Day 4:   Crimson Ride

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Despite the late night, Mike and Bone were up and out by 7:30, wanting to maximize the day!

Some Earlier Morning Gulfport

On the always sad last day of the Tour, Mike wanted to check out Gulf Port Mississippi, where his Dad had lived as a boy. As they drove down the tropical-looking buildings and palm trees of an obvious resort area, Mike remembered how familiar it was to him when he went there as a child.  After half an hour of cruisin' and reminiscing the Boys turned the car north and away from the Gulf of Mexico, they had one more stop on the Tour and plus they were hungry !! 

Finally !!! Some Good Victuals 

Mike and Bone took a chance on driving  state road back to Tuscaloosa, rather than a freeway on the off-hand chance they might find a down-home, good old southern restaurant, and 10 minutes out of Gulfport they found one !!! Sorta. It had the decor and the southern cuisine, like grits, biscuits and gravy, which were really good, not great, but pretty good. After an ok fast break, the Boys got a coffee for the road and beelined up to Tuscaloosa !! 

Mike and a new Friend in Lane-Bryant Stadium

Growing up in Michigan, Mike's Dad used to love watching Bear Bryant and the Crimson Tide rampage through the SEC, so Mike, being a true blue Michigan did have a soft spot in his heart for Bama. Founded in 1831 as Alabama's first public college, The University of Alabama is known for its teaching, research and service.

But seriously, its all about football!!

While the Boys stopped in the outskirts of town to eat at Dreamland, they had not checked out the Campus, so upon entering town, they bee-lined to the Stadium, where fortune smiled upon them because a Stadium Maintenance Manager happened to be there and graciously let the Boys walk around the campus as he told the Boys about the Stadium.

Located on the southwestern edge of the University of Alabama campus, the history-laden stadium ranks among the nation's top 5 on-campus football stadiums with a seating capacity of 101,821 after completion of the latest expansion in the summer of 2010.  The 2010 project is the fourth expansion of Bryant-Denny stadium since 1988 and the seventh expansion in the stadium's history. Other expansions were completed in 1946, 1961, 1966, 1988, 1998 and 2006. Those projects have expanded Bryant-Denny Stadium to its current capacity of 92,138 and the stadium's capacity exceeded 100,000 following the completion of the south end zone expansion.

The evolution of Bryant-Denny Stadium has been significant from its origins back in 1929 when 12,000 seats were erected for a Crimson Tide team coached by Wallace Wade that featured an All-American lineman named Fred Sington.  The Tide beat Mississippi College, 55-0, in the first game played at Denny Stadium on September 28, 1929. The stadium was officially dedicated October 5, 1929, when the Tide beat Ole Miss, 22-7.

In the 1930s, during the heart of the Frank Thomas Era, Denny Stadium increased in size to approximately 24,000 in a time that the Crimson Tide featured the legendary Don Hutson.

After Alabama's perfect season in 1945, which included a Rose Bowl win over Southern California, bleachers were added for the 1946 season. A record crowd of 31,000 watched the Harry Gilmer-led Tide beat Southwestern Louisiana, 54-0, on October 12 to dedicate the largest stadium in the state.

When Paul Bryant returned to Alabama in 1958, Denny Stadium had remained untouched, but the legendary coach mapped out details for an additional 12,000 seats and a new press box with an elevator that was completed for the run to the national title in 1961. In the first game with 43,000 seats, the Tide beat North Carolina State, 26-7, October 14.

fter national titles in 1964-65 and with an increasing demand for tickets, Bryant implemented an expansion of 17,000 seats, upping the capacity to 60,000 in 1966. A 26-0 victory over Clemson, coached by Frank Howard, was the first game in the 60,000-seat Denny Stadium.

During the summer of 1975, Bert Bank, who had matured from a teenage fan to a World War II hero to a state senator, used his political clout to have the stadium re-named Bryant-Denny Stadium and on April 10, 1976, during the annual A-Day game, the official dedication took place.

Bryant-Denny experienced a first on November 17, 1979, when ABC, with Al Michaels calling the play-by-play, aired the first live television game from campus. Other on-campus stadiums had outpaced Alabama in refurbishing and expansions, as the Crimson Tide continued to play most of its key games at legendary Legion Field in Birmingham. That would change dramatically in the 1980s.

