Monday, March 30, 2015

Charleston, SC - PIckled Beets & Tattooed Legs

Fort Sumter is the premier site in Charleston but there is another fort on an opposite shore that coordinated with Sumter in the defense of the harbor. It is Fort Moultrie. It wasn’t as built up as Sumter with 3 stories of brick but it has been used in wars from the Revolution to WWII and that is its significance. Here were cannon and armaments from all these wars but my favorite part was the WWII bunker where they had communications equipment. They were watching for German subs on the Atlantic shore so were underground. They had decorated these rooms just as if they were in WWII with typewriters, packages of Camel cigarettes, posters on the wall, period office furniture, a telephone, typewriters and, in the background, Bing Crosby singing Johnny Mercer’s old song ‘Ac-cen-tu-ate the Positive’. A real step back in time. I can almost imagine being here during the war.


Across the harbor waters we could see Sumter and realize how well positioned these two forts were to protect he Charleston harbor. We took a short trail which led us to some WWI bunkers and we wandered around in them seeing the ammunition rooms and how they got the armaments around using pulleys and overhead tracks.

One of the first things that you see when you enter the actual fort is the grave of Osceola, a legendary Seminole chief who died here in 1838 and the graves of 5 seamen who died when their ship sunk in the harbor.
We wandered back to the parking lot and down to the water’s edge to see the grave of William Moultrie for whom the fort is named. He was the commander of the fort when it was attacked by the British in 1776. He defeated them and protected Charleston harbor.

We left and drove down the road to the Charles Pinckney NM. So, who’s ever heard of Charles Pinckney? Well, if you live in South Carolina, you probably have but, other than that, I doubt that many have. But he was a member of the Constitutional Convention at the age of 30, wrote at least 30 provisions that were incorporated into the final document, was the South Carolina campaign manager for Jefferson in the election of 1800, an ambassador to Spain and was elected 4 times Governor of South Carolina. There, now you know. His family home is in the northeastern suburbs of Charleston and we visited it today. However, his home really does not exist today except as some bricks that the park archaeologists have put around an area that they think used to be his home.

But, we did learn a lot about the man and his importance to the Constitutional Convention that designed our government today. We also met an older gentleman who was the volunteer at the gift shop. He’s quite the traveler. His wife died 14 years ago and he hasn’t stopped yet. He lives in Philadelphia but comes down to SC to visit his children and volunteer at the NM during the winter. During the summer he travels. He’s been to Japan and the Antartica recently and is going on a trip to Ireland and a boat trip down the rivers of Europe later this year. ‘Can’t hit a moving target’ he says. He usually travels in a group and the last time he and another single traveler, a woman, hit it off and when he mentioned his next trip, she said she’d do that one too. He’s happy. Much more fun to travel with someone else than alone.

I don’t often look at the legs of other men (only Gary’s - and that’s when I’m behind him on a hike) but today, this pair of legs stood in front of me at the Ranger talk at the fort. How long did those tattoos take? Beautifully done but, how long did they take?
Is this a picture of pickled beets? What in the world is a picture of pickled beets doing in a travel blog? We were at Costco recently and, of course, we were tempted to sample several different types of food. That’s half the fun of going there. The other half is sharing a Very Berry sundae before we walk out. Today I sampled the Pickled Beets that one of the demonstrators was hawking. I like beets so I listened to her whole pitch: the nutritional value, the ease of preparation, the many uses. Then she told me that I could snack on them at night with very few calories. She had me there. Now I don’t have to just watch Gary eat his nightly snack - I can have some pickled beets. Hmmm. Beets as a snack food? Who would fall for such a line as that? Well, maybe someone who fell for Gary’s ‘lonely sailor’ line. Yep, I bought those beets.
‘Let me show you my bathrooms.’ Huh? At our campground, the owner, a sprightly 82, who says his hobby is ‘work’ asked us if we’d like to see his bathrooms. He’s pretty proud of the RV park he built and wanted to show it off to us. He was in construction and when the recession hit in 2007, he decided to make an RV park in his back lot. Very nice park, big level grassy lots, pull-thrus, a pond - and, yes, nice clean bathrooms, but, no, I don’t have a picture of them.

