This is another guest post by Chris the Husband, Contributing Editor and all around good guy.
I don’t know a ton about cars. Or racing. But I hear that we have a super cool race track here in Birmingham. Barber Motorsports Park has a giant motorcycle museum, a road course, and tons or beautiful scenery. I highly recommend a visit.
On a recent Saturday, I took my 2 young adventurers to meet their Pop for a morning soaking up the ambiance of the Indy race weekend. The little one was in heaven. Everything with a motor – wheels, sirens, wings, etc. was seen and admired.
See! Fun, right?
Noah couldn’t get enough of it.
Ali, not so much. I’m sure these will be treasured memories.
I swear, this was not a posed photo.
Sitting down for a rest and a snack was the highlight of the day for all.
They really pull out all the stops for Indy weekend, with a fair area that included – and I’m being totally serious here – THE ferris wheel from Michael Jackson’s Neverland Ranch.
Grandstand climbing is also a featured activity.
Eventually, you do have to talk your little people into letting you put foam earplugs in their ears, because race cars, although really cool, are a lot louder than you think they will be, or want them to be.
But it was an absolutely glorious day.
After awhile, even my motorsports enthusiast was close to a breakdown, so we bailed on Barber’s and headed home for naptime.
After completing a morning of Superdad activity, I headed off for my alone time, which is pretty much always running.
I’ve documented some of my best runs, like San Diego, New York, Lake Saluda, and the Mercedes Half-Marathon, but I’ve never done my typical once-a-week local Birmingham route, which has been tried, tested, analyzed with apps for distance and elevation, and optimized in general to take in some of the best scenery available in town while maximizing trails & sidewalks and minimizing flirting with disaster on the shoulder of the road.
This route has a few variations, from 8-10 miles, and would be great for a 2 hour walk-and-talk if running wasn’t in your fun zone. I’m a pretty slow runner, and sometimes I have to turn it up to blow past the mall-walkers like I think I should. Anyway, it starts and ends at Robert Jemison Park, a common place for walking and running in the ‘Ham.
You get the trail & nature start, just to feel the breath of fresh air and the crunch of earth under your feet.
It quickly turns into sidewalks and up a hill and through pleasant neighborhoods full of more professional landscaping.
The first village (Crestline) takes you past a few open restaurants with sidewalk tables and happy eaters to remind you that they are doing the opposite of what you’re doing. This should make you feel good. Somehow.
There’s a lot of running water around Birmingham, so you can usually find a creek to look at if you need to stop for a minute and gasp for air.
After a potentially brutal hill or two you are rewarded with one of our city’s more quirky landmarks, (no offense to bare-bottomed statues of mythological dudes.) A large graffiti-painted piece of artillery…
…pointed at the city…
You catch a few glimpses of the downtown skyline along the way, and work your way through older, even nicer neighborhoods, again with professional landscaping.
This neighborhood provides a peek into Birmingham’s distant past, into homes built by turn-of-the-century iron & steel barons, scary looking dudes whose portraits hang in local attractions and name the roads & parks.
At the top of the mountain, you get the best view in town, at an elevation 330 feet higher than where you started. Luckily, its all downhill from here.
Another village (English) includes more happy sidewalk eaters, and a frozen yogurt place that hasn’t yet lured me in mid-run, but there will be a day.
Creative yard art is a hallmark of the modern south, but demanding yard art – well, that’s just awesome. Note to self, go before you run.
I end up going through the Birmingham Botanical Gardens, the most professional of professional landscaping, which brings some of the variableness to the distance. If you aren’t in a hurry or worn out yet, there are myriads of trail options to make loops around the gardens. (Bonus: a public restroom and water fountain.) This spot, in the center of the rose garden, is always inspirational to me. Something about the form of the figure on top is lighthearted and free, the way running feels when it feels like you want it to feel.
Certain seasons of the year bring hordes of well-dressed, camera toting people to the gardens. Springtime provides a flood of wedding parties, fully-loaded prom limos, Easter children, and fussy toddlers all photobombing one another. Good times.
One more village (Mountain Brook), one more ice cream shop, and one local pizza parlor that will knock you down with airborne butter if you happen to run by when the door is open. But I like the charm of it all.
Past the last wafting elegant odor of the cigar shop, the trails pick back up, and you are almost back.
One more stretch of sidewalk…
One more creek view…
One more beautiful old house…
One more Birmingham landmark (this is an actual occupied privately owned residential dwelling, with rotating water wheel)…
And one unique foot bridge, that only once I have found impassable to due high rushing water.
So there you go. I’m certain that reading about running 9 miles burns at least half the calories of actually running 9 miles, so go enjoy a treat!
If you’re interested in the exact route, here is one variation, but feel free to ask for more details.