Sunday, October 17, 2021

A Round About Way To A Similar Destination

 A couple things reached the same destination this year.  Both took different routes … both had different reasons … but both got to the same place.

The first started as a pandemic lockdown project for the Wife.  Over the past year or so the Wife has pursued a dual citizenship.  The first is American, naturally, and the other is through genealogy.  The Wife has ancestors from Luxembourg and for the past year she has collected birth certificates, wedding records, death records, and other genealogical proof of her Luxembourgian ancestry.  She had filled out requests and forms, often multiple times, and submitted her application for Luxembourgian citizenship.  She reached her goal in August when she was granted citizenship.

A blurry picture of the original
Walking Sister travel bug.
The second has been talked about before in Homer's Travels.  In 2007 I sent out a geocaching travel bug called the Walking Sister.  It travelled around the United States for almost four years before it turned up missing.  I had a duplicate of the travel bug tag so I made a new Walking Sister.  This time I dropped her off in Santiago de Compostela, Spain on my first Camino.  It was soon picked up and started travelling around Europe.  Starting from Spain it went to Portugal, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and even took a side trip to Cyprus.  Combined the two versions of the Walking Sister have visited one thousand six hundred and eighty two geocaches and have travelled 40,189.9 miles (64679.2 km).

So how are these two things connected?  Last week I received an update.  The Walking Sister's latest stop is in … Luxembourg.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Book: Becky Chambers' "The Galaxy, And The Ground Within"

My next book was the fourth in a loosely tied together series set in the same universe.  Each of the four books can be read stand alone.

Becky Chambers' "The Galaxy, and the Ground Within" is an odd book.  It is the story of a group of people from various races stuck together and having to interact.  This book feels more like universe development.  There is only a small amount to conflict and action.

I found the book interesting because I'm interested in different social structures and how members of each would interact with each other but it probably not everyone's cup of tea.  I have to admit that a little more conflict and jeopardy would have been welcome.

I gave this book four stars out of five on Goodreads.  It kept me interested but it may not be for everyone. 

Wednesday, October 06, 2021

Happy Birthday To The Wife!!!

I want to wish the Wife, the love of my life and my most wonderful travel companion, an awesome birthday.  I can't wait to see where we will travel once we have the freedom to just 'go that way.'


Wednesday, September 22, 2021

My Favorite Season Arrives Once Again

The fall equinox has arrived and Autumn has arrived once again.  Cool air.  Colorful leaves. Shortening days.  The Harvest moon (a few days early).  What's not to love.

A few days ago the sun gave us a preview of some of the colors coming soon.

The reds, oranges, and yellows of the approaching fall.

Happy Autumnal Equinox Everybody!!!

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Book: Martha Wells' "All Systems Red"

The first book of 2021 - I am, admittingly, having a very late start to the reading year - is the first book of the Murderbot Diaries series.  This novella,  only one hundred-sixty pages, is Martha Wells' "All Systems Red".

A lot of people I know recommended these books to me and I can understand why.  The writing is good and the protagonist, a defective security robot, is interesting and has an interesting personality.

The story follows the bot who is providing security to a planetary survey team.  Competition between teams results in violence.  The rogue nature of the bot helps you explore motivations, free will, and the idea of being human.

The first four books of this series are novellas with the fifth book being a full length novel.  I can't wait to dig deeper into the psych of a rogue murderbot.

I gave this book five stars out of five on Goodreads mostly because of its potential going forward.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Things Come, Things Go, And There Is Always Room For More

Nearly thirteen years ago I took my first hike at Hitchcock Nature Center.  It was one of the first hikes I did after moving to Nebraska. During that hike I stopped to admire an American Elm Tree in a clearing on the Wildwood trail.

An American Elm and its companion in a clearing on the Wildwood trail.

I remember thinking, as I admired the tree and the filtered sunlit clearing surround it, how peaceful it felt.  The tree stood there rather regally like it was the center of the forest.

This last week I went back to Hitchcock.  I came upon the Elm tree.  It was a sad sight. Time and nature had not been kind to the once majestic tree and his companion.  Not sure if this is the result of Dutch Elm Disease or something else.  Either way, it was not kind to this poor tree.  The amount of undergrowth that now fills the clearing contributes to the shabbiness and decay that is felt there now.  So sad but the world moves on.  Things die and others are born to take their place.

Time has not been kind.

