Sunday, June 30, 2013

Day 42 - Birmingham & Mobile

The state capitol of Alabama is Montgomery. This is the front of the State Capitol Building

View of the main street that leads into downtown Montgomery, Alabama from the State Capitol building steps.

There are may State Capitol office buildings surrounding the main domed building. Montgomery, Alabama

There are 50 flags surrounding this park that represents all the states of America. Located next to the Montgomery State Capitol 

Alabama's State Capitol building from a side view

One of the many unusual buildings around the State Capitol Building in Montgomery, Alabama

We touched into the Florida's panhandle counties. The main city is Pensacola. This city is well known for the Naval Air Station run by the USN. It is also on the waterfront of a bay that fronts the Gulf of Mexico. This is a shaded avenue that leads into a picnic ground near a bay side park

We drove from Florida into Alabama again when we noticed this store - pretty close to the Florida side of the border. Because it is the 4th of July on Thursday many warehouses are selling crackers. Interestingly many buildings such as these are located outside city limits - just in case somebody decides to light up a fag and therefore collateral damage may be restricted.  

The USS Alabama located in Mobile, Alabama. This huge battleship is awesome. We have never seen anything as huge as this. The ship was commissioned in February 1942 and seen many hard fought battles throughout WW2

A good side view of the awesome vessel. The picture shows a DC3 aircraft dwarfed by this battleship in Mobile, Alabama

We reckon the USS Alabama is going nowhere. This is one of the main propellers. Located next to the entrance in Battleship Park, Mobile Alabama

Anne is hunting down those kamikaze's on board the USS Alabama with her 50 cal. Note the wooden decking.

Besides being extremely long in length, the USS Alabama is considerably wide. This is a good view from the stern looking back

USS Alabama's rear 16" guns

When the USS Alabama was commissioned in 1942 she had to be fitted with many anti-aircraft guns to combat the Japanese suicide planes. Therefore many guns were located all along midships.

Those 16" barrels were deadly. Taken from the bow of the USS Alabama

From the deck of the USS Alabama looking towards Mobile. A B-52 is on display next to the car park. Ralph is in there on the right - hard to see because he is tucked between big cars.

Scaling up ladders on the USS Alabama is hard exercise for us. This is  a port side view taken as we are climbing to the bridge

A view of the bow from the bridge of the USS Alabama

A B-25 on display at the Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile

The Battleship Memorial Park at Mobile Alabama also has an aircraft display. This is a F-16 Falcon fighter jet.

A big surprise a "Blackbird" spy plane. A beautiful piece of machinery. This is the second aircraft of this type we have seen on our US holiday. Located in Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile Alabama

A Navy A-6 Intruder Aircraft inside the Aircraft display building, Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile

The USS Drum a WW2 submarine. Located in Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile, Alabama

View of the USS Drum from the bow.

It was a good reminder that we are in "gator" territory. In Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile

The "Blackbird" was made up of special metals to withstand the high temperatures at high altitudes. Located in the aircraft display at Battleship Memorial Park, Mobile

For a final photograph a side superstructure view of the mighty USS Alabama.

It was an early start today and we headed south to the capitol of Alabama - Montgomery. The city was almost deserted except for a few African-American church goers who were attending their Baptist Sunday services. We stood on the upper step of the capitol building and noticed a star embedded into the top step. Apparently this is the same spot where Jefferson Davies was made President of the Confederate States of America in 1861. From Montgomery we diverted from the main expressway and turned off into the panhandle district in Florida. We made Pensacola for lunch and sat at a picnic ground next to the bay. There was nothing much to see at Pensacola so we headed west to Mobile. Now this made us enter Alabama again. We were ten miles short of our intended destination where the USS Alabama is on display we came face to face with a Sunday expressway traffic snarl. There was an accident that slowed us down for about an half hour. Nevertheless we made it to the Battleship Memorial Park in Mobile and came upon the battleship USS Alabama. The ship wasn't commissioned until after the Pearl Harbor affair, however she did see many battles throughout the war. The ship is enormous and the weaponry that she had carried. Her main firepower were her 16" guns and the many 40mm bofors that straddled all around her superstructure. There were 50 cal guns at the bow. Imagine when those 16" guns were firing and the sailors who had to man those bow guns - it would be deafening. Also at the park there were several war birds on display. The best was the Blackbird spy plane. Also there is the WW2 submarine the USS Drum. We spent a good two hours in the park and after found our motel in Mobile at 4:30 pm. It was a hot day and good to settle in our room. It will be a short drive to New Orleans tomorrow. We will drive along the coast and view the Gulf of Mexico. They say that their beaches are golden. Yet to be compared with our beautiful Aussie beaches. We are in New Orleans for four nights. We are looking forward to our two tours during our stay there AND IT IS ANNE'S BIRTHDAY ON THE FOURTH OF JULY.  Neil is asking from all Anne's friends to send her a happy birthday message. Cheers 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Day 41 - Nashville - Birmingham

