Thursday, July 18, 2013

Roundhouse and Where the Road Ends

      Surprises are nice. You call to make an exchange with a friend, a cancellation later and a hand-off becomes a ride and a ride becomes a time machine and a history lesson. Birmingham is having a big resurgence but the good fortune doesn't blanket the entire city. There are still parts that are destined to burn. This abandoned roundhouse is one of them.
     Don is full of bright ideas and cool places to go. People like him are what makes Bamarides so great. No matter how many miles you have under your belt, there is always someone who can show you something you've never seen or teach you something you didn't know. He said the word Roundhouse and I was in. A fan and tourist of urban exploration, I had seen tell of this structure and was stoked to check it out it in person.
      As we landed in the general area, we were unsure of the exact location of our destination. I soaked in some sun on the side of a gas station cooling with a Pepsi while my navigator searched his GPS, unsuccessfully, and then his head for the path. We asked some colorful characters at a detailing business for directions and even followed one red herring but it was luck and attention that got us there.
     A little internet sleuthing revealed that this structure was built in 1915. The house and turntable were used for servicing up to 25 steam engines or locomotives. The railroad left town in 1952 presumably taking the turntable with it. It was later expanded and used as a warehouse and hub for shipping and receiving. It is dusty, creepy and full of debris and sketchy to ride through. At one point we heard noises and realized we were not alone. We saw our company and kept out eyes trained on the passerby's sharing minimal sentiment.
     As is the norm it seems when Don and I get together, stupidity is sure to follow so we shot a bunch of silly pictures and some video which may or may not see the light of day. I took a good bit myself and we left. Later I would blow black goo out of my nose and said a quick prayer to ward of histoplasmosis.   

     Bouncing around the roads, my biceps and forearms were burning from the sun. Sunday was brighter and hotter than I estimated and fool that I am, I skipped sunscreen. We hit Corridor X right up until it stopped. I was expecting to exit but Don kept right on so I gave chase. His bike it built for this kind of thing. Mine...not so much. I dodged dips, holes and ruts getting a good jarring now and again on the unfinished gravel road. At one point I took to the the grass to avoid Jersey barriers and materials. It was exciting if nothing else.
     The end was a GIANT construction site where they are finishing the road. This is stuff Google Earth (currently at least) can't show you. I counted at least five cranes and tons of other heavy equipment. There are also new train tracks in and out. It was very, very cool. At this point, I had no idea where Don was. I got off and wondered around to take some pictures until he found me.
     At some point, he ditched out again. In the midst of my picture taking, I started to hear a whistling and once I found it, I saw Don across the site on another bridge. I got back on the bike and relocated to his position. This was no small feat as I encountered mud and did a bigger hill climb that my Sportster should ever be asked to do. Don got it on video. I watched it and immediately realized it was about half as impressive as I thought it was when I was doing it...but it was still impressive.
(this is not said hill, FYI)

      The rain drops started and we hit the road. A few twists and turns later and we were on 65. Don made the international sign for "I'm hungry, need cheeseburger" but I declined. I had enough leftover burgers and dogs at home and a keg of beer that needed some attention. I capped off the night with a good meal, a good movie and warm beer. Like a certain musician turned actor once crooned, two out of three ain't bad. 


  1. Killer. Can't wait to see the vids.
    Following Don around makes it almost certain that you will add trespassing to your list of lifetime transgressions. Great writeup. I particularly liked "saw tell." I'm going to use that at the soonest opportunity. :)

  2. Excellent report/post! The last picture is very cool!

  3. Glad you dug it!
    I couldn't quite get that picture exactly like I wanted it because I couldn't see what I was shooting from that low an angle but a few failed attempts and one that is close enough was just going to have to do. :)


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