The return to Hitchcock was the first hike in nature since I left the Appalachian Trail in September 2019.  All my other hikes and walks since my return had been city walks on concrete and asphalt, the only nature being the groomed lawns and parks of Omaha.  It felt good to be back out amongst the trees and feeling the packed dirt under my feet.  I didn't realize how much I missed this.  I thought six months on the Appalachian Trail had given me my fill of nature but this week I learned that there is always room for more.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Twenty Long Years

When I considered what I was going to write about the anniversary of 9-11, I thought I would look at the other 9-11 posts I'd written throughout the years.  I was kind of surprised that I hadn't written about it every year.  It seems the Obama years had put me in a state of delusion.  I thought things would be okay and I was distracted by my 2011 Camino and Route 66 vacation (The best summer of my life so far), our China vacation in 2012 distracted me some more.  I was on the Camino for a second time during September in 2013. I thought all was going to be ok so I kind of forgot about 9-11.  Boy, was I wrong.

Here are links to the other 9-11 posts:

  • 2006 - R*E*M*E*M*B*E*R:  Only five years after 9-11 and I was already lamenting the sacrifice of liberty for security.
  • 2007 - Book: Jim Dwyer and Kevin Flynn's 102 Minutes:  I remembered by reviewing a book on 9-11 and thinking of the sacrifice of those who lost their lives.
  • 2015 - Remember The Fallen:  It took eight years but the disappointment began to show itself as the Obama era ended and the decline of our society began in earnest.
  • 2016 - A Line Of Fear:  It took a while but I finally realized that Osama Bin Laden had actually won.
  • 2017 - A Couple Words Regarding 9-11: What more was there to say?  So sad.
  • 2018 - Seventeen Years Ago Today …:  Despair … that is what I hear when I read this post.
  • 2020 - Another Year Of 'Winning':  Sixty-four 9-11s, and a few more since then.  From the crumbling of the towers to the potential crumbling of Democracy … 2020 was a crappy year

During the Obama years I forgot about 9-11. A lot of us did. The younger generation has no memories of the circling of the wagons that happened right after the attacks. That feeling of we are in this together faded too quickly and it was replaced with a fear stoked by political entities for their own power hungry motivations.

Look at us now. Our democracy and our liberties are fading like the memories of the falling towers. We are in the dumbest of timelines and we can't even come together to save ourselves. All I can do is bow my head in sorrow and lament all that has been lost.

Wednesday, September 08, 2021

Nearly Two Years Of Listening To The World On Delay

I've mentioned before that I like to listen to podcasts.  I listen to them mostly when I'm doing chores around the house.  I usually keep up with the new episodes but when I hiked the Appalachian Trail the episodes piled up (I don't like listening to music/podcasts when I hike in nature since I want to hear the forest around me but many hikers listened to podcasts as they hiked the trail).

When I got home I looked at my podcast list and saw I had over one hundred twenty hours worth of podcasts.  I had a choice.  I could delete the episodes and start listening with the current episodes or I could listen to the accumulated episodes and catch up to the present.  I decided to listen to them all.

I found the best time to listen for me was before I went to bed.  This was also the time when I usually read.  Reading was put on indefinite hold while I tried to catch up.  It would take more than a hundred and twenty hours since new episodes where being downloaded every week.  From October 2019 through last week I worked my way through All the episodes only taking a short break in 2020 to read the "Testaments", the only book I read in 2020.

Last week I finally caught up to the present.  It was strange reliving the nearly two years of the pandemic on a delay.  It was interesting to see the optimism early on when people figured we would beat this quickly.  Few people anticipated just how stupid of a timeline we live in.

So today I reupped my library card.  I am reading again.  I've enjoyed all the podcast episodes I've listened to and have enjoyed the experience but I have missed reading a good book.  Old friends ... I'm back ... take me away to places of wonder.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Photographs: Faces

These faces are on, of all things, a parking structure in the Benson area of Omaha:


Sunday, August 22, 2021

Chillin' ... Once Again.

Well, it was bound to happen and it isn't like we didn't see it coming.  For the past few years in the spring, either during a regular spring inspection or a loss of cold air coming out of our registers, we have had to add two pounds of coolant to our air conditioner (AC).  Last May two pounds were added like clockwork.  The technician would always say that it was a slow leak and it would cost too much to fix it.

