Friday, May 18, 2018

The adventure cometh ...

We headed out at a reasonably early hour and headed back home, stopping for some lunch at the same Cracker Barrel we had stopped at on the way up. We thought we'd made it through a whole trip without any 'adventures' as our mishaps have come to be called.

Traffic wasn't bad, just a pleasant Sunday drive, with me following Geoff in the Wolf as we'd done on the way up. And then ... a white rectangle comes flying at me in the Outback. I ducked (mentally anyway) and the thing landed on the highway in front of me and I ran over it. No, the car wasn't damaged.

I thought about this for a moment and asked Geoffrey if he thought it had come from Wolf. (We were using our communications gear so we could talk to each other on the trip up and back.) He hadn't a clue what I was talking about so when traffic allowed, I pulled alongside the drivers side of Wolf ... uh oh! There is the refrigerator access area ... with NO cover! It was totally missing and clearly the white rectangle that flew at me was the outside access hatch to the refrigerator.

Other than that we arrived home in good order and pulled up across the bottom of the drive to unload PoGoGo and the stuff in the frig and then I followed Geoff down to Wolf's den where we found the ever attentive folks there had put in a higher back pole so Geoff could see where he was parking!

The next day was a Monday and we headed for our local Camping World, reporting our adventure. The last people in that hatch would have been the work they had done on it shortly before our departure so we'll see what happens when it comes to payment although it looks like we won't be charged for the replacement.

Fortunately, they had one in stock or at least readily available and Wolf is resting at Camping Ground, a second home for him I think, while they paint and install the replacement cover. While they are at it we are having bug covers added to the horizontal slots in the hatch cover and new windshield wiper blades installed.

Rest & Refit

Well, our trip to Georgia is almost over. We've scheduled this last day to relax, tidy up and prepare for the return trip as well as to review any problems or things we had missed before we go on our longer trip to Ohio, Pennsylvania and elsewhere.

The biggest job was installing PoGoGo on its new carrier. It had ridden from home to Georgia and all week in the rear of the Outback so we could have it at the various locations and except at the Wild Animal Safari it had proven very useful. We didn't even try to use it at the Safari as I had visions of monkeys jumping all over it.

Now we needed to move it from the rear of the Outback to the new carrier installed on the back of Wolf.The first carrier we had was just a metal grid platform but it had become harder for us to lift it on and off the carrier so we got a new one that had ramps on one side that would fold down to roll PoGoGo on and off as needed. When empty, the carrier and ramps fold up compactly against the rear of Wolf.

During our week at Lake Pines RV Park, we had parked the Outback in front of Wolf so now we needed to lift PoGoGo out of there and roll it over to the rear of Wolf. The Outback is just out of sight at the front of Wolf in the photo to the right. So, up over the lawn, over the concrete pad where the picnic table is and back to the rear of Wolf.

The only drawback we discovered was when the fire ants in the vicinity of the picnic table discovered me! I managed to get rid of them after only two bites but even days later those two bites still took severe itching burning spells!

Once we got PoGoGo rolled up on to the carrier all we had to do was remove the battery and store it inside Wolf. This time, as we often will, we also removed the front basket and the seat so it would fold up even lower for this first run back to St Augustine.

With PoGoGo settled into its new traveling position, we bagged up what needs to go in the house and put it in the car including our laundry. Some stuff we might ordinarily remove stayed in Wolf for our next trip in just a few weeks.

We had dinner at Mark's City Grill again. This time I had the Bangkok Shrimp appetizer with a side of rice for my dinner. I forgot to have them leave the greens behind but at least they aren't too hard to remove. One of my favorite meals here in St Augustine is to have Bang Bang Shrimp at Ned's Southside Kitchen and the Bangkok Shrimp appetizer is a whole lot like it. The dish at Ned's is an entree and has vegetables. The appetizer at Mark's does not but I must say that the side dish I had of rice is the best rice, plain as it comes, that I have ever had, light and fluffy and not at all sticky!

And, as an odd side note, one of the TV's while we were at Mark's  showed a short blurb saying that fossils show Ice Age hunters in New Mexico tracking an extinct giant sloth. A tantalizing bit of information which I followed up on at Google when we got home!

National Infantry Museum

We arrived at the National Infantry Museum mid to late morning. There's scads of parking spaces and the handicapped parking isn't too far from the entrance, well at least in relation to the other spaces. I don't think I have mentioned it before but we had brought PoGoGo with us for this trip and having it at the Naval Museum and Andersonville was great. Anyway, we unloaded it and off I scooted to the museum.

