Boom!June 4 - 22, 2006
With an ear-splitting explosion, a blank charge is fired from a Civil War-era cannon at Fort Pulaski on the Georgia coast. Shelly is proud of this photo, which she took with one hand; the other was plugging the ear closest to the action!
Hot Springs, N.C. - Savannah, Ga. - Charleston, S.C. - Charlotte, N.C. Loop
10,856 miles to date
1,610 miles this leg
NOTE: In addition to the updated Route Map
, we've made revisions to the Proposed Route Map
: for now, it includes Newfoundland!
Four and a half months after leaving our Northwest home, we reached the Southeast apex of our round-the-country trip. We first saw the Atlantic on June 15 from the bridge to Tybee Island, Ga., where we spent some of the most magical days of our travels to date (read on!). Our odometer rolled over the 10,000-mile mark just before we reached the coast.
And how are we feeling, nearly halfway into our 10-month on-the-road odyssey? Well, as you might expect, there are times when Jeff and I overdose on each other’s company and run out of things to talk about—until our next adventure provides conversational fodder. It’s also difficult to schedule “alone time” on long driving or sight-seeing days, and both of us are getting less
exercise than we thought we would. With the heat and humidity we’ve been enduring for the last two months, jogging is out of the question unless I
Tybee Island Beach
Friday evening on Tybee Island beach, where we had the pleasure of hanging out for a couple of days.
rise very early (rarely happens) or wait until after dark (sometimes not safe), plus have the promise of a shower at the end (not always the case).
This raises another point: soon into the trip, we fell into a comfortable sleeping pattern that has us in bed from 11 p.m. to 8 a.m. This is obviously a change for Jeff, who for years had to be at the office at 8 o’clock every morning but didn’t get to bed any earlier. I’ve long known I need 8-9 hours of sleep a night, but now Jeff is realizing it, too.
But one thing is for certain: every day we are reminded how fortunate we are to be doing what we’re doing, and how we will look back on this trip with fondness, admiration, and interest for the rest of our lives. To illustrate, I happened to have pen and paper in hand when my grandmother in Tennessee asked Jeff if the trip was “worth it,” and this was his verbatim response: “This is the trip of a lifetime for me. My universe has been expanded by all the people we’ve met. If I had to do it
Jeff & Boogie Board
Jeff spent many hours in the surf with this boogie board.
again, I’d do it without hesitation. It was the right thing to do.”
So there you have it!
For this travel narrative, I’m going to start with our arrival on the Atlantic coast and work backward. Although we’d previously come as far north as North Carolina to pick up my parents on the Appalachian Trail for a family gathering, we had always planned to loop back to Savannah and Charleston. These are cities not to be missed by traveling city planners with an interest in historic preservation! When we mentioned this at a cook-out last month in Monroe, Ga., a fellow we’d just met urged us to call his relatives on Tybee Island, just 30 minutes east of Savannah. “They love to host visitors,” he told us, and this turned out to be abundantly true.
Carroll and Linda and their daughter Monica happen to live on a little piece of paradise 3-½-miles long and ½-mile wide, and they know it. They welcomed us to their 1918 beach house on Tybee Island and put us up in their guest suite, where we had our own kitchen, bathroom and entrance. After being told where we could find the washer/dryer,
Tybee Island Light
The black-and-white striped lighthouse that signals the entrance to the Savannah River.
the neighborhood grocery store, and the beach chairs, we were free to explore Tybee’s beaches, downtown, and seafood restaurants on our own.
Our first night, we feasted on grilled shrimp and chipotle grits at the waterfront restaurant where Monica waitresses, then walked along the white-sand beach in the moonlight. It was 9 p.m. on a Thursday, but the beach resorts had already kicked into gear, so we were not alone as we strolled the edge of darkened surf. Teenagers were spotlighting sand crabs with flashlights, someone was setting off a mini fireworks show at the base of the dunes, and parents were watching their toddlers dig holes in the light of the town pier, which itself was crowded with people fishing for small sharks. With a blissfully warm breeze, warm water, and happy vacationers surrounding us, it felt for the first time like we were on vacation. I’m serious—most of the time, traveling feels like our job
, so we were grateful for the opportunity to vacation on magical Tybee Island
for three days and four nights.
In between boogie boarding and bicycling, I had a happy accidental reunion with a shipmate from the spring 1999 season aboard the schooner
Tybee Island SunsetAdventuress
Our first sunset on Tybee Island, from a waterfront restaurant on the west side -- which reminded us of home as the sun set over water.
