A Travellerspoint blog

December 2007

Day 116-118 - Atlanta to Miami (Photo's Added)

We arrived in Miami to spend time with my son before he has to go back to work. We drove pretty hard but arrived safely. Not much time for sightseeing, but we'll get back to that shortly

semi-overcast 58 °F


Miles Driven - Wednesday - 134 (left Melissa & Guys about 1 PM, drove from Atlanta, GA to Macon GA)
Thursday - 377 (Macon, GA to Tampa, FL)
Friday - 276 (Tampa, FL to Miami, FL)
Weather - It did stop raining Wednesday, cleared up and finally started to warm up to maybe the high 60's. Continued to get warmer, 70 by FL, 80 by South FL
Camped at:
Wednesday: Camping World just south of Macon. (Yeh! I finally got to replace some broken things in the Rig!)
Thursday: Made a reservation at a nice campground near Fort Meyers, but was unable to drive that far so we stayed at a rest area just south of Tampa.
Friday: We're at Miami Everglades Campground now, hot tub, swimming pool, etc. etc. etc.


I think I'm almost caught up with the blog now, will try not to start falling behind again?

Lousy holiday traffic trying to leave Atlanta, took about 2 hours to go 30 miles. We only made it just past Macon, partly due to not leaving until after lunch, partly due to the traffic. This will be offset some by the weather, it's forecast to be 80 F the whole time we'll be there... (Cancel that, big cold front came through, was +80 F through New Years Eve, 50 F after that)

More accidents on I75 in FL, second one near Tampa was some sort of rollover accident complete with heliocopter, with the heavy holiday traffic, each accident seems to cause serious slowdowns, probably because there is so much holiday traffic on the road to begin with, but we finally got to Miami safe & sound.


My son, Michael, is a teacher in the Miami area. Since he'll have to go back to work after New Years when the Christmas Break is over, we're going to hit the freeway for the 700+ miles from Atlanta to Miama. I'd like to get there by Friday night (normally quite achievable, but we're talking about me, who rarely make over 100 miles per day on this trip!). So anyway, I'm going to try driving hard the next couple of days and just pretend I don't see anything worth stopping for.

BTW - we visited Melissa again this morning (12/26) before she left for work then hit the road. It was fun getting to see her again and meeting Guy and some of his family. We didn't do any other sightseeing in Atlanta, but those are the tradeoff's. Family is important also.

We stopped at the visitors center just after crossing into Florida - LOTS of people come here for the holiday break and the huge parking lot was full. We took out enough time to update our travel maps - Florida is the 1/2 point of the trip - so this one is a pretty big deal for us.


12/29/07 Update - we did finally make it to Miami safe & sound. It was so hard driving by all those sightseeing activities, I think we've both come to enjoy stopping and learning about all sorts of different things. We did make one side trip to the beach at Sarasota (took a lot longer then I expected). There were a lot of brown pelicans and turns (forked tail, unlike seagulls). They were both diving for fish, quite interesting. Mom took a few minutes to play in the sand, which was very soft. I spent my time trying to get photo's of the pelican's diving...


We also stopped in the Everglades once and saw plenty of alligators. This was actually at the visitors center for the Big Cyprus National Preserve, which is on the north end of the everglades. We also saw lots of birds while driving through the Everglades, they aren't very far from our campground so we may make a day trip back there just for fun.


Mike came by the campground last night, it was nice seeing him again. He is off the next several days so we'll be able to visit quite a bit. Not sure how much time will be left for blogging, but as usual will fit in what I can...

Will try to catch up on this off and on, pool should be open now, so we're heading off for a morning swim...

Posted by jl98584 19:59 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (4)

Day 112-115 - Macon & Christmas (Photo's Added)

Took a Trolley through Macon and saw many stately homes & churches, fancy new museums. Toured the Hay house, on A&E's show: America's Castles



Miles Driven - 117
Weather - Overcast, light rain late in afternoon
Camped at - Brookwood CG, North of Atlanta (about 10 miles from Melissa & Guy's)


I'm out of musings. No opinions tonight - is that a cop out?


