Final days of Beryl’s Journey home to Ottawa 2012

Well our friend Beryl has arrived back in Ottawa…  And what a trip she has had.  On behalf of all of her Ottawa Civil War Round Table friends, we thank her for allowing us to take a back seat on her delightful voyage across North America and then some…

(Check back in a couple of weeks as we add more illustrations).

Final Day – Wedenday, April 4

Today’s drive between Syracuse NY and Ottawa Ontario was the easiest and the hardest.

At Watertown I began the change, – not hot flashes, – not even fangs with an aversion to the sunlight, – but the closer I got to the Canadian border, the greater the pull towards maple leaves, coins for $1 and $2 bills, being politically correct, and my health care plan.

At 12:30 pm, I arrived at the border and these were the questions put to me –

  • Where do you live?
  • How long were you away?
  • Where did you go?
  • Were you anywhere other than the United States?
  • Have a nice day!

 

At that point I was sorry I had only one bottle of tequila to declare. And it is for the guys who collected my mail the past 5 and a half months.

Twenty minutes later, and I was in Brockville at my first Tim Hortons. I swear I was so excited to be there, I was vibrating !!

Instead, it seemed like the time to commemorate this trip – and to honour the War of 1812, where the Americans invaded Canada (what there was of it) and we (the British) repelled them, and burned down the White House just because they could !!

The State of Maryland is going to remember the War of 1812 by celebrating the writing of the Star Spangled Banner 200 years ago.

I felt it might be appropriate to celebrate the Star Spangled Banner by giving it some new lyrics….so the following is what I came up with while I drove…..

Oh say can you see by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleamin,

Coffee cups and eclairs, bagels, muffins, and more,

All I really need is a cup of Tim Hortons,

That logo’s red flair,

Timbits bursting in air,

La la la la la

That was as far as I got…so feel free to finish it yourself.

Found some notes that are telling me I did close to 30,000 km, and along the way I met all sorts of wonderful folks. Some of my stories were boring to some, and most of the stories entertained some. Thanks for letting me share my adventures with you. The bucket list is shorter !!

Signing off until the next trip – Beryl

Sunday, April 1

Today I made it from Harpers Ferry to Hagerstown Maryland.

I am having such a good hair day today, I can hardly stand myself !!! And because I know no one would expect to hear that from me, it had to be said.

Seriously though, today is another American Civil War day – and that’s because geographically, I am still in the area of many battles.

Last night I arrived at Harpers Ferry too late to explore as much as I would want to  – so this morning I wasted no time in getting over there, and doing a LOT of walking. I wanted to explore the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal system. It runs alongside the Potomac River.  When building began in 1828, it was to be a means of transportation, but before the entire proposed length could be finished, the railways were built, and the canal became obsolete ! Unfortunately, it was abandoned, and is mostly a big ditch. Too bad it didn’t get to keep on living like the Rideau Canal, which runs between Kingston and Ottawa.

Also in Harpers Ferry, I found out Lewis of Lewis and Clark fame was there being outfitted with guns for their trip mapping the “wild west”. Love those guys. They Rock !!!

In one of the self-directed museums, I learned more about the Niagara Movement. which began in Fort Erie Ontario, and eventually became the NAACP.

In another museum building, I met a woman from Dover Deleware. She is a member of a civilian re-enactment group, and comes to Harpers Ferry 3 times a year. The web site for her group is agsas.org and she taught me all about making socks. I would have thought that women would have gotten out their knitting needles, and knitted – but not so. During the Civil War, factories would make the main straight part of the socks, then send them to women who would add on the heels and toes parts, and then they would go back to the factories for finishing. This allowed the women to make some extra money, as inflation soared while the war was on, and women got to deal with the extra challenges of taking care of the home and children, and whatever it was their husbands had worked at prior to enlisting.

In another building set up to look like a bakery, I saw cakes made out of plaster. Loved that !!! I’ve done that – and my plaster cake was so successful, I decided to take a real cake decorating course, which I absolutely failed at……it was not pretty !!  But if anyone ever needs a permanent cake I can do that !!!

I spotted a truck going along a road on the other side of the Potomac River, and an NPS staff said the road led to Kennedys Farm, a place John Brown had fled to when he was leading his rebellion. I was curious, and found my way over there. By todays roads, I had to travel 20 km, but in John Brown’s day, he went 7 km.

While I was on the other side of the Potomac River, I met a white water kayaker, and had to talk to him. As a kayaker, I know one should not be on the rivers yet; they run too cold and fast with winter runoff. Turns out he stuck close to shore and hadn’t gone far downstream. He also said he had been kayaking for 35 yrs, but as anyone knows, years of experience do not cancel out Murphy’s Law jumping out and biting you in the butt !!