When I was registering for this campground, the first question on the form was ‘What is your name?’ Pretty standard but the second question is, ‘What is your wife’s name?’ Hmmm. I think they need to update their forms.

‘The whole of travel is not to set foot on foreign land: it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.’

                                                                                Gilbert K. Chesterton

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Charleston, SC - 'Unseasonably Cold'

We listen to the local newscasts in Charleston and keep hearing the phrase: ‘Unseasonably Cold.' Right now, it is 12:54 in the afternoon and the temperature is 48 degrees. Sunny but 48 degrees, I tell you. I didn’t come south for ‘unseasonably cold’. I didn’t come south for down jackets. I didn’t come south for turtlenecks. For these temperatures, I could have stayed in Iowa. Oh, the irony.

Here are some pictures Gary took of the weather broadcast on the news.

Ha, Ha. I guess this is what they call average temperatures. Sometimes higher and sometimes lower. We just seem to be a bit lower these days.

OK, here are the temperatures for today. In the upper left hand is our temperature and the next 6 days. On the upper right and the center are the temperatures for Johnston where my brother- and sister-in-law live and where my brother lives, both in Iowa, way north of where we are. Somehow, I think they must be laughing. But, with the winter Iowa has had, they all deserve it. And, we’ll just put on an extra layer. I’m not complaining here, I’m just bemused at the irony.
We walked around Charleston yesterday and enjoyed looking at the homes. Those doors on the left really only go to a front porch, not into the house - as you can see in the second picture. The porch much have the door into the house itself. The third picture is the fence going into the side yard.


They have tram tours, bus tours, Segway tours, walking tours and - running tours. We saw 3 people run up to a house, stop while the lead runner talked a bit then then all ran on to the next stop.
‘A friend was in front of me coming out of church one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands. He grabbed my friend by the hand and pulled him aside. The pastor said, "You need to join the Army of the Lord!" My friend said, "I'm already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor." Pastor questioned, "How come I don't see you except at Christmas and Easter?" He whispered back, "I'm in the secret service.’ Unknown

Charleston, SC - Give Me A Break

Let’s see - here’s our schedule for the last 9 weeks

        Sarasota, FL - 1 week

        Punta Gorda, FL - 1 week

        Everglades NP - 1 week

        Key West, FL - 1 week

        Homestead, FL - 1 night in a casino parking lot

        Titusville, FL - 1 week

        St Augustine, FL - 2 weeks

        Jacksonville, FL - 1 week

        Savannah, GA - 1 week

        Charleston, SC - 1 week.

Oof - da, who designed this schedule? Obviously, someone who thinks she’s younger than she actually is. And, how many touring days have we spent, how many things have we visited? Then, on our days off, we shop, do laundry, clean the RV, trip plan, write e-mails and letters. Hooo - eee. No wonder I’m so tired I can’t see straight. Today I awoke, dressed, made breakfast and - as I was sitting there eating, I realized that I was tired. My right heel hurts a bit, my legs don’t work well, my brain has stopped on breakfast and I’m thinking that I need a day off. But, I’ve already done my hair and put my make-up on - we have to go out.

NOPE, we’re staying in today. Tomorrow, we’ll tour. Today, I’m sitting.
However, no matter how tired we are, we still wanted to get our walk in for the day. So we walked around our campground which had a nice walking trail around a small pond with an alligator in it. Here are the eyes and the nose sticking up out of the water. Poor gator, as we walked around the pond towards her, she scurried into the water and out of her favorite sunning spot. She crawled back up on to the shore after we had passed by.

‘I have noticed that folks are generally about as happy as they make up their minds to be.’ Abraham Lincoln

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Charleston, SC - Keep Crankin', Boys!!