Since we only had a couple hours driving today to get to Atlanta , we decided to check out Macon a little bit this morning. (We thought. I forgot to factor in the fender benders on the Atlanta highways however.) The folks at the Visitor's Center were exceedingly friendly and I wasn't sure I'd be able to get Mom back on the road! The visitor's center in Macon is less than a year old, a very nicely refurbished old brick building.


We took a trolley through the downtown area. There is a lot of old architecture and interesting homes and churches. They also have the Georgia Music Hall of Fame (Otis Redding, Little Richard, Allman Brothers Band) and a Georgia Atheletes Hall of Fame.


We did tour one old mansion, the Hay House. Very nice, built by a Jeweler, Wm Johnston, who made a fortune investing in various things, especially railroads. He became so wealthy he retired at 40, got married shortly thereafter and spent a three year honeymoon in Europe. When the couple got back, they wanted a house built in Italian Renaissance Revival style such as some they'd seen in Europe. Their home was built between 1855 and 1859 at a total cost of $125,000 (most mansions in the area were costing $6,000 to $12,000 at the time). It has 18,000 square feet and some of the best examples of trompe l'oeil around (French for "fool the eye"). The main entry hall looks like lavish marble from floor to ceiling (which is two stories high in places). It was painted by Swiss painter Auguste Tripod. No matter how closely I looked at the faux marble, it still looked real to me.

Unfortunately, no photography is allowed inside except for a couple of areas in the basement. So here are my exterior shots. I'll bring home a few postcards showing the inside (or perhaps you can located it on an AMC Video on America's Castles - Railroad Baron's, which featured the house). Here's what I could get (notice the faux wood trim in this basement room - painted trim on wood).


We finally left for Atlanta shortly after lunch (Sorry, had to skip the HOF's and a Tubman museum). I was a bit sleepy this afternoon for some reason, not sure why. Lots of fender bender's on I75 approaching Atlanta, lots of police cars pulling people over for speeding, not me of course although I'm occasionally at risk of being pulled over for not going fast enough! Not today though, we made it to Atlanta just fine and found the campground we'd made reservations at just fine.

We'll be in Atlanta until the day after Christmas, then head forthwith to Miami, so won't be doing much of the usual touring. Will have a few short updates.

Melissa stopped by the RV after work briefly and we had a nice visit.

Sunday Melissa got called into work afterall (she had scheduled it as a day off, but someone else got sick.) So we spent the morning resting and doing some chores (laundry, etc.). I took a stab at rebuilding the shelves in the RV closet, which had collapsed some time ago. Since the screws hadn't held up too well, I took a stab at using Duct Tape - who knows, it will probably hold up at least until we get back!

In the Afternoon, we drove over to Melissa & Guy's house and finally got to meet Guy (pronounced Gee). Melissa is my niece, she married Guy a couple of years ago in Atlanta and I hadn't had a chance to meet him yet (his brother, J.C. did come to Seattle last winter so we met J.C., just not Guy.) I tried to help Melissa fix lunch, fortunately she's a good enough cook to overcome my feeble efforts - but it was fun visiting.

Later we went over to J.C's house and met Bea, J.C.'s fiance and some nephews (Paul, Martin, David). I'm turning into a space case as I forgot to take pictures of the kids. However, I did get a picture of Mom, Guy's father, J.C., and Guy on Christmas on Tuesday.


Here's a picture of Bea, Guy and Melissa.


Monday - some shopping and chores in the morning, a little work on the blog in the afternoon. Melissa and Guy got home later so we visited them in the evening and helped Melissa learn Rummy Cubes (I think she & Mom beat me in every game). We spent the evening with Melissa, several rounds of Rummy Cubes (a favorite family game), then enjoyed sharing/updating some family history (geneology). Missy wants a big Christmas breakfast, so Mom & I are risking staying in the apartment complex parking lot tonight. We figure if they're mean enough to tow us on Christmas Eve, well so be it... (...we didn't get towed)

Christmas we had breakfast with Melissa while Guy slept in. She enjoys cooking (and is a good cook), but often doesn't have time to cook much as she is working and out of town quite a bit. So she really cooked up a storm for Christmas dinner this afternoon. I had learned that she is interested in her geneology and has done a very nice page in her scrapbook for a couple of generations, so I printed her some pages of our family tree and pictures of relatives she hadn't had before. Later, J.C and Bea came over with Guy's father and a family friend (Roland?) and we all shared Melissa's cooking. Ate too much, enjoyed the company - now am really ready to crash for the night...