Being only a 20 minute drive from the Antitem Battleground, absolutely had to go there. Each battleground I have visited has made a claim of its battle being one of the bloodiest of the Civil War – but in the case of Antitem, they do indeed hold the record – over 23,000 men dead in one day of fighting. At their visitor center, I saw a film and got to listen to one of the park rangers explain the events of the battle. This lecture took place in a 2nd floor room with windows on 3 sides so you could see everything as the ranger pointed it out.

And then I headed out to do the driving tour.  Of all the battlegrounds I have seen in the past two weeks, this one was a perfect place to have a battle – the geography was open farm fields, and gently rolling hills…really easy landscape for moving men and cannons.

The Burnside Bridge is a famous landmark at Antitem, yet the surrounding county has many more bridges just like it. One of the NPS rangers had pointed me in the direction of some of them. She has an engineering degree, hence her interest. As it turns out, when the first roads were built, bridges were made of wood. Wooden bridges required a lot of maintenance and repair, so it was suggested using the rock being mined locally, and thus was born the beautiful arched bridges. I saw several, and each one is quite different from the next – who knew??

Being the end of the day, but not the end of the sunshine, I picked up another one of those fantastic pulled pork sandwiches with slaw, and found my way to Hagerstown. As I followed the streets to my hotel, I noticed an odd structure. It looked like a double row of stone fencing, but really old – which I shall now have to find out what it is at the visitor center tomorrow.

Tomorrow is also Ben & Jerry’s Free Scoop Day – and also a driving day for me, so this should be fun. Last year I got to be in Dayton Ohio for Free Scoop Day, and had a blast !!

Saturday, March 31.

Today’s trip from Fredericksburg Virginia to Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia !!

I have to tell you about something I experienced yesterday. Follow the sequence – saw a sign saying toll booth ahead, all cars were stopped for 20 minutes, spied a BIG BIG bird (no yellow feathers). Ever since last year’s incident with the wolf, I now keep the binoculars in my glove compartment. My guess was going to be an eagle or turkey vulture, but it was a hawk – one of the largest I’ve ever seen !!

Traffic began moving – from 4 lanes down to 1 – and up another tall bridge !! We were crossing the Potomac River, and the arched part of the bridge only spanned one third of the river’s width (odd) so it goes up and down, then the road is low and just above the river. Oddest, was that the oncoming traffic was being held back , and only one direction of traffic crossed the arched bridge at one time!!  There weren’t any construction signs so who knows what the deal was !!

This morning’s plan was to tour Manassas battleground. The site was only an hour north so I got there quickly enough. As Civil War folks know, there were 2 major battles at Manassas – the first one (Bull Run) took place in a very small area, and the 2nd one required a driving tour. The main visitor’s center had a 45 minute film that clarified all the details of both events.  J, a volunteer, gave me all sorts of information, including a Junior Ranger’s badge I am now wearing.

Drive time up to Leesburg was about another 30 minutes, and from there I was on state and local highways towards Harper’s Ferry.

This part of the drive was interesting in that the scenery looked fantastic –  but I’m not sure because the road was extremely curvy and hilly so it was next to impossible to do more than take note of many wineries and large farms.

With little notice, I came down an “S” curve to the bottom of a hill and a red light, where I had to turn left. Within feet of turning, I see smoke and know it had to be BBQ !!  And pulled a VERY sharp turn into a makeshift parking lot.

Stepping up to the counter, J greets me with “You look familiar; have I seen you before?” To which I replied – “I was in your dreams last night.” J lost his power of speech at that point !!  Let’s face it – no one expects that from a grandma type !!  But I’ll bet it will be a while before he uses that line again !! I shall call them the 2-J’s, and they served up the most amazing pulled pork sandwich with spicy BBQ sauce and coleslaw. I’ve never had a sandwich with coleslaw on it before, and it was fantastic guys !!!  (gave them the web site address so they could read this) Across the parking lot, the 2-T’s, sold me some Bavarian Style Cinnamon Roasted nuts – another new taste, also good !!

I pulled back on to the highway, and just around the next curve I was in West Virginia (wasn’t really expecting that, I thought I would be coming upon Maryland). Next stop is of course the Welcome Center – where John Denver kept singing “Take Me Home Country Roads” over and over and over. Then I realized the lyrics mentioned West Virginia !! And I was thinking the little old lady staffing the place just liked the song (a LOT) !!

Followed a couple of signs, and there I was in downtown Harper’s Ferry.  WOW  WOW  WOW

There was no parking for several miles around until I located the NPS visitor center. It is from this location a bus runs folks down to the town site. Unfortunately for me it was already 4:30pm, so I decided to call it a day and return tomorrow. I’ll bet I’m there longer than is absolutely necessary – but this particular point has the Blue Ridge Mtns, the Appalachian Trail, the Potomac River, the Shenandoah River, the C&O canal, 2 different sets of train tracks, it’s a walled city like York England, the buildings are all older than dirt, I saw period costumed folks,  – but other than that the place has nothing interesting to look at.