Listen up, volunteers, here’s your new job. 7 of you are going to sit on a cold, hard metal bench in a tiny metal tube for several hours, under water, hunched over, cranking away on a handle to move us through the water. It will be hot and humid inside, you’re going to be uncomfortable and sweat a lot but you’ll have to keep cranking. Every now and then we’ll surface to get some air. Our job is to attach a torpedo to the bottom of a ship, set it off and skedaddle away back to shore - before the torpedoes goes off. Got that? Oh, by the way, 13 people have already died on this ship. Let’s go!!!

Sound like a lot of fun? Want to volunteer for this job? Probably not but this was the job of the men in the Hunley. Hunley? What’s that you ask - just like Warren Lasch, the man who was asked to head the foundation to recover and restore the Hunley, the Civil War submarine with a crew of 8 which sank a Union ship and then disappeared in Charleston harbor. But he soon learned about the Hunley and developed a marvelous museum and presentation of its place in history.

Today, we’re heading on over to the Lasch Conservation Center to see the Hunley which was recovered in 1995 and is now undergoing a long process in a huge tub before it can be displayed. Submarines had been attempted as far back as the Revolutionary War but with no success. The Hunley was the first submarine to actually sink another ship. Nearly 40 feet long, it was built at Mobile, Alabama, and launched in July 1863. She was then shipped by rail on August 12, 1863, to Charleston, South Carolina. The Hunley sank on August 29, 1863, during a test run, killing five members of her crew. She sank again on October 15, 1863, killing all eight of her second crew, including Horace Hunley himself, who was aboard at the time, even though he was not a member of the Confederate militia. Both times the Hunley was raised and returned to service.

Volunteer to go on this mission in this boat? You’re out of your mind. But, think again, Lieutenant Dixon convinced the powers to be that he and a crew of 7 volunteers would take it out again to try to sink a Union gunboat.

Here I am in a mock-up of the Hunley, the submarine. Hard metal bench, hunched over, grueling work turning that crank. But I’m much more comfortable than the 8 guys who really were in the Hunley.
It was a chilly February evening when the Hunley with her crew of 8 set off on her last voyage. 4 miles away out in the harbor sat the blockade ship Housatonic. The Hunley churned towards their target at an estimated speed of 2 - 4 knots, pretty slowly since their speed depended upon the men cranking away on the gears.
The Hunley chugged silently towards its target. On board, the lookout, knowing that the Confederacy had a secret weapon, spotted a huge log moving in towards the ship. Maybe a large porpoise. The guard alerted others. The strange shape was moving closer to the ship, too close to use their 12 guns to shoot her down. The gathered their rifles and small guns and fired at the approaching menace.

The Hunley moved closer, the torpedo was stuck to the side of the Housatonic, the crew member assigned to the torpedo pulled the wire and it went off. The Housatonic sank within minutes. The Hunley was not seen again until 1995 when it was pulled from under tons of silt at the bottom of the bay.

Why did the Hunley sink? Was it a loose hatch cover? Were they knocked unconscious by the shock of the explosion? Did they run out of air before they could get back to the coast?

Where did it sink? Why was it found beyond the Housatonic and not closer to shore? Did it go the wrong direction?

Who were the crew members?

What were they like?

OK, that’s the history - and what a fascinating story. But the recovery of the Hunley and the reconstruction of the faces and bodies of the crew members is even more fascinating.

Conrad Wise Chapman made this contemporary painting of the H.L. Hunley

Here is a picture of what the Hunley must have looked like under water and another picture of how the Hunley must have gotten the torpedo attached to the Housatonic.

There have been many who have tried to find the Hunley. At one time P.T. Barnum even offered a reward of $100,000 to encourage others to try to find it. Most searches have concentrated around the area where the Housatonic sank but to no avail. Finally, action author Clive Clussler established the National Underwater Marine Agency (NUMA) and spent 15 years searching for the Hunley. It was finally discovered May 3, 1995, approx. 4 miles from where most thought it had sunk. Now what? Well, we’ve got to get it up, protect it from treasure hunters, properly bury the brave men who manned it and then ready it for display for all to see as a piece of American history. Lots to do.