Just over two weeks ago we lost our cold air again.  The technician added another pound of coolant.  This lasted until this week.  We lost cold air again and this time the technician has to add three pounds.  The writing was on the wall.  The small leak had become a large leak.

The same day of this diagnosis I contacted an AC dealer (a graduate of the school the Wife teaches at) and got an estimate for replacing not only our AC but also our furnace.  Both were original to the house and the serial numbers of the units said it all - 1997.  Twenty-four years is a long time for a furnace and AC.  To our surprise the installers came the next day (less than twenty-four hours after getting the estimate) and replaced both units.

Now we have a quiet and more efficient running AC, a more efficient multi-stage furnace with a better humidifier, and a WiFi enabled thermostat.  While the AC and furnace will have a bigger impact on our comfort, being able to ask my phone what the temperature is in the house and being able to set it simply by talking to my phone makes my inner-geek so happy.

We replaced our garage door in the spring.  The next thing to change are the windows ... they've been on order since February-March but, you know, COVID-19.  Hoping to have them installed in October.  Our wallet weeps ... but that is the burden of a homeowner.

Friday, August 13, 2021


Last weekend we had storms come through and for the first time in my memory the downtown area of Omaha was subject to flash flooding.  Some of you may have heard about the flooded elevator that made the national news.  Today I walked downtown in the area that was flooding.  Clean up is continuing including at an art gallery in the area.  There was mud everywhere.  Then I saw just how deep the water had been:

The water and mud line from last weekend's storm.
I knew there was water in basements (where the elevator flooded).  I never realized the water was that deep on the streets outside.  Crazy weather we're having.

Sunday, August 08, 2021

A Visitor At Our Window

 Noticed this the other day:

A wasp holding ... something.

A different view.

Not sure what it has in it's mouth.  It was round and green.  Looked like a part of a plant but I have no idea what it is.  Maybe a larva?

Monday, August 02, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Magnet Edition

As usual the Wife and I went overboard on the travel magnets on this vacation.  Our pent up demand resulted in the acquisition of twenty-nine magnets during our travels of the Southeastern United States.  A couple of the magnets were late additions to my Appalachian Trail magnets.  I've added all the magnets to the Travel Magnets tab above.

Here are a few of my favorites:

The Biltmore Estate.

The Hunley ... the explosive booming the lower left should be on the upper left.

Love the colors of this Charleston Magnet.

A famous icon of Savannah.

The Memorial to Peace and Justice.

An Art Deco Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald museum magnet.

My favorite is the three dimensional model of the Appalachian Trail I bought in Shenandoah national park:

A three dimensional model of the Appalachian Trail.

Friday, July 23, 2021

How To Fix The Olympic Games

Every two years, more or less, I plant myself in front of the television and watch the best of world athletic competition.  The Olympics is one of the few sporting events I watch.  I guess I enjoy the individual triumphs more than the team successes more commonly seen in sports.  But the Olympics have problems.  The primary problem is they are so expensive to host.

Hosting the Olympic games is expensive.  Billions of dollars are spent building venues, housing the athletes and the spectators.  Infrastructure has to be improved and the area around the games are often beautified at the expense of the local residents.  The cost is getting so high that some bids to host have been withdrawn after public outcry.  The games are becoming an economic superpowers only club in terms of hosting the events.  I think this hurts the spirit of the games.

This is just my two cents and I doubt it will be seen by more than a handful of people but here is my solution: Divide up the games  amongst several nations.  The Olympic games are already sort of divided up: Swimming, gymnastics, track & field, field games like soccer.  I propose dividing up the games by these event categories and have nations bid to host a category.  This would make it much more affordable to smaller countries to host part of the games.  An example, South Africa could never host the entire Olympic games without going into massive soul crushing debt but they could host the soccer portion since they already successfully hosted a World Cup in 2010.

Dividing the games up over several nations would bring more internationalism back into the game.  More nations would be invested in seeing a successful Olympic games and they would do it without incurring much hardship.  Also, in the age of COVID, if the games were divided up the chance of the entire Olympic games having to be cancelled due to disease or disaster would be reduced and the risk more spread out.

The only downside would be the lack of opening and closing ceremonies involving all the athletes.  Perhaps another way to open and close the games that would include all participating nations could be worked out.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Monday, July 19, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 13 And Epilogue

Our last day of our summer travels was a combination of civil rights and literature.  We got up early, checked out of our hotel, and headed up Highway 80 to Selma, AL.  This is the route taken by Civil Rights marchers in 1965.  The route is designated the Selma to Montgomery National Historic Trail.  Along the route there were camp markers where the marchers spent the night on the way to Montgomery.  The National Historic Trail visitor's center was unfortunately closed due to COVID when we stopped.

