- Submitted by: Evelyn C. Leeper
- Submission Date: 15th Feb 2005
August 16: Departure, Skyline Caverns, Shendandoah National Park VA, Waynesboro VA (392 miles)
August 17: Booker T. Washington National Historic Monument VA, Knoxville TN (475 miles)
August 18: Oak Ridge TN (American Museum of Science and Energy), Dayton TN (Rhea County Courthouse), Lawrenceburg TN (291 miles)
August 19: Shiloh National Military Park TN, Memphis TN (Beale St; exteriors of The Pyramid, Danny Thomas ALSAC Pavilion, Graceland) (256 miles)
August 20: Memphis TN (Institute of Egyptian Art & Archaeology, Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, National Civil Rights Museum, exterior of the Pink Palace) (57 miles)
August 21: Little Rock AR (Central High School), Hot Springs AR (Mid-America Museum) (246 miles)
August 22: Hot Springs National Park AR (driving tours, Fordyce Baths), Hope AR, Dallas TX (Event Horizon) (347 miles)
August 23: Dallas TX (Silent Wings Museum, Frontiers of Flight Museum, Biblical Arts Center, The Sixth Floor) (130 miles)
August 24: Fort Worth TX (Kimbell Art Museum, Museum of Science and History), Dallas TX (Mimic) (95 miles)
August 25: Austin TX (LBJ Presidential Library), Johnson City TX (LBJ Ranch), San Antonio TX (373 miles)
August 26: San Antonio TX (Edward H. White, Jr., Museum, San Jose Mission, Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum, Half-Price Books, Witte Museum) (40 miles)
August 27: San Antonio TX (Spanish Governors Palace, Fort Sam Houston Army Medical Department Museum, Fort Sam Houston Museum, The Alamo) (29 miles)
August 28: San Antonio TX (LoneStarCon 2) (0 miles)
August 29: San Antonio TX (LoneStarCon 2) (0 miles)
August 30: San Antonio TX (LoneStarCon 2) (0 miles)
August 31: San Antonio TX (LoneStarCon 2) (0 miles)
September 1: San Antonio TX (LoneStarCon 2, Kull the Conqueror) (0 miles)
September 2: La Porte TX (San Jacinto Monument), Houston TX (274 miles)
September 3: Houston TX (Houston Space Center) (74 miles)
September 4: Avery Island LA (Tabasco Plantation), Thibodeaux LA (353 miles)
September 5: Thibodeaux LA (Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center), New Orleans LA (Jean Lafitte National Historic Park), Baton Rouge LA (191 miles)
September 6: Baton Rouge LA (State Capitol), Vicksburg MS (Vicksburg National Military Park, Historic Vicksburg) (210 miles)
September 7: Biloxi MS (Beauvoir-Jefferson Davis Shrine, Gulf Coast), Mobile AL (270 miles)
September 8: Mobile AL (Fort Gaines, Fort Conde, U. S. S. Alabama), Montgomery AL (249 miles)
September 9: Tuskegee AL (George W. Carver Museum, Tuskegee Institute), Montgomery AL (First White House of the Confederacy, Alabama Archives and History Museum, Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, Alabama State Capitol, Civil Rights Memorial by Maya Lin), Birmingham AL (198 miles)
September 10: Birmingham AL (Southern Museum of Flight, Birmingham Civil Rights Institute), Anniston AL (Anniston Museum of Natural History), Huntsville AL (216 miles)
September 11: Huntsville AL (Space and Rocket Center) (19 miles)
September 12: Chattanooga TN (Chickamauga National Military Park, Lookout Mountain), Calhoun GA (200 miles)
September 13: Marietta GA (Kennesaw Civil War Museum, Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park), Atlanta GA (94 miles)
September 14: Atlanta GA (CNN Tour), Warner Robins GA (Museum of Aviation), Vidalia GA (248 miles)
September 15: Vidalia GA, Savannah GA (Savannah History Museum, Fort Pulaski National Monument), Charleston SC (256 miles)
September 16: Charleston SC (Beth Elohim Synagogue, Patriots Point Maritime Museum) (26 miles)
September 17: Charleston SC (Fort Moultrie, Fort Sumter), Pineville NC (251 miles)
September 18: Pineville NC (James K. Polk State Historic Site), Greensboro NC (Greensboro Historical Museum, Weatherspoon Art Gallery, F. W. Woolworth's, Kress) (179 miles)
September 19: Raleigh NC (North Carolina Museum of Art), Kitty Hawk NC (Atlantic Ocean) (318 miles)
September 20: Kitty Hawk NC (Wright Brothers National Memorial), Newport News VA (Mariners Museum) (118 miles)
September 21: Manassas National Battlefield Park VA, Old Bridge NJ (434 miles)
Well, this is our longest vacation yet, and includes a World Science Fiction Convention, so if I write my usual amount, this log will be enormous. (Working against that is the fact that I won't have a lot of spare time riding buses or trains.) Other than a couple of one-week trips to Canada, and various trips moving from one place to another, this is also our only vacation taken without flying somewhere.
Books we used for this trip include all the pertinent AAA books, The Civil War Sourcebook by Chuck Lawliss, Unauthorized America by Vince Staten, the 1930's WPA guide to America, and a lot of stuff off the World Wide Web, as well as several books specifically about the Civil War.
Note: If you're reading this for advice, let me just warn you that I'm the one who thought a five-week trip covering 6000 miles in 90-to-100-degree heat in a twelve-year-old car during hurricane season sounded like fun.
We managed to leave almost on time at 8:15 AM. We drove south on the New Jersey Turnpike, crossing the Delaware Memorial Bridge at 10:15 AM. Continuing on I-95, we went through the Fort McHenry Tunnel (Baltimore) at 11:30, and reached the I-495 turnoff about noon, right on schedule. We took that to I-66 and got to Front Royal, Virginia, about 1:30 PM. After a quick lunch at Long John Silver's (bleh-who puts deep-fried shrimp in a wrap?), we drove to Skyline Caverns.
We had planned to go to Luray Caverns, but it turns out that Skyline Caverns has (have) the only viewable anthodites in the United States. (Anthodites are a fifth form of cave formation. The four better known ones are stalagmites, stalactites, columns, and flowstone.)
We arrived at Skyline Caverns just as one tour was leaving. No problem-the tours leave every five or ten minutes and take slightly under an hour. You get to hear some of the history and the geology of the caves, though the more interesting facts were in response to people's questions rather than part of the standard explanation. For example, there were holes in the ceiling caused by upward whirlpools when the caverns filled and the water was under pressure, and mineral discoloration that was caused by wave action against the ceiling, though all the standing water we saw was completely still. In fact, the two seepage pools we saw were both 'mirror pools' which looked several feet deep but were in fact only two inches deep. We didn't see two of the three streams because the weather has been so dry that they have (temporarily, one assumes) dried up.
In terms of stalagmites and stalactites (and hence of columns, a joining of the two), Skyline Caverns has nothing on Carlsbad. It is perhaps unfortunate that I saw Carlsbad before seeing any other caves in this country, as they will not seem as impressive now. (I was sick when our group went to the Reed Flute in Guilin, China, but have been to caverns in Israel and in Postojna, Slovenia.)
However, anthodites are different. They look very much like the crystalline structure you often see growing in time-lapse photography, with quill-like extensions. I think they look more like sea anemones or some other sea creature, and Mark said the same thing. The cave that they grew in was sealed with mud and clay and a vacuum had formed which apparently had something to do with their formation. When they were discovered (and hence the vacuum was broken) they stopped growing, at least as far as people can tell. According to the guide, many theories have been proposed as to how these formations occurred, but each has some flaw in it.
An additional advantage of the caverns was their 54-degree temperature. With the temperature outside in the mid 90s (and a heat index of 105), it was definitely a refreshing break!
The caverns are right near the northern end of Skyline Drive (http://www.gateway-va.com/pages/guides/bluridge/parkway.htm), which runs through Shenandoah National Park (http://www.americanparknetwork.com/parkinfo/sh/). (All Eastern National Park Service sites also have a web site at http://www.EasternNational.org.) It also runs parallel to I-81, but while the latter is faster, the former is infinitely more scenic. First of all, it runs along the crest of the Blue Ridge Mountains overlooking the valley. Second of all, there are no gas stations, restaurants, motels, or anything else, except for a couple of Visitors Centers that sell the basics. And thirdly, wildlife does not wander across I-81 the way it does on Skyline Drive.
For example, we were driving along and I noticed a bear up ahead looking out from behind a rock, obviously getting ready to cross the road. So I said to Mark, 'Bear!' while stopping the car, and sure enough the bear, followed by a cub, ambled her way across the road right in front of us. We also saw several deer (not even counting the dozen or so hanging out by the Visitors Center), and a huge number of butterflies. Unfortunately, another denizen of the park is the gypsy moth, and you can see the results of this in stands of dead trees, and dead branches cocooned by them on other trees.
We bought a Golden Eagle Passport at Shenandoah. This is a pass good for one year for all National Parks, Monuments, etc. It's $50, but since Shenandoah was $10, we figured it would probably pay off. Even if we don't use all of it this trip, we have some places closer to home we can visit. One change from previous trips is that the fees at parks have pretty much doubled (as has the cost of the annual pass). But the fees are good for longer periods. (For example, the $10 Shenandoah fee is good for seven days.) The National Parks Service wants people to spend more time at a park, preferably out of their cars and walking around, than just driving from park to park. We are more in the latter category, I suppose, though out west we did do some hiking. But here many of the places we will be going will be battlefields and such, not parks conducive to long stays.
We arrived at Waynesboro and checked into the West Lawn Motel, which has a 'Heavenly Notions' shop attached (mostly angel stuff), and a Bible verse on the wall. At least it was an Old Testament verse.
For dinner we went to a nearby barbecue place and had fairly humdrum barbecue. They didn't even have ribs (they seemed permanently crossed off the menu) and were out of iced tea. Well, it was somewhat late.
We got a somewhat late start this morning. Breakfast was at the Coffee Mill, then we got on the Blue Ridge Parkway for more scenic driving. This is much like Skyline Drive, but is not part of a National Park. We saw more deer (including a buck standing by the side of the road), woodchucks, vultures, and a turtle three-quarters of the way across the road. There wasn't much traffic, so I figure he probably made it okay.
We got off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Roanoke and took US 220 south and VA 122 north to the Booker T. Washington National Monument ( http://www.newsadvance.com/Back%20Pages/btw.html). This is not exactly the most centrally located site, but then when Washington was being born, he probably wasn't thinking of that.
Washington was born a slave in 1856, emancipated in 1864, and went on to become a leading educator and spokeperson for African-Americans. He spoke in favor of what we would call vocational education ('a first-class house that a Negro has built is ten times more potent than pages of discussion') and segregation. Later, W. E. B. DuBois would oppose him, demanding integration and the same education for African-Americans as for whites ('The object of education is not to make men carpenters, it is to make carpenters men'). It appears now that Washington came to agree with DuBois, but supported those causes behind the scenes, feeling he could continue to get the support he needed from whites by continuing with his less confrontational stance. (For more of his philosophy, read his autobiography Up from Slavery. For more of DuBois's, read his book The Souls of Black Folk and his other writings. DuBois promoted the idea of the 'Talented Tenth,' who would help uplift the other 90%. This, at least, Washington seemed to be doing. Of course, DuBois was born after slavery ended, so he had a different background, which undoubtedly contributed to his different views.) Washington was the first president of Tuskegee Institute, a site we will be visiting later this trip. (He is sometimes described as its founder, but the founding seems to have been done before he was asked to head it up.)
We spent some time talking to the (Black) ranger there about education, and how people who have to work for their education appreciate it more. He also felt that while Reconstruction had the good effect of getting many Black colleges started, it was perhaps misguided in giving all sorts of privileges to people who were not ready for them. In this regard he agreed with Washington, who felt there were some basic things ex-slaves needed to learn before they were ready for full citizenship.
After this was a long drive to Knoxville, Tennessee, on I-40, which we filled by listening to an audiocassette of Wilbur Smith's River God. We stayed at a Motel 6, not the most luxurious of motels, but we're only staying overnight.
After breakfast at Shoney's, we drove to Oak Ridge (http://tn.areaguide.com/oakridge/ad/index.html). There was quite a traffic jam at the exit on I-40 for it, but that seemed to dissolve within a mile.
During World War II, Oak Ridge was 'Secret City.' Well, not completely secret. John W. Campbell, the editor of Astounding Science Fiction, had a map on his wall with pushpins representing all his subscribers. There was a huge cluster around Oak Ridge (and another around Los Alamos), so he knew something was going on there.
Oak Ridge now has the American Museum of Science and Energy (http://tn.areaguide.com/oakridge/ad/museum.htm), run by the Department of Energy. It covers not only atomic energy, but also coal, oil, and other forms (though I don't recall seeing much on solar or geothermal). I learned that the country that gets the highest percentage of its electricity from atomic energy is Lithuania (about 85%), and that while the United States gets about 12% of its energy from atomic power, New Jersey gets over half.
The museum also had some exhibits unrelated to energy. For example, I don't think 'Home Video Games-The First 25 Years' had an energy connection.
Passing one of exhibits on drilling for oil, Mark said, 'Dig in the Earth. Go directly to shale. Do not pass gold....'
We had planned on spending only a couple of hours here before moving on, but there was a 10:30 AM bus tour of the K-25 area that sounded interesting. K-25 was one of the three refinement buildings, Y-12 and X-10 being the other two.
This tour was entirely a bus tour. (There is a longer afternoon tour of Y-12 and Oak Ridge National Laboratory that does go inside, I think, but we didn't want spend the whole day here.) One reason for this is that they are decontaminating the K-25 building. We got to here what things were like when Oak Ridge was much more active than it is now-the guides were retired Oak Ridgers. Their reminiscences gave a feeling of reality to the history of the place. (I must admit I was somewhat taken aback to here one of them refer to a 'colored woman.' However, given their age, this probably shouldn't have surprised me. I noticed that they told a couple of jokes with monkeys as the main characters that I'm sure way back when I heard told with Blacks as the main characters, so I guess I should consider that progress.)
We also saw (from the outside) one of the newer parts of Oak Ridge, the TSCA incinerator. This is used to reduce radioactive waste (liquid and solid) to an ash that is stored in containers somewhere in Utah. Why Utah? Well, it's geologically stable and also very dry.
We returned to the museum after the ninety-minute tour and finished the part we hadn't seen. It took us about two hours altogether, but one could easily spend more time, and if you take both tours (given only Monday through Friday), plan on spending the day.
From Oak Ridge we went back to I-40, then west on I-40 and south on US-27 to Dayton. Not Dayton, Ohio, but Dayton, Tennessee, which was fictionalized as 'Heavenly Hillsboro, the Buckle on the Bible Belt' in Inherit the Wind. Dayton was the site of the famous 1925 Scopes Trial (http://www.dimensional.com/~randl/scopes.htm, http://wsrv.clas.virginia.edu/~lem2c/1925home.html) and is now the home of the Scopes Trial Museum (http://www.rheacounty.com/attractions.html). In addition to a basic recounting of the facts about the trial, one of the things the museum tries to do is to separate fact from fiction, specifically the fiction of Inherit the Wind.
For example, Bryan did not die on the last day of the trial, Bryan acquitted himself considerably better on the stand than is portrayed, and Scopes probably never even taught evolution. (I think Mark wrote this up in greater detail.) The whole trial was set up to get publicity (and hopefully commerce) for Dayton, and there was an entire staged speech and fight involving the a local metallurgical engineer and the 'Man-Biting Barber.' The barber, by the way, was a cousin of one of the prosecutors, Sue K. Hicks, who was also the original 'Boy Named Sue' of Johnny Cash fame. Someone should make a movie of all this!
Of course, people did idolize Bryan, who was actually usually an espouser of what we would consider liberal causes. After his death, Alfred Dubin, Wm. Raskin, and F. Henri Klickmann wrote the song 'Bryan Believed in Heaven (That's Why He's in Heaven Tonight).' There was also a song 'The Monkey Case' by Edgar P. Elzey and J. Ludwig Frank.
On leaving Dayton, we stepped back into the past. Well, only an hour, as we passed into the Central Time Zone. We took TN-30 west to US-70S west to I-24 east to US-64 west. This took us off the interstate, but we had decided to skip Nashville, where the only even marginally interesting site was the Hermitage (Andrew Jackson's home) (http://www.nashville-collection.com/deluxe/HERMITAGE.html), and go to Shiloh instead. This was almost directly west of Dayton, so going north to the interstate and then south again to Shiloh would have been foolish.
Of course, we questioned the wisdom of this decision at the beginning when the road twisted and turned, and went up and down steep mountain roads. ('6% grade', 'watch out for fallen rocks', 'construction ahead', and 'trucks entering roadway' were signs that all appeared in the first few miles!)
We had dinner at the Hickory House in Pulaski (again, okay barbecue). Pulaski, we found out later, was the birthplace of the Ku Klux Klan, a fact that they do not advertise loudly on a sign as you enter town. We then drove another bit to Lawrenceburg where we stayed at the Richland Inn. Tip: always ask if there are train tracks right outside your room.
We drove west on US-64 and south on TN-22 to Shiloh to the strains of 'Gettysburg.' (Well, no one's made a movie 'Shiloh.')
We passed a church that had on its signboard: 'Judgment Day is near/ Are you ready?/ Weight down clinic/ Tues 8PM.'
We arrived at Shiloh National Military Park around 9:15 AM. We used our Golden Eagle Passport, but the price would have been $4, which is not an increase over the old price. I think it may be just the more popular parks that saw a price jump. Shiloh is described in Lawliss's Civil War Sourcebook as one of the more isolated battlefields of the Civil War, and it certainly wasn't very crowded. In fact, we probably saw fewer than thirty other visitors while we were there-and over half of those were in the Visitors Center area. The only life in abundance (other than plants) were a lot of very noisy crickets and a whole lot of butterflies which were so unafraid they would land on your clothing or arm and refuse to get off, even when you got in the car.