, which sails Puget Sound in Washington State. I was peering into turtle tanks at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center
when I heard a gang of kids and a staff naturalist enter the touch-tank room behind me. The moment I heard the naturalist’s voice, I knew it was my shipmate Diane! It wasn’t so surprising to find her there; last I heard, she was sailing as a marine educator in the Bahamas, but it turns out she has spent most of the last seven years in her native Ohio, doing environmental education for Rural Action
, a very cool organization we’d run across in the southern Appalachians. She’d only moved to Tybee one month earlier for the job of Public Programs & Outreach Coordinator and was as excited as I was to be back on the coast. Diane sends hugs to everyone from our Adventuress
We weren’t allowed to leave Tybee without experiencing a “low-country boil,” courtesy of our fabulous hosts Carroll and Linda, whose backyard was designed for outdoor cooking, eating and living. “Low-country” refers to the geographical area we were in, and “boil” means you boil up whatever you’ve got in a big pot with Cajun spice bags. We boiled huge
Tybee Island Boardwalk
Enjoying the sunset on the east side of the island, on a boardwalk that takes you from the street over the dunes.
local shrimp, snow crab, link sausage, potatoes, onions, and ears of corn. When all the food was cooked, it was drained and dumped out on a table—paper-covered for easy clean-up later. We ate mostly with our hands, and despite being joined by friends, had lots left over for future meal creation. One word: YUM.
As for the cities we were there to see, we turned to the professionals. Tour guides can actually earn a living in Savannah and Charleston because the cities are effectively marketed as historical destinations, and what is history but stories? We took a trolley-bus tour in Savannah with comp tickets provided by Linda, who runs a tour and events company of her own, Tales of the South
, and partners often with the trolley folks. In Charleston we signed up for a walking tour focused on Civil War history, and Jeff’s lifelong study of this event enabled him to be the first person ever
to correctly answer our tour guide’s tricky question: “What one event made the Confederacy realize they could not win the war?” (Think about it! The answer is at the end of this blog entry.)
I, Shelly, was sufficiently inspired by our tours to want
Diane & Shelly
Of all things, Shelly ran into a former Adventuress shipmate who is working at the Tybee Island Marine Science Center. Diane and Shelly hadn't seen each other for seven years, but had a lovely reunion.
to look into leading historical tours in Port Townsend. Successful tours play an important role in teaching visitors, as well as residents and elected officials, to value historic resources. We got a wonderful sense for this in these charming, lively cities. One great example: construction is underway in Savannah to “restore” one of the city’s original squares, which was covered in the 1950s by a city parking garage. Right now it’s just a big hole in the ground, but soon Ellis Square
will have underground
parking, with trees and fountains back at street level.
The “boom” action was photographed at Fort Pulaski
, at the entrance to the Savannah River. The re-enactors manning the cannons are wearing Federal blue because the fort was captured by Union troops early in the Civil War. The triumphant major general, an ardent abolitionist, ordered the release of area slaves, and many of them were recruited into the Union army. We also visited Fort Moultrie
outside Charleston, which served from Revolutionary days through WWII. From there, we got a good look at the island of Fort Sumter, but did not take the ferry out (Jeff had been there before).
Now, retracing our steps from the coast, we
We also lucked out with finding a host family on Tybee Island, thanks to a friend of a friend. This is the "backyard" of the house we stayed at, two blocks from the beach!
spent three nights in Lawrenceville, Ga., with friends we’d stopped in to see briefly earlier in the trip. Erin and Darrell and nine-month-old Joshua welcomed us back June 12-14, a time period that turned out to be quite significant in their lives. Since
we’d seen them in late May, they’d put their house on the market and signed a conditional contract on a house under construction in a new, more walkable and neighborhood-like development that will put Darrell 15-20 minutes closer to his Atlanta job (his current commute is 45 minutes) and will also eliminate his task of mowing a huge yard. The action of this couple in their early 30s gives us hope, because they are joining a national trend of rejecting the isolated suburban lifestyle and moving closer to the cities and closer to their neighbors. The day after Erin showed me around their hoped-for new home, they accepted an offer on their current home (only nine days after putting it up for sale). The move will occur September 1, and we congratulate them and wish them well in this new endeavor!