The Edmund Pettus bridge.
We reached Selma where we went to a Mr. Waffle for breakfast.  From there we were pleasantly surprised to see the Edmund Pettus Bridge visitor's center was open.  We walked through the modest but moving museum and bought magnets before we walked across the bridge named for a senior officer of the Confederate Army who would become a Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.  It is where Civil Rights marchers, including John Lewis, were beaten as they tried to march over the bridge on the way to Montgomery.

The plaque on the bridge.
We stopped at a gift shop on the other side of the bridge to purchase magnets.  There is a National Voting Rights museum across the street but it appeared closed and a bit run down … which seems a bit symbolic of of how our country's voting rights are heading at the moment.

The Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.
(Picture taken by the Wife.)
We returned to Montgomery and stopped at the Scott & Zelda Fitzgerald Museum and house.  The Fitzgerald's moved around seasonally and this house was one they lived in in 1931-1932.  The museum was well done and showcased their writing, Zelda's art, and their lives and correspondence.  The really cool part is that the top floor house is an airbnb and we spent the night in the house for our last night in Montgomery.

The sitting room in the F. Scott Fitzgerald room.
The next two days were just driving through Alabama, Tennessee, Kentucky (Where we saw the largest Confederate flag flying in a public area), Missouri, on the way home.  Our roadtrip was 15 days long and covered around three thousand and nine hundred miles.  It did not come close to covering all the history in the area but I think there is only so much of the sordid southern history one can take at a time.  We will probably go back someday to visit a few more spots we skipped this time but I'm not sure it will be anytime soon.  This was a good trip but it was taxing emotionally and it just proved that this country has a long ways to go.

Monday, July 12, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 12

Today was going to be a somber day.  We were going to visit three places connected to civil rights struggles and the systemic racism the black people have endured over too many years.

Jars of soil collected at sites of racial terrorism.
The first stop was the Legacy Museum.  The museum covers the injustices starting with enslavement, through Jim Crow and lynchings, to mass incarcerations.  Most of the displays were based on first hand experience and testament of those who suffered.  It was a moving and sadly depressing history that too many are trying to erase.

The National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
From there we visited the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.  This memorial, opened in 2018, is often deferred to as the lynching museum.  A good memorial should stir feeling in those who see it and this one does just that.  Metal boxes engraved with the names of people lynched are suspended from the roof.  Rows upon rows of rusting boxes, thousands of victims of racial terrorism.  It is hard to visit this place and not feel emotional.  Sadly the amount of security I noticed around the memorial suggests the the emotions stirred by the memorial are mixed in our divided nation.

The hanging boxes engraved with the names of the dead.
Duplicates of the six-footer boxes are laid out beside the memorial in order of state and county allowing for a closer look at the names and numbers. The sides of the memorial are open to the weather so the hanging boxes along the edges will get wet when it rains.  Over time the runoff will leave red rust stains running down the concrete like blood.  The memorial will just become more compelling over time.

The rather modest Civil Rights Memorial.
Our last stop of the day was the Civil Rights Memorial.  The center connected to the memorial is temporarily closed but the memorial itself is outside and accessible.  It is a rather modest memorial displaying highlights of the civil Rights struggle.  Across the street was a simple painted memorial to Congressman John Lewis.

This was a tough day but it was also another highlight for this year's travels.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.

Friday, July 09, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 11

Before tackling Montgomery we headed to another literary town, Monroeville, AL.  Monroeville is the birthplace of Harper Lee and Truman Capote.

We got to town a bit early for thing to be open so we decided to rearrange a few things.  First we went to the cemetery to pay our respects to Harper Lee.  Next we drove by Truman Capote's childhood home which, sadly, no longer exists but there is a marker on the site.

The courtroom the movie set was based on.
We parked near the courthouse that was used as a model for "To Kill a Mockingbird" and explored an antique store nearby before walking to a nearby diner for lunch.

Literature is important one Monroeville.
By the time we finished our excellent lunch we went to the courthouse which is now the Old Courthouse Museum dedicated Monroeville history, Lee, and Capote.  In Alabama the masks went back on for any indoor space.  The museum was self guided and included lawyer offices, the courtroom that was used as inspiration for the movie (The movie courtroom was built on a set), and exhibits covering Harper Lee and Truman Capote.  It was a nice setup and we both thought Monroeville seemed like a nice town.  We ended the visit with some ice cream.

