Friday, February 27, 2015
Today I completed the drive through Louisiana using US 80. It was perfect driving weather. I started at the western end of the old Mississippi River bridge in Delta, La. and drove from the eastern end of the state to the western end where it crosses over into Texas. Most of the towns I drove through were very small. The once active downtown shopping districts were now mostly vacant with empty store fronts and boarded up windows. It was kind of sad to see this. But, my over active mind could imagine what they must have looked like on a Saturday, especially when people came into town to shop and see a movie. I liked the thought of this. I also passed through larger towns and cities along the way like Monroe and Shreveport. I was able to maneuver US 80 through these larger cities with only one wrong turn (and a little back tracking) at Bossier City. There were some mid size towns that were able to preserve the look of their original main street. It made me wonder why some of these towns were able to survive better than others. I guess some towns just fade away as the population moves away. The countryside was flat and open. The road was rather straight. And then, suddenly, I was in Texas. I didn't see any welcome sign. I didn't even see the state line sign. But I knew I was in Texas. Wascom, Texas. So here's the thing. If I drive across northern Louisiana using the interstate it would take me about 2 3/4 hours. Today it took me about 5 hours to drive across the state on a highway that basically runs parallel to the interstate. The speed limits were lower plus I drove directly through many towns and cities along the way. Sometimes I find the need to travel the interstate in order to "get there" faster. Today I chose the slower route. Good choice!!
Tuesday, February 24, 2015
Monday, February 23, 2015
This is what my car looks like today. It's nasty out. Cold. Wet. Needless to say, I did not take the car out for a spin (ha,ha,ha) today. Things will be better tomorrow. But Wednesday---that's another story. Another cold front is heading this way. Well, the fridge and pantry are full so I'm hunkering down. Stay put, stay safe. That's what I say.
Sunday, February 22, 2015
Yesterday was parade day in Vicksburg. More specifically, it was victory parade day for Malcolm Butler. He is a graduate of Vicksburg High School who has gone on to play in the NFL for the New England Patriots. And, you may remember him as the football player who caught the pass interception at the very end of the Super Bowl game giving the Patriots a win over the Seattle Seahawks. What a parade!! There were fabulous marching bands, dancers, scout troops, dignitaries and lots of tricked out pick up trucks. Attendance was phenomenal. The sidewalks were crowded with spectators. The honoree rode in the first parade float. He is in the above picture, wearing the navy blue shirt. He is standing right above the red number 2. The float was built by students from his high school alma mater. What a gift! What a day!!
Friday, February 20, 2015
Thank you to the National Park Service!! I enjoyed visiting the Vicksburg National Military Park today. It is well maintained, easy to navigate and very informative. This is a "must see" when you are in Vicksburg, Mississippi. It's not just for history buffs. It's so much more including a peaceful drive through a beautifully landscaped park. There is an entrance fee but discounts (military, senior, etc.) apply. Stop by and see for yourself.
I was driving through the Vicksburg National Military Park today. It is a beautiful area commemorating the siege of Vicksburg. There are signs posted throughout the park reminding visitors that this is a sacred place dedicated to the memory of all the fallen soldiers who fought here. I took a few pictures of some of the monuments. I hope you enjoy viewing them. The statue pictured above is dedicated to Ulysses S. Grant.
Wednesday, February 18, 2015
Vicksburg is full of military monuments. They are everywhere. I guess this makes a lot of sense because Vicksburg WAS one big battlefield during the Civil War. Regiments for both sides were stationed all over the area during the forty day siege of Vicksburg. This monument is dedicated to Colonel Isaac C. Pugh from Illinois. It was erected in 1916 on the corner of Wisconsin Avenue and Autumn Drive. My friend, Tricia, grew up a few houses down the street from this monument. She and her friends used to play here. Special, yet normal. Part of the landscape.
Monday, February 16, 2015
I am about halfway through my journey across US 80. For the most part the road is well marked but sometimes it is hard to follow in larger metropolitan areas. There are times when several highways run on top of each other and following the right road in heavy traffic can be tricky. I have had to back track a couple of times when the highway abruptly turned and I didn't. There was one short detour for construction in rural western Georgia. So far, the longest unaltered stretch of highway runs from Montgomery, Alabama to the state's border with Mississippi--about 125 miles or so. Yesterday I completed the drive through Mississippi from Meridian to Vicksburg. The roadway was full of twists and turns as it ran roughly parallel to I-20. I drove through many of the small towns whose names I had seen on the interstate signs--previously by passing them. Navigating around Jackson was a breeze. I was able to follow US 80 all the way to Clinton and then it abruptly ended. Traffic was directed onto the interstate. I continued driving to Vicksburg--about twenty miles to the west. Having lived in Vicksburg for several years, I know where highway 80 enters and leaves the city. Sometime in the next couple of days I will follow rural highway 80 to the east (yes, that's back tracking) in order to complete my drive through the state of Mississippi. But for now I'm just going to enjoy the sights and sounds of Vicksburg.
