Savannah: Trolleys, seafood, sunshine, and blinding white legs!

(Writing from beautiful Summerville, SC)

It’s really hard to believe that our time in Savannah and Charleston has quickly come to an end, and that we’ll be checking out in the morning and wending our merry way (We hope!) up to snowy Waynesville, North Carolina, for the weekend. (Just heard that eleven inches fell there!)

The weather nightmare that is wreaking havoc in every part of this country, hasn’t missed a beat right here in South Carolina, either. In fact, Wednesday was spent right here at our hotel while the rain poured down outside, the temperatures flirted with the freezing mark, and the electricity in most of the surrounding area and our hotel went off for a good portion of the afternoon. But more on this in the next post. Time to back up to Savannah

The Talmadge Bridge-Our way out of Savannah and on to Charleston
The Talmadge Memorial Bridge over the Savannah River-Our way out of Savannah and on to Charleston.

Yes, back to Sunday, a gloriously sunny and pleasant afternoon to arrive in Savannah, Georgia! Our hotel was easy to find as it is right on Montgomery Street and a short couple of blocks to the Visitor Center. Checking in went quickly, and our next order of business was arranging a trolley tour of the Historic District and River Front. This process was equally as simple since the hotel concierge handled our request and made the necessary arrangements for a “hop-on, hop-off” tour that we could take right away, and, because it was late in the afternoon, our tickets would be good for the next day as well. Pretty cool!

Within a matter of minutes, we were aboard an open-air trolley run by Old Savannah Tours. And with the comfortable temperature and late-afternoon sunshine, it was a wonderful way to sit back and enjoy the narration by the pleasant and knowledgeable driver/tour guide. She explained much of Savannah’s history and its many legends and other pieces of lore.

What I found most interesting was seeing the many locations for various movies that had been shot in various places in the Historic District with all of the beautiful squares. One such was the location in Forest Gump, where Tom Hanks is sitting on the park bench, waiting for a bus, and telling us all about how “life is like a box of chocolates…” And though there really is no bench there, and in the movie they had to re-route traffic in the other direction, I immediately recognized the square (Chippewa Square) as the background of the scene. And the Presbyterian Church from where the feather drifts and floats down in the opening scene of the movie is right there on the corner.

Mercer House, Savannah, Georgia.
Mercer House, Savannah, Georgia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When our driver told us that the author, John Berendt, spent a lot of time in Savannah researching his bestselling book Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, I was all ears.

This book, published in 1994, is one that I’ve meant to read for a long time, knowing nothing really about what it was all about, other than I loved the title. After seeing the house (Mercer House) that serves as the setting for the murder that is a focal point of the story, as well as other spots that appear in the book, I knew this was my opportunity to buy the book–finally–and read it before the week was over.

The cover of the 1994 novel
The cover of the 1994 novel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The book is full of zany and wacky characters and how their quirkiness seems to fit perfectly into the social strata of Savannah, even with a murder mystery that needs to be solved. I understand that Clint Eastwood directed the movie version, which I’ve not seen either. I will probably get to that one of these days, too.

And so we capped off our first day in Savannah with a nice seafood dinner at Barracuda Bob’s down on River Street. Fortunately, we found a public elevator that made it easier to get up from River Street since the steep stairs are rather treacherous. Surviving that, our walk back several blocks to our hotel that evening took us through the City Market and other points of interest that we might be interested in looking into the next day.

Monday came quickly, and it was the nicest “weather” day of the week! I donned a short sleeve shirt and shorts, exposing my blindingly white, winter legs. The warmth of the sun and the fresh air were wonderful, and I even managed a forty-minute stint of “basking” in the Georgia sunshine, alongside the Savannah River, while the wife prowled and snooped into a few shops on the other side of River Street.

We then had an early lunch at the Shrimp Factory. Always one to try something different in the culinary department, I had something called Pine Bark Stew, a bouillabaisse chock full of tasty fish, potatoes, stewed tomatoes, onions, and various seasonings.

After lunch, it was time to jump back on the trolley to get back to the hotel, check out, and move along to Charleston. When we were dropped off back at the Visitor Welcome Center (an old railroad station), I purchased a copy of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and looked forward to getting started reading it at our next hotel stop in Summerville, South Carolina.

On the road once more, crossing the Talmadge Memorial Bridge and bidding lovely Savannah farewell, we made the relatively short trip up to the Charleston vicinity and eagerly anticipated our first of three days and nights taking in all that we could manage about Charleston. And my next post will deal with all of that. Now, though, it’s time to finish Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil….CortlandWriter

Patriots Point in Charleston, SC.
Patriots Point in Charleston, SC. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
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“Roughing it”

photo 1
“Roughing it” in cottage number 2 in the beautiful campground under the pines, beside a lake, in the A.H. Stephens Historic Park–Crawfordville, Georgia.

