We left the house at 1pm on Friday and drove the 6 hours to Vicksburg, MS. We stayed at the Ameristar Casino hotel. We checked in and went to get Wendy's for dinner and spent more time there than we would have liked due to two guys getting arrested in the parking lot for fighting.
In the morning we had to take the shuttle bus from the hotel down to the large riverboat style casino for breakfast. The hotel provided us with complementary breakfast buffet tickets for the morning. So bright and early Saturday morning we get down to the lobby and get on the bus. We spoke with some really nice people arriving for work at the casino. The advertisements for all of the games, the big prizes (a 2007 Pontiac Solstice), and Bill Engvall who is going to perform there next week, were all over the place. We entered in..and right onto the casino floor. The breakfast buffet was upstairs. Through the casino. So the security guard showed us the way to the escalator ensuring that we didn't violate state and federal law by plugging a quarter into a slot machine with a three-year-old in arms.
The breakfast was ok, but we were glad we didn't pay full prive for it. So after having security call back down and escort us out of the casino (you would think that a place attempting to be more "family friendly" would treat people better than that) we walked around the welcome station overlooking the river and were on our way.
After seeing 30 miles of bumper to bumper traffic flowing in to Tuscaloosa coming from Birmingham for the Iron Bowl game between Alabama and Auburn (luckily going the other way) we arrived in Birmingham about 1:00pm. Coming in on I-20 into the city, you veer around a small hill and then have a large view of the downtown nestled in the valley. We saw our good friends Chris and Anissa Hatcher and met their beautiful son, Nolan Zachary (Zach) who will be 18 months in a couple of weeks. They took us to a great BBQ place (southern pulled pork sandwich!) and we walked around the five points area of Birmingham. There is lots of redevelopment occuring in Birmingham as the economy has improved in the area the past several years. Like other major cities, you see where many buildings have regentrified for downtown loft and condo living. As we were walking down the street, Alex and Zach both took my hand and I felt great that these two awesome humans liked me! They chased each other around. Zach has no fear about people which is nice in some situations, but not so when there are some panhandlers around!
We ended our vist with the Hatchers by following them to their new house/redevelopment project located if I remember correctly in the Norwood Neighborhood. The house was originally constructed in the 1900s and has a full -size basement running along the entirity of the house. The Hatchers have spent a lot of time with the local redevelopment-organization as a pilot project for the neighborhood. There have been many setbacks (they were supposed to be in the house in June) but hopefully they will be in soon after Thanksgiving. I worked with Chris in Denton several years ago, before he moved back to his native Birmingham. It was terrific seeing him and his beautiful family. We are really blessed in this life to have friends in which we don't see for years and can pick up the friendship right where we left off.
We left Birmingham about 3pm and drove almost non-stop (once in Atlanta for gas and bathroom break) to South Carolina. I really felt like we were getting there once we reached Augusta, GA at the GA/SC border.
This morning the Rentzes have gone to church and we're relaxing. This evening, Meredith's cousin Rachel, Brooksie's college roomate and her husband are visiting for dinner. More photos to come!