monday was his last game so we drove to Clyde for the day, hung out with Susan till the kids got home from school, played a game of Rack-o with Ally, went to eat pizza, and then to Aidan’s game at 6:30.

Seventh graders are pretty tough!  They had a hard fought game which ended up tied 17-17.  They then played an overtime period but no one scored so I guess the tie stands.  Both teams were pretty scrappy, went after the ball, and tried to grab it from each other at any opportunity.  They weren’t the best at shooting baskets but they sure did try!  Aidan made two points so that was pretty exciting!

We had a lot of fun at the game and I’m sorry we didn’t get to see more of them.  I wanted a photo of us with Aidan in his uniform but he skedaddled to the locker room and changed before we could get his attention.  Because I had  volunteer work the next day and we were expecting a furniture delivery as well, we headed back home.  Quick trip,but I’m glad we did it!

Amarillo, Gigi gets sick and “FunPa” saves the day

Rich is the “FUN” grandparent.  I am “fun,” but I am also the enforcer when we are babysitting (if parents are there, I stay out of it!).  Rich finds cool games on his iPad, tells jokes, says outlandish things to the kids to get a reaction, entertains them in various ways and cooks their favorite foods for them.  At some point, our son in law David came up with the name “FunPa” and it has become one of Rich’s alternate names when we’re with the Amarillo grandkids.  Emery, especially, will spontaneously call him “FunPa” and we all  crack up.

We left for Amarillo last Thursday to babysit Friday through Sunday while Bonnie and David went to Santa Fe to shoot a wedding.  Earlier in the week, I’d had a scratchy throat and pain when I swallowed, but after one bad night it went away and was replaced with a case of laryngitis.  Elle and Beck told me I sounded “scary” and “creepy” and Elle said I should JUST NOT TALK because it was freaking her out.  I really didn’t feel bad but I was only able to talk in a whisper. I considered going to the doc in Dallas but blew it off, thinking it would all run its course in a day or two.

Thursday was not bad; we had a nice drive to Bonnie’s (except for a discussion about Rich’s propensity to speed and his lack of concern about getting a ticket, followed by a stop by a county sheriff for going 65 in a 50 mph zone….luckily being an old white guy with no blemishes on his record, all he got was a “y’all be careful now,” not even a warning).   It was lovely to see the kids and grandkids after a couple of months.  Ada came right to me when I got out of the car, and once in the house climbed up on Rich’s lap.  I was a little surprised since we hadn’t seen her in awhile and she is always a little leery at first.  Emery and Luke had plenty to tell us and they are always excited to hang out.  We enjoyed a nice dinner and took a walk around the neighborhood with the whole family, played “Mexican Train” and talked the night away.

Friday I thought my voice was coming back a little bit and I was feeling okay.  I got up early with Bonnie to take Luke to school so I would know where to pick him up later, while David went to “Donuts with Dad” at Emery’s school.  Bonnie was home with us for most of the day till David got off work at 3, then they left for Santa Fe.  Rich stayed home with Ada while she napped and I drove across town to pick Luke up.  He goes to a magnet preK program through the school district, half low income kids, half “other” kids, a very highly regarded school that has enrichment classes such as piano and Spanish.  He was fortunate to get picked in a lottery to go; since he is now attending, Ada will also be able to go when she is old enough. The only bad thing is that the school is quite a ways from Bonnie and David’s house so it’s a bit of an ordeal for Bonnie to get Emery and Luke to two different schools each morning and picked up on time each afternoon.  Thankfully Bonnie’s friend Niki agreed to bring Emery home so I only had to pick up Luke.  We got everyone home, played, had dinner, watched a movie and the kids went off to bed happy.  First day: Success!

Saturday’s schedule included two soccer games for Emery and one for Luke, starting at 10 AM, leaving the house at 9:30.  By the time I was settling in on Friday night, my throat was hurting again, but worse than that, both of my ears were throbbing something terrible.  I hardly slept all night with all of the pain and pressure.  Man, now I know why babies scream unconsolably when they have an ear infection!  Those things HURT.  I could not get comfortable and felt like my eardrums were going to explode from the pressure.  It was painful to lie down so I spent half the night partially sitting on the couch.

Rich was up early and I told him I thought I needed to go to an urgent care center because I didn’t think I could get through the day with all the kids’ activities feeling like this.  I had already looked online and one clinic opened at 8 AM so we plotted out the morning’s tasks.  I got Ada up and dressed and left Rich with instructions to feed everyone breakfast, dress the other two in their soccer uniforms (oh, and put a pony tail in Emery’s hair!), pack the car with the bag of snacks, diapers, water bottles, blanket, kids’ soccer balls, and oh, try to be on time!  LOL Poor Grandpa.

I found the urgent care center and was seen fairly quickly.  Strep test was negative, thankfully.  Diagnosis: throat infection and double ear infection.  “Your right ear is very red and inflamed!”  I am terribly allergic to penicillin so the provider decided to give me a combo of two other antibiotics. I went across the street to the pharmacy to get the meds and the pharmacist acted like it was a bit of overkill, suggesting that I should pick up a probiotic, too, and drink lots and lots of water. Great.  I texted Rich and asked him how it was going.  “Some resistance to getting ready.  Not sure if we will make it to the first game.”  🙂

After some trouble with my GPS which took me to a dog park instead of the soccer field, I finally arrived at the right location after Luke’s game was over (yes, they made it to the game with a couple of minutes to spare). It was pretty cold and windy so Rich took Luke and Ada home for lunch and nap while I stayed and watched Emery’s game.  She was really into it, running hard and fighting for the ball, almost making a goal a couple of times.  Go, Emery! Bonnie’s friend Niki said she was really proud of Rich for taking care of the kids and getting them all there as scheduled.  When I reported this back to him, I added, “Of course you know that if I’d shown up with all the kids by myself, no one would have thought anything about it because women are just expected to do it!”  He said “Oh, yes, I know…I thought about that myself!”  At least he’s aware.  🙂

Niki offered to take Emery to lunch and then to the next game, which I took her up on  since I wasn’t feeling great and couldn’t talk at all.  Thank you, Niki!