A Rosa Parks Statue in the museum lobby.
Not sure they meant the "Please Do Not Sit" sign was supposed to be ironic.
The next stop for the day was in Montgomery, AL.  The Rosa Parks Museum covered Rosa Parks and the bus boycott that helped move civil rights forward in America.  It was a well done exhibit but did not allow photography.

Tomorrow we will continue to explore the civil Rights movement in Montgomery.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.

Tuesday, July 06, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 10

We left Savannah and headed northwest.  While we couldn't visit Flannery O'Connor's childhood home we would visit her farm, Andalusia, near Milledgeville, GA.

Flannery O'Connors home at Andalusia Farm.
Flannery O'Connor wrote in a farmhouse, living with her overbearing mother, until she lost her life to lupus.  The house is full of the period furniture.  It felt very much like a typical farmhouse.  Flannery's room had her typewriter next to her bed so she could lay down when the lupus was having the best of her.  The house has a sad feeling.

Flannery's favorite birds: Peacocks
Along with the house there are several outbuildings including pens holding a pair of Peacocks.  Flannery was a bird lover and peacocks were her favorite.

We left the farm (they are in the process of adding a visitor's center) past the cop car who may have been on a stakeout of the hotel across the street, and drove to the cemetery where Flannery was buried to pay out respects.

The second stop for the day was a dark piece of Civil War history, Andersonville.  Andersonville was the infamous Confederate prison of war camp where thirteen thousand prisoners died during the Civil War.  The National Historical Site consists of the camp, a Prisoner of War museum, and a national cemetery.

We visited the museum first.  It was a fairly comprehensive history of how prisoners of war from all US involved wars were treated.  Sadly, this story was also sanitized to some extent.  In one section showing how US Troops were mistreated after being captured reminded me a lot of how many were mistreated in Iraq and Afghanistan by their US captors.  These stories were conveniently left out.  America is a country afraid to learn from its mistakes.

Rows upon row upon rows.
We visited the cemetery next.  The rows and rows of stones were a sobering reminder of the horrors of war.  We checked but there are no Nebraskans in the cemetery.  This makes sense since Nebraska was still a territory during the Civil War and few fought and even fewer were trusted by the Union.

The rows just go on.
We finished the visit with a drive around the field where the prison camp once stood.  The most notable thing was the lack of trees.  Prisoners were exposed to the elements and the hot Georgian sun which contributed to the number of deaths.

On that sobering note we headed west to our next destination.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.

Thursday, July 01, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Days 8 And 9

We got up early, the first in a week I think.  We really slept in a lot this vacation which was very welcome.  We headed south to our next destination, Savannah, GA.

The truth be told, we really didn't have any concrete plans for Savannah.  Since we didn't have anything big like the Hunley or Fort Sumter we decided to do what we did in our Canadian train trip and ride the hop on hop off trolly.  Riding the trolly would give us the lay of the land and show us what Savannah has to offer.

The Basilica stained glass.
Savannah is a beautiful city with historic buildings and streets lined with spanish moss draped trees.  The historic portion of the city is built around 22 squares.  There were once 24 squares but some were lost to development. The city is currently reclaiming one of the lost squares so it can be restored.

A statue dedicated to a black Haitien regiment who fought in the Civil War.
Our trolly tour was narrated by a docent in historic costume and, at random stops along the route other costumed characters would board the trolly to explain part of the city's history.  It was interesting but, once again, it was a bit whitewashed and fixated on death (The trolly company does haunted tours which bled over into the standard tour a bit).

After doing the full two hour loop we stayed on and returned to a square next to a Catholic basilica and the childhood home of Flannery O'Connor.  The Flannery house was closed when we got there.  It appears that COVID did a number on a lot of the museum's and historic homes in Savannah.  The Wife called a number and sent an email to an address on a sign outside the house hoping to set up a tour of the house but she never received an answer.