As we crossed over into Alabama from Tennessee we were very close to Huntsville in Alabama. Huntsville is America's home of rocketry and builds all NASA's spacecraft. This is a Saturn Rocket that could have taken an Apollo crew to the moon - it's huge. Located in the Visitor's Rest Area near Athens, Alabama

The hot end of the Saturn Rocket on display near Athens, Alabama. A six-footer could easily walk under the nozzles without hitting his/her head

The Vulcan Tower at Vulcan Park, Birmingham, Alabama. The statue of Vulcan represents the iron and steel history of Birmingham

Birmingham from the top of the Vulcan Tower.

Looking directly down from the Vulcan Tower. The map represents Birmingham and its outlining suburbs

The "rear" end of the Vulcan statue on Vulcan park, Birmingham

There are actually two towers - the one that has the statue of Vulcan has only 159 stairs leading to the top. The other tower is the elevator easy way up.

Located in the disused Sloss Factory near the centre of Birmingham, Alabama. How to make old rusted piping to art form

The old Sloss Blast Furnace near the centre of Birmingham. The product of this furnace was to make slag which was the basis for making roads. 

The disused Sloss Factory, Birmingham, Alabama

It's Saturday afternoon and the centre of Birmingham is almost deserted - no road traffic at all. It is hot day today and many African-Americans use this park to play cards, play chess or just relax in the cool shade.

The Birmingham Court House in the background.

The water from the fountain in the background cascades down to this pool. Located in the main park in the centre of Birmingham, Alabama

We had a 40 minutes lesson on the West Coast Swing (our sixth so far). Michael our teacher gave us some pointers on our routine, however we still need to practice the beat and the elasticity that is inherit for this dance. Photo taken at the Magic City Dance Studio, Vestavia Hills, Birmingham

Look what they done to our! Taken inside the Outback Restaurant at Homewood, Birmingham. Can anybody see what is wrong with this flag????

We left Nashville at 8:30 pm after a brief issue with the reception girl at the Holiday Inn. When we checked-in three days ago we paid $73 USD for three days parking at their underground facility - well this "Valerie" tried to charge us again using our credit card and still insisted even after explaining that we have a receipt. We had to retrieve this document and she tacitly accused us of trying to run off without paying this outrageous parking fee. Luckily another reception girl solved this problem and we left annoyed. Most Holiday Inn hotels have great staff but a few such as the one in Nashville are different. It's all about money!!! Our journey south was a four hour journey and upon entering Alabama came upon a tall and white monstrosity. It was a Saturn rocket that could have been used in the Apollo Space program. The photo above does not show the true size of this rocket. We made it to a quiet Birmingham city and visited the Vulcan Park with its tall tower. Also toured the old and now disused Sloss (Slag) refinery. Birmingham on a Saturday afternoon is very quiet and almost deserted town. The history of Birmingham is about steel and one incident back in the 60's a one  black woman named Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus with the other blacks and caused a Civil Right incident. Now Rosa's name is plastered all over the major city streets in recognition of her resentment to discrimination. After touring Birmingham we have checked in to our hotel which is located a few miles south of the city. At 5:30 pm we had a West Cost Swing lesson with Michael at the Magic City Dance Studio. This is our 6th lesson and our sequence routine works. All we need to do now is make it look like the West Coast Swing. Had dinner in a Ozzie Restaurant call Outback. They have great ribs and meat dishes but they do not know the Aussie flag. We are heading further south tomorrow and will hit the Gulf of Mexico. We'll just pass through Florida's panhandle and eventually return to Alabama at Mobile. Until then cheers.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Day 40 - Nashville

Along Broadway, Nashville. This is the poster printing place that has been operating for decades. This company has the monopoly on the Grand Ole Opry and concert posters. Their posters go for a tidy sum and are collector items

The working end of the poster printing workshop along Broadway Nashville. The guide didn't know what the trade "compositors" are? 

