Saturday morning we got an early start, and by 9:30 we had crossed the Mississippi River. We stopped for lunch in Tuscaloosa, Alabama (a city that made this Longhorn twitch a bit) and continued on to Birmingham.
My students study the Civil Rights movement every year, and I teach a novel that refers to the 1963 Sixteenth Street Baptist Church bombing. So when I knew we’d be driving through Birmingham, I made plans to stop there. Being able to see it for myself was really important; teaching my kid about it was priceless.
I’m not religious, but it was really powerful for me to stand in front of this structure, knowing what it represented–both as a location of an act of hatred, and a symbol of perseverance.
From there, we drove another two hours to Huntsville. Our hotel was on the grounds of the U.S. Space and Rocket Center, so after we got our stuff in our room, we walked around a bit, checking out the facility’s space shuttle, the Blackbird, and the massive Saturn V rocket.
Later in the evening, my run took me back through the rocket center’s parking lot, by now deserted.
Another runner had the same idea, and we exchanged greetings, comrades on foot in a facility built to display powerful engines. As I turned around and headed back to the hotel, I saw an amazing sight: the big Saturn rocket backlit by a fiery sunset.
The next morning, we met my friend J and her son at the airport. The boys swam in the hotel pool all morning, and after lunch they grabbed their stuff and checked in to the Habitat at Space Camp. We helped them get settled in their room, then toured the facility until it was time to say goodbye. They could not have been more excited as they ran off to their orientation.
This evening, I decided to go out for my run a little earlier since I wanted to watch Nik Wallenda walk a tightrope across the Grand Canyon. I took the same route as the evening before, and as I passed the Space Camp entrance, I smiled, knowing my kid was in there somewhere.