We spent some time looking at the same exhibit in the Visitors Center, then watched the film (videotape) shown every half hour that gives the history of the battle at Shiloh. This battle was on April 6 and 7, 1862 (fifty-years years to the day before our entry into World War I), and was the first major western battle of the Civil War. The Army of the Mississippi (C.S.A.) was led by General Albert Sidney Johnston and General Pierre Gustave Toutant Beauregard. The Army of the Tennessee (U.S.A.) was led by General Ulysses Simpson Grant, and the Army of the Ohio (U.S.A) was led by General Don Carlos Buell. Johnston died from a wound that could have been treated had he not sent away his surgeon to help with the battlefield wounded, and in fact, this was the first time a field hospital was set up to centralize treating the wounded. Notable survivors of Shiloh included future Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and James A. Garfield, Lew Wallace (author of Ben Hur), Henry M. Stanley (the explorer who went to Africa to search for David Livingstone), and John Wesley Powell (who lost an arm here but still led the first expedition down the Colorado River).
The most important aspect of the battle was at the 'Hornets Nest', so called because the constant firing of rifles made it sound like one. Eventually sixty-two cannon, the largest mass of artillery in any North American battle up until then, was brought to bear on the Union troops by the Confederates and the South took that position by Saturday evening. But that gave Grant time to reinforce his troops with Buell's men, who arrived that night, and the next day the Union was able to force the Confederates to retreat from the area entirely. The toll was 23,746 casualties: 3482 dead, 16,420 wounded, and 3844 missing.
Oh, and if anyone is interested in researching Civil War soldiers and sailors, there's a Web site: http://www.itd.nps.gov/cwss. Since none of Mark's or my ancestors was even here at the time, we probably wouldn't find much.
(It is particularly fitting that I am reading How Few Remain, Harry Turtledove's alternate history about the Second War Between the States as my pleasure reading, although I must admit I picked it because of the trip. Also, if the South won the Civil War, either the subtitle is giving away the outcome of the book, or the book is misnamed.)
We took the driving tour of the battlefield. It was well-marked and took about two hours. There are other areas of interest if you want to walk to them, but in this heat that seemed inadvisable.
At noon we left and drove as far as Bolivar, where we ate lunch at El Ranchito. We then drove the rest of the way to Memphis (http://www.hermitage.com/nashville.html, http://memphisguide.com/Sightsee.html). On the way we passed a historical marker for the site where Buford Pusser was 'killed in a car accident' (as the marker said, though Unauthorized America indicates he was ambushed and killed deliberately). A little further on we passed an ostrich, three camels, and two zebras. This is very different from what one sees from the interstate. (Earlier I had seen a sign for 'Panther Road Rhea Farm.' I had thought at the time that was a reference to Rhea County; now I'm not so sure.)
In addition to exotic fauna, we also saw exotic flora. Kudzu was gradually taking over, covering not just signs and utility pole supports, but whole sections of forest. It looks like some alien life form out of a science fiction novel.
All this points out the difference between traveling on interstates and traveling on 'back roads.' Given that the speed limit on these 'back roads' is 65 miles per hour, and slowdowns for towns don't happen very often, the time differential isn't as much as you might think. But there is more interesting 'stuff' on the back roads-strange animals and plants, quirky historical markers (though Tennessee seems to put up a historical marker at the drop of a hat), and so on. On the other hand, since most of the long-distance traffic is on the interstates, almost all the motels and eateries have moved there as well. In some ways, your best bet is where an interstate crosses whatever road you're taking.
We got to Memphis about 4 PM and checked into a Super 8. After dropping our luggage off and freshening up, we drove into Memphis and parked near one end of Beale Street to take the Beale Street Walking Tour as described on the Web (http://memphisguide.com/Beale/Beale.html). Beale Street was 'the Birthplace of the Blues,' and while I'm not a big blues fan, it is an interesting street historically.
We started with the Orpheum Theater, now used both for movies and for live theater. The nine-foot statue of Elvis Presley at the corner of Beale on South Main had been under renovation, but is now back. We passed the Blues City Cafe (one of the settings in the movie The Firm), B. B. King's Club, the Band Box, and Memphis Music Records and Tapes (the original home of the world famous A. Schwab's Dry Goods). We went into the Police Museum at the Police Station at 159 Beale. This is both an active police station and a twenty-four-hour museum. This was a bit of a mistake, since we got out at 5 PM, which was just when A. Schwab's Dry Goods Store closed. We should have done them in reverse order. (We did get back to Schwab's Wednesday, so I will talk about it there.)
After this we passed King's Palace Cafe, and dropped into Strange Cargo briefly (nothing really interesting). Then came Rum Boogie Cafe, and Silky O'Sullivan's Patio (the 'Pride of Beale Street' is now nothing but its facade). After Handy Park (named for W. C. Handy, of course) was the future home of a Hard Rock Cafe, Beale Street Barbecue and Piano Bar, and Joyce Cobb's Club. Then came Pee Wee's Saloon, where the Blues were born when W. C. Handy is said to have written 'Mister Crump Blues' (later called Memphis Blues) here at Pee Wee's Bar on the cigar counter. There were even more sites listed but we ended about here, partly because of the heat, and partly because the rest of the sites often had no structure left standing.
It was still fairly early (6 PM), but there was nothing specific we had to do, so we drove past the Pyramid, a large, 321-foot high pyramid that is a sports arena and concert stadium and has a statue of Ramesses II in front. Then we saw the outside of the Danny Thomas ALSAC Pavilion at St. Jude's Children's Hospital. This pavilion is shaped like the Dome of the Rock, supposedly to honor Danny Thomas's Middle Eastern heritage, but a bit strange for a Catholic hospital, and not in Lebanon anyway. We also drove past the Lorraine Motel (now the National Civil Rights Museum, which we will be visiting tomorrow) and the rooming house from which James Earl Ray shot the Reverend Martin Luther King.
And finally we drove past Graceland (http://www.elvis-presley.com). We did not go in or take any of the tours, but even the outside is worth seeing. All along the stone wall, people have written messages, until the whole wall is covered. The old ones fade with time and the new ones overlay them. They have even provided a pull-over lane where you can pull off the road, stop, and leave your message. I wonder if there is someplace you can fax messages to and someone will write them for you. (This is a reference to a service whereby you can fax a prayer and someone will put it into the Western Wall for you.) We missed the anniversary of Elvis's death by two days, and probably just as well.
Dinner was at a small place called Ruby's Family Restaurant near the motel. The buffalo wings were pretty good, spicy without having sauce dripping off them. They did, however, take a long time.
After dinner, I managed to work out the intricacies of dialing in to the computer at work (not helped by incorrect instructions on the phone as to how to make a direct-dial call) and checked my email, sent a status message to folks, etc. I was pleased to see that they repaired the broken mailing list for the MT VOID, as we want that to go out automatically every Friday. And I did get a response as to when and where the pre-Hugo reception was. I couldn't manage to connect to my off-site mail; Microsoft Internet Explorer gave me some sort of general exception fault. I'll have to see if that's intermittent or happens all the time. Mark also checked his mail. Tomorrow I'll try to check my voice mail.
We woke up early, but didn't leave until 8:30 AM, because nothing opened until 9 AM. Our first stop was the Institute of Egyptian Art and Archaeology (http://www.memphis.edu/egypt/main.html) at the University of Memphis. We managed to find the street it was on (Norriswood) but had to ask directions, since the building is actually on a dogleg extension of the street.
Memphis has a fascination with things from its namesake. There's the Pyramid, of course, with a statue of Ramesses II in front. and there's also the Institute of Egyptian Art & Archaeology. It wants to be a major player, I suspect, and the opening was attended by Mrs. Anwar Sadat, but the collection is rather small. Still, it was well displayed and explained.
There was also some modern art in the same museum (if indeed it is a museum-I'm not sure the term is correct here). There was what appears to be obligatory in Memphis: Elvis art. This included a three-dimensional 'piece' on the 'Food of Kings' which contained 'Blue Suede Sauce,' 'Heartburn Hotel Beans,' and 'Hunka Hunka Burnin' Tongue Hot Sauce.'
There was also an exhibit of folk art by Joe Light with strange religious messages ('Punishment is evil, but it's justifiable if it's necessary.').
This took only about an hour, and then we drove up Poplar Avenue to the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (http://memphisguide.com/Brooks.html). Poplar Avenue is apparently one of the main shopping/eating streets (in the mall sense), and a considerable improvement over Elvis Presley Boulevard/Bellevue Boulevard, which we drove down yesterday. That was full of pawn shops (I have never seen so many pawn shops as in Memphis), and the gas station we stopped at had the cashier behind what I assume was bullet-proof glass. Not exactly reassuring-I guess I expected the neighborhood of Graceland to be a little better.
Anyway, the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art (which I guess I could call just the Brooks Museum of Art, though no one seems to) has a fairly small collection as art museums go. They seem to be trying to 'hit the high points,' so they have a Picasso pitcher, a Rodin, a Winslow Homer, two Pisarros, a Renoir, a Georgia O'Keeffe, and a Thomas Hart Benton ('The Engineer's Dream'). It is undoubtedly foolish to rate a museum by a scorecard of what artists it has, but one can't help but feel that's what drives many of the acquisitions museums make. And given that they need public support, it probably makes sense to be able to tell their donors which great artists they have works of. Of these 'masterworks' the only one that impressed me was the Benton, but maybe that's just because I like his style.
They also had a section 'In Touch with Art,' with touchable sculpture for the visually impaired (or anyone else, actually).
Another section had art from Africa, Oceania, pre-Columbian America, and the Middle East. I'm not sure what general name one would give to these. 'Primitive art' is probably no longer politically correct, but 'ethnic art' or 'folk art' could be applied to art produced today. In any case, I thought that the Oceanic art looked a lot like African art, but it also had totem poles like Pacific Northwest art. The museum had some quite impressive African pieces, though an 'ancestor figure' described as 'wood and shells' clearly also had a monkey skull as part of it.
There was a short film on Walter Anderson, an American artist who was first exhibited by the museum. He was born in 1903 in New Orleans, and though he attended prestigious art schools, he was more influenced by the Gothic cathedrals and cave paintings in Europe than by the art museums. He worked for a while for the family business, Shearwater Pottery in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, but after suffering a breakdown in 1937 became reclusive and worked entirely on his art until his death in 1965. His use of 'pattern, repetition and the abstract design of the visual world closed the gulf between realism and abstraction.'
Various musings: In the painting 'Enthroned Madonna and Child with Two Virgin Martyrs,' if this is post-martyrdom of St. Catherine and St. Christina, how come Jesus is still a baby?
British portraiture has little to recommend it.
Some of my favorite pieces are by 'unknowns': George Luks' 'The Fortune Teller,' Carl Gutherz's 'Portrait of Susan B. Anthony,' and Burton Callicott's 'The Gleaners.'
Downstairs, they had the (apparently obligatory) Elvis display. This was 'Elvis Presley: The Beginning of a Legend,' early publicity photographs of Elvis by William Speer.
We ate lunch at Saigon, a Vietnamese noodle place (shades of all our noodle lunches in Japan!).
After lunch we drove back downtown to the National Civil Rights Museum (http://www.mecca.org/~crights/ncrm.html) ($6 less a $1 AAA discount). I know there is some dispute going on over this museum involving the question of who should be running it, but I can't provide more details offhand.
This museum is in the Lorraine Motel, where the Reverend Martin Luther King was shot on April 4, 1968. And where were you when you heard? (I was at a freshman orientation at the University of Massachusetts, and learned about it the next morning when I saw all the posters up about it.)
The museum is almost entirely text, photographs, and quotations. There are a few three-dimensional recreations (such as of a lunch counter), a few audio and videotapes, and some artifacts (a Klan robe, old white/colored signs), but on the whole it is very wordy. This is okay, although after a while one wishes for something besides just reading.
The museum is divided into sections: Unrelenting Struggle, Strategies for Change, Organizations, Protest, Brown v. the Topeka Board of Education, Montgomery Bus Boycott, Sit-Ins, Freedom Rides, Ole Miss, 'Project C' Birmingham, March on Washington, Freedom Summer, Selma, March Against Fear, Chicago, and Memphis.
Interesting note: Justice John M. Harland was the only Southerner on the Supreme Court for Plessy v. Ferguson (which re-affirmed segregation in 1896, and he was also the only dissenter, saying, 'The Constitution is color-blind.'
At the end of all this is a photograph of a Chinese student in Tiananmen Square wearing a shirt saying 'We Shall Overcome.' And as you leave, there is the quotation, 'A little rebellion, now and then is a good thing... It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.' (Thomas Jefferson, 1787).
I found it discouraging, if not unexpected, that there were more people just hanging around the gates of Graceland than were at the National Civil Rights Museum. I can't say it was unexpected, but it was a bit depressing.
I also found it a bit depressing that the gift shop had a lot more along the lines of T-shirts, magnets, and hats than books, tapes, or posters about the Civil Rights movement, or even about Black history in the United States in general. They had sort of your basic 'one-foot shelf': Douglass's autobiography, Washington's Up from Slavery, something by DuBois (I think it was his essay on the 'Talented Tenth'), I Have a Dream (selected speeches and writings by the Reverend Martin Luther King), Richard Wright's Native Son, and maybe a couple of other books. They didn't even seem to have the Autobiography of Malcolm X. And given the heavy word content of the museum, I would have loved to see a book of all the quotations used there. (A book with all the text would be a terrific resource, but I suppose they might feel it would keep people from coming.)
After this we went back to Beale Street and found a parking place (the same one we used yesterday!) so we could see A. Schwab's Dry Goods Store-and a strange store it was, too.
As described by the walking tour guide, 'Probably the most famous store on Beale Street today, Abraham Schwabs' dry goods store has been on Beale since 1876, and not much has changed about Schawbs since then. Voodoo potions and old music memorabilia as well as cheap items can be found. L. Bauer and Sons dry goods, and a Piggly Wiggly resided here from 1865 until 1924. ... Not much has changed here since the doors opened in 1876. This place is a wild combination of a vintage, turn-of-the-century store-complete with old creaky floors, antique cash registers-and a voodoo supply store, with enough goods to fill any voodoo shopping list. This store can even be fun for those that hate shopping. Free tours, and a free souvenir to every visitor. Men's pants size to size 74, and women's pants to size 60 (ouch!).' We got three caps (two at $1 each and I 'splurged' on one that had the Schwab logo on it for $4) and a small bottle of some potion or other (it seemed like the perfect souvenir-the only contender was a bar of Octagon soap). The free gift seemed to be the two postcards of Schwab's I got: one of an old photograph of it, one of the present. Since these would have been only ten cents each, it's not exactly extravagant on their part. The mezzanine has all sorts of old paraphernalia and goods from around 1900 jumbled together-I assume that's the museum. Cool place!
We drove past the Pink Palace, a city museum in a moderately striking building (though compared to some in Memphis, pretty tame). The traffic lights here seem sequenced so that you have to stop every couple of blocks or so. That takes some planning on their part.
After resting up a bit in the motel, we went to Arnold's Bar-B-Q for dinner. Although the slaw seemed to have been made in a blender, the ribs were excellent.
Well, at breakfast we got to talking to someone else and found out that the 'Memphis Belle' was viewable on Mud Island. Had we known, we could have gone there one of the two previous days, since it's open until 7 PM. Unfortunately, it doesn't open in the morning until 10 AM, and we didn't want to hang around that long. (Why this isn't a starred attraction in the AAA book is beyond me-it's buried in the description of Mud Island.)
After working our way through the traffic congestion on I-55, we crossed the Mississippi River and got on I-40 in Arkansas. The speed limit here is 70 miles per hour (it's been a long time since I've seen that!), but the road is not at all smooth, being some reddish material that must be quite old. Our car, loaded as it is, not to mention being twelve years old, seems to prefer 65 miles per hour rather than 70 anyway.
We arrived at Little Rock around 10:15 AM, and after much searching found Central High. This is the school that was so prominent in 1957 when President Eisenhower had to call in the National Guard to integrate it. However, to find it we had to resort to finding a phone book, looking up the address (1500 South Park Street), and then sort of guessing where that would be (drive down to 15th Street and then just drive along until you find it). If you're looking for it with a less than complete map, go to 14th Street and drive west; it's a couple of blocks west of Dr. Martin Luther King Drive. (I hope the irony of this is not lost on anyone.) 15th Street doesn't run as far as Park, and it any case they were in the process of building a 'Central High Visitors Center and Museum' on the corner of 14th Street and Park Street. (If you see it when it's done, I'd be curious to hear what it's like.)
In spite of this museum-building, we appeared to be the only tourists who were here at this time. I suppose after the museum is finished, it may be more noted in tour books and such. To me, it seems a much more important landmark than a lot of what does get mentioned. (Someone somewhere must have put together a 'Civil Rights Tour Guide,' similar to the Civil War Sourcebook we are using. Or should. We're cobbling our trip together from bits and pieces gleaned from various sources. I hear there is a 'Black Heritage Tour' brochure for Alabama which I hope to pick up when we get there, but that's just Alabama.)
After this, we drove on to Hot Springs on I-30 and AR-70. Hot Springs (http://www.hotspringsar.com/info/info.htm) is billed (no pun intended) as 'Bill Clinton's Hometown' (http://www.hotspringsar.com/info/clinton/clinton/clinton.htm). While he was born in Hope, Arkansas, he moved to Hot Springs as a young child, and so both towns get to claim him. Of course, most of the sites listed as 'Bill Clinton sites' for Hot Springs are things like the Malco Theater, where he and his friends went to the movies (except it isn't a movie theater any more), or the soda fountain where he had sodas (except it isn't a soda fountain any more). This strikes me as a desperate attempt to have more than just the two houses he lived in on the list.
After checking in to the Quality Inn (where the clerk seemed determined to find some sort of discount she could give us-we ended up with the corporate discount because we're with Lucent Technologies), we went to the Mid-America Museum ($5 minus 10% AAA discount). This is the same sort of hands-on museum as the Exploratorium in San Francisco. The Mid-America Museum did have a couple of different exhibits. One, a temporary one, was an exhibit on dinosaurs and 'dinamation.' The other was a series of machines build by Sir Rowland Emett which were props from the movie Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.' (There was also a larger machine of the same type built by Emett which was not from the movie, but which was the centerpiece in the entrance hall.) The museum, like other classic science museums, seems to have been inspired by the quotation from Einstein that they displayed: 'The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.'
After this we returned to Hot Springs itself and walked around the downtown along Bath House Row (more on this tomorrow). After resting up a bit, we went out to Cajun Boilers from dinner, where I discovered that crawfish were not in season, so I had boiled shrimp and bluepoint crab fingers. Yum!