They dug around it, built a huge metal cradle, tied straps under it and pulled it up - slowly. Like the picture below shows.
It looked like this when it was removed. It had been almost immediately covered in silt which protected it from erosion. Which means that it was almost intact when it was found and raised. However, it was covered in a gunky coating of sand, rust and sediment, called concretion, which has to be removed which is not easy since this crust can be as hard as the original metals.
And, that’s why it is sitting in a huge vat now. Difficult to see but, when it’s removed, it will be put on display and then we can all see it plainly.

Inside the Hunley were found 8 complete skeletons and skulls. Using imaging, they have developed what the crew members of the Hunley must have looked like.
Fascinating archeology, fascinating facial reconstruction and it’s all in the Hunley ‘museum.’ Actually, this is really a laboratory for the Hunley. Hours for touring are limited to Sat and Sun when the laboratory personnel are not working.

On the far left is the Lieutenant who led the mission. Interesting story about him. According to legend, he knew a young lady named Queenie Bennett while he was living in Mobile, AL. As a token of her affection she gave him a $20 gold coin when he left for war in 1861. During the battle of Shiloh, he was shot - the bullet struck the coin in his trouser pocket and spared his life. When they were digging up the Hunley, they found this coin with ‘Shiloh - April 6, 1862 - My Life Preserver - G.E.D. When the archaeologists were studying the bones, they noted that the upper end of the leg bone had been injured. X-rays revealed that there were radio-active particles from a minie ball. If anyone had doubted the legend - here was the proof. Proof that the legend was true, proof that this was the Hunley with Dixon on board. The coin is displayed in the museum and it’s still dented and bent.
We have seen a lot of forts recently, a lot of museums, a lot of city scapes. But this is the first ship recovery that we’ve seen. Pretty cool.

And we followed the Hunley up with a walk over the Ravenal Bridge in Charleston. Beautiful bridge and what a nice walk. The pillars of this bridge stand out over the Charleston skyline and the struts in their fan shape mounting crown the bridge. No wonder people like to walk over it and we were not alone in our walk. In fact, I was quite surprised to see so many walking this bridge. I mean - who in their right mind walks across a bridge?

Afterwards, we walked through the city of Charleston and through the open air market which runs every day - right off the cruise ship pier. Lots of tourist shops selling Charleston things. Found a shop with plaques to put up in your house. My favorite:
I found some jam that I had to have - never have enough jam in our refrigerator. We also found some ice cream. The price was $3.99 for one dip and $4.99 for two. I asked for a single dip and they young woman behind the counter perkily asked why I didn’t get 2. ‘It’s only $1.00 more.’ Hmm, Hey, Big Gar, let’s share. OK and we got a $4.99 two-dipper and shared. Look at the size of this baby. Enough for both of us for sure. Oh, shucks, Gary, didn’t you get a spoon?

“A chocolate in the mouth is worth two in the plate” - Author unknown

Friday, March 27, 2015

Charleston, SC - Can it Get Any Better?

Nothing like a good breakfast to start the day and ours was super because we went out to Sunshine Bistro, a really cool breakfast place in Charleston. When we got there, a light acoustic jazz tune was playing on the stereo and I knew I was in the right place. Of course we had already checked it out on Yelp and had already looked at the menu to make sure that we would like it. Gary had the open faced omelet with feta, olives, carmelized onions and spinach while I had the open faced red onion, feta and diced tomato omlet. I can certainly love the biscuits down south and we had those.
Really enjoyed the breakfast and the atmosphere. So was everyone else - the place was jammed. Our waitress asked how we liked the meal and we said we would come back - when we were in Charleston next. Then I said that we particularly like the music and she told me that it was her IPhone with Amos Lee on it. Who’s that? And, now I know: light jazzy folky country - he runs the gamut.

OK, the fun is over and we’ve got shopping. Today we decided was going to be our ‘day off’ - you know, an errand day. Not really a day off but a different day on. Yep, groceries. First a regular grocery store for a few little things then to Costco. Oh, how much fun can we have?

LAUNDRY. It just doesn’t get any better. We hadn’t had a chance to do laundry in Savannah because we had to sewer there and we’ve been so busy for our two days here that we haven’t done any laundry here. Gotta do it.

And that was our day. I’ll bet you’re jealous.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Charleston, SC - The First Shot

Fort Sumter - so iconic. The first shot of the Civil War. It looms so large in American history. The first thing you talk about when you discuss the actual war itself.

It’s November of 1960 and Lincoln, the Republican, wins the Presidential election without vots from any Southern state. Even though the Republican position is to not let slavery expand, the South is sure that they want to abolish it throughout the US. South Carolina meets in convention and votes to seceed in December. 6 other states seceed and meet in February to form the Confederate States of America with Jefferson Davis as the President. The Confederate forces began to seize Federal forts in their states. But Sumter, barely completed, is empty.

Across the bay in Fort Moultrie, Major Anderson decided that Sumter, on an island, is more defensible and, under cover of night, he and his 85 men row across the bay to Sumter, raise the flag and take possession. The citizens of South Carolina are furious and demand withdrawal. Several months pass and Anderson holds his ground. Finally P.G.T. Beauregard, Anderson’s former student at West Point, demands that Anderson surrender and, if he does not, the Cenfederate troops will open fire in one hour. Anderson refuses and at 4 am a Confederate shot lights up the night over the fort, a signal to the other battlements to open fire. By daybreak, batteries circling Sumter are firing.

Excited, citizens of South Carolina carry picnic baskets to their roofs to watch the artillery barrage light up the sky. ‘Huzzah’, huzzah’ they shout. Champagne corks pop and they celebrate each shot.

With only 85 men, the Federal troops do not get many shots off under the withering fire of the Confederates. Though the shots do little damage they continued throughout the day and night. Then a hot cannon shot sets fire inside the fort and soon flames are jumping high and smoke clouds the air. The Federals don’t have enough men to battle the fire and the Confederates and finally, at 2 pm, the next day, Major Anderson surrenders the fort asking for two things: the two US flags from the fort and a 100-gun salute as the Federals left. As the hundred gun salute is firing, a young Federal soldier, Private Daniel Hough, is carrying powder bags to the cannon, a spark his the bag and he dies instantly - the only death during the 2 days. Major Anderson immediately stopped the salute and, with the two flags of the fort in hand, he and his men march out of the fort and board a ship for New York. Short handed and encircled, they had defended the fort for 34 hours. The Civil War had begun.

Major Anderson did get back to the fort when it was back in Union hands and raised the flag above it again - on the day Lincoln was shot in Ford’s Theater. Ironic.

We arrive at the boat dock with out tickets in hand for the boat ride out to the fort.
The sky is a beautiful blue, the sun is shining, a wonderful day for a boat ride out to an iconic fort which holds such a large place in American history. We can see the beautiful Ravenal bridge in the background.
Hey, our captain isn’t even holding on to the wheel. Who’s steering this boat?
If you think that Fort Sumter is a large impregnable fort like many we have seen in our travels this year, you would be mistaken. It is barely one story high with few casemates and no buildings inside. It is a mere empty hulk of the fort that it once was. Here’s what it was in the beginning.
Here’s what it looks like now.
Though it stood tall after the Confederate barrage in 1961, the Union barrages over the years when the Confederates held the fort reduced its 5’ thick, 50’ high walls to rubble.
You can still see some of the cannon projectiles fired into the fort sticking out of the walls. Some of the casemates remain, some of the cannon do also.
Then of course that ugly black monster sits in the middle of the fort, a memory of a battery built during the Spanish American War. I can’t get a clear shot of the fort without this black thing in the middle. This has been turned into a gift shop and a museum which houses many artifacts and also one of the flags that Anderson carried out of the fort. Here’s a picture of one of the flags - note how big it is compared to the people standing near it but also notice how tattered it became during the Confederate barrage.
We climbed the battlements to look out over the bay and back into Charleston to get a feel for what those soldiers inside the fort might have seen. As a Confederate we would have seen the Union army pounding us from a fort across the way. Altogether 7,000,000 lbs of shot were hurled at Sumter’s walls reducing them to rubble. Slaves and laborers inside the fort continually piled the rubble on top of older rubble, covering all with sand and bales of cotton to keep the fort strong against attack. The movie ‘Glory’ portrayed parts of this attack on Fort Sumter. Finally, as Sherman approached, the Confederates abandoned the fort.