And the icing on the cake is that Antitem is within about an hour away? so I’ll get to see it after all.

Even though I am at another one of those tri-state corners, I am also very close to Pennsylvania and Gettysburg !! (been there before)

This part of the world is absolutely gorgeous – apparently the Blue Ridge Mtns do look blue in the lower elevations when covered in fog.

All those other places that I raved about, have paled in comparison with this part of the States. Who knew?

PS – as breath taking as the Applachian Trail likely is in this area, it is still off  my bucket list.

I must go now, and read everything that K (NPS Staff) gave me

Saved for another time are trips to the W VA penitentiary in Moundsville from1866 to 1995 and the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston. Both places look pretty scary !!

VA/DC/MD Friday, March 30

So much to see, so little money !!  But that’s OK, I have MegaMillions tickets for tonight’s draw. This morning the jackpot was $540 million, and by suppertime the jackpot had risen to $640 million. That’s a whole lot of Americans buying a whole lot of tickets. I was at a gas station, where they had one staff person dedicated to processing lotto tickets.

Today’s sky was slightly overcast and at one point a light rain fell, and it was cool, so it wasn’t going to be the best day to walk Arlington Cemetery. But first thing this morning, I headed into Washington DC, found on-street parking near the Canadian Embassy, and stopped in for a visit.  We (Canadians) have an art gallery in the embassy visitors can easily reach, and it showcases, not just Canadian art, but themes of Canadian art. Outside the Embassy entrance is a huge Haida bronze. Inside the lobby is an Inukshuk. One of the security guys checking me into the building was pointing out to me the Haida, but he couldn’t pronounce the name, so I was able to give him a lesson on the Haida with an American reference so he’ll remember for the next visitor coming in !!  ( It certainly pays to be old and a reader of everything !!)

I wanted to see the gallery in our Embassy because I know that the Art Bank (located in Ottawa) is the source for all the art works in all the Canadian embassies around the world. The art varies from paintings to sculptures to multimedia works – and all done by Canadians.

In the gallery today was a photo exhibit of the wild horses on Sable Island. The photos were over-sized and filled the walls. There was also a brief film, mostly taken from the air, showing the piece of sand that is Sable Island – but also taken on the ground. The horses have no fear because they have no predators, so come right up to the camera. The photos, taken by Roberto Dutesco, are only a few of his larger collection. Apparently Roberto has a permanent collection on display in New York City, and has also made a film about the horses that shows up on CBC. His website www.dutescoart.com has pictures of the horses that are on display in the Embassy. He has been a voice for the preservation of the wild horses and Sable Island – a small Canadian treasure !!!

Did you know that the Canadian Embassy is the only one named on maps of Washington? In Ottawa it’s so common to see Embassies everywhere, I just assumed the same situation was in Washington – so I googled a few, and none of them appear to be as “downtown” as we are!!  Must be because of our special relationship !!!

Since Baltimore was only an hours drive away ( I think that’s on a day with no construction) I headed over to the NAACP offices to pay my respects to Dorothy Parker’s grave. I know for a number of years after her death, her ashes went unclaimed until the NAACP retrieved them. Seems to me they were the recipients of her estate too. Anyway, she has always been one of my favourite writers. And the young receptionist at the building volunteered the Windsor Inn Crab House as the place to go for great food. Their specialty is crab cakes – and was it delicious !!!!! Just an amazing old place, off the tourist path, with lots of atmosphere !!

When I was at the Maryland Welcome Center, I picked up lots more brochures. Some for the Civil War, although I won’t be going to Antietam this trip.  I came across an interesting article having to do with Baltimore and the War of 1812. They have decided to view the 200th anniversary of the war, as the 200th anniversary of the writing of the “Star Spangled Banner”. They even call the British forces “invaders”, and continue with “the tale told here – one of stubborn bravery, unflagging duty, and dogged determination – is a story that never fails to inspire pride and patriotism in all who hear it”. They weren’t talking about the British !!!

Tomorrow I shall go to Manassas, and hit the road for a point closer to Canada. And try to figure out what to do with my $640 million (minus US federal taxes) !!!

Virginia, Thursday March 29

Tonight I am in Fredericksburg, Virginia – a mere 82 miles from Petersburg, this morning.

But in between I travelled miles and miles, centuries and centuries !!

This morning I happened upon Blandford Church and cemetery – my particular interest was in the church windows built by Louis Comfort Tiffany.  I quickly moved on to a small area of the city which has a collection of homes built by mail order – specifically ordered from Sears in the late 1920s and early 1930s.  Everything in one kit to build a one or two storey home – and not an Allan key to be seen anywhere. (my attempt at a bit of Ikea humour !!)  I expected to see bungalows that looked like oversized shoe boxes, and instead they had gables, and porches, and dormers, and all styles of roofs.

