After two months of staying put in Volunteer Village at Wakulla Springs State Park, it was time to hit the road – destination White Springs, only about ninety minutes away. Of course, you know what they say about the best laid plans…We had just gotten back onto Interstate 10 after a short stop at the rest area and noticed a woman on the side of the road waving for help. It took Larry a little bit to slow down our truck/fifth wheel and safely pull over to the side of the road. She was the sole adult in her party – two teen boys, and three young girls, and one major flat that was beyond repair, even temporarily to get her to the next exit. And no spare tire…
Some people are better off just driving around town. This poor gal had recently lent out her spare but hadn’t gotten it back before making the trip from Jacksonville to the Tallahassee area, she had no idea where she was, what direction she was heading, what road she was on, no water, very little cash, and of course, no emergency road service. And she had to get back to Jacksonville in time for an appointment with one of her teen boys’ parole officers. We gave her enough bottled water and snacks for all of them (one of the perks of having our home on wheels with us – we raided our cupboards) and called the highway patrol to explain her dilemma. About an hour and a half after we stopped, a tire repair truck showed up. Did we mention she didn’t even know what size tires she had, or had the proper equipment to change a tire? Once we determined the tire repairman had the right-sized tire, and that she was in good hands, we resumed our travels.
Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park in White Springs was home for the next week. We quickly got backed into our long level and quite spacious site and hopped on our bikes to check out the rest of the park. Typically, this park has several musicians playing folk music throughout the area but this Easter weekend was dedicated to the annual tractor show. Some of the tractors and vendors were starting to set up that Friday afternoon; the rest of them would be there on Saturday, when the festivities began. We saw tractors of all shapes, sizes, styles, ages – every time we’d make another loop during the weekend, we’d see yet another interesting-looking tractor. Some were set up to cut wood, make shingles, thresh hay – even one puffed out smoke rings – cool!
The Stephen Foster State Park is a neat place to visit. Besides the spacious sites at the campground, there is a small crafts village that showcases blacksmithing, weaving, etc…as well as a gift store that sells locally-made craft items. The focal point of the park is the Carillon tower that we’d hoped to get an insider’s tour of but couldn’t get together with the right park personnel. We did get a semi-private tour of the museum by docent Lucy. You can tour the museum on your own but Lucy pointed out features and gave us tidbits of information we may have missed on our own.
Here’s a little bit of info about Stephen Foster and what we saw at the park:
Born in 1826 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, he was a bookkeeper by trade but probably received some formal musical training from Henry Kleber, a German immigrant. Over the course of his short life (he was only 37 when he died of a persistent fever), he wrote over 100 songs. It’s no wonder we didn’t recognize all the songs the park Carillon played (bell concerts at 10 am, 12 noon, 2 pm and 4 pm.) Foster was a music pioneer – there was no music industry back then, no sound recording, no performing rights fees. In today’s music industry, he would be worth millions of dollars of years; he died with 38 cents in his pocket.
“He was not a Southerner (in fact, the only trip he ever made south of the Mason-Dixon line was a cruise to New Orleans with friends); he did not glorify slavery; and he did not die an alcoholic. He was our nation’s first original songwriter, America’s Troubadour.”
The dioramas: Located in the museum and on the lower floor of the Carillon tower, the ten dioramas illustrate words of songs Foster wrote, such as “Way Down Upon De Swanee Ribber” (original spelling); “Oh! Susanna,” and “Old Folks at Home.” Built in the 1950s by Exhibit Builders out of Florida, each diorama represented an average of 1,500 man-hours of labor. The detail in each of these dioramas is exquisite – we studied them often over the course of several days. Everything was handmade, using various raw materials, and are historically correct, including the inlaid stocks of the firearms in “Oh! Susanna.”
