Travel

Moving on…

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Thinking we’d like to be in a blue area for election day, we headed from Indiana to Washington DC on November 2. On the evening of November 3 (also Bob’s birthday) we stayed glued to our television. It turned out just as we had anticipated; no results on election night. I found myself getting up every couple of hours to check the results on my phone, and while it appeared we were headed for a positive result, it was far from over. We tend to be political junkies and consequently, found ourselves continuously switching between MSNBC and CNN for the next 72 hours. We decided the gene must have passed on to the next generation when our son, Stephen, sent us a video of our grandchildren parading through their neighborhood.

As we left DC early on Saturday, November 7, we were horrified to see so many storefronts boarded up downtown. On the other hand, we were relieved that all seemed quiet, and we hoped it would continue when the results were all tabulated. About six hours into our journey, Biden was declared the winner and jubilation was felt throughout DC. (Little did we dream what was ahead!)

We had decided to spend the winter back in Port Charlotte, Florida, waiting until the end of January to make further plans not knowing what to expect from Covid. On top of the pandemic and a very contentious election, the hurricane season had been a record breaker. Not only was Tropical Storm Eta set to deluge the Port Charlotte area but it appeared that it was going to cross the peninsula just as we were headed down. We’d never spent much time in Atlanta so we thought now might be the time to explore the city before moving further southward.

Always thinking about Covid and wanting to stay safe, we only considered activities we could do outside, masked while observing social distancing. While the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library was closed, it was still a pretty place to wander the grounds. We look forward to returning and touring the library.

Martin Luther King National Historical Park takes in a whole neighborhood. Here we saw the home where he was born and also Ebenezer Baptist Church. This is the church where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was baptized, ordained and also served with his father, Martin Luther King, Senior. It is also interesting that this is the church where Raphael Warnock served until recently being elected as one of the new Georgia senators. (An event that hadn’t yet occurred as we walked through the area.)

Our Airbnb was in Roswell, Georgia, just north of Atlanta. The area has many antebellum homes. The one building that struck me most interesting was Bulloch Hall. The building was built by James Bulloch who made his money in cotton and was the father of Martha Bulloch who married Theodore Roosevelt, Sr in 1853. Martha Bulloch Roosevelt was the mother of the 26th president and also the mother of Elliot Roosevelt who was the father of Eleanor Roosevelt.

After a few days in Atlanta it appeared the coast was clear and we continued on to Florida. Here we were again in a familiar home with a wonderful lanai and pool. We truly spend as much time outside as we do inside when we stay here We also particularly enjoy our friends, Bob and Art, who we’ve rented from on four occasions. Days became routine and I spent a lot of time on jigsaw puzzles, baking and knitting projects. I also continued my efforts writing postards for the Georgia senate campaigns. In spite of the lockdown, time continued to fly by.

We also enjoy all the birds we see: ibis, egrets (although I always confuse these two). Turkey vultures really do look like turkeys. And I used to think pileated woodpeckers were unusual, but we’ve seen them on several occasions in Florida.

Like most others, Christmas was different for us this year. We usually meet up with parts of our family and often in destination locations. One more “unnormal” 2020 occasion. Everyone was staying put. We did manage to meet up with Patrick. We weren’t comfortable with him flying so we drove to DC to pick him up. (It’s not like we had a booked social calendar!) Bob and I stayed right downtown DC and went for a walk along Black Lives Matter Plaza before heading back to Florida with Pat the next morning. We took two days driving up and two days driving back. We had limited contact with folks, ordering meals in at our hotels and only stopping along the road for gas. Truly one of the positives about Covid for us is having more time to spend with some of our kids.

Lake Okeechobee is about a two hour drive east from Port Charlotte so we decided to drive over on a cool weekend to check it out. The lake is the largest freshwater lake in Florida and according to Wikipedia, the eighth largest in the country. Two devasting hurricanes in the area in the 1920’s resulted in horrendous storm surges that killed hundreds of people. There are now more than 200 miles of levees that the Army Corps of Engineers built to protect the area. Because of these levees, the lake isn’t usually visible as you drive around it. But where there were wayside parks we pulled off to enjoy. This is also a very different part of the Florida. While it’s not far from the touristy spots, it’s very much an agricultural area with lots of sugar cane and the factories that process it. We learned that 50% of the sugar in the US comes from Florida with most of it grown around the southern tip of Lake Okeechobee. The sunset on our drive back west was gorgeous!