We also returned to the company of Monroe, Ga., friends Chad and Donna, for a
Carroll & Linda
Our Tybee Island hosts, Carroll and Linda, cooked for us a "low-country boil" of seafood and other good things. We're mailing home some of the spice packets so we can attempt to recreate the flavor in Port Townsend!
day-long outing to Atlanta. Chad’s a developer who sees eye to eye with Jeff and is linked into New Urbanism trends in the Atlanta area, so we started our day with a tour of a creative new development called Serenbe
on the southwest side of the city. Two hundred acres of a 900-acre farm tract are being developed with residential and small-scale commercial buildings, leaving 700 acres for open space and walking/biking/horse-riding trails. The entrance road is graveled and passes by horse pastures and a pond before you see the first cluster of homes and businesses. We would’ve only stayed an hour, but when we returned to their car, it wouldn’t start! Jeff and I felt like we’d jinxed it, only we were secretly glad it wasn’t Matilda having more engine troubles. We pooled our resources and gave Chad and Donna one of our AAA tows to get the vehicle back to Monroe (if we need it later in the trip, we’ll be calling them!), while Donna’s mother, a real estate agent, was only too glad to drop her schedule for the afternoon and come pick us up.
Fortunately we weren’t too stranded, as Serenbe boasts a wonderful eatery
Serving the Boil
When the food was cooked in the big pot, Carroll lifted out the strainer and dumped the contents on the paper-covered table (for easy clean-up at the end of the meal). Yum!!
called the Blue-Eyed Daisy Café, where we had lunch while we waited. There we met a couple who bought us dessert and interviewed me and Jeff about our trip for possible inclusion in a personal column Lois writes for a local newspaper. We also volunteered to be filmed chatting with the Serenbe developer for a WTBS special on the new development, to be aired later in the summer. After Donna’s mother Debbie rescued us, she joined us for some sightseeing in Atlanta that culminated with a free outdoor concert in Centennial Olympic Park. We picnicked to music of the energetic Fahrenheit Band and noted that this
is where the local African-American community hangs out on a summer evening. All the children gravitated toward the fountain that shot water skyward in a pattern of the five linked Olympic rings.
Before Georgia, we had looped back through my family’s stomping grounds in east Tennessee. Two weeks earlier we had been to Rogersville for a family reunion and a baptism; this time we stayed at my aunt and uncle’s house for four nights and made the rounds of visiting my nana (grandmother) in the nursing home, her cousin John (in his 90s)
Their daughter Monica, a college student home for the summer, happily cracked this whole pile of snow crab. We loved the local shrimp.
and wife Evelyn in nearby Morristown, my papaw’s (grandfather’s) grave, and many other people and places.
My dad’s cousin Jean and family took us out for BBQ and then to a Rogersville revue called Music Junction. The emcee managed a list of musicians who each got to perform three songs (mostly country, some mountain folk) with microphones and a back-up band, and somehow Jean and Ronnie convinced us to get up there. We were unsure how we’d be received, but just being the youngest people in the building drew big applause, as did our intro as “Jeff and Shelly from Washington State.” We sang “Boil Them Cabbage Down” with Jeff on banjo, then I soloed on “Life is Like a Mountain Railroad,” then Jeff came back with banjo for an oldie but goodie that the audience sang along with: “I’ll Fly Away.” I’ll say, it was thrilling to be backed up by those talented musicians. We’ll do it again, next time we visit.
Returning to the place of my birth, Jefferson City, we visited my godmother Florine and her husband Dick. Ever my introducer to mountain culture (last visit she served us moonshine!), Florine found us a hominy
We took a trolley tour around Savannah and were most impressed with the checkerboard of squares that cool the air every few blocks. Here is a fountain in one. Note the graceful live oaks -- historic downtown Savannah is the most heavily treed place we've visited.
recipe that we made that evening. In Jefferson City we were hosted by longtime family friends Bruce and Martha. Both their children were in the area, so we got to catch up with my childhood friend Paige and her brother Brett. Brett has gotten into roping in his 20s, and he saddled up his cow pony Skip so both Jeff and I could take a few cantering turns around a corral. Then he roped a bull for us! Paige and parents recounted how Brett practiced roping them
for months on end. We also had a good music jam and performed for Martha’s mother Mildred, who lives with them. We are becoming convinced that sharing music is one of the easiest and most pleasing things we can do.