This museum is located at Fort Benning and they often have graduations for the soldiers and other special events. It appeared that they had one of the graduations that morning. I think they call it Turning Blue when the newly qualified infantryman get their light blue infantry cords around their right shoulders after about sixteen weeks of training.

The entrance is impressive and leads into a large lobby area which I am sure is necessary with the sheer numbers of people sometimes. The museum is free but donations are welcome and the day we were there volunteers were handing out uniformed AFLAC plush ducks which I later discovered would even say AFLAC when you squeeze it. It sounds a bit silly but I love my little AFLAC duckie and it does not let me forget the part the infantry has played in this country's history!

At the back of the lobby is a huge square column in an entryway to a section known as "The Last 100 Yards," a gently sloped ramp with life size scenes from important battles in infantry history beginning with Yorktown and continuing through Antietam, Soissons, Normandy, Corregidor, Soam-Ni and on through Vietnam and Iraq.

There is simply no way any photographs do these scenes justice and the way the combination of physical scene, lighting effects, and sounds come together is not only impressive but stirring. I was frankly stunned by the effect. I have no clue about how it is done but the change from one battle scene to another is dramatic and yet the transition is almost unnoticeable. Some parts of the "Last 100 Yards" scenes can be seen from the sides and above once you are in other parts of the museum.

The gallery at the rear of the "Last 100 Yards" follows recruits through the training process from their first haircut and has windows looking out on Inouye Field where the graduations take place and another views the World War II Company Street which Geoffrey later toured. From here you go down one floor (elevators are available) to galleries for different stages in infantry history.

Above the lobby are the Ranger Hall of Honor and, among other things, the Fife and Drum Restaurant where we went for lunch.  This place is better than what is available at most museums and such and we saw a lot of soldiers eating there.

After lunch, Geoffrey took the tour down to the outer areas including the WW2 street while I wandered around in the gift store, buying a Ft Benning ball cap of course, and eventually headed PoGoGo for the car where I relaxed with my Kindle. The tour takes a couple of hours and involves a good bit of on and off the vehicle and some walking around so I was happier just getting Geoffrey's report. Besides, this is Army stuff and my dad and grandfather were Marines!

Afterwards we managed to get lost (again!) but eventually made it back to Wolf. This has been an excellent week and the Civil War Naval Museum, Andersonville, and most especially this visit to the Infantry Museum have all been terrific. If you ever get to the area around Columbus, Georgia, please try to spend time at all three of these museums!

Monday, May 14, 2018

Andersonville and more ...

We drove an hour or so south through rolling mostly forested hills to Andersonville. Officially named Camp Sumter, the Confederate prisoner-of-war camp here has become notorious and synonymous with the worst in wartime imprisonment. This National Historic Site has become three fold ... partly about the historic camp and its prisoners, a national cemetery, but also, increasingly, a monument and museum for American prisoners in all wars.

The National Prisoner of War Museum here is powerful. It shows much of what it was like for our men in various wars. No matter how much we read about such imprisonment, seeing the actual size of the cages and rooms prisoners were kept in is far more impressive. The visual depictions of life as a prisoner of war are stunning and made a deeper impression on me than anything I have ever read.

The POW museum is much of what is available at the visitor center but follow that with the drive tour that winds around the Andersonville Prison area itself, again being presented with the actual space thousands of men occupied in tiny tents, the stockade fence they were surrounded with, the hillsides that sloped down to the swampy area of the tiny creek that was their source of water ... all make a solid impression greater than any words.

From there we drove around to the National Cemetery in which nearly 13,000 soldiers were buried in trenches during the 14 months the prison operated. The picture below shows how close the tombstones were placed as the bodies were put shoulder to shoulder in the trenches.

From Andersonville we headed for Providence Canyon, keeping an eye out for some where to have lunch. As we drove through Preston, Georgia, I couldn't help but see the mural shown below. Painted on the side of the business it definitely got my attention and coupled with a growling stomach, we stopped. Definitely local, home cooking in style, we enjoyed our stop for lunch.

Our next stop is often described as Georgia's Grand Canyon which intrigued me, having seen the Grand Canyon in Arizona. What interested me even more was when I read up on it ahead of time. This canyon is "the result of man-made changes in the environment. When farmers settled the area in the 1820's, they cleared forest and plowed their fields. They did not use strip cropping, terraces, and contour plowing but plowed straight down the hillsides. The rows became ditches then gullies. When the gullies cut through the more compact Clayton Formation to the unconsolidated Providence sands, erosion progressed rapidly. In a comparative short time, the force of flowing and creeping water formed Providence Canyon."