(Writing from beautiful Summerville, SC)

In early December when we decided to make a trip to Atlanta, Savannah, Charleston, and Waynesville, we realized that Crawfordville, Georgia, home of the A.H. Stephens Historic Park, was kind of on the way to Savannah from Atlanta, and perhaps we could include a visit there. So we made a reservation for a two-night stay in one of the four cottages on the park grounds.

Our modern two-bedroom cottage was fully furnished and very, very comfortable. However, we were without Internet access, but our iPhones functioned well. Carolyn and I were the only folks residing there, and the quiet and dark of night was wonderful.

During the two nights there, we read, watched some of the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, and I managed to work in Scrivener to compile  my newest book and making some very good progress in getting the thing ready for publication. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I can make that happen very soon.

Saturday morning was warm and beautiful, perfect for our tour of Mr. Stephens’ home and museum. The house was very impressive, as was the biographical

Liberty Hall…the home of A.H. Stephens
Liberty Hall…the home of A.H. Stephens

information presented by a very pleasant and knowledgeable young lady, who was our guide through the house and grounds.

We learned that Alexander Stephens was a very generous and caring man, best known as the Confederacy’s vice-president and Georgia governor. He is also my wife’s second-cousin twice removed, so there was just a bit more of a higher interest level involved here!

After our nice tour there, we asked where a good place to eat might be found. Everyone we asked said that there was only one restaurant–literally–of any kind within several miles. And they weren’t kidding, either!

That place was a rustic place called Heavy’s Barbecue, located about four miles southwest, and only open on weekends. Since this was Saturday, we were in luck. Heavy’s is pretty well known in the area, and it’s one of those classic places where the pork and ribs are delicious, and the surrounding atmosphere is the real thing.

Deer head trophies adorn the walls all around the dining room, as well as other stuffed wildlife in prominent places throughout the small log building. Nothing fancy, but the food was good and plentiful. Had we more time, we probably could have engaged a few of the locals and the waitress for some more tales and local color.

Carolyn about to enter Heavy's Barbecue, down the road, yonder, from Crawfordville, GA.
Carolyn about to enter Heavy’s Barbecue, down the road, yonder, from Crawfordville, GA.

As it was, one interesting piece of trivia we learned was that some bar scenes from the movie Sweet Home Alabama (2002), starring Reese Witherspoon, were filmed here. Outside, among various other “vintage” artifacts, is a sign used in the movie that reads “Stella’s Roadhouse.” Neither of us has seen the movie, but now it’s a must, just to see Heavy’s as it appears.

And so we were up relatively early Sunday morning, had our oatmeal at the cottage, picked the place up, and loaded the car ready to check out and once more hit the road. Of course, our “Welcoming Committee” of the two ducks was there to serve now as the “Send-off Committee” and they somehow managed to coerce another cracker or two from Carolyn before everything was stowed away.

After turning in the key at the park office, I programmed the Garmin and had our course charted to Savannah. Soon, under sun and blue skies, we set sail south and east through some of the most beautiful Georgia countryside, amidst so many towering pines and red clay of gently rolling fields. We’d arrive in Historic Savannah by early afternoon, ready for our next piece of this February adventure….CortlandWriter

One half of the "Send-off Committee"
One half of the “Send-off Committee”

Surviving Atlanta, illegal turns and all!

(Writing from beautiful Savannah, Georgia)

margaretmitchell
Margaret Mitchell’s home. She and her husband lived in the lower-left apartment, where she typed Gone With the Wind.

Right off the bat, let me say that in my last post I overreacted just a bit with my fears of navigating around Atlanta without getting killed this past Friday. In fact, our thirty-minute drive from our hotel to Peachtree Street, the location of author Margaret Mitchell’s home, was very pleasant and enjoyable.

Perhaps it was the gorgeous 55° morning that made it so nice, but whatever it was, we found where we wanted to be without a hitch, other than my piece of careless driving which involved turning the wrong way on a very wide one-way street. Fortunately, there were only a few oncoming cars whose drivers graciously slowed to allow me to hurriedly get out of their way and turned in the right direction, before pointing out what a total moron this guy from Illinois must be!

The tour of the house lasted about thirty minutes, and the most enjoyable part was going through Mitchell’s tiny first-floor apartment where she typed her masterpiece on a small Royal typewriter, which sits on a small table surrounded by dozens of manilla folders and envelopes in which she’d place her Gone With the Wind manuscript parts. The place is set up just as it was when she and her husband lived there.

The guide provided a pretty informative and comprehensive biography of Mitchell, who, it turns out, was like many creative folks: Lacking confidence in their work and afraid to show it to anyone. The story of how she wrote her one-and-only novel is very intriguing.