One last pic - Simon, Melissa & Guy's cat. He has a most unusual mew, sounds more like a mouse than a cat! He also plays fetch - better then many dogs I've seen.


Posted by jl98584 18:42 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

Day 111 - Tybee Island, Lighthouse & Fort (Photo's Added)

Tybee Island has a lighthouse & museum, which we visited. Nearby is Fort Pulaski, an important Civil War site and national monument.

storm 50 °F


Miles Driven - 186
Weather - Heavy Rain and Wind last night through lunch, then just overcast and mid 50's
Camped at Walmart in Macon, GA


In case you're just reading the blog, when I fall behind I try to create a least short entries without any photo's so family and friends know where we are. These have (Placeholder) in the title. Then later, when I can go back and add the photo's and full writeup, I change the title to show (Photo's Added). In the Travellerspoint main screen, only the five most recent blog entries are listed. To see anything older - you need to select one of the categories (Family Travel) - then you can see the old entries with all the real stuff. We'll be taking a few days off during the holidays, so I should be able to get everything caught up for a change. When I am not behind, there aren't any qualifiers in the title, so photo's and text are all current. Hope this helps?


The plan for today and tommorrow was just to travel. We are scheduled to be in Atlanta, Georgia by Saturday night to spend Christmas with my niece and we have reservations at a nice campground near her place. I figured two days should make a nice, leasurely drive for the 250+ miles.

We went to Tybee Island last night because we heard it had a good RV campground and wasn't that far from Savannah. It turns out to be one of the places listed in the book "1,000 Places To See Before You Die". Who knew? We just seem to stumble onto the neatest things!

Anyway, our luck with the weather finally ran out a bit. Very windy & rainy all night. We had a good internet connection for a change, so I decided to wait until late morning to head out. This worked out pretty good as it stopped raining just about when we left the campground. It was still quite windy however (20 - 25 mph).

We had learned that Tybee Island has a lighthouse which was only about three blocks from where we camped! Mom decided it was too stormy for her to get out of the RV, but I wrapped up my camera really good and went on in. The lighthouse was open, as well as the keepers house (& gift shop). They weren't really busy due to the stormy weather, which was fine with me. This is still a working lighthouse, so you can climb the 178 steps to the top - but can't go all the way to the light because it's still in use.


The main gallery at the top is usually open, but because of the winds the door was locked today (the platform around the top of the lighthouse is called a gallery). I was disappointed, but I didn't really want to be blown off either. I was able to take some pictures of the view from the mid level windows as well as from the top (with some rain on the window of course).
(Thumbnail alert, click to enlarge).


The first lighthouse was built at Tybee Island in 1733 by the founder of Savannah, Gen. James Oglethorpe. It was built of wood and was 90 feet tall, one of the tallest buildings in America at the time. This was destroyed by erosion in 1741 and a new tower completed in 1742. However, it was also built too close to the ocean and was threatened with destruction. In 1768 a third lighthouse was started (farther inland). During the Civil War, Confederate troops partially destroyed the lighthouse in order to prevent Union troops from using it as a lookout over Fort Pulaski, where thier main defenses were located. When the Union captured Tybee Island, they repaired the damage somewhat and used the lighthouse as a lookout anyway. In 1873 the current lighthouse was completed, using the lower 60 feet of the previous structure. If you look closely, you can see the angle of the buildng changes part way up the structure. This final, taller version had a first order Fresnel Lens installed which is still in use. Although the lens itself was off limits, they've left an opening at the bottom so you can get a pretty good view of the lens.


It turns out that this is one of only 13 light houses left in America with a first order Fresnel Lens that is still a working lighthouse. This lens was installed in 1867 and now uses a 1,000 watt electric light bulb. The light can be seen for 18 miles at sea.

The Lighthouse is the main component of a five acre 'light station', one of the most intact 'Light Stations' in America. This consists of houses for the the Headkeeper, First Assistant Keeper, and Second Assistant Keeper, a summer kitchen, garage and fuel storage building. The Headkeeper's and First Assistant Keeper's houses have been restored to their original 'stick style' architecture. The Headkeeper's house is open for touring and is set up as it would have looked in the early 1900's when occupied. Today, other buildings are used for the Entrance & Gift shop and a museum about the history of the lighthouse. (Do you like the last picture of the bureau? It's my 'trick' shot for the day...)


