What better way to end our stay in Mountain View, Folk Music Capital of the World, than
with a special concert by Harmony, our favorite group of musicians in that area. You may remember we toured Dave Smith’s home last month. Dave, along with Robert and Mary Gillihan, are three of the most talented, harmonic, and personable musicians we’ve ever met.
A special thanks to Buster and Joanne, who got us an invite to this private concert, held at the Riverview Bed and Breakfast Hotel in nearby Calico Rock. For the past seven years, hotel owners Linda and Dave have celebrated the seasonal closing of their B & B by sponsoring this concert. Seating is very limited – we counted 49 chairs in the parlor where Harmony performed, with others finding places in another parlor. We got there around 4:30, put our jackets on the front row chairs to ‘reserve’ our seats, and then along with Buster and Joanne, Connie and Tony, Karen and Galen, we had dinner at the Leatherwood Restaurant just outside of town – good food, good prices.
The concert was awesome. We were up close and personal to Dave, Robert and Mary. We were so close, it was a challenge to take pictures. They took turns choosing songs then asked the audience for requests. After about an hour’s worth of playing, they took a break and we all enjoyed the finger foods that we’d all contributed. Harmony played for another hour or so after the break – we could have listened to them all evening – this was truly one of the highlights of our year.
Calico Rock is named for the White River bluffs surrounding the town. It used to be a booming river and rail port. Most of the buildings surrounding the rail and river are quite old and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places, including the Riverview Bed and Breakfast.
Originally set up as a 30-room hotel in 1923 for railway travelers, there are now only eight rooms, all of which have private bathrooms and some are mini-suites. Quilts now cover the doors no longer in use for some of the original thirty rooms – a neat use of quilts. The building is very rustic - some of the plumbing and electrical conduits had to be installed under a platform raising the room floors about 4”.
All too soon, it was time for us to say goodbye to Karen and Galen – we’d been together on and off since the beginning of the year. It will be strange to not see their rig parked next to ours. They headed west to San Antonio and we headed east.
We had great traveling weather the day we left Mountain View and traffic was minimal. We got to the Agricenter RV Park in Memphis at 1:35 pm and were enjoying the world’s best (in our opinion!) barbecue ribs at Corky’s by 5 pm.
Next stop – Huntsville, Alabama, to take care of a couple of medical appointments and Shelley’s annual checkup. There were still a couple of loose ends with our new truck and we took care of one of them on the way in to Huntsville. We were able to apply for our Florida vehicle tag and registration by mail and had it sent to friends Ron and Linda in the Huntsville area. We were going to be staying on Redstone Arsenal and felt it would be easier to get on to the post if we had our own tag and registration instead of that of the former owner. Anyone watching Larry behind Publix that day swapping out plates may have wondered what he was up to. After we got set up at the RV park at Redstone, Larry went and replaced the military decal on our windshield – all the loose ends now complete!
We lucked out and were not only in town the same time as longtime friends Ron and Penny, but were parked right next to them. We enjoyed a couple of happy hours together. Ron and Penny were in Newfoundland around the same time we were, but were always about two weeks ahead of us. We thoroughly enjoyed viewing the slide show presentation Penny prepared of their trip, especially seeing the same places we visited but with clear skies and sunshine – so that’s what some of those gorgeous views looked like that we heard about as we tried to peer through the fog we experienced almost daily!
In between the medical and vet appointments, we enjoyed pizza at Donato’s; getting together with the Dessert Night Gang for a great meal at Gail and Andrew’s home; lunch at Victoria’s Café with Tom and Jane; a visit with Sheila and Valerie over dinner at our place; enjoying Mexican food at Rosie’s with Randy and Debbie while looking at slides of their 10-day catamaran trip to the British West Indies this summer; burgers with Deb and Neil at Five Guys Burgers and Fries; ice cream sundaes with Teri one afternoon and joining her the next night as we did the walking tour of the Huntsville Botanical Garden’s Christmas lights. Our week went by too quickly – we need to stay longer next time.