After that disappointment we went into the lovely Catholic Church and cooled off a bit before getting back on the trolly and heading for another landmark, Leopold's Ice Cream shop.  Unfortunately we misread where it was and got off at the wrong trolly stop.  We decided to walk the eight blocks or so to the shop.  By the time we got there we were hot and sweaty and we were greeted by a long line snaking outside Leopold's.  We stood in line for ten or fifteen minutes before giving up.  It was too hot and the line was moving too slow.  We walked to the nearest trolly (the one we should have gotten off at) and road the trolly back to where our car was parked.  Not a very satisfying day so far.

The Chandler Oak, here since the 1700s, draped in spanish moss.
We checked into our hotel which was close to a trolly stop and the city market area.  We walked down to the city market and looked for a place to eat.  There were fewer places here than we expected.  We finally settled on a cafe/bar that actually had good food.  The rest of the city market was a bit underwhelming.  It was very small, just two blocks, and lacked character.
The famous Forsyth Park fountain.
On day nine we were going back to a couple places along the trolly route.  The first was Forsyth Park. The park was a nice place to walk despite of the large Confederate soldier memorial.  The memorial was balanced in the park by a large fountain.  A lot of people were out in the park today and it was nice seeing people out and about.  The park was full of trees covered in Spanish moss, a type of bromeliad.  Across the street from the park a large and very old tree called the Chandler Oak Tree stands in front of what once was a hospital.  The tree has been here since the 1700s.

The Waving Girl of Savannah.
We got back on the trolley and headed for River Street.  This street is lined with restaurants and souvenir shops.  Very touristy but a good place to procure magnets.  There were also statues dedicated to enslaved families and Florence Martus (the waving girl).

It was along here that we encountered our first mask required visitor's center.  Until then masks had been optional and were rarely seen.

We returned to the hotel, cooled off a bit, then ended up going back to the same restaurant we'd eaten at the day before.  There were plenty of restaurants in the Savannah historic district but they were all a bit ... froo-froo for us.

We came into Savannah with low expectations and that's what we got.  The place felt older as opposed to Charleston which attracted a younger crowd.  Sometime when we go into a place cold like this we find something that pleasantly surprises us.  Savannah had few surprises.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Part Of Day 6 And Day 7

After visiting the Hunley we headed back to the market district of Charleston.  Ruling out a walking tour due to humidity we decided to substitute a horse drawn carriage tour instead.  We were a little early so we had an ice cream lunch (Chocolate and Banana Pudding for those wondering) while we waited.

A garden from one of the one hundred thirty churches in Charleston.
The carriage held sixteen people and took us through various historic parts of downtown Charleston.  The Wife and I both registered the lack of African-American history in the driver's descriptions.  Good parts were emphasized and bad parts were glossed over.  It was a very sanitized history of Charleston.  The most controversial thing on the tour were the college students yelling "Ride a bike" at us as they passed the carriage.

A gate make by Philip Simmons, a renown blacksmith.
Our last stop of the day was the Old Exchange and Provost Dungeon which had been recommended to us by a couple we'd met at the Hunley.  The tour was through the basement ("Dungeon") of the exchange building where trade goods once flowed in and out and, as the name suggests, held prisoners.  The interesting thing is how far the Exchange building is from the water.  Over the years land was reclaimed resulting in the coast being pushed back a couple blocks from where it once was.  The basement was inhabited by poorly made mannequins which gave everything a cheesy feel.  The docent in period costume talked of the history and how the African-Americans were enslaved by other Africans.  How he did this with a straight face while standing next to an African-American family is beyond me.

Inside the Charleston Gaillard Center.
On the seventh day we decided to risk a walking tour and met with Franklin Williams, the guide of Frankly Charleston African-American tours.  This morning we were the only ones with Frank.  The tour was a casual walking tour that took us to various locations important to the African-American history of Charleston.  We clicked with Frank right away.  He filled in the blanks that we'd seen the day before.  He came across as honest and truly caring about getting the truth out there.  We all had a laugh as we compared the sanitized history we'd heard the day before with the grittier side that Frank showed us.

A little literary history for lunch.
(Picture taken by the Wife)
After the tour (which we survived despite the humidity) we headed just outside of Charleston to a restaurant recommended by one of the Wife's students.  Poe's Tavern was exactly the type of restaurant we liked.  Good food and good atmosphere.

The Aiken-Rhett House with the enslave quarters,
kitchen, and stables along the sides.
Back in Charleston we headed to the Aiken-Rhett House that had been recommended to us by Frank.  The house and adjoining enslaved quarters are now a museum.  Unlike other museums that gloss over the enslaved, this self guided audio tour is honest and includes the lives of the enslaved using their actual names.  You hear about their lives and the lives of the house owners in an unvarnished way that was quite refreshing.

