Thursday, May 31, 2012

The Plains in Georgia

Wednesday, May 30 – Here’s a look at the fields surrounding Plains and Americus.  Peanuts anyone?

Windsor Hotel - Americus, GA

Wednesday, May 30 – Americus is about 10 miles down the road from Plains, and in addition to having the national headquarters of Habitat for Humanity in town, it also has a very noteworthy Victorian hotel, which takes up an entire block downtown.  Built in 1892 with the wealth created by the cotton plantations in the area, the Road Trip USA book called it’s 3-story atrium lobby “one of the grandest interior spaces in the state”, and it didn’t disappoint.

Home of the 39th President

Wednesday, May 30 – I honestly have to say that I never thought I’d be in Plains, Georgia.  However, when a road trip route takes you within 20 miles of a significant U.S. Presidential site, I think you have to see it.  Unfortunately, we were within TWO historic presidential sites after 5pm, and we were tight on time to get to our destination for the evening.  The other site was Warm Springs, FDR’s “Little White House,” where he also died.  And while one might argue that FDR played a little more of a significant role in our nation’s history than Jimmy Carter… we chose Jimmy.  It was closer to our route, we thought we might be able to see a little more with the museum closed, and he’s still alive and lives in town, so maybe we’d bump into him…

Well, we didn’t see him, but there was a great sign at the city limits (in case you didn’t pick up on it, we love good signs), a really nice museum site at the old Plains high school operated by the National Park Service (which we also love), a “historical” downtown with Jimmy Carter’s campaign headquarters, which looks frozen in time from the late 1970s, and to top it off, a rockin minivan for the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.

Welcome to Georgia

Wednesday, May 30 – Ok, so this state entrance was a little disappointing…  We entered the state from the Alabama suburb of Columbus, Georgia called Phenix City.  (That’s not a typo.)  The state line is also the Chatahoochee River, and since it is in an urban area, a lot was going on in almost every department: traffic, navigation and signage.  Thus, my state entrance photo leaves quite a bit to be desired.  And on top of all that commotion, there was no beautiful “Welcome to Georgia” sign.  Instead, it’s a mish-mash of signs marking the bridge, the highway number, the river, the county line, the city limits, the Chatahoochee River Inland Waterway, and a very non-descript state line sign that I almost missed.  At least I got a good shot of the Camaro billboard.  As you can see, I was pretty disappointed all around, including in my photography skills. 

As a consolation prize, I got the “buckle up” sign, which at least has the state of Georgia on it, even though it’s buckled-in.

Auburn University

Wednesday, May 30 - Continuing our Road Trip tradition of visiting colleges, and on this trip, schools of the SEC, we made sure to make a stop to pay a visit to the Tigers of Auburn University.  Sandy was pretty excited.

And no visit to a school like this would be complete without a drive by the stadium (we did the same at LSU, if you recall... see here).

'Nuff Said

Hank Williams Museum

Wednesday, May 30 - The Hank Williams Museum was right next door to our hotel, so how could we not visit?  It's a relatively small, family-owned storefront, but it's chuck full of authentic memorabilia -- clothes, furniture, hotel receipts, video clips and music playing, and even the Cadillac that he died in.   The hotel receipts were interesting... $4-5 for the hotel rooms in the early 1950s, but up to $14 for a single long distance phone call!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

The Bus Stop

Wednesday, May 30 - This is THE Bus Stop.  The stop where Rosa Parks refused to give her seat up to whites getting on the bus.  That act prompted the 1-year Montgomery Bus Boycott.

This is just a couple of blocks away from our hotel, an historical building which was restored and is now a Hampton Inn and Suites.  We have the corner room on the 6th floor, which you're looking at in this picture.  I'm sitting in that room right now blogging... (And that's Sandy crossing the street in the picture.) Very nice location in downtown Montgomery.

Early morning Crossfit

Wednesday, May 30 - So, my new thing (this is Ken speaking) is Crossfit.  I knew I wouldn't be able to go two weeks on the road without a workout.  When I told my Crossfit coach in NYC, Sully, about our road trip, he told me that I had to go to some Crossfit gyms along the way, and send pictures back to post in the Crossfit NYC website.  So, I went to a 6:30am workout at Crossfit Montgomery - The Boneyard.  (Yes, I know this is vacation, and that's a pretty early start time for vacation, but it was the only time I could do it!)  Great workout with Coach Greg.  Thanks!