Back on mainland, we toured the Visitor Center where the battle flag of Fort Sumter lies under special glass. Here also are many displays about the coming of the Civil War, the ambiguities of the Constitution, the events leading up to the war, the economic strengths and weaknesses of each side in the war, slave trade in the South, how Charleston fared during the war and other subjects.

I wish that we had been able to spend more time on the island, in Fort Sumter. We had only 2 hours and much of that was taken up with the boat ride out to the fort. Of course, we could have stayed there longer and waited until the next boat but - possibly the next boat might have been filled and then where would we be? I can’t swim that far. Nope, we’d better take the time we had and go back on the boat we came on.

We walked back to the parking garage to get our lunch. Saw this. Cute.
We then got some food out of the car and walked to a nearby park to eat lunch and then walked around the center of Charleston. This is definitely a tourist town with people everywhere, cameras at every angle imaginable and restaurants and shoppes on every street. But, what fun to walk through it trying to imagine walking through it in my hoop skirt and bonnet, riding in my carriage through town Ah, who am I kidding? I’d have been a shopgirl, no stylish hoop skirt, no bonnet and I’d be walking to and from work.

We then toured the Powder Magazine, Dueller’s Alley and the Slave Mart.

Charleston, SC - Dueller's Alley

If it’s Thursday, we must have moved on yesterday to another city - this time it’s Charleston, SC. From Savannah, GA to Charleston, SC - two old southern cities - both with lots of history.

Today we visited Fort Sumter in the morning and walked through town in the afternoon. One place we went into was the Powder Magazine, one of South Carolina’s oldest attractions and considered the first of many restoration projects that Charleston has undertaken to recover its history. Both Gary and I are amazed that so many people at the turn of the century, both in Savannah, GA and here in Charleston, saw the need to preserve their cities and the history that they represented. Others wanted to tear down, to replace and that urge is still prevalent today. But others thought that the past should be preserved so that the future might see it and learn about their ancestors. We are so grateful that we can stroll the cobblestone streets, under the ancient oaks and alongside the homes.


The Powder Magazine was a cute little museum. Lots of information but they also made it interesting for all. They had this original pillory which Gary thought I should try out.
Hey, Gary, bring back the key!!!

Did you know there were female pirates? They talked about the danger of piracy on shipping coming into Charleston and then mentioned 2 of the female pirates.
They had some old period muskets for anyone to handle. They had some costumes for kids to try on. They even had a game in which you could try to adjust the height of a cannon to fire on a ship as it approached the harbor. They are trying to capture every generation in their displays and I think they did a good job. They had some of the original wall covered in plastic to show what the building looked like before they put on some stucco over it to preserve it.
And, by the way, we also strolled through Dueler’s Alley, formally named Philadelphia Alley. Narrow, tree-lined, dark even on a sunny day and quiet, a perfect place to hold a duel and many were held here. Gotta uphold one’s honor, you know - even to the death. One story that I read was about a young man in Boston studying medicine who fell in love with a young woman who returned his feelings. However, another also loved her and began to libel our young hero, spreading rumors about his morality and stories about his birth, hoping to gain the young woman’s favor. Our young hero, who did not yet think himself financially able to marry, moved to Charleston to begin practice and establish himself.