A Joggling Board.
These last couple days were very interesting.  It is hard to find honesty and truth.  We were reminded of the undercurrents of racism as we visited the Mother Emanuel AME Church where nine African-Americans engaged in Bible study were murdered.  People just want to forget the indiscretions of the past but if we forget them, how are we supposed to learn from them and improve ourselves? 

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.

Friday, June 25, 2021

The Great Getting Out Of The House Southeast USA Vacation Of 2021 - Day 5 And Part Of Day 6

On day five we drove into Charleston, SC.  We were spending three nights here exploring history mostly.  We stopped at our hotel, dropped off out bags since we were too early to check in, and headed to Liberty Square where we would catch our boat ride to Fort Sumter.

Fort Sumter where the Civil War started.
The first thing we noticed after getting out of our car was the humidity.  Neither of us expected it to be so hot and humid in June.  I thought this was more July and August weather.  We went to the Fort Sumter park headquarters, bought our tickets, and explored the small museum as we waited to get on our boat.

You can see the red mark on the flagpole that marks
the height of the walls before bombardment.
The boat ride was short one providing views of the Arthur Ravenel Jr. Bridge and the USS Yorktown aircraft carrier (now a museum).  As we approached the fort we were given a brief historical lecture about what happened on the island.  A red mark on the flagpole was pointed out.  This mark was the original height of the fort walls. The pounding the fort received first from the Confederates and then by the Union forces had reduced much of the fort to rubble.

An unexploded shell embedded in the inside wall of the fort.
We got off our boat and explored the fort seeing the canons, the shells embedded in the walls and the fingerprints of the enslaved people who made the bricks the fort was made of.  Seeing these things helped make the Civil War more real.

The three indentations are fingerprints of enslaved workers who made the brick.
After touring the fort the boat returned us to the mainland.  It was lunchtime and our plans were to leave the car where we'd parked it and walk to a place for lunch before heading in search of a walking tour of Charleston.  It didn't take long for us to discover the issue with that plan.  In the four to five blocks we walked to the restaurant we were drenched in sweat and very hot.  It was obvious that a walking tour was no longer in the plan.  We sat in the bar and ordered food while we cooled off.

We finished our lunch and headed south to where the walking tours started.  We never got there as the heat and humidity reasserted itself.  Instead we walked through the historic Charleston City Market.  We both came to the conclusion that the market was … underwhelming.  We saw nothing worth buying and things were overpriced.  We left the market and headed … slowly … stopping frequently … back to our car.  Our hotel picked by the Wife was in the perfect place to walk to everything.  In the end, we walked nowhere.

The USS Hunley submerged in water to help preserve the wreckage.
On day six, after a breakfast at our first Waffle House, we headed to north Charleston to visit the USS Hunley exhibit.  The Hunley, a civil war era Confederate submarine, was the first to ever sink a ship.  The Hunley disappeared after it sunk the ship and was not found until 1995 by a group financed by Clive Cussler, the author.  This was a very well put together presentation given by an enthusiastic docent and I would have to say the Hunley was one of the highlights of this trip.  The tours are held on the weekends so that archeologist can work on the submarine during the week.  During the weekend the wreckage is submerged in water and other chemicals to help leach out the salt and slow the degradation of the submarine.

Lt Dixon's coin recovered from the Hunley.
One story that has been confirmed by the archaeologist is the story of Lieutenant George E. Dixon who commanded the final voyage of the Hunley.  It was said he carried a gold coin given to him by a young lady.  During an earlier battle he was hit and the coin, bent by the ball, saved his leg and possibly his life.  While examining the ruins of the ship the coin was found and the story was confirmed.

The final resting place for the last crew of the Hunley.
(The only appropriate place for the Confederate flag in my opinion.)
No one knows for sure how the crew on the Hunley were killed.  The one I think is most likely is that the shockwave of the torpedo (actually an explosive attached to the end of a pole connected to the front of the submarine) killed the crew instantly.  In the end the Hunley's successful sinking of a ship was a suicide mission.  The remains of all eight who died that day were recovered and, in 2004, given a burial with honors and a four mile long precession.  After visiting the Hunley we visited their graves.

This afternoon we would see one side of Charleston's history.

Photos can be found in my 2021-06 Southeast USA Google Photos album.