We were up early so we drove the two mountain loops of Hot Springs National Park before the Fordyce Bath House Visitors Center opened. Hot Springs National Park is definitely a strange National Park. It has a city right smack in the middle of it. It has only two short driving routes, and only a few hiking trails (and one of those is a paved sidewalk behind the bath houses!). And it all centers around bathing.
At 9 AM, the Fordyce Bath House opened. This is a restored, but not operational, bath house. There is still one bath house operating on the original 'Bath House Row,' the Bucknell, but several downtown hotels also offer the same services (baths, steam cabinets, hot packs, massages, etc.).
There used to be guided tours of the Fordyce, but now there is just a self-guided tour. I suppose this is part of the government cut-backs on National Parks.
We left Hot Springs around 10 AM and drove down AR-7 and I-30 to Hope AR. AR-7 is supposed to be one of America's ten most scenic roads (or some such) but, while it was moderately attractive, it didn't seem any more scenic than a lot of other roads we've been on. On I-30, I saw something that was either a dead armadillo or a piece of truck tire-it was hard to tell at 70 miles per hour.
Hope, Arkansas, has a small Visitors Center in the restored train station where you can see pictures of President Clinton as a child, watch a video about him, and pick up a copy of the 'Presidential Driving Tour' of Hope (which includes his two homes, his school, and the cemetery where his family is buried). It also had items from the railroad and a video about that as well.
We did the driving tour. I think you can actually go in to one of the homes, but since it was raining (heavily at times), we decided not to bother. After this, we drove on to Dallas on I-30. As is usual on this trip, we found ourselves in a traffic jam due to construction. (To be fair, not all the traffic jams were due to construction. A couple were because of accidents, and some had no discernible cause.)
After checking in to the Motel 6 and getting a paper for the movie listings, we drove up to Carrollton for dinner at Pho 79 (Vietnamese noodle soup again), and then saw Event Horizon.
August 23: After breakfast at Grandy's, we drove out to Terrell for the Silent Wings Museum, which depicts the use of gliders in World War II. Contrary to what you might think, they were not used because they were silent, but because they could carry heavy payloads and land almost anywhere. So they served almost like giant parachutes, landing jeeps, equipment, and personnel behind enemy lines to build airstrips where larger planes could land. They were used primarily in eight campaigns: Sicily (1943), Burma (1944), Normandy (1944), Southern France (1944), Holland (Marketgarden) (1944), the Battle of the Bulge (1944), Wesel (1945), and Luzon (1945).
The museum has a nice library for anyone wanting to do research. There is a short videotape explaining the use of gliders, and a small hangar containing memorabilia, including a restored (though not flightworthy) glider (a Waco CG4A).
There was an interesting anecdote about Jackie Coogan landing in a glider in Asia somewhere and, not wanting to wait for the jeeps to tow his glider to its 'parking place,' hired a local man's elephant. However, after a few steps the elephant panicked and ran amuck, snapping both wings off the glider against the trees.
The glider pilots association has given honorary membership to all the space shuttle pilots as well, since when they land the shuttle, they are landing it as a glider, not as a powered craft.
(Appropriately, my off-time reading now is Janet Berliner and George Gutteridge's Children of the Dusk, a dark fantasy novel set during World War II.)
Continuing the flight theme, we drove to Dallas's Love Field for the Frontiers of Flight Museum ($2). This museum, in the lobby of the airport terminal, covers the history of flight from the first hot air balloons to space. (Actually, it starts even earlier, with the Chinese rockets and various fictional flights.) Did you know that the first flight injury was on September 19, 1783, when a sheep stepped on rooster after they were both set up in a balloon and broke its leg. As the blurb said, there were no civil air regulations or SPCA, or the lawsuits would still be going on.
The first free aerial voyage by a human was on November 21, 1783. (I noted that because it was my birthday, though not as that time.)
One peculiar thing about this museum is that because it's in an airport terminal you have to pay for airport parking-which means the parking can cost more than the museum. (It's $2 for the museum, and $3 for one to two hours parking.)
We then drove to the Biblical Arts Center (http://www.biblicalarts.org/), a starred attraction in the AAA book. This was described as 'non-denominational,' which means of course Christian, but I was hoping to see some art of the level of the 'Old Masters.' Unfortunately, this was not the case. The main attraction (and I'm sure the reason for the star) is the 'Miracle at Pentecost' mural, complete with sound and light show. While the museum itself was free, this part cost $5, and we had the feeling that it would have appeal primarily for believers. The other major work was a recreation of Jesus's tomb; besides these there were a couple dozen so-so religious paintings. This is probably worthwhile for Christians, but not for others.
Since we finished this fairly early, we decided to drive into Dallas itself and see The Sixth Floor (http://www.jfk.org/index.html). This is the museum of the JFK assassination, constructed on the sixth floor of the Texas Book Depository. The admission for this is $5, or $7 with an audiotaped tour. The tape tour lasts ninety minutes and adds a lot; what with stopping it to see the various videotapes and read all the exhibits, it can easily take two to two and a half hours. I mention this because we figured it would take an hour to an hour and a half and I had to go replenish the parking meter. The lot parking is $2.50; the meters are a dollar an hour, so you might as well go with the lot.
This museum was the most crowded place that we'd seen yet on this trip. Like the National Civil Rights Museum, it's primarily words and pictures, with a bit more audio and video to supplement them. It covers not just the assassination, but the whole Kennedy administration before, and all the investigations after.
There is, of course, much information about the forensic and other evidence used by the various commissions and studies. So far as I can tell, there is really no compelling evidence to believe that there was a conspiracy, or someone else on the grassy knoll, or anything other than Oswald as the lone gunman. Your opinion, of course, may differ.
Even here, the museum shop had the usual assortment of T-shirts and caps, though the museum name and logo (seven horizontal stripes, the bottom five and top one orange, the sixth one up black) is so restrained as to be uninteresting.
Dinner was at Dickey's Barbecue Pit, a local place near the motel with pretty good barbecue.
Breakfast was again at Grandy's, followed by an exciting morning of laundry.
At 11 AM we started out for Fort Worth. Although people think of Dallas and Fort Worth as twin cities (the idea is no doubt bolstered by the existence of the Dallas-Forth Worth Airport), Fort Worth is actually thirty miles from Dallas, and since we were on the north side of Dallas heading for the south side of Fort Worth, it took almost an hour.
Our first stop was the Kimbell Art Museum (http://www.kimbellart.org/), which usually opens at noon on Sunday. However, because of the Monet exhibit, they opened at 10 AM, so we could have left earlier (in dirty clothes, of course). There were long lines for the Monet exhibit; this now beats The Sixth Floor as the most crowded site so far.
We did not want to stand in that line for the Monets. (In general, when we're traveling, we're more interested in the permanent exhibits. For all we know, the Monets could be on loan from the Metropolitan Museum of Art.)
I'm not sure what the size of the permanent collection is, but the museum was designed to display a few pieces well rather than a lot of pieces: quality, not quantity. So what is on display at any one time is about fifty pieces, but very well selected and exhibited in galleries well-proportioned and well-lit. The main floor gallery is lit with a combination of indirect artificial and indirect natural light. It's the first place I can remember where I didn't have to keep dodging around to get rid of the glare on the paintings. And with paintings by Gauguin, Rembrandt, El Greco, Goya, and so on, one can hardly fault the art. I imagine it's a museum that one can visit often, since I suspect they rotate the paintings frequently.
Next was the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History, featuring 'Lone Star Dinosaurs.' All the exhibits in this museum had bilingual signs, and indeed one of the striking things about Texas is the extensive use of Spanish, sometimes in a bilingual context, sometimes on its own (particularly in advertisements). This became even more pronounced as we moved south to San Antonio.
The museum also had exhibits of pre-Columbian pottery, 'Animal Super Senses,' and the history of medicine. They also had a 'Hands On Science' section where I found a book of visual illusions and ended up leafing through the entire thing.
Best of all was the gift shop, mercifully free of the copper bracelets and Roswell aliens we've seen in other 'science' museum gift shops. Al in all, I was quite impressed with this museum.
Dinner was at Benavides, and then we went to see Mimic. This was the first time I had been in a theater with stadium seating. I like it.
One aspect of Texas that takes some getting used to is the sprawl of everything. Expressways have big sweeping interchanges, not the tighter ones one sees in the northeast. Parking lots seem to go on forever and are mostly empty. Roads seem to have at least one more lane than they would back east. And so on.
For a change of pace, we had breakfast at IHOP before setting out for Austin on I-35. This took about four hours, at which time we arrived at the LBJ Library and Museum (http://www.lbjlib.utexas.edu/). This library was opened in 1971 and covers the years 1908 through 1973 (some material was added later, obviously). According to the woman at the desk, this is one of only nine official Presidential libraries, and the only one not charging admission (at Johnson's express wish). (No, I don't know what the nine are.)
Among other things, we learned that Johnson was one of only four people who held the offices of Representative, Senator, Vice-President, and President. And though he is remembered mostly for the Vietnam War, he was also responsible for the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the Open Housing Rights Act of 1968, the War on Poverty, the Clean Air Act, the Highway Beautification Act, Medicare, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Job Corps, and Project Head Start. He appointed the first Supreme Court Justice. And for all the Republicans yammering about a balanced budget, the last one was in 1968, under Johnson, a Democrat. The first unbalanced one was under Nixon, a Republican.
Of course, the Highway Beautification Act is pretty much defunct these days. If I remember correctly, it was overturned by two things. One, businesses claimed that the restrictions on billboards and other advertising restricted their freedom of speech. And two, people driving on the highways wanted to know what motels, restaurants, and other businesses were coming up.
We then drove to Johnson City, where we took a bus tour ($3) of the LBJ Ranch. This included taped commentary by Johnson and Lady Bird, which made it more interesting than just a guide's comments would be. (We just missed August 27 celebration of Johnson's birthday. Late for Elvis's death and early for this, but probably for the best.)
On the ranch we saw longhorn cattle, bison, goats, and pronghorn antelope. Later along the road we saw a vulture. We've probably seen others in the sky, but I am not very good at identifying flying birds. They're either big or small. (When we asked our guide on the Amazon what kind of butterfly we were looking at, his answer was, 'Blue butterfly.')
We drove to San Antonio, passing cactus along the roadside. The scenery definitely changes as you drive around, and it's much more interesting to see the gradual change by driving than to fly somewhere and boom! it's completely different.
Dinner was at Las Palmas, a taqueria where pretty much only Spanish was spoken.
It turned out our motel was right outside Brooks Air Force Base, which has Hangar 9, also known as the Edward H. White II Memorial Museum of Flight Medicine. It is named for White (who died in the January 27, 1967, Apollo I fire) because he was born in San Antonio at Fort Sam Houston (on November 14, 1930). He was the first American to perform a space walk (June 3, 1965).
The exhibits here included a World War I field ambulance, and a Curtis JN-4 'Jenny' (which we read later was probably used in the movie Wings). There was also an exhibit about Ham and Enos (the 'original Shepard and Glenn'-Ham was the first primate into space, and Enos was the first primate to orbit the earth).
Note: although the hangar opens at 8 AM, the annex and gift shop doesn't open until 9 AM.
Our next stop was the San Jose Mission, the best preserved (or more accurately, restored) of the missions around San Antonio. We arrived when it opened at 9 AM. There are guided tours, but they were not until 10 AM, so we walked around on our own, and the signs posted around the mission helped explain what we were seeing. One advantage of doing this is that is was very quiet; we were the only people there.
After this we went to the Marion Koogler McNay Art Museum (http://www.amn.org/McNayext.htm). (Actually this is known locally as the McNay Art Museum, but everything we had seen before this used the full name, leading us to refer to it as 'the art museum with the funny name.') One feature we found interesting was the Leeper Auditorium, named after John Palmer Leeper. You may not find that as fascinating. (He is no relation.)
This was another small but choice collection, with Cezanne, Renoir, Pisarro ('Haymakers Resting,' featuring his high horizon and large figures), Mondrian (pre-geometric), Gauguin, Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh ('Women Crossing the Fields'), Matisse, Léger, Braque, Modigliani, Rousseau, Utrillo, Chagall, Rivera, and Rodin ('The Burghurs of Calais'). One of the paintings I liked the best was Ernst Ludwig Kirchner's 'Portrait of Hans Frisch.' There was a gallery of modern abstract art, but it does little for me; a mottled green triangle with wooden 'hinges' on the sides labeled 'Aphrodite' makes no sense to me.
The special exhibit was of Lola Alvarez Bravo's photography. I was particularly struck by her collage 'Anarchia arquitectónica en la ciudad de Mexico' which is reminiscent of many paintings, including one in the Toledo Museum that I think is titled 'The Architect's Nightmare.'
The medieval room had a painting titled 'Mary Magdalene' which was painted by and artist named 'Master of the (Madonna with the) Parrot' (1490-1550). All I can think of is 'the artist formerly known as Prince.'
We had lunch at Tomatillos, a very good Mexican place near the Witte Museum. We split an order of guacamole enchiladas and an order of chicken mole, and both were excellent.
We wanted to go to the Witte Museum. However, while admission is $6.95, it was free after 3 PM on Tuesdays. This was Tuesday, but it was only 1:30 PM. Across the street from Tomatillos was Half-Price Books, and Mark suggested we kill time there. An hour and a half later (and $38 poorer) we left Half-Price books. Our best find was a book Mark spotted, an R. A. Lafferty numbered and autographed limited edition which we've seen elsewhere priced at $45, but here was in the clearance section for $2.
At 3 PM we went to the Witte Museum. The first thing we saw on entering was a Triceratops skeleton and a Tyrannosaurus rex skull. Mark claims every science museum has a dinosaur exhibit. I said I didn't remember one from the military medical museum, but Mark claimed that didn't count as a science museum.
Everything here is bilingual, even more so than in Fort Worth. Well, except for the quote over one ecology exhibit: 'The last word in ignorance is the man who says of an animal or plant, 'What good is it?' If the land mechanism as a whole is good, then every part is good, whether we understand it or not.' (Aldo Leopold).
To illustrate animals' food requirements, they had a video game where you were a hawk hunting for food. We watched a video on 'Venomous Insects, Spiders, and Other Arthropods.' We also learned that Texas has seven regions. Texarkana is Pineywoods, Dallas-Fort Worth and Austin are Prairie, Johnson City is Hill Country, San Antonio is Thornbrush, and Houston is Dunes & Marshes. The two we aren't visited this trip are Plains (Amarillo), and Deserts & Mountains (El Paso). One sign said, 'South Texas-where everything sticks, stings, or sticks.'
Texas has a Math and Science Hotline (1-800-566-5066), where I guess you can call with emergency questions about Goldbach's Conjecture and such.
In addition to the main building, there is a log cabin and other buildings outside, more for the History part. In the main building they have a 'visible storage' furniture exhibit. This was of furniture made from horn. All I could think of was 'I use antlers in all of my decorating.'
We finished here about 6 PM and went back to the motel, not being hungry for dinner.
Today was our twenty-fifth anniversary.
We started our wild celebration by a visit to the Spanish Governors Palace ($1). This was only moderately interesting, except for the sign about the washing area in the dining room being there because washing the hands before eating was a religious ceremony. Now, I've never heard of Catholics having such a ceremony, but Jews certainly do, so I have strong suspicions that the Spanish Governors, or at least some of them, were from Converso families. (They may not have even known this.) This is not all that unlikely; recent studies have shown that a very high percentage of the Spanish families in the American Southwest were probably Conversos who came here to avoid the prying eyes of the Inquisition.
Our next stop was Fort Sam Houston and the U. S. Army Medical Department Museum. One set of statistics near the beginning were the survival rates of wounded in various wars (to show how medical care has improved: Civil War, 55%, World War II, 70%; Korea, 75%; Vietnam 87%. (These figures do not include those who were killed outright.) In the Civil War, 168,777 were wounded in action and 75,538 died of their wounds, while 199,270 died of disease (about evenly divided among fever, diarrhea, lung diseases, and other).
We also stopped briefly at the Fort Sam Houston Museum, which had a history of the post, including information on the Rough Riders, who trained there.
After lunch at the Krung Thai, we checked into the Marriott Riverwalk about 2 PM.
It still being early, we decided to go over to the Alamo. This was 'well-attended,' but still probably had fewer people than The Sixth Floor.
There was a lot of historical information, starting from the very beginning of settlement in the area, through the Spanish invasion, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla's 'El Grito' of September 16, 1810, for Mexican independence, and later Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's abolition of the constitution of 1824 which had given power to the states and provided for an elected president and congress. While Texas had been in favor of those parts, they hadn't liked the part which had combined the state of Texas with Coahuila and put its capital in Saltillo.
But it was the decree of April 6, 1830, which halted American immigration (articles 9 and 11), levied taxes, and prohibited the importation of slaves (Article 10) that really got the Texians (as they seem to be called) fired up. A series of battles led up to the 'Thirteen Days of Glory' (February 23 through March 6, 1836) at the Alamo. The Alamo defenders didn't even know that Texas issued its Declaration of Independence on March 2, 1836. More fighting followed the Alamo, including the March 27 Goliad Massacre. But the revolution ended successfully when Santa Anna surrendered on April 21 after the battle of San Jacinto.
Almost ten year later (December 29, 1845) the United States annexed Texas (at Texas's request) and Texas formally joined the Union on February 19, 1846. And except for that slight dust-up between 1861 and 1865, she's stayed a loyal member since then.
The videotape shown there is just a bit slanted, but it was produced by the Daughters of the Texas Republic. For example, it talks about the Mexican Army being 'driven by the ruthless will of the dictator' and fails to mention that one of the freedoms the Texians were fighting for was the freedom to own slaves. In fact, one of the first acts of Texas was to expel all free Negroes.
I will not recount the story of the Alamo itself; I assume you know it, or have at least seen the John Wayne version. For a slightly different version, read José Enrique de la Peña's With Santa Anna in Texas. For a really different version, read Scott Cupp's 'Thirteen Days of Glory.'
Later in the evening we walked along the Riverwalk for a while, but even that was very hot.
These were the days of the convention and are covered in excruciating detail in my (separate) convention report.
Monday night after the convention ended we did go to see Kull the Conqueror. I can't recommend it.
We were going to stay in San Antonio to watch 'Mission to Mir' in the IMAX theater, but we discovered that it was showing at the Houston Space Center and was included in the admission there. So we headed out east on I-10 toward Houston.
