Updated on September 5, 2016
Huntsville, Alabama- The Great American Road Trip
Honestly, I have never heard of a good story coming out of Alabama. I believe it has to do with the past: slavery, Civil Right and the following era. I know that good things happen in Alabama. I know nice people live there. I am only stating my experience and limited knowledge. As we exited the highway and began to drive the country road into Huntsville, my mind opened. Alabama is beautiful!
I had the music turned up, my hands keeping time to the rhythm as I sang along to my favorite songs. I started paying attention to the scenery around me and I couldn’t believe it. I looked at the GPS and thought, this isn’t Alabama. No one told me that Alabama is so scenic. No one EVER mentioned it. There were beautiful rolling green hills, wide open green pastures and the sky was an amazing blue.
When I was a teenager, I went to a church camp every year. My friends and I would drive 24 hours straight from Texas to Florida. We passed through Alabama every year. We met people from Alabama. All the trips I have made through Alabama, I am baffled that I never noticed the beauty of this state. I suppose we were more focused on jokes, music and food.
We made it to my aunt’s house and I immediately let her know how impressed I was. She, my dad and their family grew up in St. Louis. She moved south twenty years ago for a job and decided to stay for her retirement. Knowing I had never been to her home, she was kind enough to offer an invitation. The first thing that excited Bean was the animals because she loves them. Aunt Lo had two cats and a dog as the official pets. She also keeps the neighborhood birds fed and watered. They spend time every morning and afternoon amusing themselves in the bird bath, much to the delight of my aunt and Bean and to the chagrin of the cats, especially Peabody.
I have never met a cat similar to Peabody. I have seen cats interact with humans, but Peabody was special. This cat is big, fat, black and white and has ATTITUDE. He doesn’t like anyone. When I first arrived, he greeted me with a meow and came up to me and sniffed my legs. I thought I would be the first person that Peabody would tolerate. He let me know quickly that was not going to happen. He hissed and snarled. I have never seen cats snarl like that. He was like something out of a horror movie the way he hissed; the demon cat. He also took swipes at people if they came to close. I made sure to let Bean know that if she wanted to stay safe, she needed to stay away from Peabody, no matter how much she likes cats. Thankfully, we made it through our stay with no injuries.
Not knowing what there was to do in Huntsville, we went to the visitor’s center. The women there were very kind and welcoming. They gave us a list of places to visit along with coupons to help with the cost. Since we went in the afternoon, we only had time to take a walk downtown. Bean enjoys going downtown, however, she thinks they are all like Chicago. What a surprise she experienced. We parked downtown on a quiet, tree-lined street and took off walking.
I am not sure if it was the heat, the time of day, or just the location, but there wasn’t much going on or many people out and about. There were many quaint old buildings, a few shops and restaurants. Just when I was getting discouraged about the area, we decided to walk one more block and turn around. Through the trees, we heard the sound of running water, people and birds. Bean and I took off to explore and we found Big Spring Park! Big Spring Park was beautiful! It was the original site of the water source that Huntsville was built around. There was a great big waterfall, a stream filled with goldfish and people lounging on the stairs enjoying the beauty of it all. It was a lucky find on our part. Big Spring Park seems like the place to be for the residents of Huntsville.
Our favorite attraction by far, was the U. S. Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. Bean convinced Aunt Lo to join us for the morning at the Center and off we went. It was a bright and clear day when we arrived. The rockets were enormous and that thrilled Bean (and me too if I am honest). We participated in everything that we found. We tried out the earthquake simulator, the storm shelter, the rocket landing simulator and more. We were given a tour of the mock space station. I loved it. There are space camps year round at the Center and I imagined coming back and participating in the future. I could imagine floating around in the zero gravity room pretending I was in outer space, eating space food. Alas, Bean was not as impressed as I was. We took pictures, Bean road her first amusement park ride and we learned more about space and the space program than I will ever be able to remember. It was a blast!
As we travel from place to place, I try to arrive with no expectations. I like to go as a blank slate, ready for the experiences to write themselves on our memories. Huntsville was a pleasant experience. As my aunt and her friends said, most people moved there from somewhere else. This added much more cultural diversity than I previously imagined. For example, I had a delicious Bi Bim Bap from I Love Korea restaurant. The clay pot, the sizzle of the hot food, Bean trying to use chopsticks, the Korean language being spoken at the next table was surreal. I enjoy surprises and Huntsville was a good one.
Have you traveled through Alabama and discovered a place that just made your trip worthwhile? Share it in the comments! Next stop, Baton Rouge.