Some wonderful music was shared with us at the Carter Family Fold
near Hiltons, Va., where every Saturday night descendants of the Original Carter Family (A.P., Sara and Maybelle) open a music show in a rustic hall with walls open to the breeze. We were treated to grandson Dale Jett playing autoharp and bought a CD from granddaughter Flo Wolfe in the souvenir stand. And when the headlining band, Black Diamond Edition, took the
Jeff studies the reflection our Old Savannah Tours trolley makes in a department store window.
stage, the Virginia cloggers hit the concrete dance floor with their tap shoes playing percussion. We tried this style of dancing by following the simple advice of “Move yer feet!” In the week before our visit, I’d read a wonderful biography of the extended Carter family called Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone?
, so I was particularly interested in the memorabilia in the little museum at the Fold. Mother Maybelle and her daughter June Carter Cash are just two of the many fine musicians this family produced, as are songs like “Wildwood Flower” and “Keep on the Sunny Side of Life.”
Music was also the reason we went to Hot Springs, N.C., where a memorable personage named Elmer runs the Sunnybank Inn (click here
for a profile of the owner). My parents had spent a night off the Appalachian Trail here, and they gifted us a stay in the inn (with meals) as an early birthday present to me. The inn was once a boarding house that became known as The Balladry for the role its owner, Jane Gentry, played in collecting ballads from visitors and the surrounding hills in the early 1900s. She was inspiration for the
Captured this image of two maids on a smoke break outside a Savannah hotel while on our trolley tour.
, which we enjoyed seeing a few years ago. My parents knew we would love the vegetarian food and the “music room,” and they were right. So we paid to stay in a bed for the first night on our trip and hosted a music session in the music room that evening for anyone who wanted to join in. The guests, other hikers and a rock-climbing couple, were fully engaged, and the next morning, Jeff taught a beginning banjo lesson for three of them, using the house banjo as the teaching instrument.
Speaking of birthdays, yes, I turned 30 on June 22. Jeff turns 40 in October, but we’re avoiding mid-life crises by engaging in mid-life adventures!
I couldn’t have been happier to spend my birthday in Charlotte, N.C., visiting a friend from a college maritime studies program
in Mystic, Conn. Maggie, a high school history teacher with the summer off, was the perfect tour guide for this burgeoning financial center. We visited her husband Mark downtown at the headquarters of Wachovia Bank, where he works as a compliance officer (I saw the “Chinese wall”!), went through the Cotton Fields to Skyscrapers exhibit at the Levine Museum of the South,
Here's another fountain in Charleston, S.C. We found the best way to get downtown for dinner was to park on the Ashley Riverfront and bike in. A VERY walkable, bikable historic area.
and covered our ears at the NASCAR motor speedway, where students in “race school” were rounding the three-mile track. Maggie made sure we found a bakery with some birthday cake, too: a slice of chocolate-espresso cake that she helped me eat, with relish. (Jeff grows thinner every day he can’t eat wheat-laden bakery products…) Paradoxically, I feel younger now than I did last year, with all the stresses that led up to the decision to take this year off. Goes to show your age is determined, in part, by how you feel!
You’ll have to check out the photos to catch the stories I ran out of room to tell here: whitewater rafting on the French Broad River in the North Carolina hills, visiting a Smith College classmate in Columbia, S.C., and Jeff getting his banjo out of the car to join the Old Mill Singers on a porch in Pigeon Forge, Tenn., just before we drove through the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
P.S. The Peninsula Daily News
out of Port Angeles, Wash., published my piece on the sister city relationship between Port Townsend and Bay St. Louis, Miss., in the Sunday, June 11 edition, page
Charleston Pink House
One of the many "sideways mansions" that fronts the Charleston waterfront. We wondered why they were situated perpendicular to the water and were told it was to (1) allow the offshore breeze to run the length of the porches, and (2) to minimize a historic tax that was levied on the street frontage of a building!
C1 & 2. I’m working on getting permission to post a PDF of the article to my website, and will include a link here (page 1
, page 2
) when that is accomplished. ANSWER
to “What one event made the Confederacy realize they could not win the war?”: Lincoln’s re-election at the end of 1864. Atlanta and Richmond were under siege, and the weakened Confederacy was stalemating in the hopes of Lincoln’s defeat by George McClellan, a Democrat running on a peace platform. If Lincoln had lost, McClellan likely would have made a truce with the South that would have recognized the Confederacy and ended the war. But Lincoln would not accept anything but complete surrender. This happened at Appomattox just five days before he was assassinated in April 1865.
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