Sunday, February 15, 2015
Along US 80 in western Alabama lies the town of Demopolis. The name of the town in Greek means town of the people. The people are the town. Every time I have passed through this town I have seen the sign pointing to the historic district. Today I took the opportunity to see for myself what the historic district of Demopolis looked like. I was not disappointed. There are a number of very large, impressive Victorian (and older) homes lining one of the larger boulevards. The square is the center of the down town. The square is a park with a gazebo and stores line the other side of the street. Most of the store fronts were empty but I did find a wonderful children's and gift store on the square. If you are looking for some good home style cooking, may I suggest Kora's. It is a little hard to find but worth the effort. Yum! Stop by.
I have driven through Selma, Alabama several times over the years and as I crossed this bridge I have always thought about the march to Montgomery that began here in 1965 and was part of the civil rights movement. Today I stopped, got out of the car and walked across the bridge. And back, again. The bridge is not big nor is it long but it is important to our history as a nation. This year marks the 50th anniversary of that eventful march. Celebrations are planned here in March to honor those who quietly and with determination walked the fifty or so miles to Montgomery to ask for voting rights. But it's so much more. The original walk to Montgomery took four days and the walkers camped along the way. It was a turbulent time in the South. Some say, this is where "the movement" began. I stopped at the highest point on the bridge and gazed into the waters of the Alabama River.....lost in thought. Just thinking.
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Located directly across the street from Tuskegee University lies Oak House. It is a stately Queen Anne style house perched on a rise overlooking the campus. The house was built for and occupied by Booker T. Washington, the first principal of Tuskegee Institute, as it was known in that day. The house gets it name from the extensive amount of oak used throughout the house. The house was built by students at the Institute. The house basically served as their resume. When these young men went to find jobs they could say they built the house Booker T. Washington lived in. That was enough to get the job. The exterior bricks were all made at the institute. The Queen Anne style was chosen for the house because at this time in history (late 1800's-early 1900's) a Queen Anne house signified success. The darkly painted walls and the very dark wood stain on the railings, windows,doors, etc. give the interior of the house a very (here it comes) dark look. The first floor is beautifully decorated in period furnishings and the second floor office used by Mr. Washington contains the original furniture. Booker T. Washington was a well traveled man who knew many people in high places and was an excellent fundraiser for the institute. Oak House is operated by the US Park Service and admission is free to the public. The house is very lovely. I'm glad I stopped by.
After leaving the airfield I drove a short distance to Tuskegee University with the intention of visiting the museum dedicated to George Washington Carver which is located on the campus. Before visiting the museum I drove throughout the campus. What a beautiful campus! (lots of speed bumps, so watch it!) The G W Carver museum is filled with displays and information about this botanist/experimenter/researcher. His product inventions using the peanut as the base is impressive. He also designed a farm wagon which gave farmers a better way to display their produce and other wares. He is known for his education bus--a bus he drove out into the countryside to meet with farmers and teach them farming methods. He was a great educator and continued working in his research lab long after he stopped teaching in the classroom. It is unbelievable how many products we use today that were part of his catalog of inventions. The museum is operated by the US Park Service and is free to the public. Stop by and learn!
I am continuing my drive across the South on US 80. I crossed over from Georgia into Alabama and after a short drive I came to the town of Tuskegee. Just before entering the town I noticed the sign with an arrow pointing to Moton Airfield, the training field for what became known as the Tuskegee Airmen. I just had to stop here, having heard so much about their service to America during WWII. There are three observation areas included at this site. Next to the parking lot is a lovely park with trees and benches and it is very peaceful here, perfect for reflection. Then, take the pathway down the hill to the two hangars, each filled with historical displays and actual fighter jets used by the airmen. Reading about their struggles and the seemingly impossible obstacles they overcame just to become pilots gave me a deeper appreciation for all their efforts. They were known as "red tails" because of the unique paint job they did to their planes. The airfield, hangars and landscaped park are all run by the US Park Service and there are park rangers available to answer any questions you may have. Admission is free. If you are in the area, please stop by. This museum is impressive.