One trend we’ve noted on recent trips is that fuel prices are finally coming down. We filled up our diesel tank at the Flying J in north Georgia for $2.67 a gallon – a price we haven’t seen since early summer of 2006. And after paying over $6.00 a gallon during our Canada travels, we certainly enjoy these lower prices, for however long they will last.
For the next several days, we stayed at McKinney Campground, run by the Allatoona Lake Corps of Engineers. We’d made the reservations online, picking out our site based on its length and what we could decipher from the online map. When we tried to pull into the site, we realized it would be very difficult to get in and out, even though it is a pull-through site. What you don’t see online is that this pull-through site is not straight, but has a 45 degree bend in it, a tree and the power connections just before the bend, a wooden deck and platform that we would have had to drive on to get onto the site. Before we got ourselves into too much trouble, we stopped and called the office. With the campground host’s help, we found an available site nearby that was easily accessed.
McKinney Campground is a very nice park with several loops but unless you’ve been there to scope out sites in advance, you may run into the same problem we did if you have a big rig and a truck with a less-than desirable turning radius. The view of the lake was awesome, although water levels are low – a dam upstream controls the lake levels. Without leaving the campground, you can get in over five miles of walking just by strolling through all the loops. Temps were quite brisk during our stay there – we bundled up and got in a couple of good walks while we were there.
We had two excellent reasons to stay in that area of Georgia. One was to visit Jim and Mary Jo, our leaders at our first NOMADS project earlier this year and we now consider friends. More on our visit with them later.
The second reason was to reconnect with Carol, her husband Steve, and their daughter Beth, friends we’ve known for twenty years and have lost touch with since we hit the road. Lucille and Carol worked together back when we were doing that ‘work’ thing. Carol invited us to join them for dinner that Saturday evening. It was fabulous seeing them again after so many years. Steve and Carol look great but the biggest change was seeing Beth, who is all grown up. She’s graduated from college, is teaching at a nearby elementary school, and is engaged to be married next June. We met Ramsey, her fiancé – we hit it off immediately and felt like he was family already. We spent more time with them again that Sunday evening when we reciprocated and had dinner at our place. We’ll try to do a better job of keeping in touch.
Jim and Mary Jo invited us to join them at the early service at the First United Methodist Church in Marietta. Afterwards, we attended Sunday school with them, where they were happy to introduce us as fellow NOMADS volunteers.
On Monday, Jim and Mary Jo took us sightseeing. There is so much to do in the Atlanta/Marietta area – we decided to spend our day learning more about the Civil War history in that area. First stop was the Southern Civil War and Locomotive History Museum in Kennesaw. We easily spent almost three hours there.
We learned that railroads were the lifelines of the Civil War, transporting wounded heroes to hospitals, and shuttling troops and supplies to the front lines. Photographs and artifacts told the story of the hardships endured by soldiers, through their uniforms, bibles, musical instruments, and weapons.
Another room highlighted the Glover Machine Works, builders of quality locomotives that helped rebuild the South after the Civil War. On display is the nation’s only full-scale reproduction of a belt-driven locomotive assembly line, including a pattern shop, factory equipment, and two locomotives in various stages of completion.
Our favorite part of the museum was spent learning the story of the General, the locomotive involved in the most daring espionage scheme during the Civil War. Long story short….
On April 12, 1862, Union soldiers, disguised as civilians, under the leadership of spy and contraband merchant James J. Andrews, stole a northbound locomotive and its three cars at the Big Shanty stop (now Kennesaw). Most everyone, excluding the Union soldiers, got off for the early morning breakfast stop. Andrews and his crew had been waiting for this opportunity – they commandeered the General and the Great Locomotive Chase was on. Confederate conductor Fuller and two others ran outside and began to chase the locomotive on foot. Two miles later, they hopped on a pole car and continued the chase. In the meantime, Andrews and his crew are sabotaging the tracks and cutting telegraph lines, not realizing Fuller is in pursuit. Fuller’s pole car is derailed at one of the sabotaged tracks, they then commandeer the iron works engine Yonah and resume the chase till they get to more sabotaged track; they’re on foot again till they catch up to and commandeer the southbound Texas, running it backwards trying to catch the General. In the meantime, Andrews on the General finally realizes Fuller is in pursuit. They continue to sabotage the rails, release the three cars one at a time at strategic locations to block the Texas. The General is running low on fuel and water and at one stop, took on very little water before the Texas pulled in behind them; a partial message gets through to a Confederate commander in Chattanooga before Andrews’ crew cuts the wire but enough of a message to send forces to meet the General. Once the General ran out of steam, so close to its final destination, Andrews declared it was every man for himself. Thus ended the Great Locomotive Chase.