The Stephen Foster Memorial Carillon: The 97-bell carillon is one of the largest musical instruments produced in the Western Hemisphere and the world’s largest tubular carillon in number of bells. Installed in 1958, it was built by J.C. Deagan, Inc. from Chicago, at a cost of $120,000. Deagan carillons can also be found in School of the Ozarks in Hollister, Missouri and House of God, Mooseheart, Illinois. The tubular bell is a more efficient design for producing musical tones than the cast bell. The Carillon consists of three full sets of 32 bells with a scale range of C to G, chromatic, plus a fourth high G Bell, sounding in perfect unison for each note. The bells are powered by either a piano-type electric console when manually played by a carillonneur or from fully automatic devices in operation under clock control.
The largest bells weigh 426 pounds each, are 12-1/2 feet long and are five inches in diameter; the smallest are 69 pounds each and 3-1/2 feet long. The wood rack supporting the entire twenty-seven tons of tubular bells, striking actions and dampers, measures twenty-one feet high, fifteen feet long, and eleven feet wide – huge! Oh to have been able to see it up close and personal!
We were at the park over Easter and enjoyed a traditional Easter sunrise service held at the base of the Carillon tower. Several churches in the community participate in the celebration, with people coming from all around to join in the service. Several hundred chairs were set up on the lawn but we brought our own folding chairs and are glad we did because there was standing room only by the time the service started.
Also in the area: The White Springs Library (we picked up our census forms here – we’ve been counted!) - a former filling station run by the same couple from 1924-1970, with their living quarters in the rear of the building.
The Olustee Battlefield National Historic Site commemorates the site of Florida’s largest Civil War Battle on February 20, 1864, with a reenactment of the battle occurring yearly here. Scenes for Civil War movies, including Glory, have been filmed during the reenactments.
From White Springs, we had an easy ride to Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base in Georgia, getting our PX and commissary fixes while we were there. The military campground at Kings Bay was named Famcamp of the year for 2009 by members of SMART, the military RV club – we lucked out and were there for the awards ceremony.
We then moved back to ‘Camp Carr’ in Rincon, to take care of a couple of medical appointments and get a family fix at the same time. After enjoying Pat and Yvette’s hospitality for a week, we headed north to Wilkesboro, North Carolina, staying at Bandit’s Roost Campground, on W. Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir, a Corps of Engineer lake and facilities.
Completed in 1962, the dam and reservoir includes approximately 2,279 acres of public and land and 1,475 acres of reservoir. Lots of opportunities for recreation here – trails, camping, boating, and fishing.
While in the area, we spent time with Bill and Jane, friends we’d met in Florida several years ago. They live in a beautiful home on a mountaintop near Glendale Springs, surrounded by Christmas trees, one of the three biggest industries (trees, tourism and ambulance-construction fuel their economy) in that part of North Carolina. When traveling on the roads there, you see rows and rows of trees –similar to driving through Napa Valley in California and seeing rows and rows of grape vineyards.
Interesting facts and places to visit in Wilkesboro and vicinity:
Church of the Frescoes: One of three locations, this one in Glendale Springs, where renowned artist Ben Long was commissioned to paint frescoes in the churches. Painting a fresco is a long and tedious process, but an art, in which hand-ground pigments suspended in water are applied to a freshly plastered wall. The church in Glendale Springs, founded in 1901 but closed its doors in 1946 after World War II. With the painting of the frescoes in the 1980s, it reopened – it is now quite the tourist attraction, as well as an active church once again, with docents giving a tour, as well as an audio recording when you enter. Other locations of Long’s frescoes can be found in churches in West Jefferson and Wilkesboro.
Famous (and infamous) Wilkes County residents from the past: Daniel Boone; Chang and Eng Bunker (world-famous Siamese twins who settled here in the 1850s, marrying two local sisters); Tom Dula (of “Hang Down Your Head, Tom Dooley” fame) and the Old Wilkes jail in which he was jailed. Wilkesboro is also where Lowe’s was started. From a small hardware store in 1946 to the 2nd largest home improvement retailer worldwide, Lowe’s got its beginnings when H. Carl Buchan, part owner of the North Wilkesboro Hardware Company, envisioned creating a chain of hardware stores – the rest is history!
How are stock car racing and moonshine related? Well, as we found out when we visited the Wilkes Heritage Museum, moonshiners souped up their cars to avoid the ‘revenooers’, thus stock car racing was born. Lowe’s Motor Speedway is nearby – combining two Wilkes-born ‘industries.’ The museum is worth a stop – its two stories are packed with history about the area, with guided tours of the nearby Old Jail and Cleveland Log House.
