Deep South Tour:  Birmingham
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June 10th

Cathedral Caverns
First stop: Alabama's famous Cathedral Caverns. (By the way, searching for that link turned up a ton of caving sites on the Web... who knew?) Our guide went to great lenghts to reinforce one point: to their knowledge, Cathdral Caverns is the largest commercially operated cave in the world. With the double caveats I'm not sure how impressed to be, but for sure it was a big cave. The mouth is 80 feet by 120 feet. The formations inside were not as beautiful as those I've seen elsewhere. This is a place where size matters. Their centerpiece formation is a really huge column, a stalactite that met a stalagmite and kept on growing. Here's a (slightly enhanced) picture of some of the formations:
Cathedral Caverns Rock Formations

You didn't think we'd miss the Princess Leia photo did you?
Tatooine? In A Blackout?

After that we completed the long drive to Birmingham, where we scored another fine barbecue meal at Dreamland Barbecue. We finished off with a relaxing evening in the pleasant Five Points South area of town.

June 11th

Civil Rights Institute,
16th Street Baptist,
Kelly Ingram Park
& Sloss Furnaces
First thing in the morning we visited the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. They offer another take on the civil rights museum, where we were interested to see that one of the guys we met while visiting the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery had participated in the Birmingham children's crusade. He appeared in a video retrospective as part of one of the exhibits. At the end of the tour we stopped in at an unusually good exhibition of art by students in an area graduate program. The Civil Rights Institute is located right across the street from two landmarks of the civil rights struggle in Birmingham. The first is the 16th Street Baptist Church, which is the church that became a national icon in 1963 after Klansmen set off a bomb that damaged the church and killed four young girls. (This was part of over 50 such racially motivated attacks that earned the city the nickname "Bombingham".)
16th Street Baptist Church

Across a different street lies Kelly Ingram Park, which became internationally infamous when Public Safety Commissioner Bull Connor had his men open the fire hoses and loose police dogs on children marching in protest of segregation.
Kelly Ingram Park

Next we took a tour of the Sloss Furnaces, which for years was one of the largest employers in Birmingham, supplying pig iron for making steel. The remaining structures are very cool to look at, and I'm sure would make great material for a serious photographer. (At the official Sloss Furnaces Web site you can even download a screen saver of photographs. You also get great results with a search for Sloss images at Google.) You could argue that these pictures belong on our Photo Tour of Southern Industry, but we think they're interesting enough to merit a place here as well.

Here's a rusty old earth mover with spare scoopers:
Doesn't This Remind You Of Some Children's Story?

Here's another shot of the scooper:
Which Children's Story Is It? Hmmm...

The water tower:

That's The Furnace

We strolled all over the grounds:
By The Tracks

Chris At Sloss

After that we got hungry and headed over for a big "meat-and-three" lunch at Niki's West. And then we headed north again. We spent the night at a little place on Lewis Smith Lake in the William B Bankhead National Forest.

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