Interesting to note is that even though Andrews and some of the raiders were caught, tried and hung as spies, all the Union soldiers who participated in the raid were awarded the newly created Medal of Honor – the very first recipients. Because he was a civilian, Andrews was ineligible for the award. The Great Locomotive Chase was a very interesting and exciting part of our history. It was quite special to see the General itself on display in the museum, restored to its Civil War condition.
After an enjoyable lunch at Jim and Mary Jo’s home, we then drove to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park which commemorates the Civil War’s 1864 Atlanta Campaign. Grant said, “Every time I am behind the enemy’s lines and see any empty ammunition box, it has written on it either Atlanta, Augusta, Macon, Rome, or Columbus, Georgia. I tell you Sherman, something has to be done about the State of Georgia!”
After a short stop at the Visitor Center, we drove up the mountain to an overlook near the summit offering a panoramic view of Atlanta and surrounding areas. It is easy to understand why Confederate General Johnson chose this mountain as a defensive position. We had such a clear view that day that we not only saw the downtown Atlanta skyline but Stone Mountain, twenty-eight miles away.
We topped off our visit with Jim and Mary Jo by inviting them back to our place for dinner – we’ll look forward to seeing them again, possibly in January in Brunswick.
From the Atlanta area, we headed for Unadilla, a small town south of Macon. We are members of Resort Parks International and Southern Trails RV Resort is our home park. This was the first time in our five years of membership we have been able to visit our home park. Our resort agreement allows us one week’s free stay at Southern Trails. One of the plusses to Southern Trails and this time of the year were the pecan trees amongst the campsites and the campground’s permission to pick up any pecans already on the ground. Over the next several days, Larry picked about twelve pounds of pecans – the time consuming part will be to shell them.
There is a lot to do in the Unadilla area and we did our part in supporting the economy. Headquarters for Habitat for Humanity is located in nearby Americus. We toured the Global Village and Discover Center there. Global Village is comprised of two sections.
But first a little history about Habitat for Humanity. Founded in 1976 by Millard and Linda Fuller, Habitat is a nonprofit, ecumenical Christian housing ministry dedicated to eliminating poverty housing. Through volunteer labor and donations of money and materials, Habitat builds houses in partnership with homeowner families who make an investment of “sweat equity” in building their homes. Homes are purchased by the Habitat families at no profit through zero-interest mortgages provided by local Habitat affiliates. As we learned on our first build, Habitat is extending a hand up, not a hand out.
In the first section of Global Village are examples of substandard housing that persists in the world today - in our own country and in others in which Habitat has a presence. We’ve seen some examples of substandard housing but these were even worse in comparison.
We then ‘traveled’ in the second section of the village to several countries where Habitat is building simple but decent housing. We walked through life-size replicas of poverty solutions that Habitat and its volunteers are building around the world. This partial list gives you an idea of the countries we ‘visited’ and the cost of building a house there: Mexico $7,150; Kenya $2,650; Sri Lanka $1,010; India $2,540. It’s amazing to think that what we Americans can spend on a high-end computer can actually build a house somewhere!
Andersonville National Historic Site was on the way back to Unadilla so we stopped and spent several hours there, starting out first at the Visitor Center where we watched a video on the story of Andersonville.
The National Prisoner of War Museum is also located here, honoring American prisoners of war from all conflicts – very informative and extremely thought provoking, especially seeing some of the torture and containment devices on display. We saw several examples of man’s spirit overcoming the physical pain and hardships endured in captivity.