A short digression and detour to talk about some special folks….Karen and Galen’s daughter Jen lost her daughter Alex to a car accident years ago, at the young age of 11. Alex had seen a commercial on organ donors, starring Michael Jordan, "Share Your Life, Share Your Decision" a few months before. Impressed by the commercial and with an action mature for her age, she signed up as an organ donor. Who would have known that shortly afterwards, the accident would claim her life but her organs saved the lives of four individuals and helped two others regain their eyesight. To publicize the need for organ donors, Jen and husband Ken, are pedaling across the U.S. and back on Terra Trikes, recumbent tricycles, pulling trike-sized trailers. Ken pulls their tent and supplies and Jen’s trailer houses Simon, their Chihuahua, who is enjoying seeing the world pass by almost on his level.
We learned that Jen and Ken would be in Damascus, Virginia for at least an overnight, the closest we’d get to seeing them and getting to meet them both. After a call to learn where we’d catch up with them, we made the 75-mile trip one sunny day. What a delightful visit we had. We met them at the B & B where they were staying, walked to lunch, then walked around town a bit, getting to know each other. We each even got to try riding the trikes – easier to ride than a regular recumbent bike and more comfortable than a standard bike. Read about their tour and adventures here.
Last destination for April was Winston-Salem, where we’ll visit the area and end our stay with a dulcimer workshop sponsored by College Park Baptist Church. Terry, the organizer of the workshop, offered us use of the church parking lot for our stay there but because we’d be in the area a week and didn’t want to wear out our welcome, we parked at the Dixie Classic Fairgrounds campground – pretty basic but close to town. (We’ll write about our wonderful experiences with the workshop with our May update.)
While in Winston-Salem, we visited Old Salem Museum and Gardens, a collection of old museum buildings as well as crafts shops, bakery, cemetery, and churches, sprinkled with currently-occupied residential homes. We started our tour of Old Salem by listening to a noontime organ and trumpet concert at the Visitor Center. The David Tannenberg Organ is the largest of nine surviving Tannenberg organs in existence. Regina Pozzi is not only an accomplished organist but a composer. We enjoyed listening to some of her original compositions.
“Salem was founded in 1766 by the Moravians – a Protestant group of people that began in what is now known as the Czech Republic. The Moravians were missionaries who established an earlier settlement in Bethlehem, PA before beginning "Wachovia" in the North Carolina backcountry in 1753. In the Wachovia Tract of nearly 100,000 acres, Salem was the central administrative, spiritual, craft, and professional town surrounded by five outlying congregations.
The Moravian Church and Salem residents kept meticulous records and accounts of their lives, their interactions, their buildings and landscapes, and their evolution into the town of Winston-Salem. These records, diaries, and accounts provide accurate details to tell the stories of those living and working in Salem.”
We tagged on to a guided tour of historic St. Phillips Church where we saw for ourselves the results of their Moravian’s meticulous records. Archaeologists have been able to identify the majority of the graves that they have located around the oldest standing, and still active, African American Church in North Carolina.
Nearby Greensboro is the location of Replacements, Ltd., where the world’s largest inventory of old and new china, crystal, silver, flatware and collectibles is found. Started in 1981 by Bob Pace, he would visit yard sales, etc., looking for particular pieces requested by friends and family. Thus began a business with one part-time employee to over 500 today. Our tour included information about the towering display cases, some of which came from estates such as J.P. Morgan and the four warehouses of inventory. Over 415,000 square feet of facilities house an inventory of over 214,000 patterns of china, 49,000 of crystal, 39,000 of flatware – amazing. We toured one warehouse with shelves and shelves climbing high up to the rafters, loaded with pieces. This is the place to go for replacing that broken plate, repairing the chipped crystal, restoring silver that has been damaged. In 1981, they had sales of $150,000; today it is over $85 million. Well worth of stop, if not to buy anything, but to check out the facility and their museum.