Thursday, March 10, 2016

In Search of Champions in Tuscaloosa, Alabama

Those college football fans among us will recognize the importance of a little place called Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Home of the University of Alabama, it is also home to the most recent college football champions. Since we are staying just a short drive from there, we had to spend some time in town exploring and searching for that new national championship trophy. The obvious place to search was the football stadium.

But they haven't yet updated the bragging rights on the sidewalk outside the stadium for this year's championship. In fact, they are two national championships behind as neither the 2012 or 2015 wins have been added to the stadium plaza.

So Mark climbed up beside the football players statue for the obligatory photo op in front of the stadium entrance. Denisa snapped the picture, knowing that she could later crop out that couple on the far right that was taking a photo on the steps at the same time.

That's about the time that he whipped out an engagement ring, and asked her to spend the rest of her life cheering on their favorite football team together. There were several shouts of "Roll Tide!" as their friends gave their support when she tearfully said, "Yes!" So we had to include another picture of the newly engaged couple.

After all that excitement, the next stop on our tour was the Denny chimes.  Built in 1929, it chimes every 15 minutes to keep those coeds on time as they have walked across campus for the last 86 years.
It has been a campus tradition to memorialize the football team's captain in cement in the "walk of fame" surrounding the bell tower. Some of these guys were huge. The co-captain from 2011 had a foot print that was almost twice as big as Denisa's.

We also had to find the block commemorating Joe Namath's last season at the University of Alabama. You will notice that Broadway Joe's hand and foot prints seem to be different. We read that the original prints were stolen. We're still trying to envision how one would shoplift a piece of cement from the busy quad in the middle of campus.

A walk across campus is a tour of buildings made of red bricks and trimmed in limestone, accessorized with lots of columns. It's a beautiful common theme for a hike on a nice blue-sky day.

We also stopped in at the Paul William Bryant Museum on campus. Denisa didn't recognize that name until she heard his nickname--"Bear" Bryant. We learned that he earned that nickname when he actually wrestled a bear when he was a young man. As an adult, he coached the University of Alabama to six national championships in the 25 years he was the head coach. He earned a record of 323 wins and only 85 losses during his coaching career, with 13 conference championships and 46 All-American players.

Surprisingly, this museum was not just about the "Bear," but about all things Alabama football. There was one of the first team uniforms from the 1906 season . . .

there was an elephant mascot costume, with an explanation of how a team from Alabama came to be called the elephants . . .

and an authentic "Roll Tide" that any fan would be proud to take to the game, displayed with a close-up of Bear Bryant wearing one of his iconic hats.

We learned a lot about the University of Alabama and its traditions at the museum, and we heard the phrase "Roll Tide!" shouted by students several times while we were on campus. 

On our tour of Tuscaloosa, we also bought some goodies at the Saturday morning farmer's market next to the river.

Mark was excited about the banana bread and oatmeal cookies we bought, and the white chocolate cheesecake we sampled. He was all right with the sweet potatoes and tomatoes we purchased. But he's not a fan of the kale Denisa bought. She had a recipe for kale chips to make in our convection oven, and she was pretty sure it would be our new favorite healthy snack. Mark has not embraced kale chips yet.

We also went on a bike ride on the paved trail that runs parallel with the Black Warrior River that meanders through town. Just across the street from the university with over 30,000 students, we're pretty sure that most of them were walking on the trail on this beautiful day.

Once we got a few miles from campus, the trail got less congested, and we got more views of the river and its old bridges.

We love spending time in a college town, and this one was fun. We never found that new championship football trophy, but we could sense the unity and pride of this small city with a big football team.

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