Andersonville is a continuation of our Civil War education. Camp Sumter, as it was officially known, was one of the largest of the Confederate military prisons established during the war. Built in 1864, it was designed to hold a maximum of 10,000 prisoners. During the first few months of operation, approximately 400 prisoners arrived daily – within four months, 26,000 men were confined in an area originally intended for 10,000. During its 14 months of operation, 45,000 Union soldiers were imprisoned there. Their mortality rate was high - 29% died, resulting from overcrowding, poor sanitation, inadequate food, mismanagement by prison officials, as well as by some of the prisoners themselves. The North also experienced the same problems with their Confederate prisoners – their mortality rate within several Union prisons ranged from 2% to 24%.
We took a self-guided tour of the prison’s 26-1/2 acres. The original stockade walls that contained the prison were built of 20-foot pine logs sunk five feet into the ground. An inner row of four-foot tall posts marked the deadline – prisoners were forbidden to cross this rail. A couple of earthwork forts were built around the perimeter to quell prison disturbances and guard against Union cavalry attacks.
We saw sites where the second and third hospitals were located. The third and last hospital lacked adequate sheds for sick prisoners. Because of Union-blockaded Southern ports, transportation shortages, and great demands on existing supplies, few medicines were available. There was little Confederate doctors could do to alleviate patients’ suffering.
The Dead House, a small structure built of tree branches, was outside the South Gate and was used to house men who died in the stockade until they were buried in the cemetery.
The Andersonville National Cemetery is also located on the grounds. Established in 1865, it is a permanent resting place for deceased veterans. Its first interments were from the prison.
In 1865, Clara Barton (who later founded the American Red Cross), along with former prisoner Dorence Atwater, came to the Andersonville cemetery to identify and mark the graves of the Union dead. As a prisoner, Atwater was assigned to record the names of deceased Union soldiers. He made his own copy in hopes of notifying the relatives. Thanks to his list and Confederate records confiscated at the end of the war, only 460 of the Andersonville graves had to be marked “unknown U.S. soldier.”
When you look out at the thousands of white crosses in the section devoted to the prison’s casualties, you wonder why the crosses are so close to each other. Casualties were so high, they were buried directly in the ground, shoulder to shoulder. There is a picture there of the original wooden crosses, with names placed on them thanks to Clara Barton and Dorence Atwater. In the early 1900s, the wooden crosses were replaced with those made of granite. Today the cemetery contains over 18,000 interments, 13,800 of which are from Union soldiers who died in hospitals, prisoner of war camps, or on the battlefields in central and southwest Georgia. The remainder are from other wars – this is still an active national cemetery.
As we did in Kennesaw, we found our visit to Andersonville educational and very sobering.
While we were still parked at Southern Trails RV Resort, we saw first hand how damaging an RV fire can be when fulltime RVer and neighbor Andy’s fifth wheel trailer caught on fire. Having your home go up in flames put our troubles with the stolen truck into perspective.
Larry was outside checking our tires and putting air in them when he noticed smoke coming from the outside of her trailer. He called to her (she was in the field walking her two dogs), noticed flames coming from the other side, and got Lucille to call 911. A neighbor and Larry got the propane tanks out of there as well as the auxiliary gas tank for her generator. Lucille moved our truck to make room for fire trucks.
The window near the sink either blew out or they broke it to start shooting fire extinguishers, then water from the hose. Firemen showed up and took over. Luckily, the fire was caught early enough that it didn't burn the rig down, just the one side, but it's totaled from the smoke damage. Larry was shocked at how fast (less than 5 minutes) the inside got ruined. In the meantime, Lucille got our home ready to roll in case we had to move quickly – luckily the fire was contained early enough so that neighbors on either side didn’t have to move.
No one is sure of the cause. Andy was not cooking anything, either on the stove or in the microwave. Maybe an investigation will determine the cause. We are glad that neither Andy nor her dogs got hurt and that it happened during the daylight. One thing Lucille learned when she called 911 was to know the actual street address. The responders didn't know the RV park by name, although the 911 GPS signal from the cell phone would have pinpointed the location.