Some old posters that relive the past in the Poster Printing place, Nashville

Minnie Pearl on the right, we can't remember the name of the gentleman on the left. Nevertheless, These two musicians were the mainstay of the old..old Grand Ole Opry (now Ryman Auditorium). Nashville, Tennessee. They were active during the 40's and 50's.

Us, inside the Ryman Auditorium, Nashville

Anne and walking guide - right on the sport where the Everly Brothers were discovered. Also the archway is the backstage exit for singers such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Loretta Lynn, Hank Williams etc etc. It was just ten steps away to enter the rear entrance to bars and clubs and continue their music to the public 

What you can't find in country & western, bluegrass, blues etc - it doesn't exist. The myriads of CD, vinyls, DVDs in the Ernest Tubb Record Shop of Nashville

The front wall of the Music Hall of Fame, Nashville. Notice the piano keys on the wall?

He's over 80 year old and lives in Nashville. The star walk of fame in Nashville

The photo was taken on the spot of Little Richard's walk of fame star. The building is the Nashville Hilton. On the top is Little Richard's private and permanent penthouse suite - complete with servants and butler.

Almost next to our Holiday Inn Hotel - The Nashville High School building. Dinah Shore was a graduate from here.

Prior to the radio show starting the inside of the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville, Tennessee

Minnie Pearl was an past Grand Ole Opry performer. Her style of presentation still goes on in the radio show. This is a impersonator prior to the show's commencement. Minnie Pearl's trade mark was the price tag hanging down her hat

The first performer is the "Riders In The Sky". Great Tennessee music at its best. At the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville

We were near the stage in the Grand Ole Opry. The group performing is the "Riders In The Sky"

An excellent singer in the Grand Ole Opry "Craig Campbell". We bought his CD album.

True Hillbilly music from the group led by "Mike Snider". At the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville

Our highlight star of the evening "B.J. Thomas" singing an old favourite. His main hit was "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head". At the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville

An old Opry performer "Whispering Bill Anderson" at the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville

A new star and her debut at the Grand Ole Opry, Nashville - "Ashley Monroe".

We had a walking tour of downtown Nashville this morning. A private guide who told us the gossip end of Nashville's musical history. We visited the old buildings along Broadway and the Ryman Auditorium. It lasted for 90 minutes and was just okay. We now know a fair bit of history of Tennessee's famous musicians. Interestingly, Elvis only played once in the Grand Ole Opry - he wasn't impressed over some incident and never went back. That was back in 1954. Nevertheless, he is in the Hall of Fame. We returned to our hotel for a afternoon break and it looks as though it will rain with the storm clouds developing. We were picked-up from our hotel at 5:30 pm for our Grand Ole Opry show. Now for those who do not know what this famous show is about. It is a "live" radio show that has been going since 1925....yes...since 1925. It is the world's longest radio show. The audience is part of the two hour show and they have advertisements. The radio is 650 WSM and is broadcasted all around the world. Who performs there? Just about the majority of American country & western singers who made it big in the music world. New talent are invited with hopes that they will reach stardom. All performers stand on a spot on the stage made of special timber that was made in 1925. The timber is circular and the theory is that circles never end therefore so does the performer who stands on this sacred piece of timber. It is the aim of an upcoming artist to hold the distinction of standing on this spot. The two hour show is "on air" and has not change in its style since 1925. We watched an old singer "B.J. Thomas" sing an old favourite and enjoyed a song by "Craig Campbell". The last song was performed by "Jerrod Niemann" who the crowd loudly cheered and he introduced 30 Williams Disease sufferers called "Music Campers". It was an emotional experience and congratulations to Jerrod in training these kids and have them on stage. Experiencing a show at the Grand Ole Opry was one of the best things to do in Nashville. Tomorrow we are of to Birmingham in Alabama and venturing into the deep south. Should be about a three hour drive and we will sadly miss Nashville. Cheers.