Of course, afterward, the inevitable gift shop drew most of my wife’s attention, so I waited patiently studying the map to figure out just exactly how to get out of Atlanta and on to our next destination: The A.H. Stephens State Historic Park in Crawfordville, Georgia, about two-and-a-half hours to the east. Originally, we had planned to visit the World of Coca-Cola in Atlanta, but since we arrived in the area much later than planned, we decided there wouldn’t be time. So when we finished with the Mitchell house, it was a quick hop, skip, and a jump to the interstate we needed to connect up with I-20. Soon, we were well on our way, leaving Atlanta in our rear view mirror.

The weather was very cooperative as we motored east through very pretty country. It was wonderful to see actual green grass and bushes and trees along the way. I even had my window down a bit to let in the fresh air and to blow out the stale winter poison we brought along from Illinois.

ducks
The “Welcoming Committee” at our cottage in the pines of A.H. Stephens Historic Park, waiting for some tasty treats!

Now it was time to become immersed in the life of the man for whom the state park is named, particularly since his home is there. I had very little knowledge of the man who was the vice-president of the Confederacy and governor of Georgia.

By Saturday, I had learned much and gained a respectful appreciation for A.H. Stephens. And our two-night stay in a very nice cottage on the park grounds was a fun and pleasant experience. After all, how bad can it be when a welcoming committee of two tame, friendly, and hungry ducks patiently waited for us to get the suitcases unloaded and to find some Fritos for them!

In my next post, I’ll write more about our time in the park, touring the Stephens home and museum, a “down-home” Georgia barbecue place, and our journey on to Savannah. Stay tuned…CortlandWriter

 

If it’s February, it must be time to travel…

January
January (Photo credit: Deadly Tedly)

The end is near…

…Yes, the end of January, that is, and this means that the wife and I are about to embark on our annual February vacation/road trip.

This year, the weather being what it has been, the two of us are most definitely in the mood to load the car and set out for points south.

That is exactly what we plan to do late next Tuesday evening, when we’ll leave our tiny hamlet here in northern Illinois and set sail for Stone Mountain, Georgia, our first stopping point on this year’s adventure. We’re keeping our fingers crossed that the recent snow, icy roads, and howling winds will not rear their ugly heads again on the night we want to get out and on the road.

We’ll spend a couple of days in and around the Atlanta area, with plans to visit Margaret Mitchell’s home and The World of Coca-Cola before heading east to the A H. Stephens State Park, named after Alexander H. Stephens, Vice President of the Confederacy.

Why this park, you ask? It seems as though Carolyn, my wife, recently discovered, in her many extensive and exhaustive ancestry/genealogical researches, that A.H. Stephens was a second-cousin, twice removed.

That being the case, it will be way more meaningful and fun when we tour the

English: I took this picture at Liberty Hall i...
Liberty Hall in Crawfordville, Georgia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Confederate museum and Liberty Hall, Stephens’s home. We also have reservations for a two-night’s stay in one of the cottages located in the park, and I’m very much looking forward to that.

Then it will be on to Savannah, Georgia, a place we stopped at briefly one time years ago on our way to our home at the time in Titusville, Florida. I recall it being a beautiful, historic spot, and I will enjoy the two days we plan to spend there learning more about the place. And if the weather is as typically moderate and pleasant as I’ve heard, that can’t be all bad, either.

On the road again to Charleston, South Carolina, for a few days and to find out, first-hand, what everyone has forever told us about Charleston being one of their very favorite places to visit and spend time. The historic stuff alone will be well worth the time and money we’re investing in this February’s trip. I’m eagerly awaiting that part of the journey.

And it can’t be a February get-away without spending some time in the beautiful mountains of western North Carolina at Carolyn’s brother’s house in Waynesville. We’ll make the relatively short drive there when finished immersing ourselves in all things Charleston. Our weekend with her brother and his wife will be fun and relaxing before we make the drive from there back to northern Illinois.

At each of these wonderful places along the way, I plan to get plenty of writing done in the evenings: updating this blog, working on the current WIP, and sending e-mail. Last year’s February genealogy “field trip” to Athens County, Ohio, Coalwood, West Virginia, and Waynesville, coincided with the start of Gwen Hernandez’s online Scrivener for Mac class. During the course of that trip, I completed several of the first lessons that Gwen would post each day. I found it to be lots of fun working through the lessons in a different location each morning.

Now that February is creeping in (and not a moment too soon!), it’s time to dig the Eddie Bauer bag out of the closet, get the clothes laid out and packed, and begin to get serious about hitting the road. Leaving northern Illinois for a couple of weeks will be just what the two of us need–if the weather “gods” see fit to smile on us!

I’m looking forward to writing about all of this as the miles and days unfold beginning next week. Stay tuned…CortlandWriter

Cortland, IL
Cortland, IL (Photo credit: moominsean)
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