Even though in Texas terms, San Antonio and Houston are close, they are still a long way apart-180 miles, taking about four hours of driving. When we arrived we checked into the Grant Motel, a hangover from the 1950s, advertising 'Pool' and 'Color TV' in neon on their sign. (They had modernized the locks to be electronic, though.)
We then took I-610 and TX-134 to the San Jacinto Battleground (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/cgi-bin/print_hit_boldl/park/battlesh/battlesh.htm) in La Porte (southeast of Houston). If Fort Worth is 'Cow Town,' then Houston is 'Oil Town.' We drove past miles of oil refineries followed by more miles of oil refineries.
San Jacinto is the site of the final battle of the Texian Revolution (or whatever it should be called). It took eighteen minutes for the Texians to defeat the Mexicans, and considerably longer for them to commit assorted atrocities on the wounded and on the corpses. The only reason this battle was definitive was that Santa Anna was captured the next day, and that pretty much ended the war-or at least paused it until 1845, when the United States annexed Texas. That got Mexico upset again, so in a sense the Mexican War was just a continuation of the Texian Revolution.
The San Jacinto Monument is the world's tallest stone monument at 567.31 feet and 70,300,000 pounds. It was, however, being restored when we were there, so the star at the top was enclosed in chicken wire while this was going on. That was a pity as I would have like to see it, since it has the interesting geometric property of being seen as a five-pointed star from any (horizontal) direction.
The museum in the base was open. It covered the entire historical period from the first Spanish settlers to annexation, though not in a very chronological way.
We then drove to the Menil Collection because I had forgotten it was closed Tuesdays. However, right nearby was the Alabama Bookstop, a bookstore in the Bookstop chain built in a converted movie theater (the Alabama Theater). The conversion was minimal (they took the seats out), and the ceiling, murals, balcony, and side areas remain the same. The balcony has a cafe, but the stage area has magazines, rather than the film books which I would have put there (they are also on the balcony). It was, all in all, a unique bookstore, and we ended up buying a few books there as well (two film books, appropriately enough, and a couple of science books as well).
Afterwards we still weren't hungry (we have eaten a pretty big lunch), but we did stop for ice cream.
Today was Houston Space Center (http://www.spacecenter.org) day. The first thing we discovered was that if you arrive really early (like 9:15 AM for a 10 AM opening), there is no one collecting the $3 parking fee yet. The next was that there are 'twilight tickets': if you buy a ticket within two hours of closing, it is good for the next day as well. Given that we finished San Jacinto about 3:30 PM the previous day, we could have spent an hour here and finished a little earlier today (or spent more time). Well, at least you know now. (Also, though the hours when we went were 10 AM to 5 PM, during the summer they are extended to 9 AM to 7 PM. On the other hand, I'm sure the Space Center is much more crowded then because of school vacation and everything will have long lines.)
We bought our tickets ($11.95 each minus a 10% AAA discount-if you're not a AAA member, there are $1 discount coupons just about everywhere) and got the day's schedule. There was a tram tour, two IMAX films, a film, and a live presentation, but with careful scheduling we fit everything in.
We started at 10 AM with the ninety-minute tram tour of the Johnson Space Center. This took us around the complex with stops at the Special Vehicles Operation Room, the Mission Operations Control Room (MOCR), the FCR (Flight Control Room), and the Mockup and Integration Lab. The Special Vehicles Operation Room is where they will be coordinating activities for building the new international space station, while the MOCR and FCR are new versions of the old Mission Control.
Mark and I pointed out to each other that the history of artificial satellites on the wall of the building housing the control rooms started with Edward Everett Hale's 'Brick Moon.' 'Oh, look, they mention 'Brick Moon'!' I'm sure the people behind us were saying, 'What the heck is 'Brick Moon'?'
I noticed that the control room crews are more casually dressed than they were in the Apollo days, with no white shirts or ties that I could see, and certainly more women.
During actual missions, CAPCOM is always an astronaut, and only CAPCOM and the flight surgeon talk directly to the astronauts. (Of course, during actual missions the tour doesn't stop here either.)
We also passed the Space Environment Simulation Laboratory (SESL) with its liquid nitrogen tanks, and the antenna farm.
There was a final stop at the 'Rocket Garden' for photographs, both of the rockets and of the longhorns on the other side of the fence.
Our next stop was the 11:30 AM 'mission briefing.' This started with a presentation talking about what things might be like in the future which talked about distance learning (with interaction) between Pluto Intermediate and Venus High. It's depressing to think that no one at NASA understands time lag and speed of light limitations. (When I asked the presenter about this, all she could say was that this was the future and we couldn't say what might be possible. Most scientists are willing to say that faster than light communication is not possible, except in quantum mechanical conditions.)
The next mission is STS-86, and what we saw in the MOCR was a dress rehearsal. CAPCOM will be Scott Horowitz, the only astronaut with a Ph.D. Linda Hamm will be the Flight Director. The crew will consist of Captain Jim Weatherbee, Co-Captain Mike Bloomfield, Vladimir Titov, Scott Parazynkski, Jean-Luc Cretien, Wendy Lawrence, and David Wolf, who will replace Mike Foale on Mir. Lawrence was supposed to replace him, but after the recent problems Russia requested that all astronauts on Mir be able to do EVAs in their suits. While Lawrence is fully qualified to do EVAs, she is only 5'3' (160 cm) and the Russian suits have a minimum height requirement of 5'5' (165 cm).
There was a plea for support for better funding for NASA, which currently gets only 0.81% of the Federal budget.
We then watched a fifteen-minute film of historical footage from NASA, 'On Human Destiny.' Since most people who visit the Space Center are probably familiar with this, if you are pressed for time this is probably the film to skip, although this is also the normal lead-in to the historical gallery. (I will say more about that later, because we rushed out for the IMAX film.)
Right after that was Mission to Mir, a forty-five-minute IMAX film. Made before the recent problems, it is mostly about Shannon Lucid's time on Mir. There were some impressive scenes, but much of the film was set in the Mir, which somewhat works against the IMAX format. What's the point of a fifty-foot scene to show you a ten-foot room? IMAX works best, in my opinion, on big scenes. So the space scenes were impressive, but there weren't enough of them. (The first IMAX film I saw was about putting out oil fires in Kuwait-that was impressive!)
After the film was over, we backtracked through the historical gallery from the exit near the spiral slide. (This is probably difficult to do when the Center is crowded.) This exhibit covered space flight since Robert Goddard's first liquid-fueled rocket on March 16, 1926, and included several actual spacecraft. It also included a section on how lunar samples are handled and analyzed, and had a piece of moon rock. What was different here was that you could actually touch the moon rock; this is the only place where I remember that being true.
In one of the films, someone talked about how it was nice that we were working with the Russians now, and how much further along we might be if we had been doing so all along. But we built a reusable spaceship, while the Russians built a space station. If we had been working together all along, would we still have developed both?
There were also a few 'hands-on' exhibits. An air table let you get some idea of what it would be like to work in weightlessness and maneuver an MMU (Manned Maneuvering Unit). There was a shuttle landing simulator (everyone seemed to land theirs in the swamp), and an orbital rendezvous simulator which by comparison was almost too easy. A demonstration on 'Living in Space' was pretty basic, though kids might enjoy it.
We finished with another IMAX presentation, To Be an Astronaut. This was a twenty-minute presentation on the astronaut training program. It was obviously a composite rather than following an actual astronaut, especially since at the end, the astronaut boards the Endeavor, but the Discovery takes off. (Mark claims mistakes such as launching the wrong shuttle happen sometimes in the space program.)
This finished just about 5 PM, so we had to leave. As I said, you can see everything in one day with careful scheduling.
We decided to try to make it to the Menil Collection (http://menil.org/~menil), which was open until 7 PM. By making only one possibly illegal U-turn, and running only one stop sign (by accident), we were able to recover the time lost because we got lost and because most of the corners where we wanted to turn left were marked 'No Left Turn.'
The Menil Collection is another one of those 'small but choice' selections they seem to have in the South, although it was greatly enhanced by the Surrealism exhibit temporarily displayed. This included works by Max Ernst, Marcel Duchamp, Man Ray ('Imaginary Portrait of the Marquis de Sade'), several works by Rene Magritte ('La trahison des images', or 'The Treachery of Images'; 'Le survivant', or 'The Survivor'; 'Golconde', or 'Goldona'; 'La clef de verre', or 'The Glass Key'; 'Le soir qui tombe, or 'Evening Falls'; 'L'amiable vérité', or 'The Enduring Truth'-a three-dimensional object painted on a two-dimensional surface of a three-dimensional object painted in two dimensions!), Pablo Picasso, Yves Tanguy, and Salvador Dali ('Gangsterism and Goofy Visions of New York'). The permanent collection included Andy Warhol, Andrew Pollock, Joan Miró, Max Léger, Henri Matisse, Paul Cézanne, Paul Klee, Piet Mondrian, and Alexander Calder. Though small, the museum took about an hour (it would have been longer but one temporary exhibit had just closed).
Dinner was at Joe's Crab Shack, apparently a chain of seafood restaurants. I had crawfish etouffe; Mark had a fried platter.
This was mostly a driving day. We started by heading east on I-10 to Lafayette, Louisiana, then east on US-90 E, east on LA-14 E, and south on LA-329 to Avery Island. This is the home of Tabasco sauce (http://citt.marin.cc.ca.us/ring/extras/tabasco.html) and is a privately owned island (owned by the McIlheny family). It costs fifty cents to cross the bridge to the island, which also houses Jungle Gardens, a bird refuge.
But we were there it see the Tabasco factory, though it was a bit of a disappointment. There is a film explaining the entire process, from planting through harvesting, processing, and finally bottling. (There are 400,000 bottles of Tabasco sauce produced each day.) But all you actually get to see is the final stage-the bottling-before you get a chance to buy Tabasco tchatchkas in their store. Since we had already visiting their store in the Riverwalk Mall in San Antonio, this was not as unique an experience as it might otherwise have been.
We heard something of the history of Tabasco sauce. It was first sold in 1868 for $1 per bottle. It is produced by having peppers which are a precise shade of red (matching something supposedly referred to as 'Le Petit Baton Rouge') picked, mixed with coarse Avery Island salt, mashed, and aged three years in white oak barrels. Then it is mixed with vinegar with wooden paddles for several weeks. In the bottling plant, everyone wore hair nets and even beard nets, but then again, that's in the public view.
The film talked about how some Tabasco peppers are also grown elsewhere to prevent disease from wiping out the entire species. But we read elsewhere that in fact, almost all Tabasco peppers are grown elsewhere, which may be why you don't see the growing and harvesting, or the preparation. (If, as they say, the peppers are salted the day they are picked, they must be salted elsewhere, and probably not with Avery Island salt.)
We hoped to find a good place to have lunch in New Iberia, but the old restaurants we could find were all national chains, so we ended up eating at Popeye's. Here we were in the middle of Cajun country (http://www.usnews.com/usnews/NYCU/BA94S.HTM), and this was the best we could find.
We drove to Thibodeaux, arriving too late to get to the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center. We seem to be spending a lot of time driving on this trip, but in fact we did more driving per day in the Southwest. I guess it's that the scenery was so dramatic there that driving seemed more like sightseeing. Here we are passing some interesting scenery, but not nearly as much.
Back home there is a lot of discussion about a law requiring all children under the age of three to ride in the back seat. In Louisiana they have billboards reminding parents that it is against the law to let children under the age of six ride in the open beds of pickup trucks.
We started with the Wetlands Acadian Cultural Center. This had the history of the Cajuns in Louisiana back through the period when they were Acadiens in Canada. (The Acadiens were the first to call themselves something other than 'European colonials.')
The major periods affecting their history in Louisiana were 1755-1765 (Le Grand Derangement or The Great Upheaval, when they were expelled from British Canada), 1791 (when their numbers were increased by refugees from the Haitian Slave Revolt), 1916-1968 (L'Heure de la Honte or The Time of Shame, when they were forbidden to use French in schools and other places), and 1927 (the great Mississippi River Flood). The first period is what Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote about in his 1847 poem 'Evangeline,' which is much beloved in this area.
The displays use a lot of Cajun words, which is part of the culture, but it does make it more difficult to understand.
I learned that it's the prairie Cajun music that uses accordions, while in the bayous it is more country and western, and that there is French fiddle music, ballads, jazz, Cajun country, swamp pop, and renaissance Cajun music variations.
We also saw a video about hand-fishing in the bayous-not what we would have chosen, but interesting nevertheless. One thing it pointed out was that the bayous used to be clean and clear, but dredging in the 1930s for improved drainage ruined them. As someone said, 'We've ruined large parts of it trying to improve our life.' We also saw 'Cajuns-In Search of Our Roots,' in which Cajuns visited Acadiens who had returned to Nova Scotia.
The center talked about 'survival of a culture amid the plasticization,' but we can find only fast-food chains to eat at. I think plasticization has arrived.
We stopped in Houma for lunch at Tubby's Seafood (reasonable but not great gumbo once they reheated it from the lukewarm it was first served at) and for Mark to get a haircut. Tubby's also served tamales, not a Cajun food, but ubiquitous in the South.
We then drove past bayous (and an emu farm) on US-90 to New Orleans, and right through it to Jean Lafitte National Historic Park. This is the site of the 'Battle of New Orleans' (as in the song). Although it was a few days after the signing of the peace treaty for the War of 1812, it was not as meaningless as we had been led to believe. The treaty had been signed, but not ratified, and had the British won, they would have pressed for better terms.
The battlefield here is fairly small, this being a much smaller engagement than the Civil War battles we're following. The British flag here was flying at half-mast, but I assume that was for Princess Diana rather than the battle.
Returning through New Orleans, we passed an accident where an overhead traffic sign had given way and crashed onto the hood of a car. A few inches back and it probably would have been fatal, but the people seemed to have been able to get out of the car.
This would seem to indicate some decay in the infrastructure, and indeed when one gets out of the scenic French Quarter and the fancy downtown hotel area, New Orleans is a fairly run-down city, with neighborhoods that look as though they hadn't been painted or repaired in years. New Orleans has a very high reputation as a vacation destination, but that is only a small part of New Orleans.
We took I-10 W to Baton Rouge, where we found a Greek and Lebanese restaurant, Kabob's, for dinner. This probably wasn't difficult, since a newspaper article posted near the door said there were eighteen Greek and Lebanese restaurants in the Baton Rouge area. Perhaps it's Louisiana State University that does it.
We started with a quick look at the Louisiana State Capitol, a thirty-four story building built during Huey Long's administration as governor. So perhaps it's only appropriate that it is also where Long was assassinated, as he was coming out of the Governor's Office on September 8, 1935. This is described in Unauthorized America, but there is in fact a small display and marker at the spot in the building. Long was quite a popular politician, building roads, dredging bayous (well, it seemed like a good idea at the time), providing textbooks for schools, and so on. He also made a good living at it, requiring all state employees to contribute a tenth of their salary to his campaign fund.
Baton Rouge also has its share of rundown areas. In fact, running north from the city is a road named Scenic Highway, which is full of slums and oil refineries. This becomes US-61, which does become more scenic on the way to Natchez, Mississippi. It also becomes more 'buggy'-we seem to have arrived during some sort of amazing bug season. The bugs are so busy mating that they aren't paying attention, and hit our windshield so frequently it sounded like rain (and required major windshield cleaning when we got gasoline). (You could tell the bugs were mating-either that, or Mississippi has some really interesting two-headed bugs.)
Mississippi is also hard at work on their 1987 road program. No, that's not a typo-the signs all say '1987.'
We continued on to Vicksburg, passing through Port Gibson, which Grant captured in 1863 and declared 'too beautiful to burn.'
After getting a motel room and having lunch at a fast food place called Grandaddy's (not part of a chain, so there are still a few independents around), we drove to Vicksburg National Military Park. We watched the video about the battle ('In Memory of Men') and picked up a copy of the audiotaped driving tour in the gift shop. It turned out to be well worth the $4.50, giving not only descriptions of what we were driving past on the sixteen-mile loop, but also background, readings from letters, and songs. (I think they were trying to be an audio Ken Burns.)
Vicksburg has something like 13,000 markers and monuments, not including (one assumes) the markers for the 17,000 buried in the cemetery there. There are informational markers put up by the National Park Service to show troop placement and movements, and there are monuments erected by the various states for their forces, smaller ones around the field for each battalion or regiment or whatever, and a big one as a memorial for those who died.
Vicksburg was a forty-six day siege, punctuated by a couple of major battles, which ended on July 4, 1863. So Vicksburg was simultaneous with Gettysburg and as critical as that battle, because the taking of Vicksburg gave the Union army control of the Mississippi River there and eliminated its use by the Confederacy to transport materials or men.
Since I'm sure Mark will describe the siege and battle in great detail (or you can look it up), I will not attempt to do so here. Nor will I describe every monument, though a couple are worth mentioning. Missouri's monument was designed to honor Missourians who fought on either side. Illinois's is the largest, being a round domed marble building atop a small hill, with the names of the dead inscribed inside. Ohio had several small monuments, with very striking scenes on them, throughout the battlefield.
There was also a 'Hebrew Cemetery,' physically surrounded by the National Military Park, but not part of it. It is also not connected with it, since all the burials in it seem to be after the Civil War. I guess it was established as a private cemetery after the Civil War but before the National Military Park was established, so it got to stay. It was unusual for a Jewish cemetery in that there were some angel-like figures on some of the grave markers, and there were flowers on some of the graves (and no pebbles).
We also saw the U. S. S. Cairo (pronounced like the syrup, not the Egyptian city). This was the first armored warship sunk by an electrically detonated mine (December 12, 1862). The 'U. S. S. Cairo Engine and Boilers' have been declared a 'National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark' by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 1990. It is described as the 'sole surviving gunboat' of the Civil War, but so little of it is left, and in such poor condition, that the term 'surviving' seems an exaggeration.
We finished seeing the battlefield at 6 PM and then drove around Historic Vicksburg for a while before returning to the motel. What with driving and sightseeing during the day, and then planning and researching in the evenings, these are pretty full days.
We started with a lot of driving, from Vicksburg through Jackson and Hattiesburg to Biloxi. During the drive from Vicksburg to Jackson, our car passed 150,000 miles.
We would have stopped in Jackson, but this was Sunday morning and everything of interest was closed.
We got more of the 'rain of insects' on our windshield. It seems to be through a belt across the South. We also saw more dead armadillos-they're not just Texas road kill. (In fact, we saw them in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.)
