The Midnight Train to Birmingham

After a few weeks of noticeable silence on our part, you will be pleased to hear the hiatus is over – we’re back!

Though I’m sure you are living in suspense as to what shenanigans occupied our time during the months of October and November, rest assured that nothing too nefarious took place *insert wink.

Rather than regale you with stories of autumn past, allow me to spin another tale. A story unique and solely our own – the journey and happenings of our time in Birmingham, AL.

Like all great adventures, this particular odyssey began at the crack of dawn. After having driven 8 hours from Corpus Christi the day before, we woke up groggy but well-rested on my parent’s property in Tyler, TX. All members of the Bentley family (my family) happened to be in town, and before we took off, Joe and I, along with all other subsequent family members were treated to pancakes and bacon.

Bellies full and cups of coffee in hand, Joe and I began the 8 hour drive to Birmingham. Naturally, 8 hours ended up being more like 10 hours, but we burned the midnight oil and traversed through state lines until we arrived at our destination, Oak Mountain State Park, the largest state park in Alabama.

After traveling approximately 950 miles in one weekend, it’s safe to say we were exhausted upon arrival.

Despite the long journey, Birmingham quickly became a favorite destination. Every day Joe, the dogs, and I enjoyed hikes along the park’s trails and the peaceful silence of the forrest. In the evenings, we ventured out to various places around the city and winded down by watching the new Netflix series, Wednesday.

The weekend was when our true exploration took place.

Friday night, Joe and I partook in the city’s offerings by tasting the local brews and appreciating its fine cuisine. We went brewery hopping and gelato hunting. One of our favorite breweries we visited was Good People Brewing Company, Alabama’s oldest and largest brewery. After our patronage to this historical venue, we began our late night jaunt in search of good gelato.

1 mile later, we found the pièce de résistance of gelato, Cannella Gelato. I chose the lemon, lavender, honey and goat cheese gelato, and Joe enjoyed a butternut squash, pecan gelato that tasted like a slice of pecan pie. Needless to say, we ate well in Birmingham.

Although it’s clear we appreciated the city through our stomaches, we also took time to acknowledge the city’s deep history.

One of our most profound stops took place at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. I’m not often at a loss for words, but I find myself lacking in trying to describe the emotion we felt as we visited this national monument.

It’s impossible to pin-point the most impactful exhibit, but certainly some of the most powerful displays are the ones featuring Kelly Ingram Park and the 16th Street Baptist Church.

Prior to reaching these exhibits, the museum walls are enclosed without windows. However, as soon as you reach the Kelly Ingram Park exhibit, which details the brutality civil rights protestors faced by Birmingham police and firefighters, one of the walls disappears. In its stead, panes of floor-length windows face Kelly Ingram Park.

Looking out at the park across the street, I immediately felt chills.

Continuing on in the museum, the walls close yet again until the 16th Street Baptist Church exhibit. Suddenly, a window appears, this time facing the 16th Street Baptist Church where white supremacists detonated a bomb killing 4 young girls and injuring 22 people.

Any words I could use to describe the affect of these exhibits are inadequate, and although each exhibit in the museum was difficult to see, Joe and I are grateful for their existence.

Finally, not only did we appreciate a key cornerstone of human rights history, but also we enjoyed the world’s motorsports history. After all, to know Joe is to know his love for motorcycles!

To bask in the glory of all things motorsports related, Joe and I visited the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. This museum consists of 5 floors and a race track. Upon entry, it appears as if someone brought their childhood, hot wheel dreams to life!

There are vintage motorcycles and cars everywhere! Joe genuinely didn’t know where to look first. He continuously skirted from one motorcycle to the next, vacillated between which motorcycle was his new favorite, and took/sent pictures of each favorite motorcycle to his brother, Rick. I was 100% the third wheel! Ha!

Clearly, this destination was a hit! In Joe’s words, “This would be my aquarium. I would 100% own an annual pass to this museum if we lived here. I wish we lived here.”

It’s safe to say, we enjoyed our time in Birmingham and can’t wait until our next visit! There were several attractions we didn’t have time to see. After all, Birmingham was just a pit stop on the way to our final destination aka Savannah, GA. Stay tuned for more adventures – until next time!

