Oktoberfest 2011 – A Trip to the Barber Does Not Mean a Clip Joint!

Oktoberfest this year was in Birmingham, AL. Unless you’re a loyal son or daughter of Dixie, that may not sound like a wonderful spot to host our national club’s annual gathering of the faithful. But those who missed the festivities this year missed a great setting and event.
I had never been through that section of Alabama before, and I was pleasantly surprised by the hills and curvy roads, along with constabulary and local populace that didn’t seem to take speed limit signs very seriously. So we had some great driving for the fun rally and the time-speed-distance rally, and pleasant drives out to the track at Barber Motorsports Park from the Ross Bridge Renaissance host hotel. This resort hotel is tucked back into a wooded nook not far from the city, and is a beautiful interpretation of an old Scottish baronial manse. Attendees who did not get wrapped up in the driving events could instead enjoy the spa at the resort or try their hand on the stunning golf course that was right outside our windows.
Barber? What to say about Barber? This place has to be the fanciest track I’ve ever seen. Beautiful landscaping around the track itself in addition to the grounds. Sculptures within the track confines -picture booming at triple digits downhill into a hairpin turn, and looking up from the sand trap at a huge spider right in front of you! A world-class museum of motorcycles and race cars. All of the facility was extremely well taken care of, and the Heart of Dixie Chapter folks ran a great driving school for us. One of the Ofest evening receptions was held inside the Barber museum. The security staff must have been having heart attacks watching us wander about their unprotected displays of up to hundred-year-old conveyances with our food plates and libations in hand – but they allowed us free rein anyway. I haven’t seen so many motorcycles since accidentally wandering into the Harley Davidson Sturgis rally some years ago on a Black Hills trip, and they weren’t taking nearly the trouble to display those nicely.
Sightseeing when we travel is a must. For Birmingham, with its notorious legacy of civil rights conflicts, there is the Civil Rights Institute and museum. I think almost all of our Iowa Chapter contingent went there at some point during the week, and all came away both more educated and impressed by the depth of the struggles and the eventual resolution. Our family also hit a number of stops to and from Ofest: Memphis with its river-oriented culture, blues and BBQ; Tupelo MS for a surprising antique car collection; Vicksburg’s Civil War battlefield sites and tours; and the Great River Road through numerous quaint small towns in Missouri, Illinois and points south. Altogether, a great trip for both car and tourist stuff – not to mention the occasional pause for local or unique food. (Just ask Scott and Joyce or the VanLengens about traveling on one’s stomach…)
And now it’s time to start getting ready for next year! Oktoberfest 2012 has been announced for Sept. 17-23 at MidOhio Sports Car Course, a little north of Columbus (OH, naturally). The host hotel has not been finalized as of this writing, but stay tuned on the national club website, Mid-Ohio has a reputation for being a fun and challenging course, and the area should provide lots of touring and sightseeing activities. See you there!

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