Our friend Ginny joined us for our third outing, creating a Road Trip Trio for the occasion. This time we headed for the Bankhead National Forest to see what we could see. One reason for going in that direction was the discovery on the atlas map of an actual Alabama town named Barney. To reach Barney, we had to get north of Birmingham while sticking to our policy of avoiding interstates when possible.

After a few twists and turns off Highway 280, we rode past the old Carraway hospital, now a grim relic with smashed windows and lots of graffiti, some of it splattered over one point of the hospital’s iconic rooftop star that could once be seen glowing blue at night from all over the city..

Dr. Charles Carraway first built the Carraway Infirmary, a 16-bed hospital and office next to his home in Pratt City in 1908. In 1917, he moved the practice to its current location in Norwood. For many years, what became Carraway Methodist Hospital was a vital part of Birmingham’s’ medical resources. In the 1980s, it opened the only Level 1 Trauma Center in Birmingham with three Lifesaver helicopters. However, early in the current century, the hospital began a steady decline, finally closing in 2008, exactly 100 years after its founding. There have been numerous proposals to refurbish the building, but it is now slated for complete demolition—and when we passed by, that looked to be the only possible solution.

A few blocks later, we turned onto Finley Avenue, which rang a “farmer’s market” bell for Ginny and me. Back in the 1970s, neighborhood co-ops were popular, long before Pepper Place and other markets catered to individual shoppers. Back then, there was only THE farmers’ market on Finley Avenue. My Mountain Branch Drive neighborhood had a co-op with twelve members. Every two weeks two of us drove out to Finley Avenue, loaded up enough in-season veggies and fruit, then hauled them home to sort into twelve bags for pickup by our neighbors. (Practice, maybe, for our current habits of food pickup and delivery?) My co-op buddy was Mo Angelini, and we always made a morning of it, finishing up with lunch at Niki’s West, a landmark that has been serving up “meat and three” cafeteria-style at lunchtime since 1957. When we drove by, the Niki’s parking lot was empty, with a sign propped against an orange and white construction horse announcing only curbside pickup. A sign for these times.

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