We had read online that Saturn and Jupiter would be visible to the naked eye for several nights. We were amazed that we could actually see them from our driveway.

Soon it was the end of January and we said goodbye to Port Charlotte and started our journey to San Antonio, Texas. We had been there a couple of times before but never for an extended stay. It won’t be quite as warm as Florida but hopefully won’t be too cold. We had several things we wanted to see along the way.

Montgomery, Alabama, was not on our direct route west. We had visited many of the historic civil rights sites there more than thirty years ago. But now not knowing when, if ever, we’d return to this area there was a memorial I wanted to see. The National Memorial for Justice and Peace (informally known as the Lynching Memorial) was opened in 2018. More than 4400 lynchings took place, mostly in the South, from 1877 and 1950.

The memorial took my breath away. On a grassy knoll not far from the entrance, the memorial consists of 800 steel monuments, each in the shape of a rectangular casket, each representing a specific county. On each monument is listed the name of the county and state and the names of those who were hanged along with the date the lynching took place. Many have no names but are listed simply as, “Unknown.” As I walked among the individual monuments, I couldn’t begin to imagine the terror with which people of color lived their daily lives. There are many plaques describing the insignificance of the accusations that led to the victims’ murders along with various sculptures throughout the memorial both which add to the memorial’s poignancy. The project was constructed on six acres in the same neighborhood where the Montgomery Bus Boycott began.

Before leaving Montgomery we wanted to see Dexter Baptist Church. This is where Dr. Martin Luther King began his first fulltime pastorship. Dr, King was pastor here during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. He insisted all his parishoners become registered voters and members of the NAACP. Dr. King remained at this church until 1959 when he joined his father as pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta.

While we had been there once before we decided we would continue our travel through Selma so we could cross the Edmond Pettus Bridge. There’s a certain irony that the bridge that is so synomous with the civil rights movement is named after a man who was a champion of the confederate cause and slavery and served as the Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan in Alabama.

Leaving Selma and heading to New Orleans we crossed Mississippi, a state we’d been in a few times before but always on the interstate. This time we were going over some back roads before we met up with the main highway. As we travel, we’re always looking to learn facts about the state: what are its biggest cities, and how does the state’s area rank in comparison with the other 49.

We learned in our search about Mississippi that it’s the only state in the union not to have an open container law. And if that weren’t unusual enough, it’s also legal for the driver to be drinking. She just has to remember that her blood alcohol has to be under .08 legal limit. (A fact that made us wonder how one goes about checking that as she’s driving.) Evidently it’s also common to measure distances in beers. For instance, how far is it from Jackson to the Gulf? Answer: About six beers. Some people argue they need the law because many folks want to have a beer on their way home after a long day of work! The article I read said that Mississippi has an unusually high rate of alcohol-related fatalities. REALLY?

New Orleans was our next stop. We splurged on a night in a fancy hotel in the French Quarter. At the end of the hall on our floor was a really nice outdoor terrace. It was absolutely huge and there were only two other couples out there. Both really far away from us. A great place to converse with a beer, enjoy the view and feel perfectly safe!

Sunday morning we checked out Jackson Square and while there were people out, it was never crowded. We had hesitations about eating at an outdoor cafe because of the close proximity with walkers but we found the Cafe Pontalba that had open windows from ceiling to ground. (Check out the picture below. The cafe is the left side of the last photo.) The table felt like being outside but was removed from the people. After lunch we stopped to get a bag of beignets for the road and were on our way westward.

On the way out of town we drove past the Super Dome. Then we headed across the Lake Ponchartrain Causeway, the longest bridge in the world. We read that it’s so long (more than 24 miles) that for 8 miles in either direction you can’t see land. We didn’t think that was the case as we crossed perhaps because it was such a beautful clear day. I don’t think I’d want to cross it on a stormy day!

The drive from New Orleans to San Antonio is about 540 miles. It was early afternoon and we hoped to make it into Texas before stopping for the night. As we passed Baton Rouge, we got a good view of the capitol from the interstate.

Early the next afternoon we arrived in San Antonio. Our Airbnb is in the historic King William neighborhood not far from downtown and with a great front porch complete with a view of the Tower of the Americas which was built for the San Antonio World’s Fair HemisFair 68. We’re impressed with how nearly everyone we see is masked. And we had great Tex Mex take out for our first night here. We look forward to exploring the area.

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