SEC Media Days: The Road to Birmingham

It took exactly seven hours for Chris Chmielenski and me to drive from Gainesville to the Wynfrey Hotel in Hoover, Ala. for this year's SEC Football Media Days which are about to get underway. There's some interesting stuff about this journey, especially when taken with a novice who had NEVER visited the state of Alabama.

We came by way of Marianna, Fla., through Dothan and Montgomery to make it to lovely, suburban Birmingham. We hit one of the nastiest, blinding rainstorms and two other beauties along the way, but we made it.

Now Chris is a Connecticut Yankee, I'm from New York City. Neither one of us is exactly in his element here in the cradle of the confederacy. But the difference is I had made this trip many times while all Chris new about Alabama was that they had a new football coach. Boy did he learn a lot in these seven hours.

BBQ abounds ----- Chris was taken aback about how every town we went through might have a couple of churches, a couple of banks and service stations and eight BBQ restaurants. They came in all sizes, shapes and styles but they all smelled great --- on the outside at least.

Pigs have other uses ----- We saw a metal pig high atop a sign somewhere south of Montgomery. (Although there isn't any place truly south of Montgomery!) The pig on the sign would have made sense, if it were a sign advertising a BBQ restaurant. We couldn't figure out why a gigantic porkie would top a sign for a flea market, hardware store and real estate office.

Stars and Bars ----- They fly the flag a lot around here and the wear it on their vehicles as well. I suspect Chris saw more confederate flags today than he had in his first 30 or so years combined.

Never ending stories ----- Chris had to learn the painful lesson that I have a story about every Podunk town along the way. I told him about meeting Hattie B. Johnson in Ozark, Ala. who two decades ago offered to "pleasure" the venerable Otis Boggs for a buck. I told him about the BBQ joint in Dothan that didn't serve Unsweetened Iced Tea because, as the waitress told me years back, they didn't know how to make it un-sweet. He was regaled by those stories. Well, truth be told he nodded off after failing in an attempt to strangle himself with his seat belt shoulder strap. I'm okay though, I got plenty more for the drive home!

They love "W" ----- Unlike Gainesville where most people with "W-04" bumper stickers have been scraping them off for months, our President is certainly popular here in Alabama. I was going to stop a few and ask why they are still supportive, but they all had gun racks.

This concludes Chris Chmielenski's introduction to the state to our north and west. We'll have to wait and see how he adjusts over the next few days.

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