Party In The U.S.A.

We have had a busy week! So busy, the change of pace has almost been a bit jarring. After all, we went from living off grid in the mountains to trying to keep up with the hustle and bustle of L.A.

In our effort to inundate ourselves with the big city, we inadvertently jam-packed our schedule with a plethora of activities. At the beginning of the week, Joe and I visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. When I found out we were staying 10 minutes away from this museum, I knew we HAD to go!

Why was I so excited about visiting a presidential library and museum? Well, growing up, almost every time I visited my grandmother (my mom’s mother) in Bryan/College Station, TX, she would take me and my siblings to the George H. W. Bush Presidential Library. I suppose presidential libraries are just synonymous with my childhood! So, naturally, when I saw we were close to a presidential library and museum, I told Joe that visiting was a top priority!

Admittedly, it also doesn’t hurt that I’m a bit of a history buff and was excited to see if the library and museum had a piece of the Berlin Wall. After all, Reagan is famous for his speech where he challenges Soviet Leader Gorbachev to “tear down this wall!” In case you were wondering and much to my awe, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library DOES have a piece of the Berlin Wall, and it was so surreal to both see it and touch it.

Not only is the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library home to a piece of the Berlin Wall but also to Air Force One. I may or may not have squealed after seeing it because not only did we get to see it, but also we got to go inside it!

No pictures are allowed inside the famous plane, but a museum employee was setup at the entrance to take visitors’ pictures. I have included a few of the pictures taken by various museum employees during our visit to the presidential library and museum below. Feel free to laugh at our expense – the pictures are far too reminiscent of cringe-worthy family photos from the 70’s/80’s that you see plastered all over the internet!

Despite the high definition yet low quality pictures, touring the inside of Air Force One was incredible! Various curators are stationed throughout the plane, and their expertise allowed us to fully experience and appreciate Air Force One’s monumental impact and history.

I could honestly write an entire blog post about our visit to the Reagan Presidential Library, but it is only one of our many stops from this past week! I have much more to write about!

A few days after our presidential library and museum visit, Joe’s brother, Rick, and his family took us to Hollywood! From national history to the entertainment industry’s history – history is history, am I right? Ha!

Joking aside, we had a blast! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the Walk of Fame, placing my hands in the handprints of Hollywood stars at the Chinese Theatre, having a family photo op at the Hollywood Wax Museum, and competing with different family members in various challenges at the Guinness World Records Museum. We stayed out way too late laughing and enjoying each others company!

Though we stayed out late, Joe and Rick were awake bright and early the next day to do some work on our towing vehicle aka the Burb.

“It should only take an hour and a half, 3 hours tops” – famous last words from Joseph Garcia.

Let’s just say 3 hours turned into 10 hours…but hey! Joe and Rick worked everything out, and by the end of the day, Joe was bringing me street tacos and a new and improved Suburban! It wouldn’t be a Garcia family get together if the men weren’t working on some sort of project!

So, that was it, right? Presidential Library, Hollywood, and Rick’s garage? Nope! This week held one more stop! Camp Pendleton.

Yep. Saying we had a busy week was no exaggeration!

My cousin, Evan is a marine stationed at Camp Pendleton, and we were too close not to make the drive to see him!

We met for Sunday brunch and afterward, Joe and I piled into Evan’s car so that he could drive us around Oceanside and give us a tour of Pendleton! It was beautiful, intimidating, and amazing. Joe and I couldn’t help but feel a sense of national pride and gratitude as we toured the base.

After driving around Pendleton, Joe, Evan, and I went downtown in search of ice cream and to spend more time with each other. Both ice cream parlors we attempted to visit were closed so we found a doughnut shop and ate doughnuts as well as drank iced coffee outside as we enjoyed the sunny, breezy afternoon.

It was so good seeing Evan – who knew California would turn into such a family stop?

We have one more week in the L.A. area before we make our way north for Joe’s work conference. Who’s to say what this week will hold?

Who knows! But Joe and I are enjoying time with family as we make the most of California.

Until next time!