Across the street from the Lighthouse was the Tybee Island Museum, housed in an 1899 Gun Barracks. Since Mom had skipped the Lighthouse, she decided she'd like to at least visit the museum, and why not - we were right there?


This had a lot of information about the gun batteries and forts that had been built on Tybee Island over the years, one of the earliest being a Martello Tower built in 1815. Unfortunately all that's left of this are drawings and old photo's, it was destroyed in 1915 to improve line of sight for the gun batteries. It was one of only six that were built in the US and the Army didn't recoginize the historical significance. (The house on top was added later when it was used as a lookout.)


I also thought I'd include this photo of a 2nd Lt. Morgan who died while trying to rescue the crew of a ship wrecked nearby, maybe to honor the bravery and heroism of such individuals.


There was also a section about Tybee Islands history as a beach resort (some call it Savannah's beach), but not sure I have any other pictures from the museum worth uploading - so will move on.

When we were driving to the campground the previous night, we'd passed another National Park Service sign for a Fort Pulaski. I wasn't really sure what Fort Pulaski was, but as we drove back from Tybee Island, I decided to go ahead and stop there briefly, if only to get my NPS Book stamped. (I'm not very good at stopping briefly anywhere however.) This was much more interesting then I had time for (we do need to get to Atlanta). But Fort Pulaski was worth the stop, and for more than just adding a stamp to a book. (Footnote 1)

This was yet another of the coastal fortifications as we've visited elsewhere (Fort Macon, Fort Knox and Fort Sumpter). However this one has a moat, drawbridges, a Demilune (triangular island protecting the main gate) as well as being quite massive. Construction began in 1829 and took 18 years and 25 million bricks.


Here's a little more information about what a Demilune is:


While I was visiting, Mike, one of the Park Rangers, gave a demonstration of how to fire a rifle such as those used during the Civil War. There are two versions of this, in the first one he gives the command for each step in the sequence (nine in all I think). In the second video, he just fires the weapon.

Now, without commands

By the outbreak of the Civil War, the Fort still wasn't fully armed or garrisoned and the State of Georgia took possession of it for the Confederacy. It was considered unbreachable. One General said if you wanted to capture Fort Pulaki, you might as well try bombarding the Rocky Mountains. Yet it was successfully taken by the Union in 1862 after only a 30 hour siege - the first siege using experimental rifled cannon. After this, Union Gen. Hunter made the profound observation:


Fort Pulaski guarded access to Savannah. By controlling the Fort, the Union was able to successfully blockade Savannah and stop the Confederacy from trading it's cotton to England for weapons. If this siege had not been successful, it would have been much harder for the Union's blockade to succeed. Also, having proven the effectiveness of the new, rifled cannon, the Union made good use of the weapon in attacking other forts. Massive, brick fortifications were obsolete.

So for an 'off' day, we visited a Lighthouse (and restored Keepers home), a museum, and a civil war fort. Hmm

We still want to get to Atlanta by tomorrow night so I drove pretty hard after all that. Fortunately, the wind died down by the time we passed Savannah and it was all freeway from there, so a pretty easy drive. We stopped at a CrackerBarrel restaurant for dinner and are crashing for the night in Macon. Should be a short 80 mile or so drive left for tomorrow.

Footnote 1 - The National Park Service has a program where you can get a stamp at any NP facilitity (including National Monuments, Wildlife Refuges, and Battlefields). You can just stamp a piece of paper, but it's more fun to purchase a book (Passport) to keep as kind of a souvenir album of your travels. Mine is getting a little full I'm afraid.

Posted by jl98584 20:12 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Day 110 - Savannah By Trolley (Photo's Added)

We toured Savannah, Georgia by Trolley Tour, visited a historic church, home and pirates lair

sunny 64 °F


Miles Driven - 41 (Excluding miles ridden on trolley)
Weather - Sunny, started off cool but was mid 60's by afternoon
Camped at Rivers End Campground on Tybee Island on GA Coast


Only one day in Savannah? Sometimes this feels like the rushed tour, not the nice, leisurely, got plenty of time to sightsee tour I had expected for eight months! Oh well, one day is better than none, but it's not enough...