Friday, February 13, 2015
I arrived in Swainsboro, Georgia late in the day. It was too late in the day for shopping in the down town area but I wanted to get the feel of the center square, anyway. Parking in small towns is easy. All you have to do is park along the curbside on the main street. Don't even think about "feeding the meter" because there aren't any. How nice. The stores in downtown Swainsboro surround the town square. A very large fountain occupies a place of prominence in the park-like setting of the square and there are benches for relaxation and conversation surrounding the fountain. The town has a very quaint feeling. I'm glad I stopped here, even if it was for a brief moment. Perhaps I will return some day and spend some time here.
Located about twelve miles outside of Statesboro, Georgia is Meinhardt Winery. I saw the advertisement for this winery in the travel brochure for this area and I thought (on a whim, of course) that I would stop by for a tasting. I have been collecting bottles of wine produced and bottled in the various states I travel through on my way out west. At the end of my journey I plan on hosting my own tasting party with all the wines I collect along the way. O.K., back to the winery. I was the only one at the tasting so I had the full attention and an abundance of conversation with the owner of the winery. I sampled five varieties of wine, both white and red, and enjoyed them all. I also learned a bit about the art of making wine and while I was listening I was also enjoying the conversation. The muscadine grape is the basis for these wines. Other flavors are infused to create some of the most wonderful tasting wine. I purchased three bottles of my favorite wines. The plan is to take these bottles with me on my travels. They may not all make the trip out to the west coast. They're that good. I'm just sayin'.
What a beautiful town! I spent a few hours yesterday in Statesboro, Georgia. Parking is free along the main street and I took advantage of that. I parked my car in the first spot I saw and took the opportunity to walk up and down the main street and its cross street...all named Main. I have never seen two streets with the same name cross each other. North and South Main Street cross East and West Main Street at the center of the down town shopping area. Everything is clearly marked and the merchants are very specific when giving directions to their stores. I noticed there are several Pageant and Prom dress stores in the down town area. Upon inquiry I found out that Statesboro draws many pageant contestants to its stores for new and consigned dresses. One of the stores is operated by the resident designer whose creations were displayed in the windows of his store. Just gorgeous!! Moving on, I passed the Bulloch County court house (pictured above). The building is very impressive with a prominent location on the center square. Right down the block is the Averitt Center for the Arts. There is an art Gallery on the first floor and a historical gallery on the second floor. Admission is free. The current collection on display features the works of Jonathan Green. Vivid colors, Southern culture. Statesboro is a college town. The main campus of Georgia Southern University is located here. If you are hungry, may I suggest The Daily Grind. I was told by the owner of a children's boutique on Main Street (that's EAST Main to be specific) that I must try the pimento cheese sandwich. Generally not a fan of pimento cheese spread, I was delighted with the home made pimento cheese with tiny chopped nuts on raisin bread. Yum! That ended my visit to Statesboro on a high note (the higher note came later in the day at the winery. wink,wink) and I am so happy I took the time to get off the road and investigate this delightful town.
Wednesday, February 11, 2015
Stop by Bobbie's Diner for lunch. It's on Habersham Street in Savannah, Georgia. Mid century diner decor sets the mood for the 1950's style diner. The menu is very simple. Burgers and sandwiches, home made chips and milk shakes are the main focus. Soup and salad are also on the menu. Great family fare! Come on. Go. You know you want to.
This afternoon I took a driving tour of historic Savannah, Georgia. Beautiful old homes and Spanish moss laden trees line the streets. The city is laid out using "squares" to define neighborhoods. The squares are actually small parks (22 of them!) with homes built around the uniquely named squares. These homes are highly sought after and I imagine rarely come up for sale. After touring several of these squares I drove down to River Street, parked the car and strolled along the cobblestone and brick sidewalks where oodles of restaurants and small stores line one side of the street. (The river lines the other side of the street!) I came across this statue entitled Waving Girl in a small park at the end of the main street. The statue is dedicated to a woman who, for many decades, greeted ships as they entered and departed the port of Savannah. I popped into one of the stores along River Street and picked up some pralines which are made on the premises. Yum!! My afternoon in Savannah was jam packed and far too short. I shall return someday and investigate more of the fabulous neighborhoods. hmmm...make a note.
