Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Travel Tuesday - Sweet Home Alabama

This week Harlequin Presents/Mills and Boon Modern author Kimberly Lang takes us on vacation to her home state - Alabama!

Sing with me now… “Sweet Home Alabama / Where the skies are so blue…”

What? ~blinks innocently~ You mean Alabama isn’t on your top 10 Places to See Before You Die list?

You know, as much as everyone loves to sing along to that song, you’d think more people would want to come visit. Alas, they never do. Alabama has an image problem – rednecks, racism, religion – that tends to put a lot of folks off of our fair state.

But I live in Alabama by choice, and it would take a lot to pry me out of here. Forget what you think you know about Alabama, and let me tell you a little about my (red)neck of the woods.

If you like the outdoors, you’ll love Alabama. Our summers are long, hot and sunny – perfect for enjoying our million acres of lakes and 1,600 miles of rivers. We also have 32 miles of amazing, relaxing white sand beaches on the Gulf of Mexico. Oh, and we have a bay too. Alabama is known for its hunting and fishing (we even have a “Bass Trail”), and golfers from all over come to play the Robert Trent Jones Trail’s eleven championship -caliber courses. Twenty State Parks offer hiking, camping, biking, and all the Nature loving you could want.

Granted it doesn’t snow very often around here, but that doesn’t stop us from making our own snow and skiing in Mentone. And those mild winters means you can enjoy almost all outdoor sports year-round.

If, like me, you’re not really that in to the great outdoors, we can still find plenty for you to do. If you’re a science geek, come see the US Space and Rocket Center. That’s up in Huntsville (near me; I can see the Saturn rocket from my neighborhood), where the NASA /Marshall Space Flight Center is located. Yeah, we put men on the moon. Still do. And after visiting the Air and Space Museum in DC this summer, I think the USSRC is much better. Seriously.

If you like the arts, you can see The Miracle Worker performed at Helen Keller’s birthplace, Ivy Green – and you’re sitting just yards away from the pump where Annie Sullivan spelled WATER into Helen’s hand. Watch To Kill A Mockingbird in the old Monroe County Courthouse in Harper Lee’s hometown. We also have The Alabama Shakespeare Theatre in Montgomery – even the folks in Stratford-Upon-Avon admit it’s an awesome place. I may be a little biased, but our ballet company is pretty awesome, too.

Just the literary history here should give you the shivers – Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Zelda Fitzgerald, Fannie Flagg, Zora Neale Hurston, W.E.B. Griffin, Winston Groom, to name only a few. And let’s not forget Linda Howard, Beverly Barton, Linda Winstead Jones, Rhonda Nelson, Kira Sinclair, Lynn Raye Harris, and, ahem, Kimberly Lang.

If you’re a music lover, we can offer you the Blues in Florence (the birthplace of WC Handy), the Jazz Hall of Fame in Birmingham, opera at the Dothan Opera House, Hank Williams, and everything in between.

And, no, we can’t – and we don’t try to -- forget our place in the Civil Rights Movement: Rosa Parks, the march from Selma to Montgomery, Martin Luther King, Jr’s “Letter From the Birmingham Jail.” The 16th Street Baptist Church –the site of the bombing that killed four innocent children -- is open to visitors. You can walk in the park where Bull Conner turned hoses and dogs loose on protestors. But Birmingham is also the home of the Civil Rights Institute , a testament to how far Alabama has come.

Alabama has a wine trail, a coon dog cemetery , a boll weevil festival (yep, that’s a kind of insect) , and the oldest Mardi Gras celebration in the US .

And every April, we gather at the FloraBama bar on the Alabama/Florida state line and see who can throw a fish called a mullet the farthest into Florida.

See, there’s so much more to Alabama than you thought. Y’all come see us!

You can learn lots more about two other Southern states in Kimberly’s September Modern Heat. Magnate’s Mistress…Accidentally Pregnant! takes place on Georgia/South Carolina coast.


  1. Kimberly, I'm in awe, a coon dog cemetery and a boll weevil festival? Wow! My brain is boggling. I suppose it shouldn't. After all, here in Australia one of our most famous boat races is held in a dry desert river where the boats don't have bottoms, just lots of legs! Maybe we've got something in common with Alabama.



  2. My gosh, you forgot our contribution to world religions -- football!

    I am not a native of this state but have lived here longer than anywhere else. I'm not planning to move any time soon either. Our north Alabama area is beautiful. We're at the end of the Appalachian mountains and have some tiny mountains here. We have four distinct seasons but still a fairly moderate climate. And because of the space program, the military, the research part (second largest in the country) and the universities, we have a very international and multi-cultural population.

    I've never seen the Coon Dog cemetery or the Boll Weevil monument. Perhaps I need to make a field trip.


  3. Annie -- I'd love to see that race.

    PM- Um, I don't know a lot about football, so that would be a very short discussion. I was already stretching myself to talk about all those outdoor activities. (I'm an indoor girl myself!)

  4. I'm still snickering over our mullet conversation. You just gotta wonder how some of these things start.

  5. OK Kimberley, you've convinced me - I'm packing my bags right now.....

  6. I think we need a field trip for the mullet throwing...I've never been. How have I missed that all my life?

    I'm also not a native of Alabama but after 23 years I have no problems calling it home. I've come to love it - and the people that share it with me!

    Kira Sinclair

    P.S. Thanks for including me in that impressive list, Kimberly

  7. Sweet Home Alabama indeed! Woohoo!

    I'm not a native Alabamian, but I am a native Southerner, so I feel just fine claiming Alabama as my home after 3 years of living here. It's an awesome, awesome place. I knew about the Coon Dog cemetery, but had no clue about that mullet throwing contest. Whoa.

    Like Kira, I'm a bit humbled to be included on that list of writers. :) But I'm not sure I'd be where I am right now without my Alabama peeps!

  8. Kim,

    I am so coming to your neck of the woods next year on my next road trip... I've visited North and South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Georgia and Arkansas and Louisiana, so how the heck did I miss it?? BTW are there any good Soul Food places you could recommend, I do love to fill up on collard greens and cornbread when I'm down South.

  9. Heidi -- soul food abounds. Have you ever had deep fried pickles? Or fried green tomatoes? (You can have my collard greens though. ~shudder~)

    Sarah -- look me up! I'll give you the grand tour!

  10. Wow! We really do have something good going on 'round heya.

    Add in Big Spring Jam, Caverns to explore (but if you've seen the movie Descent, you might have second thoughts about spielunking), and The Trail of Tears.

    Can I get a Condolessa Rice? Channing Tatum? Tallulah Bankhead? Nelly?

    Yeah, it is a sweet home now that you mention it, Kimberly. :)

  11. Hi Kimberly,
    Never been to Alabama, but now I know what I've been missing. I would love to visit the US Space and Rocket Center.

  12. And don't forget Paula Graves, Harlequin Intrigue writer!!