In order to get into Savannah, I had to drive over yet another long, high cable stayed bridge. This one is the Eugene Talmadge Memorial Bridge and was just built in 1990. Savannah is the largest container port city on the east coast, and the old bridge was restricting access to the port for the larger ships. At 185 feet above the river surfact, most container ships can fit under this one. Fortunately, it wasn't windy when I drove across it.


After crossing the bridge, we pulled into Savannah and right into the parking lot for one of the Trolley Tour Bus companies. I bought tickets that allowed for unlimited on/off privileges this time. Since we only planned to stay one day here and didn't know much about the city, it seemed like the best way to learn as much as we could in a limited amount of time.


First we took the full loop (1 1/2 hours) so we could see as much of the city as possible. Denise, the tour guide, pointed out a lot of historic homes and locales, but I found it quite difficult to get good pictures of things from a moving trolley (like Charleston - you can see & learn a lot this way, but not necessarily get good pictures). Also, I'm not able to connect some of my pictures with my notes, so will just post them and apologize for not being able to explain what they are in all cases.

Georgia was the last of the British Colonies to be established when James Oglethorpe and 114 colonists landed in 1732. Savannah was established with the help of the local chief, Tomochichi. Savannah was a preplanned community with 24 squares, 21 of which still exist. Many of the squares have statues or monuments to various colonial or revolutionary war heros. This is one of the squares, I don't remember which one.


Here are some of the historic homes and buildings preserved in the historic district. Some have descriptions (you can click on a thumbnail to enlarge it and view the description, if any).


We also really liked the Cathedral of St John the Baptist, but unfortunately didn't have time to tour it (one day is about enough to tour one church and one historic home, do a little shopping and lunch). The building is quite beautiful however.


The small field across the street was used as a dueling field (this was a long time ago). The tour guide enjoyed pointing out how it was located next to the cemetary, very convenient.


The tour guide also pointed out this fountain in Forsyth Park and how much it looks like it might have come from Paris. Once she got us all to agree, she informed us that the city had ordered it from page 5 of a catalog from New York City.


Finally, the tour guide pointed out many of the locales where famous movies have been shot in Savannah, including the bench where Forest Gump sat while eating chocolates and the church steeple nearby from which the feather floated down. The most famous recent movie of course was "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil" based on the book of the same name. I haven't seen either of these, so wasn't able to connect well with all the spots she pointed out, but did catch these two, the Baliastone Inn, where Keven Spacey stayed during filming, and the Lucas Theater, which received a nice donation from the actor to help with it's restoration.


The final stretch of the trolley tour was River Street. Most of the buildings along here were originally cotton warehouses. Charleston got rich on rice, which was also grown in Georgia - but Savannah's original fortune was based on Cotton. Thanks to the Central of Georgia Railroad, Savannah became the primary export city for cotton. The trolley ride over the cobblestone road was quite rough.


Once we'd gone through the entire tour, we decided to get off at the last stop where we could see a little bit of the city market, then tour the First African Baptist Church.


We took one of the guided tours of the First African Baptist Church. Our tour guide was Johnny, who was on break from college (and very proud that he'd passed his classes, including a particularly difficult one). The picture of the church doesn't do it justice, but of course they don't allow photography inside. The congregation was organized in 1777 by George Leile, who was born in Jamestown in 1752. This is the longest organized African Baptist Church in North America. The present building was constructed between 1855 and 1859 by slaves, who did the work themselves at night after working a full day on the plantations. They used money they had saved to buy their freedom to support the church. It is the first brick building in Georgia built by blacks and for blacks. Below the basement is a four foot crawl space that was used to hide escaping slaves before they headed north with the underground railroad. The church members drilled holes in the floor in traditional African prayer patterns for air, but because they looked like prayer patterns, no one suspected they were for hidden slaves under the floor.

After touring the Church, we decided to tour the Juliette Gordon Low birthplace. This was a very elegant home built by her father, one of the founders of the Central of Georgia Railroad. The house is owned by the Girl Scout Organization, which she founded in 1912. It is decorated as it was in 1886, just before she married. The house was very interesting and well done, the tour guide was a wealth of information about Juliette Low and the founding of the Girl Scouts, but again we couldn't take any pictures inside.