When he arrived, he was accosted by a gang of toughs but was saved and befriended by a Mr. Isaac. They became fast friends traveled in different circles. He was the doctor to many in the wealthy class and hobnobbed with them. Mr Isaac became jealous and began to spread rumors about our young hero, just as before. Finally, our hero, his honor questioned, challenged Isaac to a duel in Dueller’s Alley. They met, chose their weapons, paced off the correct number of steps, turned and fired. Our hero fired up into the air. Isaac fired straight and true and the budding doctor died. Such is the type of story in Dueller’s Alley.
By the way, if you stroll through the alley, you must go all the way to the end, turn and retrace your steps back to where you started. If not, you will be haunted by the ghosts of those who died within its confines.

We also toured the Slave Mart while we were in the historic part or town. It was a ‘retail shop’ trading in slaves. The slave trade was a viable business model in the southern states but, of course, many of the slave ships were owned by Northerners. However, in 1808, the US banned participation in the international slave trade so, from then on, it was all ‘domestic’ slave trade, trading in slaves already in the US. Then in 1856, Charleston enacted a ban on public slave auctions so Charleston Sheriff Thomas Ryan and council member opened a private slave auction in some buildings he owned. Auctions were held here until 1863 and in 1865 the Union army occupied the city and closed the mart. But for 7 years slaves were bought and sold like cattle.

Today the old mart is a museum detailing the aspects and the horrors of the slave trade on the first floor and how the slaves dealt with their slavery, their accomplishments and their triumphs over slavery on the second floor. There were a few artifacts in the museum but most of the museum was a series of drawings and readings about the slave trade. We could not take pictures. We had read elsewhere that 20,000,000 slaves were taken from Africa to the American but that only 4-5% landed in what we call the US. Where did the others to? Most went to Brazil, many went to Haiti and the Dominican Republic and many to Barbados to work on the sugar plantations.
Charleston has so much history and so many thing to see - this is not the prettiest and certainly not any fun but it is not only a part of the city’s history but also a part of the history of the US that affects us still today.

It’s late, we are hungry and want to get back to our RV but first we have to get to our car in the parking ramp. Well, there’s a train on the tracks between us and at least 125 others and the ramp where all of our cars are. The train is rolling forward then backward and then forward again trying to get the right cars loaded in the right order. Finally, it heads on down the track and we all rush for our cars. As we were heading down the ramp, we noticed that the line was going really fast - how could the line go so fast if everyone had to pay? The answer: no one had to pay. The ramp was letting us out of jail free because of the train. WOW. What a great way to end the day. Instead of forking over $16 for out 8 hours in the ramp, we only had to thank the guy collecting the tickets. And, boy, did we thank him.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Savannah, GA - In Your Easter Bonnet

Sometimes we visit a really good museum, sometimes not so good but today we visited one with great promise that just didn’t have its act quite together. The displays were very good and the explanation was fine but the organization - whoo-eee. No order. We saw a good American Revolution display next to a WWI & WWII display next to a Civil War display and on the end a display about women’s hats. In the middle of all this was Forrest Gump’s bench.
My head was spinning. What kind of order was this? Chronological? Alphabetical? Higgeldy-piggeldy? I’m thinkin’ the last. Unfortunately, the order detracted from the displays themselves which were quite well set up.

They had one from a dentist’s office. This dentist practiced until the 90’s using this set-up which he bought for $600 when he started practice in the 40’s. ‘Works just as good as the new equipment’ he said.
There was a good film summarizing the history of Savannah through the eyes of the Oglethorpe statue which is in the center of town on one of the beautiful squares he laid out when he founded the town. He was narrating the history of Savannah from his founding to the present day. Twee but it really worked. Watch the film, cruise the museum.