Just before arriving on the Gulf Coast, we saw a billboard for a 'Bible Outlet' located in a factory outlet area. I assume they carry Bibles from many publishers rather than being a single-manufacturer outlet. But since we had other plans, we didn't go there to check, or for that matter to answer an even more intriguing question: would the Bible Outlet be open on Sunday? Everything else was, including all the casinos. Casino gambling seems to be big along the Louisiana and Mississippi Gulf Coast and the Mississippi River.
People in the South are definitely different. Biloxi and the other Gulf Coast cities have long stretches of beautiful sandy beaches on the Gulf of Mexico, and free parking along the beaches, it was a beautiful hot Sunday afternoon, and the beaches were practically empty. Why? Well, one woman I asked said that people just don't go to the beach after Labor Day. This is very different from New Jersey.
Our stop here was Beauvoir, the last home of Jefferson Davis (http://www.beauvoir.org/index.html). He moved here in 1876 and lived here until his death on December 6, 1889. (Actually, he died in New Orleans while on a trip.)
There was a short film about Beauvoir and Jefferson Davis. After the Civil War, all the residents of the Confederacy got their United States citizenship back-except for Jefferson Davis. From then until his death, he was 'a man without a country.' (Since citizens of the Confederacy had renounced their United States citizenship, they had to be given it back.) Interestingly enough, Davis's Vice-President, George Stephens, did get his citizenship back.
While living at Beauvoir, Davis wrote The Rise and Fall of the Confederacy. Although he spoke for reconciliation, when his daughter became engaged to a Yankee there was such an outcry that she broke the engagement and never married, saying she wished to spare her father more difficulty.
After Davis's death, his widow sold the property under the conditions that it would serve as a home for Confederate veterans and their widows as long as it was needed, and would then become a museum dedicated to his memory. On December 2, 1903, the home got its first resident (or inmate, as they were called). At its height it could support 288 inmates at one time, and over the years had over 2000 inmates. In the mid-1940s the remaining four soldiers and forty widows were moved to the eastern half of the property and work begun on the museum. On February 19, 1957, the four remaining widows were moved to a nursing home. Hurricane Camille destroyed the last dormitory in 1969, but a half-scale reconstruction has been built. On April 19, 1980, the last burial took place in the cemetery-an unknown soldier.
Beauvoir is very different from the National Park Service sites. Those are fairly even-handed, having books written by and about both the Union and the Confederacy. Beauvoir has only works by and about the Confederacy. The display is labeled 'Experiment in Nationalism: The Confederacy and the War for Southern Independence.' And there is a shrine-like atmosphere (the AAA book calls it the Jefferson Davis Shrine), with relics from his funeral.
They are also in the process of constructing a new building to be the 'Jefferson Davis Presidential Library & Museum.' I'm not sure if this will be counted in the list of official Presidential libraries or not. (I'm not even sure who decides what's official.)
There was a display about the history of the Confederacy. It was formed in Montgomery, Alabama, in February 1861. (We later saw the room where this occurred.) There were seven states represented here (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas). Later, after Fort Sumter, they were joined by Virginia, Arkansas, North Carolina, and Tennessee. Missouri was admitted toward the end of 1861, but the Confederate government was driven out of the state shortly after that. Kansas was apparently also admitted but never really had a Confederate government.
From the beginning, the Confederacy had problems. In my opinion, their main problem was that they were founded on a principle that almost guaranteed problems, that of strong states' rights. For example, Confederate currency was a disaster, with nothing to back it up, an inability of the Confederate government to tax effectively, and the desire of the states to print their own currency. The Constitution gave more power to the states in many areas, which made even confederacy unworkable.
One of the buildings was Jefferson Davis's study and library, but the books on the shelves postdate not only Davis but even the period when the grounds were used as a soldiers home. Apparently they were purchased by the foot to fill the shelves rather than having any significance.
From one of the guides we learned that all the houses in this area are built on pillars twenty feet above sea level, because of hurricanes. (Twenty feet is almost always high enough.)
Throughout the Deep South, I noticed that the segregationists of the 1950s and 1960s were right: integration brought an end to civilization as they knew it. It was replaced by a better civilization, where Blacks and whites sit together at lunch counters and work together in stores, and where interracial couples walk down the street in Biloxi without anyone even noticing. (Well, okay, obviously I noticed, but I was specifically looking for this.)
We passed the entrance to Keesler Air Force Base. This probably doesn't mean much to most people, but my father was on a TDY (Temporary Duty) assignment to Keesler when I was very young and the first postcard I remember him sending us was from Biloxi.
We drove east along the coast and then somewhat inland to Pascagoula, where we stopped and ate at Catalina's Seafood, a somewhat mediocre seafood restaurant (the boiled shrimp were mushy). We then proceeded to Mobile, Alabama, for the night.
We had originally planned to visit Fort Morgan, but that is way around the other side of Mobile Bay and out at the end of a long peninsula. So instead we drove to Dauphin Island and toured Fort Gaines ($3). (Note: There is a really spectacular view of the island from the top of the bridge to it, so whoever is the passenger should have his or her camera ready.)
Fort Gaines was one of the key forts in the Battle of Mobile Bay during the Civil War. Mobile Bay was critical because it was the last port through which the Confederacy was able to run the blockade. This battle is the source of 'Damn the torpedoes-full speed ahead!' (also quoted as 'Damn the torpedoes-go ahead!'). What Admiral Farragut (and everyone else then) called torpedoes, we would now call mines. This was also the battle in which Farragut had himself lashed to the mast above the smoke so he could see the course of the battle.
Among the many interesting features of this fort was a ten-seater 'flush' latrine. That is, it was positioned above an estuary so that twice a day the tide would come in and go out, flushing out the waste.
Also of interest was the bookstore, which in addition to Mobile-specific books and Civil War reference book had Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage, Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, and Harry Turtledove's Guns of the South! (For those not in the know, the latter is an alternate history novel in which time-traveling South Africans bring AK-47s to Lee's troops.)
We returned to Mobile, and Fort Conde. This was a fort critical not in the Civil War, but in the Revolutionary War, when the Spanish took it from the British. They later sold the area to the French, from whom we bought it. So we visited sites relating to the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Texian Revolution (and by implication, the Mexican War), and the Civil War, as well as Fort Sam Houston, which claims connections with all subsequent wars as well. (Since the Rough Riders trained there, I'll give them at least the Spanish-American War.)
Fort Conde had an exhibit of photographs of Mobile's racial history along with the usual artifacts. Their display and video at the beginning seemed to emphasize a certain competition with New Orleans both as a port (with the completion of the Tenn-Tom Waterway, Mobile hopes to surpass New Orleans) and with their Mardi Gras celebration (older than that of New Orleans).
Our next stop was the U. S. S. Alabama (http://www.olcg.com/al/atc/south/ussabmp.html) ($7 minus $1 AAA discount), a decommissioned World War II battleship. This counts as a genuine World War II site (though it wasn't this geographical area that was involved).
After a quick snack, we started touring the battleship. There are three separate routes, one for the forward part below decks, one for the aft, and one for the superstructure. Since the brochure said that each takes about a half hour, the AAA book gives a very low estimate when they say 'allow 1 hour, 30 minutes minimum.' (Yes, I know that's a minimum, but in addition to the ship, there is a submarine, an aircraft pavilion, and some outdoors displays. We took three hours, not counting our snack time.)
One question I had was how new sailors assigned to a battleship find their way around, but we talked to someone who said that when people we assigned to a new ship, they saw an orientation film, and no doubt they also got plans to study showing where everything was.
The galley was interesting-it looked a lot like the galley for the Dawn Princess. The latter was newer, of course, but they both had the problem of preparing food for a lot of people.
The most famous sailor to serve on the U. S. S. Alabama was probably baseball pitcher Bob Feller of the Cleveland Indians.
We also walked through the submarine, and saw the aircraft in the pavilion (about ten or so). By then it was getting late and it was also very hot, so we just drove by the outdoor exhibits and headed up I-65 to Montgomery, Alabama.
First thing this morning we drove north on I-85 to Tuskegee to see the Tuskegee Institute and the George W. Carver Museum. (Carver was originally just 'George Carver,' but took the middle initial 'W' when he lived in a town where there was another George Carver. When someone asked him if the 'W' stood for 'Washington,' he smiled and said, 'Why not?' but he never actually used the name.)
Carver got his degree at Iowa State, where he was the first Black student, the first Black graduate, and the first Black faculty member there before accepting an invitation from Booker T. Washington to teach at Tuskegee Institute.
Carver always worked toward helping the poor, such as developing inexpensive paints from Alabama soils for painting houses, or teaching ways of using reeds, bark, or string to make decorative and useful objects. (He originally wanted to be an artist, and even won a prize at the Chicago Worlds Fair for his painting of a yucca plant.)
Carver started a 'school on wheels' to visit the farmers who couldn't read his many bulletins, and taught them crop rotation and uses for various crops. (His most famous bulletin is probably 'How to Grow the Peanut and 105 Ways of Preparing It for Human Consumption.') He never applied for patents for his discoveries, wanting them available to all (though he did allow some to be patented in his name by companies who wanted to produce products from them).
One of his least likely admirers was Henry Ford: 'Just ask Dr. Carver, I agree with everything he thinks and he thinks the same way I do.' This may have been wishful thinking on Ford's part.
We also stopped at the bookstore. The textbooks were mostly in technical fields, but they did have an interesting section labeled 'High School' which contained literary classics both in the traditional 'Western canon' and in what has come to be the African-American canon, and which by implication students should have read in high school.
I should note that this was the place where we were most obviously tourists. Everywhere else people knew we were tourists as soon as we opened our mouths, but here, because Tuskegee is still a traditionally Black university, even that wasn't necessary. It's a bit like going to Nairobi, or Tokyo. For someone who is generally in the majority, realizing that you are in the minority and that everyone knows it can be a very educational experience.
After this we returned to Montgomery and the 'First White House of the Confederacy' (http://www.olcg.com/al/atc/central/fwhc.html). This was Jefferson Davis's first home after being selected the President of the Confederacy (not by popular election, but by the committee that formed the Confederacy across the street in the Alabama State Capitol).
Here they had an explanation of the many flags of the Confederacy. (Of course, it is not completely consistent with other explanations I have seen, but it's close.) The first flag was the 'Stars and Bars,' authorized on March 4, 1861. Take a flag of three horizontal stripes-red, white, and red. Now replace the left third of the top red stripe with a blue field and a circle of eleven (later thirteen) white stars.
However, many people thought this still too similar to the 'Stars and Stripes,' and indeed, at the battle of First Manassas, it was so similar as to cause major confusion. So in September, 1861, General Beauregard designed a new flag with white stars in a blue St. Andrew's Cross on a red field. This is what we usually think of as the Confederate flag, but the display here said that it (in its square form) was the battle jack and (in its rectangular form) the naval jack.
People still pushed for a change in the official flag, however, and on May 1, 1863, the Second (or Third, according to some) Flag of the Confederacy was authorized, with Beauregard's battle jack in the upper left corner of a white field. This was called the 'Stainless Banner,' but merely led to further confusion, as on a windless day this could easily be confused with a white flag of truce. So on March 4, 1865, the Third (or Fourth) Flag of the Confederacy was authorized. This was the 'Stainless Banner,' but with a red vertical stripe on the right-hand side.
Now that I've completely bored you with the history of the Confederate flag (which nevertheless was the most interesting part of the First White House of the Confederacy), we can proceed to the Alabama Archives and History Museum. Here they have a free taped tour that walks you around the building. In the front hall they have busts of famous Alabamans: Booker T. Washington and George W. Carver are recent additions. (In fact, there are several places where you can tell they have recently-within the last couple of decades-added Black Alabamans to those being honored.) The displays start with the Indians, then proceed to the military history. There was a temporary exhibit about Helen Keller (who was born in Tuscumbia, Alabama). Did you know that it was Mark Twain who coined the name 'the Miracle Worker' for Annie Sullivan?
There was another display about the Montgomery bus boycott which was started after Rosa Parks was arrested. This boycott ran from December 5, 1955, to December 21, 1956, and was the subject of the movie The Long Walk Home.
There was even a Torah scroll donated by a Montgomery congregation. (Later we passed a sign for the original building for Kahl Montgomery. They sold it when they moved to a new location; it's now a Church of Christ.)
The last section was on Alabama music and musicians. The three most famous musicians were W. C. Handy (of Beale Street, Memphis, fame, but born in Florence, Alabama), Nat King Cole (born in Montgomery), and Hank Williams (born in Georgiana).
At 2 PM we went to the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church for the tour, but since we were the only two people there, they did not give a tour. We did see the video about the church, which was the first pastoral position held by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the place where the Montgomery bus boycott was organized. We also saw the mural in the basement which depicted the civil rights struggle.
Next was lunch, then the Alabama State Capitol. There was a statue here for Lurleen Wallace, and portraits of all the governors including George Wallace. Mark points out that Wallace did something that he can't remember any other politician doing: he admitted he was wrong. On January 14, 1963, he said, 'Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.' But in 1979 he admitted he was wrong about segregation and in his attitudes about race in general. Everyone remembers his first statement; it's unfortunate he is not remembered for admitting he was wrong.
In the State Capitol, we saw the room where the Alabama representatives voted to secede from the Union, and the Senate chamber where the seven states formed the Confederacy. Outside the State Capitol were several bouquets for Princess Diana. Why they were outside the Alabama State Capitol is a mystery to me.
Finally we went to see the Civil Rights Memorial outside the Southern Poverty Law Center. This was designed by Maya Lin, the same person who designed the Vietnam Memorial in Washington. The Civil Rights Memorial consist of two parts. There is a water wall with King's paraphrase of the Biblical verse (Amos 5:24) about justice rolling down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream. And there is a water table-an elliptical granite table with water flowing from one focus outward to the edge. On the table in brass letters are the major steps of the civil rights struggle, including the names of forty people who died because of their part in it. (Notably, no segregationists' names are on the table; they are referred to by the titles or positions.) Lin said that the table was round like a clock, with the entries being the hands of a clock. The water on it meant that when you looked at it, you saw yourself reflected in it. It also seemed to me that it meant that when you touched the table (as everyone inevitably does), you take part of it with you.
Finally, we drove to Birmingham, Alabama, for the night.
One observation I can make here: if there is a city in the South that does not have a street, drive, boulevard, road, or highway named after Martin Luther King, Jr., we did not drive through it.
Our first stop today was the Southern Museum of Flight (http://www.the-matrix.com/flight/museum.html) ($3). Luckily there were signs directing us to it, because it several turns off the main highway. This contained, among other things, Baron von Richthofen artifacts on loan from Ted Thomas, III. Who Ted Thomas is and why he has Richthofen artifacts was not explained.
There were also some parachute ripcord rings, with the information that if you needed to bail out, it was a matter of honor to return with your parachute ripcord ring. There were also some navigation calculators that look a lot like slide rules.
Most of the displays were airplanes built from kits, or home-built, and other private planes. For example, the Rand-Robinson KR-1 weighs less than a motorcycle (310 pounds), and has a Volkswagen engine. It also apparently still leaks oil, no matter how well they clean it. There was a Rutan Vari-eze, made of Styrofoam, with a rear propeller and a front wing, which makes it so stable that you don't need to be at the controls while it is cruising.
They showed a videotape of newsreel footage of humorous early experimental aircraft. Some worked; some didn't.
Wending our way back through the twists and turns, we drove to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Right outside we saw radio station WENN. This probably won't mean anything to you unless you watch the series 'Remember WENN' on AMC. Of course, on the series the station is in Pittsburgh, but the lettering for the Birmingham station is identical to that used on the show.
Next to the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute is the 16th Street Baptist Church. This was the church that was bombed on September 15, 1963, killing four little girls. It was rebuilt shortly after that, and was going to be holding a memorial service in a few days. It was also the second Black church in Birmingham, founded in 1871.
We had thought that the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (http://www.the-matrix.com/bcri/bcri.html) ($3) might be too similar to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, but it was not, and was much better. It started with a section on the position of Blacks in the South and particularly in Birmingham from Reconstruction through the 1950s. This included comparisons of schools, housing, public accommodations, and working conditions. It talked about the 1894 and 1908 strikes of coal miners, and about how workers were kept from protesting because the mines could employ convicts cheaper and with less trouble. The Institute used displays and physical representations for a lot of this. For example, two piles of schoolbooks indicated the relative amount of money spent per student in white schools and in Black schools.
There were a few interesting facts. When President Warren Harding visited Birmingham in 1921, he pushed for an end to segregation. This was well received by the Blacks in the audience, but not by the whites. Also, Willie Mays played for the Birmingham Black Barons. (I suppose baseball fans probably already know this.)
The school exhibit said in part, 'Inequalities existed in school programs as well as materials. Before 1940, the school year for Black students was shorter and the courses emphasized industrial, agricultural, and domestic training.' This was apparently a criticism, but the original intent of the Tuskegee Institute under Booker T. Washington was just such practical training, so there is obviously some dispute on what the correct approach should have been.
There was a section on Black entertainers which included a 'video jukebox' where you could see and hear such singers as Cab Calloway, Bo Diddley, and Bessie Smith. (I'm sure think will mark me as ignorant, or at the very least not a rock and roll fan, but until this, I hadn't realized Bo Diddley was Black.) They talked about how films played in the Black theaters after having played in the white theaters, but they made no mention of 'race films': those films made by Black production companies from Black audiences. (Turner Classic Movies ran several of them last February, and will undoubtedly run more.)
Other sections following this included Segregation (this had voices of various people from that time giving their views on segregation), Confrontation (I knew but didn't remember that Virginia and Arkansas tried to close their public schools rather than integrate them-the Supreme Court ruled this unconstitutional), The Movement, The Welcome Table, Bus Ride to Freedom, Freedom in the Air, Give Us the Vote (with a video 'Lift Every Voice,' that told of the struggle for the vote which dated back to the turn of the century), A Constant Struggle, Walk Together Children, and so on. Each had a timeline of that particular time period (usually a year) with events in the civil rights movement and in the world at large. There were also short videotapes and some displays, photographs, newspaper articles, and other materials.
There was also a display of the photographs of VanDerZee, including one of the Beth B'nai Synagogue of Black Jews, founded by 'Rabbi Matthew,' who claimed to be a native of Sierre Leone, but was actually an ex-boxer. (It no longer exists.)
In its use of a variety of materials and presentation methods, this museum manages to convey its information more completely than the Memphis one. That one had a lot of information, but it was all in text form and after a while it was hard to absorb more, while this didn't overload one method.