I started on my antibiotics, stopped to find some homeopathic ear drops for pain, and hoped for the best.   We had a nice rest-of-the-day despite all and I did actually start feeling enough better that I wasn’t miserable.  I rested some while the kids played together and worked on some puzzles, Rich fixed dinner, I gave the kids baths, we watched a movie, Rich read bedtime stories, and everyone went to bed nicely.  I was taking Ada to her room when she said, “I tired.”  I put her in her crib, she laid her head on her pillow and that was that.  Sweet.

I was grateful to get to sleep that night and felt like the meds were kicking in, thankful for FunPa taking the lead all day.  Funny thing Emery told me: “You are serious and Grandpa is silly.  Daddies are silly and Mommies are serious.”  I told her one day she would understand why it is usually that way.  LOL

Sunday Bonnie and Dave got home around 11 AM but David had to get right back to work shooting another wedding.  Bless his heart!  Rich stayed home with Ada while Bonnie and I took Luke and Emery to more soccer games; at least this time they both played at the same time on opposite fields so we could turn and watch each of them.  Bonnie had to leave early to go help David take photos at the wedding so we traded cars and I waited for the kids to finish their games, then packed them up and headed back home.

Bonnie got back around 5:30; we’d already fed the kids and Rich fixed some burritos for us.  Later we settled in to watch the presidential debate.  Oh. my. goodness.  That is a post for another day.  I can’t stand Donald Trump, let’s just be honest here.

We hung out awhile this morning and then hit the road back to Dallas. It’s close to a 6 hour drive so we didn’t want to get home too late. A quick visit but always wonderful to be with the kids.  The grandkids are super sweet and we love our time with them.  So grateful for our family–there’s nothing better!

Home Again

We had a very long drive today!  We left Birmingham around 9:30 AM and ran into several traffic problems throughout the day.  After our GPS sent us on a couple of unfathomable routes a few days ago, we were quite suspicious and distrustful of its directions today. At one point, it told us to get off Interstate 20 for 12 miles and then to get back on again. We thought, “Hmmm, maybe there’s some construction and the highway is closed or something.”  Reaching the suggested exit, we looked around and couldn’t see why in the world we should leave the highway.  Traffic was flowing smoothly, the road looked fine, so what was the deal?  “Every time we followed the GPS off the path on this trip, we ended up further behind,” we told ourselves.  So we made a split second decision to stay on I-20. What could go wrong??  You guessed it–we were hardly past the exit when we came upon a huge line of cars that were completely stopped.  For miles.  And miles. And miles.  OMG. Why did we not listen to the GPS??!

Between construction and a couple of bad accidents, we were really behind schedule all day long.  We finally made it home about 8:30 PM, very tired, but happy to see Sarah, Miles and Elle (the boys were asleep) and Ajax and Kali.  We chatted for a few minutes and Elle caught us up on Ajax’s antics.  We unloaded the car and ate a little something.  Now we are just chillin’ and feeling good about being home.

Road trip stats:

  • Drove 3810 miles
  • Saw 18 states, plus Washington, DC
  • Visited 70 fun and fabulous people (and two cemeteries)

What a great time we had!

 

 

 

Birmingham, Alabama

We spent two nights with our friends Adrienne and Bill in Birmingham.  As I mentioned, they had pizza waiting for us when we arrived and after we ate, we sat down to watch the Presidential debate together.  Very interesting….????  I am not a Trump fan and he did nothing to change my mind.  Oh. my. goodness.

Since we have been to Birmingham before and have visited all of the historical Civil Rights sites in the past, we decided to go to the Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark and to Vulcan Park and Museum.  I had no idea that Birmingham had been called “The Pittsburgh of the South” and had been such an industrial powerhouse. Sloss Furnaces produced iron for almost 90 years beginning in the late 1800s and today you can walk through the grounds and see all of the huge structures up close.  We watched a short film about the history of the plant before exploring on our own.  It’s pretty massive and impressive and we could just imagine what it must have been like back in its day.  You can read more here.

We then went to Vulcan Park and Museum.  Vulcan is the Roman god of the forge, son of Jupiter and Juno.  According to mythology, he worked as a blacksmith after being thrown from Mt. Olympus, making weapons and armor for the gods and goddesses, though he was peaceful himself. Birmingham’s Vulcan is the world’s largest cast iron statue, designed by Italian artist Giuseppe Moretti and cast from local iron in 1904.  Vulcan has stood over the city since the 1930s. We went through the museum and then took the elevator to a deck near the top of the statue where we could look out over Birmingham.  Learn more about Vulcan here.

It was great to get to visit with Adrienne and Bill again (we’d seen them a couple of years ago on another road trip) and we always have a good time hanging out with them.  In fact, they are meeting us in New Orleans in a few weeks!