Tuscaloosa . Alabama
Between Memphis and New Orleans we took a long dog-leg route and drove through rural Alabama in order to visit Tuscaloosa.
The rain was heavy with a low ceiling of clouds. We left highway 78 after crossing into Alabama from Mississippi, then followed the county road signs to Tuscaloosa. Unfortunately the heavy rains contributed to a severe accident at the crest of a hill a few miles ahead. We turned around and waited it out near the small town of Winfield.
Searching for a detour around the closed road, I remembered the often quoted line about directions in the south: They rarely include street names, and this proved to be true as we were instructed to drive past the church, cross over the railroad tracks, and turn left at the dead end. Most directions also include the phrase, “No wait, now that’s not right”, and if more than a few people are milling about, a friendly consultation ensues on which route is most efficient. Asking directions anywhere usually becomes a five to 10 minute meeting with the locals, who won’t let you leave until they insist you know what roads are best. Unfortunately by the time they agreed on my route remembering it was futile even with the map scrawled on a napkin. As proven successful so far in life I smiled, nodded, and conveyed my appreciation.
A local overheard us, and told us to just follow him down some county roads the long way to highway 43. Such road names as “Looney’s Tavern Highway”, and “Lake Lurleen Road” were only in my imagination before seeing them on actual road signs. Arriving in Tuscaloosa the roads were a bit confusing, especially at dusk in the rain, but we found a motel on McFarland Boulevard. For dinner we attempted to locate the Dreamland BBQ, but not finding it we ended up at Mug Shots Sports Bar downtown.
Our main reason for visiting Tuscaloosa was to see where Caleb spent a year growing up. And sometime during that year the family promptly made a decision to move back to California. The next morning we tracked down the house and school, and checked out the nearby woods and river. Part of it was developed for houses, but the thick woods still gave a somewhat rural feel in the middle of the city.
College football is big business in Tuscaloosa. Around town we saw the “Roll Tide” banners, a cheer towards the “Crimson Tide” sports teams of the University of Alabama. The campus is in a quiet area of town just east of downtown.
We made our way to the University of Alabama neighborhood. In any city or town with a large university, no matter how much sprawl, you can usually find unique restaurants, stores, and walkable areas around a college or university. And of course with any town I visit, I enjoy finding a good coffee shop in town, and taking in the atmosphere via lattes, people watching, and the local newspapers.