If you are interested in other sites in the area, there is a 'Civil Rights Tour' available on the web at http://www.bham.lib.al.us/vulcanet/culture/civil.htm.
We finished in Birmingham fairly early, so decided to drive to Anniston and see the Anniston Museum of Natural History (http://www.anniston.org). ($3.50 minus $1 AAA discount). This has, of course, dinosaurs. It also has an artificial cave with a discussion of trogloxenes, trogolophiles, and troglobites. Trogloxenes are those animals that only come into caves for short periods, but spend most of their time outside (such as bats). Trogolophiles are animals that spend most of their time within caves, but go outside occasionally, and troglobites are those which live entirely in caves.
This was followed by a section on 'Attack & Defense.' This is one of the few places I've seen bears called omnivores (usually people say that humans are the only omnivores). This was a fairly even-handed exhibit, neither overly sympathizing with the victim nor overly cheering the attacker. However, I'm not sure how one would describe the photograph later on of a salmon jumping into a bear's mouth.
'Designs for Living' consisted of 500 specimens of 140 species of birds displayed in 60 habitats. These were created by H. Severn Regar and donated by William Werner. There was also a section on extinct species (without specimens). The dodo became extinct in 1681, the Great Auk in 1844, and the passenger pigeon in 1914.
The specimens were arranged by topic: a section on different beak types, another on different wings, and so on. The display of the eagle shows it carrying off a lamb-and has a correction posted that when Regar made the display people thought eagles carried off lambs. Now they know better, but it was felt that the display should remain as created for historical purposes.
Their African exhibit said that gnus chew their cud. They also seem to have cloven hooves, so I guess they could be kosher.
The African exhibit also had an explanation of how they collected their specimens under the auspices of naturalists who determined when there were enough animals in a species to warrant culling. However, the exhibit also claimed, 'The giraffe is the tallest mammal in the world.' What about whales?
On the whole, though, it was an excellent museum. I won't say it was stuck out in the middle of nowhere, but it's surprising that it's not in a major city.
'The perfectly adjusted perish with their environments.'
We stayed until the museum closed, then drove on to Huntsville, Alabama.
Today was devoted entirely to the U. S. Space and Rocket Center at Huntsville (http://www.spacecamp.com/spacecenter/) ($14 minus 20% AAA discount).
Right off, I'll say that Huntsville is much better, and more interesting, and more educational, than the Johnson Space Center (from the perspective of a visitor, of course). This may be because Huntsville is the home of Space Camp and so knows how to do educational displays.
Scheduling is a little easier here. You get assigned tour and IMAX times, and most films or activities happen at frequent intervals. The museum started with a short film, 'Time for Courage,' about the history of Huntsville and the rocket program there. The first display honored the pioneers: Konstantin Eduardovitch Tsiolkovsky, Hermann Oberth, Robert Hutchings Goddard, and Wernher von Braun. Some mention was made of von Braun's work on the V-2 ('the widows and orphans of old London town, who owe their large pensions to Wernher von Braun'), and even whether or not he realized he was using slave labor. (It is estimated that 10,000 slave laborers died building V-2s, while 'only' 3,000 were killed and 6,000 wounded by them.)
After going through several early stages, the George C. Marshall Space Flight Center was established here in 1960. And next was the bus tour of the Space Center. This started out in a light rain, which luckily let up by the end. The complex itself is not very exciting, but then one military complex looks pretty much like any other. It does have the Saturn 5 Test Stand, the tallest building in northern Alabama and a National Historic Landmark.
Our first stop was at a building with an engineering mock-up of the space station that we could walk through. A videotape talked about spin-offs from space and developments in micro-gravity, such as a protein crystal growth facility. There is a need to grow large high-quality crystals, but it is difficult to do under gravity. It claimed that one dollar invested in space results in seven dollars in economic benefits.
The mock-up has the ESA experimental module, connecting module number two and docking port, the Japanese experimental module (in back), the United States experimental module, connecting node number one, and the United States habitation module. The real connecting node number one has been sent to the Kennedy Space Center already (flown in a Galaxy C5-A). The Russian experimental module will be sent June, 1998, and launched November, 1998.
Everything on the space station goes into a rack: experimental racks loaded by universities, companies, etc.; water-purification racks built by Boeing; and waste management facility (toilet) racks, and so on. The modules hold twenty-four racks each, nodes hold four. Every astronaut is allocated six pints of water every two days for personal needs. After a shower, the water is vacuumed off to be recycled.
We also saw the truck that carried the Hubble, and the Neutral Buoyancy Tank (the tour no longer stops at the latter).
Our next stop was at the manufacturing facility where we saw them building the actual United States habitation module and the United States experimental module (already in the clean room). The latter weighs 30,000 pounds, even with panels of 94% aluminum and 6% copper. People here wore hair nets, gloves, but no beard nets. I guess Tabasco is more sensitive than the space station.
The space station will be 361 feet long and 290 feet wide. It will orbit at 220 miles high and everything will be up there by 2002, taking over seventy Russian, ESA, and United States flights. (The United States is launching the Japanese module.)
On leaving, we saw people smoking under the 'No Smoking' sign outside.
The last stop was at the traditional 'Rocket Park,' with its Saturn 1, Hermes, V-2, Jupiter, Redstone, Jupiter-C, and Apollo Launch Escape System & Command Module.
On returning we saw the IMAX (actually Omnimax) film, 'Cosmic Voyage.' This was basically the same idea as we had seen before in a short film called 'Powers of 10.'
On leaving the film, we passed an exhibit about some of the Disney TV shows about space: 'Man in Space' (March 5, 1955), 'Man and the Moon' (December 28, 1955), and 'Mars and Beyond' (December 4, 1957). He did only three because they were so expensive, and no, they're not available on videocassette.
There were also copies of the illustrations from Collier's: 'Space Station' (Fred Freeman, March 22, 1952), 'Mission to the Moon' (Chesley Bonestell, October 18, 1952), and 'Mission to Mars' (Chesley Bonestell, April 30, 1954).
We then decided to do the 'rides' before lunch. These included the centrifuge, the moon walker, and the space shot. The last was closed until early afternoon, but the first two were running.
The centrifuge runs once an hour. It holds about forty people leaning against couches and spins at 35 miles per hour, resulting in a force of 3 Gs. At 3 Gs it is noticeably harder to lift your arm, and I found it impossible to raise my leg more than a few inches. Picking up your head is a bad idea; every time I tried it I started to feel very motion-sick. (They do warn you about this.)
The moon walker, on the other hand, is a very low-key 'ride.' You are strapped into a chair at the end of a counter-balanced see-saw. When you jump up, you swing slowly up to about fifty feet high or so, then slowly come down on the other side. So it's as if each leap carries you a hundred feet or so. The most bizarre aspect is how slowly you descend and (therefore) how long you are in the air. Normally when we jump we're not in the air for more than a second or two, but here you're 'falling' for several seconds.
These are examples of what I mean by the exhibits being more educational than at the Johnson Space Center. There the closest thing to educational and participatory was the 'Land the Shuttle' video game. (They had that here also, but you sat in a cockpit which moved as you flew the shuttle.)
After a quick lunch, we took the museum tour of the gallery of various spacecraft. Most of this was craft we had seen before (Mercury capsule, Gemini capsule, lunar rover trainer, etc.). There was a piece of Skylab recovered from Australia (we never paid the $300 littering fine). The one thing that was strange is that the tour was given by a kid who was too young to remember most of the space program (he looked like a young college student). He also wasn't entirely informed. He showed us the aerobraking displays, but when I mentioned that they were using aerobraking on the Mars Global Surveyor, he said that they wouldn't be using it for a few years yet-even though the exhibit said otherwise!
We then went on the 'Journey to Jupiter.' The entry area for this had displays of science fiction magazine covers, ray guns, robots, and spaceship models. Also, the introductory film (or films, as there seemed to be several different short ones) had film clips from various science fiction movies. The journey itself is more science fiction than science. The 'passengers' sit in seats on a platform faced a large screen. The platform can be moved up and down, and pivoted in all directions. While you watch the journey on the viewscreen, the platform moves to simulate the actual motion. (They have the same thing at amusement parks for driving a fast car down a mountain road, etc.) The journey itself is accomplished with some sort of fictional faster-than-light travel, since any conventional trip to Jupiter would take at least several months, if not years. After a quick fly-by of the satellites and the Red Spot, there is some sort of emergency caused by radiation, and we have to make a quick return. (This is accurate-the planet's radiation is so strong that the current Galileo mission will pass by Io, the closest satellite, last because it will probably be rendered useless by the radiation that close.) This is mostly an amusement park ride, though using space footage is somewhat more educational.
'Mission to Mars' is a smaller-scale version, where you stand in a small shuttle mock-up and watch space and Martian scenery while you tip to the left and the right. 'Shuttle to Tomorrow' is even milder-it's basically just a film of films from the shuttle with no audience motion. It's dressed up like a shuttle flight of the future, which they think would resemble an airline flight today. There is a pre-flight safety lecture, and they announce that the in-flight movie will be Terminator 12. There is also some product placement for Coke and M&M's.
After this we rode the centrifuge again, and Mark did the space shot (you're strapped into a chair and blasted a hundred feet up at 4 Gs). We finished up with the 'Journey to Jupiter' a second time, and a quick pass through the souvenir shop. (Even the souvenirs here are better-and cheaper-than those at the Johnson Space Center).
We were there when the Center opened at 9 AM, and we left when it closed at 5 PM (actually a few minutes later). We saw almost everything (we didn't see the film on life on the space station, or the rocket park here in any detail). It is open an hour longer during the summer, but I'm sure there are also a lot more families and children then. It was actually pretty empty the day we were there, which meant no real lines for the 'rides.'
Dinner was at the Miwon Korean Restaurant. I had Soon Doo Boo Ji Gae, which I hadn't had in a long time, and Mark had a squid bokum. There used to be a couple of Korean restaurants near home that we went to, but they closed and we miss Korean food. The waitress was worried that we wouldn't like what we had ordered, but when she came back and the plates were empty, she decided we probably liked it. (This was like our experience in Krabi, Thailand, where the five of us ordered an assortment of food under the skeptical eye of the proprietor. When we finished everything except the clam shells, he looked a lot happier.)
On the way back, we stopped at Books-a-Million, a remainder books chain. I ended up buying Gore Vidal's United States, a 1300-page collection of his essays. This is the sort of thing I could never buy if we were flying back. (Whether I really need to add a 1300-page book to my already bloated reading list is another question entirely.)
September 12: Our drive to Chickamauga took us past some poorer towns, with houses with tin roofs. (Why is the plural of 'hoof' 'hooves,' but the plural of 'roof' 'roofs'?) It also took us through Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, Tennessee, and Georgia again. In the first Tennessee stretch there were a lot of fireworks stores.
Arriving at Chickamauga National Military Park, we found the television set there running Gettysburg. (Well, no one's made Chickamauga yet.)
We attended a 'Living History' demonstration, where a volunteer portraying a Confederate soldier explained his uniform, his experiences in the Army, and his weapon, as well as firing a Civil War rifle. This involved many steps: hold the rifle, take a paper cartridge, bite off the end, insert it in the barrel, use the ramrod to set it in place, return the ramrod to its holding slot, set the rifle at half-cock, insert the bullet, aim, and fire.
This person was also a re-enactor, so he was quite experienced, and he didn't try to stay in character (which I find very artificial). He would say 'my uniform is' but 'during a battle it would be unbelievably noisy.' One thing he claimed was that the Southern troops were actually pretty well supplied with uniforms and shoes by the end of the war, but because soldiers without shoes often didn't have to fight, many would throw away their shoes before a battle, and then get new shoes afterwards.
Chickamauga was the second bloodiest battle of the Civil War. (Antietam was the first.) This was also one of the few battles where the Confederates outnumbered the Union troops. It was the second biggest humiliation to the Union forces (after First Manassas). Among the deaths at Chickamauga was Abraham Lincoln's brother-in-law, Brigadier General Benjamin Hardin Helm-of the Confederate States of America.
We rented the audiotaped tour of Chickamauga. This was $3 to rent (with a player) or $7.50 to buy. This is considerably more than at Vicksburg, but then Vicksburg has an admission fee. Here there is a highway running right through the park, so charging an admission fee is impractical. In order to raise funds for maintenance, they have to charge more. (They also charge an admission fee for their multi-media presentation.) This is annoying to people who have bought Golden Eagle Passports, because what should be admission fees and hence covered by the annual pass become 'usage fees,' which aren't covered.
This was also where General Thomas earned the name 'The Rock of Chickamauga' when dispatches declared that he was 'standing like a rock.' And who wrote those dispatches? James Garfield, the future President.
For further details of the battle, see Mark's log or history books.
We ate lunch at a local restaurant called My Place which had a very good berry cobbler. Afterward, we drove up to Lookout Mountain, and arrived at 4:40 PM only to discover that the Visitors Center there closes at 4:45 PM. So we did not get to see the presentation or the painting 'The Battle Above the Clouds.'
We did tour the grounds at the top of Lookout Mountain, then drove on to Calhoun, Georgia.
We continued on to Kennesaw. We happened to get off the interstate an exit too soon for Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, and so discovered the Kennesaw Civil War Museum (http://www.ngeorgia.com/history/kcwm.html). This was home to 'The General,' a locomotive which on April 12, 1862, was stolen in Kennesaw (then called Big Shanty) by James J. Andrews and his band of twenty-one followers.
We saw a videotape which explained the entire raid. (A train went by outside during the tape, sort of a multi-media experience.)
Andrews and his group (mostly Union soldiers, but in civilian clothing) boarded the train as passengers, then seized the train during a breakfast stop at Big Shanty. Heading north, it is believed their plan was to burn the railroad bridges to Chattanooga to prevent the Confederates from using them. When the train left Big Shanty, it was pursued by William A. Fuller (the conductor of The General) and Andrew Murphy, first on foot and then with a handcar they found. Heading north, they found the locomotive Yonah on a siding and switched to it, with Jeff Cain Kane and Pete Bracken joining in the chase. They then switched to the Texas with Henry Haney. Because there was no time to turn it around, the originally southbound Texas pursued in reverse!
It was raining, so both The General couldn't find more dry wood for fuel and couldn't successfully burn any bridges behind it. So the band uncoupled boxcars to try to stop their pursuers. However, the Texas was able to push them aside (and pick up Edward Henderson to help) and eventually caught up with The General north of Ringgold.
James J. Andrews and his followers caught, tried as spies, and sentenced to death. Andrews was hanged on June 7, 1862; seven others were hanged June 18, 1862. Fearing for their lives, the other fourteen escaped. Six were recaptured and eventually exchanged: the other eight made it back to Union lines.
The band were the first recipients of the Medal of Honor, except for Andrews and one other who were civilians, two who were missing, and one who had enlisted under a false name.
On September 1, 1864, The General was in Atlanta when the city was burned. In August of 1865 it was repaired and used for another year. In 1891 it was found at Vinings, Georgia, and moved to Chattanooga.
Buster Keaton not allowed to use the locomotive for his film The General, because the raiders' relatives and other objected to a comedy being made about something that ended in so many hangings, but it was used in 1956 for Disney's film The Great Locomotive Chase with Fess Parker. The engine was returned briefly to Big Shanty/Kennesaw for the centennial on April 12, 1962, but only after a long court battle ultimately decided by the United States Supreme Court in November 1971 did it return permanently.
We talked for a while to the proprietor Harper Harris, also a re-enactor, about films he was in (or not in-he wasn't in Gettysburg because they wanted people to work for free). Many of them he didn't like because they focused more on racial issues. The example he gave was Paris Trout, but the racial angle was the main point of that film-the re-enactors were needed only as a group marching in a parade.
After this we drove to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park, a rather spread-out park. Near the Visitors Center is the top of Big Kennesaw, and we took the bus up to the top. (On weekends it is closed to cars and there is a shuttle bus.) This is a site that I think both sides claim victory at. The Confederates held off the Union attacks, but then abandoned the mountain a couple of days later to avoid being surrounded. The film about the battle (which took place in late 1864) showed West Virginia as still part of Virginia.
One interesting item I saw for sale in the shop was the complete official archives of the Civil War (both sides) on CD-ROM for $70.
From the Visitors Center, we drove to the four other main sites, the battle being strung out along a ridge of mountains. It was so spread-out that in the middle we passed through a town, stopped at a Kroger food store, and picked up a picnic lunch, without even leaving the tour route!
After this, we continued on to Atlanta (or more accurately Norcross), Georgia. We arrived about 3 PM, so we did some laundry and lounged by the pool. For dinner we went to Siamese Basil and had a very good Thai dinner.
I called home that night and discovered my brother was also in Atlanta! I tried calling him, but there was no answer. This is probably just as well. I can talk to him on the phone without being in the same city, and I suspect we wouldn't have had time to get together anyway.
September 14: After a couple of cooler days, the temperature was back into the 90s.
We had breakfast at the Waffle House. This seemed appropriate, because the chain is based in Norcross, Georgia-which was where we were.
We had planned on seeing the sculpture at Stone Mountain, but when we got there we discovered that it was not visible except from within the park-which had a $6 parking fee. Somehow taking a quick look at the sculpture didn't seem worth it.
So we drove into Atlanta for the CNN tour. Parking here seemed expensive-lots had only all-day parking for $10. With our usual impeccable timing, we had managed to come into Atlanta on a day when there was not only a baseball game and a football game, but also the start of a week-long arts festival.
Amazingly, we managed to find a space on the street, behind Olympic Centennial Park (site of the festival). I suspect we were actually parked in the right-hand traffic lane, but there were no 'No Parking' signs, and there were lots of other cars parked along there.
We bought our tickets for the tour ($7). Tours leave every fifteen minutes or so, but we had to wait for twenty minutes, because the next tour was full. We went through a metal detector like the ones at airports, but with all the stuff (camera, walkie-talkie, computer, etc.) we were carrying it took several passes.
The first stop is a memorabilia room, with various awards won and other objects, such as the jacket Peter Arnett wore in Iraq with $100,000 sewn in it.
Then came a short film about the history of CNN and Turner Broadcasting in general. Ted Turner began in 1970 by buying what became WTBS, the first station to be broadcast by satellite and become a 'superstation.' CNN was started in 1980. In 1986, Turner bought the MGM and RKO libraries for use on TNT and later for Turner Classic Movies. He also owns movie companies Castle Rock, New Line Cinema, and Turner Pictures. Other networks of Turner Broadcasting include the Cartoon Network and Turner Sports. And Turner owns the Atlanta Braves and the Atlanta Hawks.