In the meantime, there is a funny side to this story. The Unadilla Volunteer Fire Department responded, along with a prison crew firefighting outfit, who not only respond to prison fires but those within the community. We were talking to the guard who brought them here. Lucille spotted the emblem on his jacket (Department of Corrections) and asked if he was a guard or a prisoner. That's when he told us about the prison team. At a most inopportune time, our neighbor behind us comes over and says – “I see you are Escapees.” We had to explain quickly to the guard that this neighbor was referring to an RV club, not prisoners.
Our Ontario friends Harry and Marie, whom we were supposed to visit in September but we cancelled because the truck had been stolen, arranged their annual trek south to coincide with our visit to Unadilla. We enjoyed meals and happy hours together as well as getting in some local sightseeing.
Our first outing was to the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins. On display in four large buildings and on the grounds are 100 aircraft and missiles, including the SR-71 (Blackbird), a special display for World War II memorabilia, and several hands-on exhibits. We even captured a rare photo of U.S. and Canadian pilot wannabes manning the controls in a fighter’s cockpit.
On another day, we went to Plains to visit the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site. Our first stop
was at the Plains’ Visitor Center where we saw a bottle tree in their garden. The lady working there that day explained that bottle trees are a product of southern black culture with roots in the spiritualism of several African tribal cultures. Hanging bottles from trees acted as talismans to ward off evil spirits. Foliage from a living tree was stripped (cedars are preferred because they were common, resisted decay, and were well-shaped) with upward-pointing branches left intact. Folk custom dictated that spirits would enter the bottle because of the bright colors and become trapped. When the wind blew and shook the tree, the spirits would be heard moaning inside the bottles. Today, bottle trees are scarce but can occasionally be found in the South. They are considered the poor person’s stained glass window.
First order of business was to find lunch. The visitor center employee recommended Mom’s Kitchen for lunch – what a great buffet we had for $6 a person. This same woman suggested we start our tour at the Plains High School Museum and Visitor Center where we watched an informative video about our 39th president – Jimmy Carter, and his wife Rosalynn. Both Jimmy and Rosalynn attended grammar and high school in this building, which graduated its last class in 1979. The school reopened in 1996 as the Park Services’ visitor center with exhibits on Carter’s life and career.
After watching the video and looking at all the displays, we came away with the feeling that the Carters are down home folks. Being President and First Lady of the United States didn’t change their attitude to their hometown. In fact, we passed their compound, a simple ranch-style brick home situated on 2.4 acres, closed to the public and guarded by the ever-present secret service. The Carters still attend Maranatha Baptist Church and are still active with their church and their community. The Carters are also very actively involved with Habitat for Humanity, wielding hammers along with the rest of the volunteers.
From there we drove to his childhood home. The Carter family moved to the farm in 1928, and moving day was memorable. His father Earl forgot the house key so four-year old Jimmy crawled through the window to open the front door – the front door was never locked again. Jimmy and his siblings grew up there. The Carters grew peanuts, cotton, sugar cane, and corn to sell, and raised vegetables and livestock for their own use.
We learned that one of Jimmy’s least favorite jobs while growing up on the farm was mopping cotton. Boll weevils were a problem so to control the insects, the cotton buds had to be poisoned. Jimmy would take a rag mop, dip it into a bucket containing a mixture of arsenic, molasses and water, and then apply a small amount into the bud of each cotton plant. Imagine doing this for several hours with flies swarming around you. At the end of the day, his pants legs were so stiff from the sticky mess that they’d stand up in the corner by themselves.
Not to be missed on the way out of town is a photo opportunity at the 13’ tall peanut with a very familiar smile. And of course, we obliged by taking turns posing in front of it.
We enjoyed getting together with Harry and Marie for the few days our paths crossed. They continued on south and we headed east to Rincon, Georgia, where we’ll be parked through the middle of January.
The ride from Unadilla to Rincon was quite pleasant, through some parts of Georgia we hadn’t seen yet. We got set up at Camp Carr just in time to enjoy Thanksgiving with Pat and Yvette and family and friends. In fact, we feasted all weekend.
November quickly drew to a close. We’ve moved our medical care to the Georgia area and will spend part of December attending to annual medical and dental appointments.