 Lest some of you are either concerned or at least wondering, Time was of course spent in the gift shops and caps were purchased at both Andersonville and Providence Canyon and, at the former, a small squirrel in a bin full of small stuffed animals just about shouted, "Me, me, buy me!" so I did. The canyon gift shop also had inexpensive honey straws, a regular size straw sealed at both ends and filled with honey which I had to try. Yummy! For future trips I might even get some for a simple quick snack but I guess I should first use up the packets of honey we have (she scribbles a note to self to bring those next time).

Lost and confused

Columbus is a nice city and I think once you know your route, probably not difficult to get around in but driving is confusing when you aren't used to it. The most extensive problem is sudden turn only lanes. Our GPS is not much help with this. Your route suddenly shrinks a lane and you are forced to turn right or in some cases left. That, or cut across traffic sometimes dangerously in order to stay in the straight ahead lane.

Re-reading the above it sounds as confusing as trying to get from one place to another. I think, that with practice and knowledge, it would not be that hard to get around in Columbus but unless they come up with better clearer markings on their turn lanes ... well, let's put it this way, we got to see parts of Columbus we never intended to!

We had gotten lost again trying to get to the restaurant and then from there back to Wolf. Our goal for what would be either a late lunch or an early dinner was Peluso's Italian Restaurant.

This place seems to be pretty much a standard strip mall restaurant but the portions were huge! Pictured here is the pasta platter that I chose and Geoff's lasagna platter was about the same. We each took home enough for another meal ... or more. The mushrooms were obviously canned and I think the peppers were something similar in the way of pre-prepared. But, about right for the price and place.

We were very glad to take the next day off and just sleep later, lay round doing little, maybe tidy up a bit, catch up on email, that sort of thing, including not trying to go anywhere except a quick trip to the local WalMart.

This is a short blog I guess but I didn't want to take away from the experience at the Naval Museum or cut into the day at Andersonville but really felt I needed to tell some about the confusing traffic! Of course Geoff just sat there patiently as generally speaking when it is the car, it is me driving and getting lost and confused. He simply has faith I will eventually get where we are going and probably not even crash us while I am at it!

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Rebel Navy

Tuesday's schedule has us headed for the south side of Columbus, near the Chattahoochee River, to visit the National Civil War Naval Museum. It used to be called the Confederate Naval Museum but in 2001 expanded to include the Civil War from a naval aspect for both the Union and Confederate sides. I think it is the only museum in the country that showcases both navies during the Late Great Unpleasantness, as some refer to it.

William Barker Cushing who is probably a distant connection of mine is part of the exhibits due to his being responsible for sinking the Confederate ironclad Albemarle in 1864. Other exhibits include the CSS Jackson and the wreckage of the CSS Chattahoochee, a replica of the USS Water Witch and the USS Hartford and a full scale replica of the USS Monitor's turret.

The original centerpiece of the museum is the CSS Jackson which was one of the largest ironclads built in the South. Originally known as the CSS Muscogee, all records after her launch refer to her as the Jackson. Although construction began in 1862, she was not launched until late 1864 and never seems to have been completely fitted out. When the Union captured Columbus, Georgia, in 1865, it was set ablaze and scuttled, resting on the bottom of the Chattahoochee for almost 100 years until it was raised in 1961.

Besides the pieces of the CSS Chattahoochee that have been recovered, there are other exhibits which not only explain the construction of the ship but also gives individual details about the people involved.

I found the re-creations of portions of the USS Hartford's berth deck, wardroom, and captain's cabin fascinating as it gave such a clear impression of what it was like on board including the fellow in surgery or something on the wardroom table!

WARD ROOM - USS Hartford
USS Monitor turret replica
It is simply not possible to describe all the visual and textual information presented at this museum which alone was worth the trip to Georgia.

Of course, before leaving I had to spend some time in the museum shop immediately finding the cutest little CSA teddy bear. Not quite as cute but I had to get the companion USA teddy bear so both sides were represented.

Also irresistible was a cotton sunbonnet. What was irresistible was that the bonnet was clearly labeled as coming from Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. Not only will we be there later this summer but one of my sisters lives there!

We had two more places scheduled for today so off we headed first for the Lunch Box Museum which is supposedly located at River Market Antiques. We arrived at the location but nary a car in site, just what appeared to be a deserted, certainly closed, building and an empty parking lot, sigh!

On to our other stop, the Coca Cola Space Science Center. Definitely not closed, the Coca Cola Center seems well designed to enthrall children with both space and science or as one web site puts it, the center "innovatively combines education and entertainment to promote science exploration and discovery." Great for kids, for us it was noisy and busy, not our style.

So time for a meal and back to Wolf ...

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Wild Animal Safari

One of the things neither Geoffrey nor I had ever done was going through one of those wild animal places where you drive right by the animals, feeding them, taking pictures, etc. So, our first stop is the Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain.

The ticket lady was cheerful and very helpful. We had of course seen those many scenes on AFHV where people get slobbered on and huge tongues come wandering in the window, ewwwwwwwwww.

Clearly we needed appropriate food, a slobber towel, and most definitely renting one of their vehicles to drive around the park avoiding slobber and hair on ours and even more importantly, damage!

This car in front of us shows how the animals come running for the food as well as showing what the vehicle we used was like. If you look carefully through the giraffe's legs you can see what I think is an emu beyond the giraffe. It may even be the same as the one that turned up at my window later.

The rolling tree-covered hills  are lovely in this part of Georgia and are a perfect setting for these animals.Most of the various four legged beasts are loose within the park with a cattle guard set in the entrance so that the animals can't get out.

There are a few caged locations for animals that perhaps need more control including the lions. There were also a few caged animals which were the same as ones that were free. We assume that those particular individual animals turned out to be a bit too aggressive for those driving through.

There is also a walk-about area which has birds and monkeys and some other exotic animals that can't be roaming free as well as a petting zoo area. We decided we had seen enough of the animals though and skipped the walk-about section.

There was a trio of very persistent zebras that showed up at several points on the drive. We are pretty certain they are the same ones in each place and that they were smart enough to have shortcuts across the drive through area!

We were quite grateful for the bars on the windows which allowed some of the smaller animal heads some access but kept the really big ones outside the window area!

Signs advised throwing the food out on the ground as a better alternative to letting them eat from your hand and we took the advice seriously, getting quite good at tossing the food pellets out on the road a little ways from the vehicle. Our advice for people thinking of doing one of these, get plenty of food! You don't want to run out! And, once you get a good look at the horns on some of them, including reindeer and pronghorns as well as this fellow giving Geoff a look, seriously consider using a park car rather than your own.

We had a good time, took lots of pictures and got good at food tossing so we didn't get much slobber. Of course that was probably helped by our mutual decision not to feed any of them from our hands.

A new friend for Geoff?

Georgia on our minds ...

... as we head off for a week there. The first part of our trip has almost become routine, heading out bright and early onto I-95 to I-295 to I-10 westwards, bright and early being around 7 am. The change in direction came when I-10 reached I-75 which we took north into Georgia.

The main difference with this trip is that Geoff is driving Timmber Wolf while I am following in our Outback, known as Shady Lady. The distance is only a few hours and since our plans are to stay at the one RV park and visit several locations in the area, it will be really nice to have the car and not have to mess around with either getting a rental or hooking up and unhooking Wolf every day.

The Subaru's adaptive cruise control is great for this kind of following. I just set it the top speed Geoff will be driving in Wolf, usually about 70 as he is generally closer to 65. The car will stay a reasonable distance behind Wolf, adapting its speed to the vehicle in front of it, in this case usually Wolf except when some idiot dodges into the space between us.

The greatest portion of the trip is on the easy to navigate interstates and so I lead only a few times where the navigation is a bit trickier, including parts of GA 96. It is harder to be the leader as the Outback tends to run away from Wolf so close attention must be paid to the rear view so as not to leave him in my dust so to speak.

Although pleasant, there isn't much unusual or different about the scenery until we headed west on GA 96 towards Columbus, Georgia, our destination.

Soon after clearing the commercial area right near the interstate we see fields full of black or blue glass panels, the color difference seems to be mostly how the sun hits them. GA 96 passes between some of these fields so there are acres of this strange crop on both sides of the road.

We reached our RV park about 3 pm leaving us plenty of daylight to get hooked up and settled in. The Lake Pines RV Park is very nice, set out on some gently rolling space with plenty of trees. Some of the area seems to be in use by people storing their RV's, principally fifth wheels. Although rural in location, the park is not far from the city of Columbus and a good central hub for our various destinations.

After getting all hooked up to shore power and water, we do simple for dinner using a two portion Mountain House spaghetti dinner in  the microwaveable Dixie cups and some cookies for dessert! An early night after a long day and we will be nicely rested for tomorrow's adventure!