The Road Home: Birmingham

It's not just another Southern Hipster Town with a Cochon Butcher.

By Hala Daher March 29, 2016

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Downtown Birmingham by dusk.

Image: Shutterstock

This is the second in a 5-part series on a road trip from Houston to the author’s hometown of Detroit.

What possessed me to take a road trip cross-country? I'm impatient. I hate driving. I have a tiny bladder. But I also have a car full of stuff to move from Houston to Michigan and a strong desire to travel. Someone once told me I was a beautiful ship in a safe harbor. I want to see as much of the world as I can and I'm constantly filled with wanderlust. A road trip through New Orleans, Birmingham, Nashville, Louisville and Columbus would quench a bit of that thirst. I've been to New Orleans and Louisville before. It's the other cities I haven't experienced yet.

I didn't really know anything about Birmingham before my trip. Everyone in Houston I asked about it just questioned me back, "Isn't it racist?" One person said, "I think it's become one of those Southern Hipster towns. They have a Cochon Butcher now." I guess that's the mark of a cool Southern city; it has a Cochon Butcher. Truthfully, I didn't have high hopes for a good time in Birmingham and figured it would just be a quick stop between New Orleans and Nashville.

I rolled into town around 8 p.m. after driving all day in pretty terrible weather, exhausted with no energy for anything more than a quick bite and sleep. I woke up the next day to an overcast sky and a strong desire to move my body. I guess being cooped up in a car for so long will do that to you.

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The Japanese Gardens in Birmingham's own Botanical Gardens.

I'm also the only person you know who started a new fitness regimen just as she hit the road for a week long road trip, but lucky for me the Birmingham Botanical Gardens was just down the street from my hotel. Bonus: It has a 2-mile trail that, I read online as I drank my coffee, will take me through the whole garden. I put on my work out clothes and running shoes and hit the pavement. The gardens were beautiful. So beautiful, in fact, I kept getting distracted from my workout to take photos throughout the whole 2 miles.

From the Botanical Gardens, I was surprised to see Birmingham was all hills and tall trees. I decided then and there that instead of exploring yet another Southern Hipster Town with a Cochon Butcher, I would stick to the outskirts and do something outdoors. As I've gotten older, my desire to be around nature has grown exponentially. This is pretty strange considering I'm kind of prissy and into the comforts of air conditioning and luxe hotel rooms.

But these days, whenever I travel, I try to find spots to hike or swim. It's why I love being in L.A. so much—being able to visit Runyon Canyon and the Pacific Ocean while still getting a big city vibe. I've started to enjoy these activities so much, I feel like it's time I moved to a city that could offer them to me regularly. (I'm still not down with camping, though; I'd rather die than camp.)

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An abandoned mine in Red Mountain Park, Birmingham's new urban park that's larger than Central Park in NYC.

The Red Mountain Park was nearby and a surprising treat, full of activities like zip lining, treehouses, "adventure" towers, hiking trails and abandoned mines. I saw signs for a dog park and for grazing goats. Anyone who knows me knows how much I love goats; therefore, my primary goal on my hike became finding a goat to and pet and/or kidnap. My other goal was to get to Grace's Cap to catch a glimpse of downtown Birmingham from the overlook.

Unfortunately the trail leading to the overlook was closed and the weather had started to turn. I finished a short 3-mile hike just as it started to rain, missing out on both my goals. By then it was time to drive 200 miles to Nashville and just like the previous day, the rainy skies weren't exactly kind to this little roadtripper.

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