When CNN started, people said no one would want to watch an all-news station. By the time of the Gulf War, that had completely changed, and CNN is now 'the largest provider of news and information on earth.'
We next went to a room where the guide showed how many of the effects or 'tricks' were done. For example, the TelePrompTer is really a two-way mirror with the text projected on it and the camera behind it so that when the anchor is reading from the TelePrompTer, he or she is also looking directly into the camera. There is also a printed script, just in case the TelePrompTer breaks down, and also so that the anchor can glance over it to see what's coming. They can also put a late-breaking script on a conveyer belt where it is videotaped and played back on to the TelePrompTer. The anchors read at 150 to 175 words per minute; the TelePrompTer never puts more than four words per line so that the anchor's eyes don't have to move back and forth.
The weather anchors ad lib rather than using a TelePrompTer. They use chromakey effects to project the weather map onto the blue wall behind them. The anchor can see the projection and himself or herself on the monitors in front and to either side of the wall. So the anchor will never directly face the wall. Chromakey was also used in Forrest Gump for the 'legless' scenes with Gary Sinise.
The CNN news room has screens where the staff can track the three broadcast networks coverage, as well as see the CNN Financial Network, CNN, CNN International, CNN Headline News, and what is happening in the CNN Studio. Monitors also cover the twenty satellites they use for news gathering. In the studio, the anchors have laptops so they can be kept abreast of what is happening. There is no wall or glass between the studio and the news room; the anchors use a uni-directional microphone to avoid picking up background noise.
We then saw the (smaller) Headline News news room. This network (originally CNN-2) has 48 half-hour segments, each with fifteen minutes of hard news and fifteen minutes of soft news. During the day a stock ticker runs across the bottom of the screen; at night there is a sports ticker.
We also saw CNN International, which started in 1985 as the Hotel Network and was entirely in English. It is now in several other languages as well, including a round-the-clock service in Spanish. And there are studios for CNN Interactive (http://www.cnn.com), CNN Sports, etc.
I can report that CNN uses a Lucent phone system.
We left Atlanta about noon, glad to be away from the chaos (and leaving someone glad to get our parking space). We were going to drive directly to Savannah, but on the way we saw a billboard for the Museum of Aviation in Warner Robins (http://www.museum.robins.af.mil). This turned out to be the second largest Air Force Museum (I suppose the largest is at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio).
I'm not sure I have a whole lot specific to say about this museum. There was a section on the 14th Air Force (the 'Flying Tigers') and flying over 'The Hump' (the Himalayas), where we learned that Lt. Gen. Claire Chennault (of the 14th) always had hot sauce on his table. There were various other displays, including a jacket for the Korean War with a unit insignia in Korean which was 'not translatable in polite company.' They were still putting together their electronic warfare exhibit.
They had a display on the Tuskegee Airmen (there seems to be one at every aviation museum in the South). They also had the MiG that cosmonauts Ivanov and Alexandrov trained in. (If we send up astronauts and the Russians send up cosmonauts, what do the Europeans send up? And what would a Russian on the shuttle be? Let's just call them all 'spacemen' ('spacepersons'?).)
They were playing traditional World War II music. However, one can get tired of hearing 'God Bless America' played over and over and over and over.
There was also a videotape, 'We the People,' which was either about the Constitution and the three branches of government or about how Georgians (including Sam Nunn) have worked for a strong national defense. It seemed to start as one and change into the other.
We have a quick dinner at PoFolks, a restaurant chain we though had gone out of business. I had the vegetable platter: red beans and rice, fried okra, turnip greens, and fried green tomatoes. And of course, a huge quantity of iced tea. I think I've drunk a swimming pool's worth of the stuff on this trip. Well, maybe a small swimming pool.
We spent the night in Vidalia, Georgia, home of the onion. We've been hampered for the last few days by a lack of maps. AAA didn't give us the strip map for the Huntsville-to-Atlanta stretch, nor maps for Alabama or Georgia. And since we changed our plans from going via a northerly route to Charleston to going by way of Savannah, we didn't have strip maps for this stretch either. (We did have a AAA 'Southeastern United States' map, which helped a fair amount.)
We finished our drive to Savannah this morning. Our firsts top was the Savannah History Museum. A videotape on the history of Savannah revealed that Sir James Edward Oglethorpe didn't like slavery because it made the slave owners idle, rather than through any concern for the slaves. (This is like the Puritan objection to bear-baiting because it gave the spectators pleasure.) Oglethorpe barred Jews, Catholics, slavery, and hard liquor from his co-operative Protestant Utopian colony. They survived the first winter, but during the first summer were almost wiped out by fever. They were saved by doctors on a passing ship of Jewish immigrants, so Oglethorpe decided to allow Jews in. Later, they allowed Catholics and eventually slavery. (And one presumes hard liquor as well.)
Savannah's first real claim to fame, I suppose, was that Casimir Pulaski died during the Siege of Savannah (on October 11, 1779). Pulaski was buried at sea, but supposedly also interred in Pulaski Monument in Monterey Square (moved from Greenwich Plantation). I don't understand this.
Outside Savannah is Fort Jackson, the oldest standing masonry fort in the United States, but we've seen enough forts of more historic importance and decided to skip this one. (I'm sure some people are saying, 'They actually skipped a fort? I don't believe it!')
Savannah was the second United States city to install an electric trolley system. (If you recall, Montgomery, Alabama, was the first.)
There was a display about the cover of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil which caused so many people to come to Bonaventure Cemetery that the 'Bird Girl' statue was removed by the family whose plot it was on.
We also saw one of the benches used in Forrest Gump and an Oscar won by Johnny Mercer. There was a display about the Mexican Border Conflict of 1916-1917 (now there was the real 'forgotten war,' although it was more bandits than the Mexican government).
Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts, was born and lived in Savannah. Her house (which we passed) is currently being renovated.
After this orientation we drove out to Fort Pulaski National Monument on Cockspur Island. There's a sign and a monument out there to John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, who preached on Cockspur Island. There's also a sign about 'The Waving Girl,' a lighthouse keeper who used to wave at all the departing ships with a white handkerchief.
Fort Pulaski ($2 each covered by the annual pass) was Robert E. Lee's first assignment in 1829. When Georgia seized it at the start of the Civil War, it claimed it for the State of Georgia, not for the Confederacy. On November 24, 1861, Union forces took Tybee Island, a mile away. Fort Pulaski's defenders weren't worried, because up until then no one had guns that could damage a fort at that distance. But the Union had some of those new-fangled rifled cannons, and after bombarding the fort on April 11, 1862, regained it easily. Fort Pulaski was turned into a Union prison, and a photograph taken at Fort Pulaski during this period is the first known photograph of men playing baseball.
In spite of being susceptible to rifled cannon, Fort Pulaski was very well built, and although it was built on pilings on soft ground, there have been no cracks from settling over its hundred-and-fifty-year history.
We had a lunch of boiled shrimp and very good fried onion rings at Williams Seafood before driving to Charleston, South Carolina, for the night. (Well, actually to Mt. Pleasant, just east of Charleston.)
Our plan initially had been to see Fort Sumter and the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum today, and Fort Moultrie and Beth Elohim tomorrow. But given the forecast of thunderstorms and the actual rain we were experiencing, we re-arranged it somewhat.
There is a great similarity between Charleston, South Carolina, and Newport, Rhode Island. Both are towns known and visited mostly for the mansions, and both are towns in which we skipped the mansions and instead visited a synagogue and a naval museum. In Newport it was Touro Synagogue and the Naval War College Museum; in Charleston it was Kahl Kadosh Beth Elohim and the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum.
Beth Elohim Synagogue (http://www.awod.com/gallery/probono/kkbe/) was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1980, and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and the Historic American Buildings Survey. Jews settled in Charleston in 1695, and the congregation was founded in 1750. The first synagogue (1780-1792) was in a converted cotton gin. The congregation wrote congratulating George Washington on his election in 1790 and got the following response: 'May the same temporal and eternal blessings which you implore for me, rest upon your congregation.'
The second synagogue was on this site from 1792 to 1838, and it was here in 1824 that this became the 'Cradle of Reform Judaism' in the United States. In 1838 the second Jewish Sunday School in the United States was founded. The present building dates from 1840 (the tabernacle from 1948), making this the second oldest synagogue in the United States (Touro is the Oldest), and the oldest in continuous use. However, Hurricane Hugo lifted the roof off in 1989. This wasn't realized at first, because Hugo set it back down, but water started seeping in, and the synagogue is now closed for renovations.
Judging from the items in the gift shop (which was open), the synagogue's motto seems to be, 'Shalom, y'all!'
Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum is described as the largest naval and maritime museum in the world. I asked Mark what the metric was for that; he suggested rivet count. With an aircraft carrier, a destroyer, a submarine, and a cutter, he could be right. (The nuclear merchant ship mentioned in the AAA book doesn't seem to be there any more.)
We started with the main attraction, the U. S. S. Yorktown. This is not the ship that was sunk at Midway (big surprise!), but a carrier commissioned the following year and named for her. (Battleships are named for states, cruisers for cities, destroyers for heroes, and carriers for battles.) The first ship was the CV-5; this was the CV-10. This Yorktown helped sink the Yamato; during World War II it won eleven battle stars. Its final mission before being decommissioned in 1970 was the recovery of the Apollo 8 capsule.
The Yorktown is not so much a museum of the ship as a museum (or series of museums) on the ship. The first was the Congressional Medal of Honor Display (even though the name of the award is just 'the Medal of Honor'). There were selected biographies of such winners as Sergeant William H. Carney of the 54th Massachusetts (the first Black soldier to earn the award), Second Lieutenant Thomas W. Custer (who earned two Medals of Honor before being killed with his brother at Little Big Horn), Sergeant Thomas J. Higgins (whose bravery in charging the Confederate lines on May 22, 1863, was so impressive that the Confederates refused to shoot him, actually cheered him, and were instrumental in pressing for his award after the end of the war). Also mentioned were Commander Richard E. Byrd, Jr.; Captain Charles Lindbergh (I though he was a civilian at the time and civilians weren't eligible), and First Lieutenant Edward V. Rickenbacker.
There are seven separate self-guided tours of the Yorktown. We were going to get started on one when they announced a guided tour, so we took that. It lasted an hour and a half, covered two of the seven routes, and was given by someone who had served on an aircraft carrier in World War II (the Belknap rather than the Yorktown). This was extremely valuable and added immensely to our visit, as he talked about life on ship, various major battles, and other aspects covered by the exhibits.
The Yorktown, by the way, has two million gallons of water in her ballast tanks and is sitting on the bottom, not floating. Also, her airplane elevators have been removed. There seem to be a few other changes to accommodate visitors, more than on the Alabama (the obvious comparison).
During World War II, the Yorktown had about ninety planes, equally divided among fighters, torpedo bombers, and dive bombers. It had a crew of 3400.
One of the first displays pointed out was a plane that was involved in the April 18, 1942, Tokyo bombing runs under General Jimmy Doolittle. These bombings did little damage, but were a great boost to morale. (The real damage came from later attacks.) This plane flew off the U. S. S. Hornet rather than the Yorktown, which underlines the fact that this is not just a Yorktown museum, but really a carrier museum and a general naval museum.
The guide warned us about the low ceilings, but pointed out that people were shorter then. (Someone who was over six feet was considered a real giant.)
One of the stories the guide told us was about how newcomers would be hazed. The toilet was a trough with sea water running through it and a plank with holes in it above it to sit on. Sailors would place paper or other flammable objects on something that would float, light them, then float them under the newcomers!
Watertight hatches between compartments are labeled X, Y, Z, or W, depending on when the hatches should be shut and when they should be open.
I wondered how people found their way around the way. Well, every compartment is labeled. For example, 'C 210L / 3rd div / Fr 176 184' meant the compartment was in section C, deck 2, compartment 10 (even numbers are on starboard, odd on port), type L (living area), between frames 176 and 184. (From fore to aft, there are 210 frames on the Yorktown.)
We saw an exhibit on the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) and the WACS (Women's Army Corps). In addition to clerical tasks, women also did such jobs as ferrying fighter planes and bombers to their destinations.
We saw an exhibit about 'baby flattops' as escorts in the Atlantic. We saw an exhibit on the Yamato and her sister ship, the Mushashi, which weighed 70,000 tons (twice as much as our ships) and had guns that could fire thirty-five miles. We saw a bassinet used for a baby delivered on the ship to a native woman. And we got a recipe for 10,000 chocolate chip cookies. All in all, it was a little bit of everything.
They had a theater where they showed the Academy Award-winning documentary 'The Fighting Lady.' When it was made they couldn't name the ship that was the subject, but afterwards when it became known it was the Yorktown, that became her nickname. After the documentary, they had a little bit more about what happened to the people who were featured.
The U. S. S. Clamagore is a submarine very similar to the U. S. S. Drum, so I won't say much about it here.
We also toured the U. S. C. G. C. (United States Coast Guard Cutter) Ingham and the destroyer, the U. S. S. Laffey. By the end we were pretty tired from all the walking and climbing.
I have to say that AAA woefully underestimates the time required to see both ships and space centers. With space centers, we pretty much knew that we wanted the whole day. With this we thought that the time after the Fort Sumter tour to closing (five hours) would be enough. Because of the scheduling change, we ended up with seven hours here, and that was barely enough.
Dinner was at a place called Toucan's, where I had what they called a steamed vegetable burger. It was actually steamed vegetables with mozzarella cheese on them holding them together on a bun.
We started out at Fort Moultrie, one of the forts that shelled Fort Sumter. We saw the videotape 'To Preserve, To Resist, To Protect' about the history of United States coastal defenses.
The first Fort Moultrie was built in 1776 and was constructed of palmetto logs. In spite of its defense, the British took Charleston anyway. The logs stood up well to the British cannon, but not to the coastal storms, and within a few years the fort was gone. In 1798 they built the second Fort Moultrie of earthworks and timber. This one was swept away by a hurricane in 1804. In 1809 they built the third Fort Moultrie as part of the 'Second System of Forts.' This was of brick and masonry, and was unchallenged in the War of 1812. However, in 1829 the United States decided that a fort in the center of the harbor was needed and started Fort Sumter of brick and granite, as part of the 'Third System of Forts.' But ironclads and rifled artillery changed the nature of coastal defense during the Civil War. It was modified over the years and during World War II it was used as an Army-Navy command post. In August 1947 it was closed.
The fort is now kept as an example of all its periods. That is, part is the way it was during the Revolutionary War, part the way it was during the War of 1812, and so on. Walking through it is like walking back through time.
Fort Moultrie's most famous resident was Oceola, who died there January 30, 1838, and is buried just outside its walls.
We left Fort Moultrie at 10 AM so that we could take the 10:45 AM boat to Fort Sumter ($10.50). Since Fort Sumter is on an island, the only access is by boat. Surprisingly, there are only five boat trips per day to it (three from the Charleston City Marina, and two from Patriots Point). Even in the summer, they only add one more trip. That doesn't seem like nearly enough for a place like Fort Sumter.
On December 20, 1863, South Carolina voted to secede from the Union. On December 26, 1860, Fort Moultrie under Major Robert Anderson was evacuated to Fort Sumter. South Carolina moved into Fort Moultrie the next day.
There was a stand-off for several months. Then on April 7, 1861, General Beauregard besieged Fort Sumter. He knew Lincoln was sending supplies, so on April 11, 1861, he asked for an immediate surrender and, not getting one, fired on Fort Sumter from Fort Johnson at 4:30 AM, April 12, 1861. Captain George S. James fired the first shot, and at Fort Sumter Captain Abner Doubleday fired the first Union shot in return. During the battle, Forts Moultrie, Wagner, and Johnson all fired on Fort Sumter.
Now, when the fort was built, it 'faced' the sea the powder magazine was put at rear to protect it. When Beauregard shelled it from land, that made the powder magazine vulnerable. (This idea will be familiar to people who have seen Lawrence of Arabia, though Fort Sumter's guns could be turned.)
Anderson realized this, and negotiated a surrender. Since neither side was very sure of the situation, the terms were quite liberal. Anderson got to lower the Union flag and retain it, and all the soldiers from Fort Sumter got to return to the North.
No one was actually killed in the battle, but Union Private Daniel Howe was killed during the hundred-gun salute after the South Carolina flag was raised when a gun fired prematurely-he was the first fatality of the Civil War. (The Palmetto Flag was first flag raised over Fort Sumter after the rebellion, although it was a regimental flag with a star rather than the crescent. The Stars and Bars was also raised the same day, but later.)
Of this, Abraham Lincoln said, 'The last ray of hope for preserving the Union peaceably expired at the assault upon Fort Sumter.' And Jefferson Davis referred to it as 'Fort Sumter, where was first given to the breeze the flag of the Confederacy.'
This wasn't the end, of course. Fort Sumter was besieged by Union forces for 587 days between July 11, 1863, and February 17, 1865. At the beginning of this siege, the 54th Massachusetts attempted to charge the batteries at Fort Wagner on Morris Island (on July 18, 1863). They failed, and sustained 42% losses. I mention this, because this was the climax of the movie Glory. During the siege, on December 11, 1863, there was a mysterious powder magazine explosion, which no one to this day knows the cause of. The Third Flag of the Confederacy never flew over Sumter-it was created March 4, 1865, but the Confederates evacuated Fort Sumter on February 18.
Fort Sumter is generally considered the start of the Civil War. However, the Union ship 'Star of the West' was fired on by Citadel cadets earlier in 1861, but within without returning fire. (This of course is in keeping with the forward-thinking of that school.)
Also at Charleston, the C. S. S. H. L. Hunley became the first submarine to sink an enemy ship (the U. S. S. Housatonic) on February 17, 1864. Of course, the crew of the H. L. Hunley was caught in the explosion and also died.
I should mention that Fort Sumter looks very different now than it did then. At the time of the Civil War there were three-story barracks which are no longer there, and a new battery of guns was added during the Spanish-American war.
Riding back on the boat, we saw pelicans, which do look a lot like pterodactyls when flying. Charleston, by the way, has two rivers, the Ashley and the Cooper, both named for Ashley Cooper
After returning to Fort Moultrie to finish up what we hadn't had time for in the morning, we drove to Pineville, North Carolina.
