Saturday, February 16, 2013

Birmingham...Pretty, But Cold!

It was a long but uneventful drive to Birmingham AL yesterday.  I managed to get out of the house by 5:30 AM and to make good time on the road.  But I will say that I'm getting disenchanted with McDonald's lattes purchased on the road!

You see, the two McDonald's near my home - the one on FM 518 at Cullen and the other on FM 518 at Business Center Drive - execute the "large hot Latte with no flavor, no sweetener" - with absolute perfection.  But these last few trips, it's been a little rough finding perfection on the road.  The latest of a string of disappointing java's:  yesterday's Latte, purchased at McD's in Orange TX was 95% milk, and just enough coffee to turn the milk an off-white color.  Yuck!  Another latte, purchased in Crowley LA, made it all better, though.

In Birmingham, finding the historic Tutwiler Hotel-Hampton Inn right in the center of the city was extremely easy and I was soon checked in and depositing my luggage in my room.  I snacked on a banana I'd brought with me and then headed across beautiful Linn Park to Boutwell Auditorium where the Mercedes Marathon Fitness Expo was being held.
It was a small, compact Expo but had everything that is important.  Race logo clothing, a good selection of running accessories and a large central area occupied by the local running store, Running Shak, and selling everything a runner might need or might have forgotten to bring.  They had the packet pickup area up on the auditorium stage.  This was a really cool idea because as we came back down the stairs after getting our packets, we crossed a cool "finish line," chip reading mat and all, and there, right in front of us on a big screen, we could see our name, city/state, and bib number.  A very elegant and fun way for us to ensure our timing chips were working. 
Of course, it being the "Mercedes Marathon/Half Marathon" and all, there were two Mercedes cars on the floor of the Expo.
Pretty!  But out of my price range.
There was a really cool running shirt with a very appropriate saying on the back, but I talked myself out of buying.  I have more running shirts than I could ever wear in a lifetime!  I certainly didn't need this one.  Although it was very apropos...
My kind of running shirt!

I walked about a bit, enjoying the city center.  Linn Park frames Jefferson County Courthouse beautifully on the east side, and City Hall on the west side, with fountains and reflecting pools in the center sending water down courseways to the bottom of the hill.  I was enchanted!
View of City Hall across Linn Park

Jefferson County Courthouse

Fountain in Linn Park
City Library
  I was getting hungry so I headed back toward the hotel and had an early dinner at the Century Restaurant and Bar.  While I was sitting there, a very well-dressed African-American woman came in, sat at the bar and from her conversation with the bartender, is clearly a regular.  He anticipated what food she was going to order and while waiting, she showed him some diagrams and photos of new historic plaques to be mounted somewhere downtown.  Eavesdropping on this conversation, I quickly deduced that she was either a council member or similar position in Birmingham.  Her demeanor and polished appearance would certainly confirm that.  She was soon joined by one man and then another, all equally as well-dressed and professional.  Soon I found myself sitting in the middle of an insider conversation of politics and goings-on in the city, much of which I could not cypher, being an outsider.  But all interesting, just the same, especially since I'd just spent some time photographing a few of those plaques - Civil Rights Heritage Trail - in Linn Park.


A cold Saturday morning in Birmingham...but I have nowhere to go, nothing to do today.  By 8:30 AM I could hear amplified loudspeakers coming from Linn Park where Marathon-related events would be happening today.  I showered, dressed, and headed outside, with a nearby Subway my destination.  But along the way, I happened upon the start of the 6-year-old starters of the Kids Marathon!  How Fun!!!  They released the kids in waves spaced about 15-20 seconds apart to prevent crowding.  There must have been at least a hundred 1st graders starting as I was walking by the start line on Park Place, so I stopped to watch and take some photos. 

 Their route took them around the corner onto 20th Street so I followed along and found a spot on the median to watch the kids run down the turnaround point and return back toward Linn Park.  The kids were thoroughly enjoying this!   The nearby military installation was represented by men and women working security on the route and the two men standing near me on the route,looking totally put together in their starched Class B's, were doing a great job high-fiving the kids and spurring them on to the finish line.  I think one of them was an Aggie because when a little boy ran by wearing an A&M sweatshirt, he said "Go Aggies" as he high-fived him.

I stood in line for my foot-long Subway sandwich - half for lunch, half later for dinner - and headed back to the hotel.  Feet up, TV on, still undecided on tomorrow morning's race wardrobe.

1 comment:

  1. I hate it when you can't get consistent coffee/lattes at chains. I guess that is why I usually pay a little extra and stick with Starbucks, I don't think I've ever gotten a bad coffee from them. They are a little light in the cup sometimes though.

    Good luck on the run. When you are sweating along that route you'll be appreciating the cooler weahter.