So having toured one of the churches and one of the famous Savannah homes, we decided to eat a late lunch at "The Pirates House". This was once a tavern or inn frequented by mariners, not always of the legitimate sort (or so it was rumored). There is even a tunnel that may have occasionally been used to kidnap tavern patrons that became drunk and could be impressed into naval service (a common recruitment method in the 1600's and 1700's). Robert Louis Stevenson ate here and this is thought to be the inspirition for his book, "Treasure Island". We tried the luncheon buffet, I loved the food - Mom didn't.


That pretty much killed the day - no time for the museums unfortunately (I thought I saw an Ansel Adams sign?) Oh well.

We drove out to a nice RV park on Tybee Island on the far NE corner of GA. There is a lighthouse three blocks away, so we'll check it out in the morning. We plan is to be in Atlanta by Saturday night, about 250 miles, so that should be quite doable.

Posted by jl98584 20:50 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (3)

Day 109 - Hunting Island and Penn School (Photo's Added)

We stayed at Hunting Island a little longer to climb the lighthouse (me anyway) and enjoy the beach. Then we visited Penn School, the first school opened in the South after the Civil War for freed slaves

sunny 65 °F


Miles Driven - 54
Weather - Clear & Sunny, Low to mid 60's
Camped at - Walmart in outskirts of Savannah


Why isn't high speed internet more widely available???

Again, I am out of time. It is a little frustrating - we would have liked to stay at Hunting Island much longer, just like a lot of other places we've been on this trip. When I dreamed up the idea of an 8 month RV trip, I thought we'd have so much free time we'd be bored. Instead this seems sometimes like we're just scratching the surface.


It was so beautiful this morning, just like something out of a dream (or Gilligan's Island, without all the wierd people). We walked out on the beach, picked up shells and met interesting folks. While I was wandering around and splashing in the water, Mom met a couple from Austria that were also RV'ing around the US. They have vacationed in many other parts of the world and collected sand from all of them! Here is how close our campsite was to the beach (my RV is the one on the right). The low dunes are man made, they are trying to stabilize the island from erosion (a loosing effort).


More beach photo's. Mom wanted to get farther south for the winter, we aren't in Florida yet, but this sure looks nice to me.


The protected sides of the island (away from the open Atlantic Ocean) had salt marshes, egrets and oyster beds.


Hunting Island has the only public lighthouse in South Carolina that you can climb, so I climbed it, all 167 steps. It also had a first order Fresnel lens, so I was really looking forward to seeing this. However, what it has mostly is the lens housing (metal frame), the only glass left it the top section. Still it gives you an idea how big the thing is. When I got done climbing, Mom and the park ranger were sitting on a bench at the bottom chatting. It was so nice, we were tempted to never leave.



The island is also home to a maritime forest. One of the park signs said that the reason the mature trees are so close to the beach is because of erosion. The forest was an interesting mix of salt tolerant evergreens and palmettos. Very beautiful. It is also home to deer (which we didn't see) and lots of birds.


We finally started back to the mainland, afraid if we didn't we never would. The only way to get back to the mainland is to drive through St. Helena Island. Until the bridge was built, this was very isolated and so has preserved more of the Gullah culture then most other area's. It is also the location of Penn Center, which was started as the first school opened in the South for freed slaves. The school was closed after public schools came to St. Helena Island and is now used as a museum. No photography was allowed inside again...


We watched a very good film on the Gullah culture and music, I would have purchased it but thought $35 was a bit high. I spent enough on books to make up for it though. Most of the rest of the museum was about the school and it's history, not as much Gullah history as the other store/museum we went to near Georgetown. However, there were quite a few good books in the gift shop.

Outside of the Museum, the tree's were covered with Spanish Moss. Mom couldn't resist just one more picture...


Between dragging our feet to get off the beach and spending the rest of the afternoon at Penn Center - we didn't have much time left for Savannah. As we approached Savannah, I decided to pull over at a local WM to get a good rest for the night, so we can hit Savannah in the morning ready to explore.

Posted by jl98584 19:49 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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