Our first stop this morning was the James K. Polk State Historic Site (http://www.plcmc.lib.nc.us/branch/main/carolina/polk.htm). I presume that you recognize that Polk was one of the United States Presidents (in fact, the eleventh), but you're probably asking, 'Why are they visiting the James K. Polk State Historic Site?' Well, partly it was to find out what would be at a site dedicated to (let's face it) one of the second- or possibly even third-string Presidents. I mean, everyone understands visiting Mount Vernon or Hyde Park, and even the Hermitage (Andrew Jackson's home) would probably seem reasonable. But Polk?
You're not alone in that reaction, by the way. When Polk was nominated he was the first 'dark horse' candidate, and even the newspapers were asking, 'Who is Polk?'
James Knox Polk was the oldest of ten children born to Samuel and Jane (Knox) Polk. He was born in 1795 in Old Mecklenburg, North Carolina. Of this time and area, Dr. J. M. G. Ramsey said, 'The primitive simplicity of the pastoral stage of society, with its calm, quiet and security, its freedom from care, from service and the rivalries of older communities, stamped the infant settlements....' (One suspects he didn't study them very closely.)
Polk's family was Presbyterian, but his father refused to make a public profession of faith, so James wasn't baptized until shortly before his death-and then as a Methodist. Ironically, his grandfather, Colonel Ezekial Polk, hated Methodists so much that he maligned them on his tombstone! His family were also slave owners; his father owned five slaves in 1810, and his wife inherited two slaves from her family. Polk was in poor health until age seventeen, which a (then) dangerous gallstone operation restored him to health.
The second part of Polk's life was during what is called the Spirited Age (1820-1850). An up-and-coming political party was the Nativists (also called the Know-Nothings), but the 1844 election was between the Whigs (who followed Washington and Jefferson's notion of democracy) and the Democrats (who followed Jackson's more populist approach). The Democrats were in a quandary over whether to invite the Republic of Texas to join the Union. After several potential candidates were defeated at the convention, Polk was proposed as the first 'dark horse' candidate. He was a friend of Jackson (his nickname was even 'Young Hickory') but was also in favor of Texas annexation, so he managed to get enough votes to get the nomination. So the Democratic ticket was James K. Polk and George M. Dallas; the Republican ticket was Henry Clay and Theodore Frelinghuysen. Clay tried to straddle the fence on Texas and an anti-slavery party took away votes from the Whigs, putting Polk in the White House. Somewhat ironically, Texas was invited to join one day before Polk's inauguration.
This inauguration was the first one at which 'Hail to the Chief' was played. It also had the first inaugural ball that showed a profit (which was donated to charity). and was the first time that news of an inauguration was telegraphed to another city (Baltimore).
During his campaign, Polk had promised to settle the Oregon issue and to acquire California from Mexico. He did these, but the latter was more a side-effect of the Mexican War than anything he set out to do. This was not a popular war, and was also known as 'Mr. Polk's War.' (Henry David Thoreau spent a night in prison for refusing to pay taxes toward this war.) There were 13,000 American deaths in Mexican War, 12,000 of those from disease. (To compare this with Vietnam, consider that the population in 1846 was about 23,000,000, so the death rate was about 0.057%. In Vietnam there were 50,000 American deaths out of a population of about 200,000,000 for a rate of 0.025%, or less than half. And the Mexican War was much shorter.)
During Polk's administration, Texas, Florida, Iowa, and Wisconsin became states; the Oregon boundary was settled (at the 49th parallel); the Department of the Interior and the Naval Academy at Annapolis were established; an independent treasury was established and the first gold dollar and double eagle were minted; the first United States postage stamp was printed; gas lighting was installed in the Capitol building; the cornerstone of the Washington Monument was laid; and a uniform election day established. (Until then, voting took place over a period of several days.) Also during this time the first baseball game was played, the sewing machine was invented, the Mormons arrived at Salt Lake City, gold was discovered in California, and the first Women's Rights Convention was held.
Citing the statement of the time that '[America's] manifest destiny [is] to overspread and to possess the whole of the continent which Providence has given us for the development of the great experiment of liberty,' the exhibit claimed that Polk took us 'from sea to shining sea' with his acquisition of California. (But if we already had Oregon, albeit with a dispute over its northern boundary, weren't we already 'from sea to shining sea'?)
It also claimed Polk was 'last president with any chance to master the furor that would eventually tear the nation apart. He could not.' Later, the videotape about him said that he 'entered the Presidency with a plan and made every point of that plan work.' I guess it was just the wrong plan. Polk might have been the last President strong enough to save the Union (though I suspect that Franklin was right in saying that because the Constitution didn't resolve the issue of slavery it would tear us apart), but in any case he apparently had no idea that this was an important issue. (He was followed as President by Taylor, Fillmore, Pierce, and Buchanan before Lincoln.)
Polk left office early in 1849, and died June 15, 1849.
We also saw a recreation of his childhood home, with furnishings of the time.
After this we drove to Greensboro, where we had lunch at a Steak n Shake. (Actually, it should be called 'Steakburger n Shake,' since they serve burgers, not steaks.)
We were visiting Greensboro mostly so that Mark could visit a high school friend of his. But since we had time we went to the Greensboro Historical Museum. This had an exhibit on O. Henry (William Sidney Porter), because he was born in Greensboro in 1862. (Porter changed the spelling of his name later to William Sydney Porter.
Porter lived in Texas during late the 1880s and early 1890s. He came back east and got a job in the First National Bank. In 1894 he was discovered to have embezzled $5624.20 from them. He fled to Honduras in 1896 to avoid a prison sentence, but returned to next year because his wife was dying. After her death, he became prisoner #30664 at the Federal Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio. While in prison he began writing, his first published story being 'Whistling Dick's Christmas Stocking' (1899). He was released in 1901, died in 1910, and is buried in Asheville, North Carolina.
Porter's books include Cabbages and Kings (stories set in Central and South America), The Four Million (stories set in New York City), Heart of the West (stories set in Texas), and Let Me Feel Your Pulse (his only book with a North Carolina setting). He once said, 'There is more poetry in a block of New York than in twenty daisied lanes.'
There was a section on the various ethnic groups that settled the Greensboro area. There was a Judaica section, with far more explanation of the Torah, Star of David, etc., than would be necessary in New York. In this section also was a copy of Upton Sinclair's 'Bill Porter (A Drama of O. Henry in Prison),' which had been requested by a Jew for the O. Henry collection but ended up in Judaica collection instead. This section also noted that Beth-David Congregation was named for Beth and David Stadiem-I wonder if that's true.
Of course, everywhere we stop has some major significance, even if we didn't plan it that way, and Greensboro was no exception. It was the site, on February 1, 1960, of the first lunch counter sit-ins, and there is a small exhibit on this, complete with counter stools donated by F. W. Woolworth's. Because of the actions of David Richmond, Franklin McCain, Ezell Blair, Jr. (later Jibreel Khazan), and Joseph McNeil, Woolworth's was integrated July 25, as was Kress. (We drove by the site later, and both Woolworth's and Kress are out of business. There is a Civil Rights Museum on that stretch of street which I think is in the old Woolworth's location.)
Another exhibit honors Dolley Madison, born Dolley Payne on May 20, 1768. She came to Greensboro as a very young girl with her Quaker family. She married John Todd, Jr., in January 1790, but he died of yellow fever in 1793. In May 1794, she met James Madison through their friend Aaron Burr, and married Madison September 15. She served as a hostess through Madison's term as Secretary of State (1801-1808) as well as his Presidency (1809-1817). She decorated the public areas of the White House, sent the second telegraph message (after her friend Samuel Morse sent the first), and saved the Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington as well as government papers well the government fled the District of Columbia before the British burned it during the War of 1812. She was the friend of eleven presidents, but suffered financial problems after Madison's death. She is buried in Montpelier, Virginia.
The Civil War section starts, 'The Civil War, also called the War for Southern Independence....'
The war must have been confusing. There were three major Confederate generals named Johnston: General Albert Sidney Johnston (who was killed at Shiloh). Brigadier General Robert Daniel Johnston (who was at Gettysburg and Chancellorsville), and General Joe Johnston (who was at Vicksburg, was replaced by Davis in Georgia, and surrendered to Sherman April 26, 1865).
There was a pocket-sized copy of 'Sayings of the Fathers', ethical teachings from the Talmud, in Hebrew in Civil War section which a Confederate soldier carried with him. Unlike the Union armies, which insisted until into 1862 that chaplains be Christian clergy, the Confederate armies merely insisted that they be clergy.
Another son of Greensboro mentioned in the museum was Edward R. Murrow, but since he left Greensboro when he was still very young, not much was said about him. Also honored was Lunsford Richardson II, the founder of the Vick Pharmaceutical Company, and a benefactor of the museum.
After this we still had a little time, so we went over to the Weatherspoon Art Gallery, which had a Matisse collection of lithographs and bronzes from Claribel and Etta Cone, who were mentioned in the Judaica section of the Historical Museum. Other than that, I found everything here very 'modern.' (There was an interesting frieze by Tom Otterness.)
We picked up Mark's friend at the airport (he was returning from a trip) and spent the evening with him and his wife.
We drove to Raleigh, North Carolina, and stopped in the North Carolina Museum of Art. This was quite a good art museum with Medieval, Flemish, Baroque, Rococo, British Portraiture, and French Impressionist art. They had a bronze by Augustus Saint-Gaudens, 'The Puritan,' which Mark thinks is a small copy of the statue in the Quadrangle in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Most of the day was spent driving to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, including being stopped by the police for a warning about going too fast. (And people said it was in Louisiana we would be stopped!)
In the interests of making sure we had enough time at the Mariners' museum in Newport News, Virginia, we skipped Fort Raleigh Historic Monument-and a wise decision it was. (Well, you can't really see anything except some earthworks that may have been part of the fort, and no one knows what happened to it.)
Instead we drove to the Wright Brothers National Memorial. The memorial itself is on top of Big Kill Devil Hill from which they made their flights-except that in the twenty-five years between when the flights occurred and when the monument was put up, the hill had moved 450 feet southwest. Deer were wandering around, not too worried about the visitors (who admittedly weren't all that close).
At the base of the memorial it says, 'In commemoration of the conquest of the air by the brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright conceived by genius achieved by dauntless resolution and unconquerable faith.'
On December 17, 1903, after two years of experiments costing a total of about a thousand dollars, the Wright Brothers made their four flights:
10:35, Orville, 120 feet, 12 seconds
11:20, Wilbur, 175 feet, 12 seconds
11:40, Orville, 220 feet, 15 seconds
12 noon, Wilbur, 852 feet, 59 seconds
They had succeeded; 'a machine carrying a man had raised itself by its own power into the air in full flight, had sailed forward without reduction of speed, and had finally landed at a point as high as that from which it started.'
They had chosen the Outer Banks because it was sandy for soft landings and free of trees or shrubs, and had winds of ten to twenty miles per hour. However, on the day they succeeded, the winds were up to thirty-five miles per hour. Their plane weighed 605 pounds (compare that to the Rand-Robinson KR-1 I mentioned earlier at 310 pounds).
Of the original machine, the museum has a propeller and a piece of the engine. (The machine itself seems to have been distributed to many places.)
In the Wright family, both the parents had college degrees, but neither of the brothers did. Their mother repaired appliances and invented gadgets: their father brought kites and puddle-jumpers home from trips. And the really key invention they needed was the internal combustion engine.
John Daniels took the photograph of the first flight, and the guide said that he liked to think that the 'footprints on the sand [in the picture] where Wilbur ran along ended on the moon.'
'It is not really necessary to look too far into the future; we see enough already to be certain it will be magnificent. Only let us hurry and open the roads.' --Wilbur Wright
We then drove to Newport News, Virginia, stopping in Powells, North Carolina, for lunch at Thai Cuisine. This is what passes for regional cuisine these days.
The main attraction for us in Newport News was the Mariners' Museum (http://www.mariner.org/mariner) ($5 minus $1 AAA discount). There was a videotape showing life on a variety of ships: an Indian cargo ship, a container ship, a carrier, a fishing trawler, an ocean-going tug, and an inter-island beater.
We first went to the key displays. One was on the battle between the U. S. S. Monitor versus the C. S. S. Virginia (which had previously been the U. S. S. Merrimack) on March 9, 1862. Though most historians say the battle was a draw, in that neither was sunk, according to the person explaining the display, the Virginia went on to sink several more ships, while the Monitor basically left the battle. In any case, the Virginia was scuttled on May 11, 1862, and the Monitor sank in a storm December 31, 1862. It is probably worth noting that the first ironclads were Korean, used around 1592 by Admiral Yi against a Japanese invasion.
The other area of interest was their main temporary exhibit: 'Under the Black Flag: Life Among the Pirates.' This talked about pirates, buccaneers, corsairs, privateers, and Vikings, and gave brief histories of such pirates as Mary Read, Anne Bonney, William Kidd, Edward Teach (Blackbeard), Bartholomew Roberts (Black Bart), Jean and Pierre Lafitte, John Paul Jones, Sir Francis Drake, Alwilda, and Granuaille. It also had a blurb on Alexander Selkirk, who was a pirate marooned on the island of Juan Fernandez and served as the model for Robinson Crusoe.
The exhibit's text portrayed pirates as on the whole a thoroughly vicious and murderous lot, and talked about how they exist even today, but the exhibit itself seems to work against this. Children are encouraged to fold pirate hats (and buy all sorts of pirate paraphernalia in the shop), and the exhibit refers to 'The Golden Age of Piracy.' If the idea is to teach the truth about piracy, I think the exhibit probably fails. (The inclusion of film clips from Treasure Island, Captain Blood, and The Sea Hawk, as well as posters from other inaccurate movies, doesn't help.)
The rest of the exhibits were good, but probably not worth describing in detail.
Dinner was at a Vietnamese restaurant which was actually mostly French. It was all right, but nothing special.
We left early, figuring we'd drive until midday or so and then find something to see in that vicinity. That turned out to be Manassas [Bull Run] National Battlefield Park. (The North calls the two battles here the battles of Bull Run; the South calls them Manassas, just as Antietam and Sharpsburg are different names for the same battle.)
First Manassas was the first major Civil War battle, taking place on July 21, 1861. Before the war was over there would be 2143 military actions in Virginia, and over 10,000 in the entire United States. There would be 4,137,304 soldiers out of a population of 32,000,000 (1 in 8), and 622,000 dead (1 in 51).
For comparison, World War I had 3,665,000 soldiers out of a population of 150,000,000 (1 in 30), and 116,000 Americans dead (1 in 1300). World War II had 8,291,335 soldiers out of a population of 133,000,000 (1 in 15), and 400,000 Americans dead (1 in 333). (Of course, all this is very parochial, since World Wars I and II had far more non-American deaths than American ones. But the display was talking in terms of American mobilization.) In the television series 'The Civil War' Shelby Foote notes that as many soldiers fell at Shiloh as at Waterloo-but that after Shiloh, there were still forty-five more Waterloos to come.
I mentioned the confusion over flags earlier. The same was true over uniforms, and the battle may well have been lost because a Union artillery commander was ordered not to fire on men he was sure were Confederates because his commander thought they were Union reinforcements. He was right, but that was discovered until the soldiers in question had advanced to within a few yards and opened up a deadly volley of rifle fire.
This is the battle where Brigadier General Bernard Bee, to rally his troops, cried, 'Look! There stands Jackson like a stone wall! Rally behind the Virginians!' thus giving Stonewall Jackson his nickname.
Judith Henry, age 85, was the only civilian killed during First Manassas. She was too ill to leave when her house was used as a Confederate sharpshooter post and she was killed when the Union shelled it. Her two companions survived.
After First Manassas a local farmer, Wilmer McLean, decided to take his family away from Manassas and away from the war. He moved west, to a small town in Virginia named Appomattox Courthouse. It was in his parlor that the surrender was signed four years later.
Second Manassas was a totally unrelated battle (though of course it was in the same war) about a year later on August 28 through August 30, 1862. It covered a much wider area; one thing that helps the visitor keep them straight is that the first battle is covered by a walking tour, while the second has a much wider-ranging driving tour.
After this it was just a question of driving home.
One of the nice things about a vacation like this is that at the end we don't have to try to fit everything into a few pieces of luggage and wrestle it (and ourselves) onto a plane. Of course, knowing this we accumulated a lot more stuff, and the car was getting pretty crowded by the end.
We discovered that one problem is that we haven't learned to pace ourselves, and go about a five-week vacation with the same intensity that we would apply to a one-week vacation. (Anyone who has looked at our itinerary has already figured that out!) We have basically been on the go since July 26, first with a ten-day vacation to Alaska ending in a red-eye flight home, then two weeks of work with the weekend spent hosting out-of-town guests and their three teenage daughters, and now five weeks of vacation through the South. I think my plans for the weekend of September 27 and 28 are to have no plans.
We covered 6915 miles in thirteen states, ranging between 74 and 98 degrees west longitude and 29 and 40 degrees north latitude. We saw license plates from all but five states, as well as from two Canadian provinces, and three Mexican states, and a variety of government and diplomatic plates. (Apparently people from North Dakota, South Dakota, and Vermont don't make long automobile journeys. Alaska and Hawai'i get exemptions.) I had thought I was the only person who kept track of things like this, but we met a couple from Connecticut who had seen all but four.
Tchatchkas were a bottle of magic potion (Tennessee), soap (Arkansas), bottle of hot sauce (Texas), bottle of Tabasco (Louisiana), Confederate battle jack (Mississippi), Confederate naval jack (Alabama), Stars and Bars (Georgia), Palmetto Flag and 35-star United States flag (South Carolina), book of O. Henry stories (North Carolina), and ? (Virginia). We weren't in Maryland or Delaware long enough to warrant tchatchka purchases, and we live in New Jersey.
A souvenir cassette of this trip (were I to make one) would include:
'Rum, Molasses, and Slaves' (from 1776)
'The Battle of New Orleans'
'The Alamo' (theme song from the movie)
'Napoleon of the Stump' (by They Might Be Giants)
'Tara's Theme' (from Gone with the Wind)
'Old Time Religion'
'Wernher von Braun' (by Tom Lehrer)
some Elvis Presley song
'We Shall Overcome'
'Abraham, Martin, and John' (by Dion)
This was a very cheap trip: Lodging 1963.31
Gas, parking, etc. 300.11
Read Mark's point of view of this trip.