But, we followed that museum up with a visit to Old Fort Jackson which was super. We’ve seen so many old forts these last few weeks that we think we might pass. But this was excellent. We saw not only the whole fort, a good film about its history and place in the Civil War but also had a marvelous guide/re-enactor who told us all about the food they ate, the things they carried with them, the medicine they took for sickness (it was an ‘interactive’ demonstration and some in the audience ‘volunteered’ to taste the medicine - like quinine.) and then led the group through a cannon loading and firing followed by an actual firing of the cannon. Pretty cool and we really enjoyed his presentations. As we toured the fort we saw many different displays inside each of the casemates, the vaulted section under each cannon on top of the walls. Very well set up of an old fort.
He showed us the iPhone they had during the war. Not wireless since it had to be hooked up to wire.
He even demonstrated loading a cannon but without real powder with some of the school kids that were on the tour. He then loaded it himself and shot it off - and we all had to put our hands over our ears
As were were inside, the Nina and the Pinta sailed by.
Well, these were really not the Nina and the Pinta but copies of them that sail around the world stopping in lots of ports for people to tour. And they were not sailing by - they were under motor. We had been excited to see them sailing by the fort but were both a bit underwhelmed. They looked like ghost ships since they were so dark and it’s hard to see how tiny they were in this picture. But, we were were amazed that anyone could sail across the Atlantic in something so small.

In the gift shop we noticed these cute little hats. Tell me, which side of the Civil War wore pink hats? Gary immediately shouted out: ‘the Losers.’ But that’s unfair. These are for little girls who would like a memento but want something bolder than navy blue or grey, the colors usually sold. But, then they also have these neat little bonnets (and Easter is so close. Won’t I be stunning in the Easter Parade in this cute little number?) I was having a hard time deciding which one to buy. When I sent a text to a friend, she told me to splurge and buy both. Good idea. I can wear the bonnet when we're traveling on down the road - like the pioneers.
Finally, we followed the museum and the fort with a cemetery, the Bonaventure Cemetery with is old layout, stones and markers. We wanted to see particular graves and looked them up on the cemetery locator computer and we took a smart phone picture of the diagram so we wouldn’t get lost. As we started out down the lane, we saw the signs pointing to the same graves we wanted to see. Looks like everyone wants to see the same ones. Guess we didn’t need the pictures.

One of the most well-known graves contains the smallBonaventureCemetery-18-2015-03-23-15-06.jpg statue of Grace Watson, the 6-year old daughter of a hotel manager in Savannah. She died of pneumonia and a traveling sculptor made a statue which is the exact likeness of the little girl. Her father was the hotel manager in 1864 when General Sherman marched into town and wanted Sherman and his men stay in his hotel. Sherman replied that ‘we are not in the habit of paying board’ and stayed in a private home in the area.
Another well-known grave is that of the Runner, a woman who ran marathons and other races but was also well-known in the city.
Finally, we wanted to see the grave of Johnny Mercer of musical fame. I knew he did Moon River and Charade but I was surprised to see how many other songs he wrote that I remember. Songs such as:

        Blues in the Night - one of my favorites

        I’m an Old Cowhand

        Jeepers, Creepers,

        Autumn Leaves

        Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe

        Come Rain or Come Shine

        Days of Wine and Roses

        Hooray for Hollywood

        In the Cool, Cool of the Evening

        One More for my Baby

        Somethin’s Gotta Give

        That Old Black Magic

        You Must Have Been a Beautiful Baby

How can you make a song out of ‘Ac-cen-tu-ate the Positive?’
But we were intrigued by all the other graves of people less well known. Very interesting cemetery and we knew we were not in Iowa anymore.
We had a three-fer today, time to get back to the RV, have dinner and begin to get ready for out trip tomorrow. It’s hard to realize that we’ve been here for a week. Have we seen what we wanted to? Heck no, I’ve still got things on my list that we can see next time. However, we also took time out to work on our taxes and my brother’s taxes. We do taxes on Turbo Tax and it is so slick - but it still takes time. At the end they give me the choice of how I want to get the message out that I’ve done our taxes: Twitter, Facebook or what ever. Oh, yeah, I want to send a tweet out that I’ve done our taxes. I don’t think so.