After Alabama beat Temple in the final game of the 1986 Tuscaloosa schedule, construction began on the upper deck, new press box, Ivory Club, President's Club and locker rooms.

After playing its entire home schedule at Legion Field in Birmingham in 1987, the Tide returned to a 70,123-seat configuration in 1988. It was also the first season of Tide Pride and in the home opener; Alabama beat Vanderbilt, 44-10, on September 24.  

Bear and Mike outside Lane-Bryant Stadium

Ten years later, and nearly four years after the planning stages began under Director of Athletics Hootie Ingram in 1994, the east side expansion was completed, upping the capacity to 83,818. Brigham Young served as the opponent on September 5, 1998, in a night game that featured a five-TD effort by Shaun Alexander in Alabama's 38-31 victory. Included in the 1998 east side expansion were 10,000 bleacher seats and two spiral walkways to give the stadium a more symmetrical appearance. A total of 81 skyboxes (on two levels) were also added.

In 1999, four additional skyboxes were added and a scoreboard with video replay capabilities was added to the south end. Other recent additions to Bryant-Denny Stadium include two east side reception areas for Scholarship and A-Club level patrons. These areas are located above the center entrance on the east side and include rooms large enough to host receptions and pre-game meal functions. A bank of lights was also added on the east side.

The North End Zone project, which began immediately following the 2004 football season, featured the addition of the North End Zone ("The Zone") complex which added more than 8,000 bleacher seats, added three levels of premium seating, a pair of large video scoreboards and state-of-the-art wrap-around display boards on the facades of the east and west upper decks. A unique addition to the stadium was a plaza connecting the stadium with University Boulevard. Known as "The Walk of Champions", the plaza quickly became a game day focal point and honors Alabama's national championship coaches while commemorating the school's 13 national championships and 22 SEC titles.

That expansion added 38 luxury skyboxes (bringing the total number of skyboxes in the stadium to 123), a club level area and traditional upper deck seating, a new home team locker room and a revamped sound system. When Alabama and Hawaii met to open the 2006 season, a sellout crowd marked the largest crowd to view a college football game in the state of Alabama as 92,138 fans packed the stadium.

The 2009 season was only the ninth time in the stadium's history that Alabama has played all of its home games at Bryant-Denny Stadium. From 1900 until 2003, Alabama played at least one home game at Birmingham's Legion Field. The Crimson Tide owns an impressive 225-46-3 (.827) all-time record in Tuscaloosa as more than eight million fans have witnessed the Crimson Tide play in 105 home games over the last 19 seasons.

By the fall of 2010, the structure will host 157 skyboxes, four large video scoreboards and wrap-around display boards on the facade of both the west and east grandstands.

Bear and Mike outside Lane-Bryant Stadium

Bryant-Denny Stadium was named after Paul (Bear) Bryant (1913-1983) returned to Alabama as head football coach in 1958 after playing for the Tide from 1933-35 and serving as an assistant coach from 1936-39. The Bryant Era at Alabama spanned more than a quarter of a century. Bryant-Denny Stadium, Bryant Hall, the Bryant Conference Center and the Bryant Museum stand as reminders of Bryant's unparalleled winning legacy to the University. Dr George Hutcheson Denny (1870-1955) accepted the presidency of The University of Alabama on January 1, 1912. He began an extraordinary presidential career that spanned almost a quarter of a century. Denny Chimes and Bryant-Denny Stadium stand as reminders of Denny's legacy to the University.  

Bear and Bone

After taking picture with the "Bear" the Boys wandered a bit more on campus to get the feel. It really was a spectacular Campus in Architecture and landscaping. Mike and Bone grabbed a quick lunch on campus with the clock beginning to tick, Mike had a 5:00 PM flight from Birmingham to Detroit!!

Trip, Postscript

The time was tight but even with lunch they made it to Birmingham International Airport at 4:05 with plenty of time for Mike to make his flight. Bone drove the looong distance all the way back to Memphis for a meeting the next morning, getting in around 1:30 in the Morning. All-in-all the Tour was a success, it had been since the Civil War since northerners had been so dang disruptive down south! Mike and Bone had reduced the amounts of bar-b-que and beers for the local populace in Memphis, Selma, Montgomery, and Mobile !!!

Hopefully, making the locals a little more Civil White!