Along US 80 between Savannah, Georgia and Tybee Island lies Fort Pulaski. Built on Cockspur Island at the mouth of the Wilmington River, the fort was built to defend Savannah. This fort, surrounded by a moat, was erected during the early part of the 19th century and is part of a system of coastal fortifications developed along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts to defend the country from foreign invasion. When Georgia succeeded from the Union, the fort became a confederate stronghold. The union armies were able to retake the fort by launching a surprise attack on the fort from neighboring Tybee Island. By using advanced fire power the union forced the confederacy to surrender. The fort barely escaped blowing up when the powder magazine narrowly missed being hit. Although the fort was nearly destroyed and fell into ruin, it was restored during the CCC years and still stands today. There are two outside walls that were left untouched during the restoration and they show the effects of the union warfare, including canon and other fire power that is still lodged in the battered wall. This site is operated by the National Park Service so admission discounts apply (military, seniors, etc.). If you like history and old forts, please stop here. There is a lot to see so plan to stay for a couple of hours or more. I personally liked the arched walkways surrounding the central parade yard. The craftmanship and superior architectural design are evident and a tribute to the builders of this fortification. Be sure to walk the grounds surrounding the fort for the best viewing of the damage to the fort. Enjoy your stay.
Today I drove along US 80 to Tybee Island, just east of Savannah, Georgia. The road ended at the dune separating the sandy parking area from the beach bordering the Atlantic Ocean. After celebrating my success in locating this starting point, I turned the car around and retraced my route until I turned off the main road in search of the Tybee light station and museum, the oldest and tallest lighthouse in Georgia. After making a few twists and turns through some beach-y neighborhoods I arrived at my destination. Very impressive! Tybee Island is a beach town with a wide assortment of motels and sea food restaurants. Great for family vacations!! And the beaches are beautiful! But, please bring lots of coins or your credit card to feed the parking meters. There is no free public parking on the island. Restaurants and motels will provide parking but if you are visiting for the day, please consider yourself forewarned about the metered parking. Don't let a parking ticket spoil your day. Have fun!!!
Tuesday, February 10, 2015
Tomorrow I start my journey across US 80 from Tybee Island, Georgia to Dallas, Texas. Why this highway, you ask? Well, many years ago I lived in Vicksburg, Mississippi. Highway 80 ran right through the center of town. It followed Clay Street to the down town and then turned onto Washington Street before heading out of town and crossing the Mississippi River into Louisiana. I knew Highway 80 crossed the entire state of Mississippi and I vowed some day I would drive this slower route across the state, stopping in some of the smaller towns along the way, instead of taking the faster route of I-20. I did some research on the history of US 80 and I found that the eastern terminus of the highway is at Tybee Island, Georgia, and that is where I shall start. I have my official map of Georgia (old school, I know) marked in red where US 80 meanders across the state until it enters Alabama. My city tour guides have been read and points of interest that have piqued my curiosity have been noted. So, tomorrow it starts. I'll let you know how it goes.
Monday, February 9, 2015
Patriots Park is in Venice, Florida. Here you will find flags, plaques and memorial bricks dedicated to the fallen heroes of battle. It is a lovely place that sits beside a pond and offers many bench sitting areas reserved for quiet reflection. There is a pathway that takes you through the park with stops along the way to give the visitor an opportunity to read the dedication plaques. Rising from one section of the park is a steel beam that formerly had been part of the World Trade Center. It is amazing and humbling to see this beam. The beam is set upon a granite base. The dedication of this memorial not only commemorates the heroic deeds of the first responders on that fateful day in 2001 but also celebrates all first responders who courageously put their lives on the line in service to others. We should all be so grateful for these men and women who have served our country for the sake of all of us and our freedom. Please visit this park. You will be touched.
Monday, February 2, 2015
I attended church in Arcadia, Florida yesterday. I chose Trinity United Methodist Church and I'm glad I did. The sermon was inspiring and communion was served. The service was simple and I liked it that way. The sanctuary of the church is absolutely lovely. It is an older building and has a very "down town" (in a good way) feel to it. Every stain glass window had a dedication plaque attached to it and it is clear the founding families put a lot of love into the building of this church. The congregation is warm and friendly and I felt very welcome here. If you are in this area on a Sunday morning and are looking for a place to worship, may I recommend Trinity UMC. You will be blessed.
Sunday, February 1, 2015
There is a small town in central Florida called Arcadia. Unlike the beach-y tropical areas most people associate with this southern state, Arcadia gives the appearance of a western town. It is a rodeo town with farms, groves and ranches surrounding the area. Here you will find victorian style houses (both mansion and cottage) and an old, very quaint main street lined with antique shops. If you enjoy antique hunting, Oak Street houses many stores for you to investigate. The atmosphere here is peaceful and the small diners serve up delicious home made fare. I visited Arcadia on a day that the town did not host a rodeo or festival so I had no problem parking right on the main street in the historic down town. Please stop by. This town will remind you of a quieter more peaceful time in your life.