Sunday, October 18, 2009

Huntsville and area

Our next stop was going to be Huntsville, but once we arrived we found the place we planned on staying had changed. There aren't many choices in the area and we ended up in a Passport America park about 35 miles away in Elkmont, AL. It turned out to be a good choice because we had planned on boondocking, but the next day it started raining and it has been rainy and cold (down to 37 last night) since. At least at this park we have hookups. (Am I getting spoiled or not?)
Right outside the RV park was a rail to trail. We initially just went to check it out, but before the day was over we had hiked about 11 miles. It was a great hike, the trees are turning and the leaves falling. As you can see I am still in short sleeves, it turned cold and rainy overnight.

These guys almost made me think I was back in the 1800s. We ran into these guys as we were hiking to the Sulphur Creek Trestle. General Forrest, Confederate, was on his way to take back Athens in 1864. He stopped here and destroyed the trestle, thus breaking the chain of supplies via the railroad. He also took over the fort which was supposed to protect the trestle. Over 200 men were killed here, and several thousand taken prisoner. The sign says this was the bloodiest battle in all of Alabama, yet none of the Civil War books Max has even lists this battle at all.

Once a thriving railroad town, there isn't much left at all now.

The county seat of Limestone County, Athens, Alabama. Limestone county has several dubious points for recognition. 1. It is the oldest county in Alabama, being established in 1818, even before Alabama became a state. 2. It was the first county in Alabama to be occupied by Federal troops (May 1862) during the Civil War.

Foundry Hall, Athens State College, is the original building for the oldest college in Alabama, being established in 1822. When Athens was taken in 1862 by Russian born Federal Colonel Turchin, he allowed his men to sack and plunder the town, destroying all the homes not occupied by he and his men. The story goes that when they came to the college to burn the building the dean of the college came out with a letter. After the Federal officer read the letter he told his men to leave this building alone, it was not to be touched. And it wasn't. Rumour has it the letter was from Abraham Lincoln stating the college was not to be hurt in the course of the war.
Another point about the take over in 1862 and Col. Turchin. He was eventually court martialed for encouraging his men to sack and plunder the town, but when his wife appealed to Abraham Lincoln for clemancy for her husband, he was released and pardoned.

We did return to Huntsville for the U.S. Space and Rocket Center. I wonder what will happen to the rocket when Max moves away? I bet he gets tired holding that big rocket up!

Werner Von Braun was instrumental in Huntsville being the center for much of our space program. The Saturn rockets were developed here as well as earlier rockets. Many of the vehicles used to send men to space and to the moon as well as being involved in the International Space Station, has its roots here at the Marshall Space Center and Redstone Arsenol in Huntsville. They are developing a new rocket, the Aries, which will replace the Saturn. It was supposed to see its first flight this year, but not really be used for operation until 2015.

This is what is planned to take the place of the space shuttle, which is due to be retired in the next year or so, supposedly. It will be carried on top of the Aires rocket and instead of landing like the space shuttle, will land in the ocean like the original space vehicles such as Gemini, and Apollo.

They even have a memorial for Miss Baker. Miss Baker was the first U.S. animal to be sent out to space and return alive. She lived to be 27 years old. It also says she lived a pampered life here at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center.

I spent several months in Huntsville back in 1988. Boy, has it changed. But what I do remember are beautiful, old, antebellum homes. This passenger depot in downtown Huntsville is not that old, built in 1860, just before the Civil War. Huntsville was important to the Federals because of its strategic location and railroads, and it being supply depot.

Because of the many Federals occupying the area, many of Huntsville's old, antebellum homes were not destroyed. This home, built in 1822, is where General Morgan, of Morgan's raiders, was born in 1823.

Notice the dark panes of glass? Those are some of the original blue glass placed in this home when it was built in 1818. Many of the clear glass panes are also original. There are some 60-70 homes, all built in the early 1800s. The earliest we saw was 1814.

Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain sits just a few miles east of Atlanta. It is a state park honoring the stone carving of three Confederate hero's.
Although this carving is the main attraction, there are hiking trails, biking trails, an amusement park for the kids, a quarry, museum, mill, carillon, lake, covered bridge, Duck boat, Steamboat ride and fishing. You can also take a lift up to the top of the mountain or you can hike it from the back side.

From left to right is Jefferson Davis, Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, and Robert E. Lee. Larger than Mt. Rushmore (which is only 60 ft high), this relief, carved out of this granite mountain, is 76 ft high and 160 ft wide.

Inside the museum they have replicas made to size. Here I am standing in the mouth of Jefferson Davis' horse. Borglam, the man who carved Mt. Rushmore, was originally hired in 1819 to carve the mountain. His design was more elaborate and included carving much more of the mountain. He got one face carved when he got into a money dispute with his employer. He quit. From 1925 - 1928 Agustus Lukeman took over. He scaled down the job; dynamited Borglam's carving off the mountain, and started over. Because of funding problems and Lukeman's death, the project sat uncompleted until 1961, when they finally started work again. It was completed in 1963.

This carillon was originally exhibited at the Coca Cola exhibit in the 1964/1965 New York World's Fair. It was brought back and donated to Stone Mountain following the fair.

This lady plays the carillon organ 3 times daily, 5 days a week. It sounds like a huge bell choir playing. I guess it really is a huge bell choir since the carillon consists of some 700+ bells.

The torch was passed here at Stone Mountain.

Made it to the top. Whew! Wouldn't want to do that on a really hot day! I also found out just how much out of shape I am.

It's a long way down. It was from this area they lowered scaffolding for the workers who were carving the relief on the mountain. I decided I wouldn't really want that job.

At the quarry they have this 66,000 lb piece of granite.


Atlanta's capital was completed in 1889 for $118.43 under budget.
I wonder how many projects are completed under budget today?

We did a self-guiding tour inside. There was small, but interesting museum of Georgia and Atlanta on the 3rd floor.

Just a few blocks away was Underground Atlanta. Yes, it really is an underground area, left when they built viaducts over the railroads in the early 1800s.

When the automobile and pedestrian traffic started to crowd the small roadways, which had been built for horse drawn carts, they built these viaducts over the existing streets. The trains continued to move underground, and eventually the businesses moved their main wares up to the "2nd" floor. Over time, the 2nd floor became the main floor and the original first floor became the basement. For years this area was deserted and unused, but has been resurrected as a new shopping and dining area.

Underground shopping today.

The owner of this old building must have refused to sell. It still sits with all these high rise glass and steel building surrounding it.

We went to the Cyclorama at Grant Park. Inside is the "Texas". This is the train engine which chased down the "General" when Federal soldiers stole it from the Confederates. Walt Disney made a movie about this incident, "The Great Locomotive Chase". All of the Federal soldiers were caught, tried and several hung.

The cyclorama was commissioned in the late 1800s by a private individual, but he died before it was completed. It was sold to a circus, where it toured for several years until the circus closed. The entire circus, animals, cyclorama and all was bought for $1100. The animals were donated to the city of Atlanta and was the beginning of the Atlanta Zoo, and the Cyclorama was permanently placed on display next door to the zoo in the early 1900s. Around 1938 they added a diorama.

You sit in seats and they turn so you can view the 3 story, 360 degree oil painting and diorama. It depicts the Battle for Atlanta.

In Woodruff park we saw this giant chess set and people playing.

The local library even sets up a reading room at the park.

At every one of those tables sits a pair of chess players and many by standers watching.

Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves.

Leftover visage of the 1996 Summer Olympics which were held in Atlanta.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Andersonville, GA

We stopped at Andersonville overnight so we could see the Andersonville Prisoner of War camp and the Andersonville Civil War Village.

We were surprised that it was more than just about the Andersonville POW camp, but has a great museum dedicated to all POWs. Inside the museum were sections about POWs from not only Vietnam, but WWII, WWI, as well as the Civil War.

If you can imagine, the Andersonville POW camp was a Confederate camp holding Union enlisted soldiers, no officers. The camp was only ten acres and designed to hold about 10,000 men. Even though it was only in operation for 14 months, it had at times over 40,000 men at once. In the middle running through the camp was a small stream. The men got their drinking water at the upper end, and the lower end became the latrine.

Here is what the stream is today.

They didn't have to tell me twice.

The men had to provide their own shelters like these, since no buildings had been erected inside the stockade fences. The prisoners were given what food was available, but they had to fix it themselves. Under these conditions many prisoners died from illness and starvation. This camp had the largest percentage of prisoners die than any other camp, 29%. But the Confederate soldiers guarding them lived in almost the same conditions and the Confederate captors died at almost the same percent.
The only person to be tried and hung for war crimes during the Civil War was the acting Commander of the Andersonville POW camp. Although the terms of surrender of the south was supposed to exclude any commanders being brought to trial on these type of charges, Captain Henry Wirz was arrested, tried and hung for war crimes. There are many who say he was a scapegoat and there was no real substantiation of any of the charges.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Albany, GA

Throughout the summer we have been in towns with painted statues. In Louisville there were horses. In Abdingdon we had wolves. And in Albany, GA, they have turtles.

A little out of character was this kangaroo chair.

Albany was the childhood home of Ray Charles.

The city sits on the banks of the Flint River. Where the current welcome center is located was once the home of the Col Nelson Tift, owner of the bridge and ferry rights and founder of Albany. In 1857 Col Tift had the Bridge House built. Entry to the bridge was through the center of the house on the ground floor and the upstairs was home to Tift Hall, a theater. Many famous people came and performed at the hall. Masked balls and special events were held at the hall until the civil car. During the war the building became a slaughter house for the many animals needed to feed the Confederate Army.

You do see who sponsered this turtle?

We went to the museum which is housed in the old train station. Here I learned about Bob's Candies. It operated in Albany from 1919 until 2005, when it was sold and all operations were moved to Mexico. I'm going to look for the Bob's name this Christmas when I buy candy canes.

They even have a door from the company.

A peanut picker from the 1920s. This style picker was used until the peanut combine was invented and manufactured in the 1950s. Both items were produced by the Lilliston Company, also located in Albany.

These Cypress trees were on the banks of the Flint River.

Although it was a little shallow for kayaking now, it looks like it could be fun in the spring and early summer.

More turtles.

Down the road from Albany was America, GA, home of Souther Field.

Americas is also the home of Habitat for Humanity.

I always thought Jimmy and Roslyn Carter started HFH, but I was wrong.

Jimmy did not get involved until 7 years later.