Dinner in Montgomery

Tuesday, May 29 - We had a great dinner at a restaurant called Central in the newly revitalized entertainment district in downtown Montgomery. It looks like they're really working hard to bring life back to downtown, and this place is definitely doing the job.  It's in an old warehouse space, and they call their food "a straightforward approach to comforting classics," with wood-fired dishes.  Yum.

State Capitol #3

Tuesday, May 29 - Three state capitols in three days!  We're definitely a fan of the Alabama State Capitol.  The oldest one we've seen so far, and nicely positioned at the top of a hill in downtown Montgomery, Alabama.  This was also the first Confederate capitol.

We really timed this one right, and got it in some great light as the sun was setting.  We definitely liked this one, although it's hard to say it was the favorite so far, since they've been so different: Louisiana is the art deco monument to Huey Long, Mississippi is traditional and strong, and Alabama is regal and genteel.

We walked all the way around the capitol building, and found some pretty prime parking spots in the back:

Sweet Home Alabama

Tuesday, May 29 - Another new state for me.  Headed to Montgomery. Another small town we made a quick stop in is Demopolis (which means "city of the people").  Most noteworthy in Demopolis is a mansion called Gainsworth, which was called by the Smithsonian Historic Guide to America as one of the top three antebellum mansions in America.  Definitely worth a stop.  

Unfortunately, the hours published in the guidebook were out of date, and they closed about a 1/2 hour before we got there.  Bummer, since it still has the original interior finishings and furniture.

Side note:  We've been behind several big trucks hauling logs today.  It feels a little precarious following this...

The next quick stop was Selma, Alabama, best known as the home of the civil rights marches of 1965.  It also has one of the few intact antebellum business districts, spared in an attack on the town's factories for weapons and ammunition near the end of the Civil War in 1865.  One of those buildings is the St. James Hotel, which has been restored.

Selma was the home of "Bloody Sunday", March 7, 1965, which was when police officers attacked peaceful civil rights demonstrators on the Edmund Pettus Bridge as they were attempting to march to the state capital, Montgomery. After this occurred, President Johnson said:

"At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama."

Heading across Mississippi

Tuesday, May 29 - Heading out of Jackson, Mississippi, we started following the Southern Pacific route in the Road Trip USA book, one of our stalwart guides that we've used on all of our trips.  It's a great book, because it takes you off what they call the "anodyne interstate" and takes you on the local roads so that you can see more of small town America.  We try to stay off the interstates as much as possible, unless we just need to get somewhere as fast as possible.

This route took us on US-80 from Jackson to Montgomery, Alabama.   It took us through the Bienville National Forest, which was a nice drive, but we didn't even see one of the familiar national park service signs that we know and love.  Here's the sign from their website:

Our next destination was Meridian, but along the way we passed through Chunky, Mississippi.  Now, with a name like Chunky, it cries out for some comment.  Let's just say it's a "wide" spot in the road that stands proud with a baptist church and a post office along US-80.  Small town, big name.

We took a quick break in Meridian, the birthplace of the "Father of Country Music," Jimmie Rodgers.  While we didn't go into the museum, the town is also known for it's Dentzel Carousel in the town's Highland Park, built in 1896 for the 1904 St. Louis World's Fair, and moved to Meridian in 1909 where it's been in operation ever since.  It's also housed in the only surviving original carousel building built from a Dentzel blueprint.  The hand carved animals have all been restored to their original condition, so of course we had to go for a ride.  Fifty cents per person!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

State Capitol #2

Monday, May 28 - Our second state capitol in two days!  We exited the Natchez Trace Parkway near Jackson, Mississippi, and headed straight downtown to take a look at the Capitol. Obviously, much more traditional than the Louisiana State Capitol in Baton Rouge.

The one strange thing was that there almost wasn't a soul in downtown Jackson.  We were standing in this park in front of the Capitol, and for a few minutes we didn't see one human being.  Granted, it was after 5pm on a holiday, but it was almost like one of those movies where everyone just disappeared, and you're the last person in the city.  All you could hear was the cicadas...

...which I had to admit were so loud that I didn't think they could be insects.  Sandy thought they were bugs, but I thought maybe they were birds...?  My Yankee upbringing didn't teach me what a cicada sounds like, and crickets certainly aren't that loud.  Well, a quick Google search and a YouTube video proved me wrong: