Georgia was full of surprises for me–unexpected visual pleasures and observable sadness struck me while driving through the Peach State. I decided to take a break from Florida and its cold rainy windy weather, and not reading the weather report beforehand, I drove up to Georgia on Christmas Day. Google maps was set to “avoid interstates/toll roads” when I left Tallahassee, FL on Hwy. 19 to Macon, GA. Mabel, my van, has really slowed my driving down so I now use the phrase, “meander down the road”‘: hence, 125 miles and 3.5 hours later, I arrived at Americus.
Americus is the home for Habit for Humanities’s International Headquarters. It also has a wonderful hotel, the Hotel Windsor, built-in 1892 that displays the Victorian architecture so prevalent in the late 1800’s .http://windsor-americus.com
I spent Christmas afternoon in the hotel’s dining area sipping coffee and eating carrot cake before joining the 18 wheelers at Wal-Mart for the night. Wal-Mart’s free RV parking does come in handy.
I know very little about the Civil War, other the slavery issue and the North won the war, which is not saying much. I mentioned that to one of the Andersonville National Park officials and was told, “We look at it as 0-1, and the game isn’t over yet.” OK then, moving along. Andersonville Prison was like a one-two punch in my gut as I went through this historical national park.
Of the 45,000 POWs held at Andersonville in the last year of the Civil War, 13,000 died of starvation, scurvy, diarrhea, dysentery and disease. Overcrowding left enough space for each man to hold their arms straight out sideways before they touched another person. A POW Museum is a part of the site and pays tribute to all American POWs held in captivity from the Civil War to the current Iraq/Afghanistan involvement.
Camp Douglas in Chicago, which rarely gets mentioned, is known as the Union’s Andersonville: 17% of its population died out of a total population of 11,000. The same problems of sanitation and food as found in Andersonville attributed to these deaths. Camp Douglas was demolished and no photographs remain, only sketches and a few maps. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camp_Douglas_(Chicago)
Past Andersonville is the Macon State Prison. Currently, there are 2.2 million people in the US prison system (the highest prison population in the world) and 52,000 of them are in this prison. I cannot imagine being kept in captivity and the brutality that comes with it. The bleakness of it was like looking at a dark pooled Southern swamp—God knows what happens under the surface.
I continued on to Macon following state and country roads. We meandered through central Georgia and my unfamiliar vehicle caused people to look up and move their heads 180° as I drove through small towns or a cluster of houses., A local man at a town’s gas station said, “Now I need THAT to go trout fishin'” referring to Mabel.
One person had the audacity to say, “Furry little dog there — ain’t much use is it?” “Well, you know us northerners,” I replied with a smile.
“No, I don’t. Never left Georgia.” I had no response to that.
Hello Macon!! Revitalization of downtown with coffee shops, brick art installations, art galleries and buildings converting to lofts. Street dancers and homeless men and college kids.
Off the above street is the Harriet Tubman Museum commemorating Ms. Tubman’s activism for civil rights. She was a spy, a scout, and led hundreds of slaves to the Underground Railway. The museum displays photos, receipts, vouchers, signs advertising rewards for runaway slaves, photos of black prisoner’s in Georgia’s jails—it a raw brutal view of America’s past. In 2016, her photo was slated to be on the new $20 bill, but the current Treasury Secretary, Steven Mnuchin has put that on hold.
By-passing Atlanta and on to Helen in northern Georgia, which was recommended by a couple at the Florida campground, I stopped at a Plantation, got stuck in Atlanta’s suburb commuter traffic and eventually turned north on GA115/St. Rte. 52. The town of Helen welcomed us with:
Are you kidding me? I couldn’t believe it, it was like being transported from Folsom Prison Blues🎶🎶🎸to The Hills are Alive with the Sound of Music🎶🎶🎻 within three hours. People everywhere drinking beer, eating Bavarian (questionable) sausage, Bavarian Rouladen, Beef Roll-Ups. Bavarian Creme layer cake and listening to yodeling mixed with Country Rock. And, because I did not look at the weather when I left Florida, I did not realize that Georgia was going to experience the 2nd-friggin-ice age and felt the temperature drop from 40 to 16 within a few hours. I got a hotel room and retreated. Mabel bore the brunt of the weather change.
Not even wanting to experience this semi-Disney experience in Helen, Alice and I went for a hike the next day.
This stream travels 550 miles and ends up in the Gulf demonstrate the planet’s interconnectedness.
Alma Falls Park has a short 1/8 of a mile trail to accomodate the visually impaired with Braille signage.
……..and Alice at the end of the day. http://www.renthelen.com/helen-ga-waterfalls.htm
New Year’s Eve morning I was on the road to Athens, GA, the home of the University of Georgia.
Driving through this state I kept seeing the word DAWG and didn’t give it much thought, thinking it just must be some southern colloquialism. Not the case! UNIVERSITY OF GEORGIA DAWGS FOOTBALL — OHHHH! That explains why I saw so many English Bulldogs — Georgians are fanatical about their football.
Georgia leads the country in the production of peanuts, pecans and peaches and produces cotton, tobacco, soybeans, corn, hay and oats. It was like driving along a nursery’s display of “SOILS AVAILABLE FOR YOUR GARDEN”—red, black, brown, grey supports the variety of crops grown.
Following Georgia’s Scenic Hometown Highway 27 also known as the Dixie Highway convinced me to never take the bypass around a town. I am not on the road for avoiding towns; I am on the road to see what is in the world. This highway is a gift to the curious road-tripper. Most Georgia towns have a historic center with buildings in all stages of renovation while others are forgotten or no funds to do it. Trendy towns like Madison have secured funds for their historical renewal while others are perhaps too far off the beaten road. Brick (Georgia’s red clay) houses, covered porches with wooden railings and “drink ledges” where a cup of cocoa or “a bourbon neat” can rest handily on the top rail line streets or spot the road sides. Some offshoots of Hwy. 27 are traveled mostly by locals and an unrecognizable vehicle cause the onlookers eyes to follow you until you are out of sight. Join this imaged journey with me as they lead you through central and eastern Georgia to Florida’s border.
I had read about Providence Park by Lumpkin, GA., saw the sign and drove into the Park for a quick tour which turned into a three-hour walk in Georgia’s Grand Canyon. It was an unexpected treat!
Not far down the road is Kolomoki Mounds State Park whose name intrigued me and there was a nice campground, lots of walking for Alice. That nite, another arctic-winter-inversion-freezing something hit us and the temperature dropped to 9°. Mabel’s propane heater made up for hardly any use during the trip.
I left for St. Joe’s Campground southeast of Panama City, Florida the next day and passed this along the way.
Trailers, windows with plastic inserted in the frames, dilapidated houses and sheds are like smudge marks on Georgia’s back roads hidden in the hollows or farmlands. Few medical facilities in these rural communities with grocery stores filled with flour and sugar and coffee because most people grow their own vegetables on a patch of land. Restored antebellum houses worth $300,000 and up in cute little towns and then there is the “old part of town”–– this acknowledges the truth of Georgia’s disparity.
Again, I am grateful for finally seeing just a portion of the southern US, gaining a better understanding of the population, learning more about the Civil War and how it is still a part of her people. Most though, I love walking down the street with Alice who always elicits a smile from the passer-by no matter who they are, she gives them a minute of joy.
Take good care,
Lisa, Alice & Mabel
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