Then on to the City Point area, where General Grant had his headquarters for 10 months while his army laid siege to the Confederates holding control of Petersburg. But I dislike just going from one tourist attraction to another, so I carried on down the street and found City Point Park – where some folks were fishing for catfish, and I read plaques about the warehouses and wharfs built there to support the Union army – but mostly I just watched the waters from the James and Appomatox Rivers meet. Eventually I headed back up the hill to wander around Grant’s headquarters, and had a great chat with the NPS guy on duty. Some young soldiers came into the building when I was there, so I asked them about the flag lowering ceremeony I saw last night. Turns out the AMerican army plays “Retreat” at 5pm to signal the end of duty day, and then at 9pm they play “taps”. And I have been informed the Canadian military does not have such a tradition. (just in case anyone was wondering)

Time to move on.

Richmond National Battleground is actually a number of sites. I stopped at Drewry’s Bluff. This was perhaps not the best time of year to visit. Small black and larger green worms kept falling out of the trees on to me !!  Yuck !!  I brushed them off, then brushed them off, and thought I was in a bad horror movie !!  Once I got back to my vehicle, I ripped off my shirt so I could brush off the worms on my back, and tried to make sure my hair was clear. I should explain I was in an isolated area, and nobody else was around !!!

Then I was driving back through Richmond – exactly 5 months ago, I got a parking ticket here.

I was heading north to the Spotsylvania Battleground, and within a few miles there were the Chancellorsville and Wilderness battlegrounds, and a shrine to Stonewall Jackson, and I saw them all !!!

By chance I came across a monument to Matthew Fonatine Maury – who founded the science of meteorology, and conceived the idea and directed the laying of the first cable under the Atlantic to Europe in 1858. I thought that was cool.

I was done with battlegrounds for today, so made my way into Fredericksburg. Before I settled into a hotel, I found myself driving through the old downtown area – and that was architectural heaven (almost better than chocolate) !!

I am now just west of Washington DC, and have been contemplating my next stops. If I thought it would happen, I would visit the Canadian Embassy to say hi to Gary Doer. He was Manitoba’s Premier when I lived there, and a wonderful person !!

Before I forget – and this will only be of interest to the readers in eastern Ontario – I came across a pamphlet written by the Virginia Commission on the Bicentennial of the American War of 1812.

“The American War of 1812 was fought between the United States and Britain from 1812 through 1815. The strategic location of the Chesapeake Bay near the nation’s capital made it a prine target for the British…..there were some 73 armed encounters with the British that took place in Virginia during the war.”

“The War of 1812 helped forge a national identity among the American states and laid the groundwork for a national system of homeland defense and a professional military within the United States.”

Nine specific sites are mentioned in the brochure, including Craney Island/Hoffler Creek. “The Battle of Craney Island represents one of the few American-won battles during the War of 1812.”

To learn more, you can go online @ VA1812BICENTENNIAL.DLS.VIRGINIA.GOV

Maybe it will be on the web site how we burned down the White House !!!

Petersburg, VA – Wednesday, March 28

I do so love being a museum nerd !! This morning when I arrived at the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier, the guide said it would take about 3 hours to see everything. It was 5 1/2 hours later when I was finally walking back to the parking lot. Once in the door, you strap on an audio headset and learn everything about being a soldier in the 1860s. Then you leave building #1, and proceed to the Tudor Hall, a farm that existed back then. As I came along the walkway, I could see some sheep beyond a fence. I was raised next to a sheep farm, so I had to keep heading in their direction to see if there were any Spring lambs yet. No Spring lambs, but there were some Winter lambs, and they weren’t where they were supposed to be. They had gotten loose – but being the “Sheep Whisperer” I herded them back into their pen, then went looking for a staff person.

There was a lovely woman behind the house getting ready for Saturday’s special event, and I made her aware of the lambs getting out.

They’re still small enough to squeeze under the fence !!

I went through the farm house, slaves’ quarters, listened to all sorts of information through the audio headset, then I followed along the path further to the Fortifications exhibit. This was amazing as it involved a huge dirt enbankment, trenches, wooden spikes, cannons, – and when the Civil War was battling it out here, the Confederates had this sort of defence system covering a distance of 37 miles. That’s a whole lot of spade work !!!  Again, continuing along the path to a living example of winter quarters for soldiers.  And finally, into the Battlefield Center, a second museum with more exhibits.  A couple of years ago, my editor and I did a road trip to Kingston to attend a meeting of that Round Table. We got down there early enough that we had time to go shopping in an antiquarian bookstore!!  That’s where I got my Volume 2 of Vermont in the Civil War – which I used as a source for a presentation I made at the Round Table in Ottawa. Since then I’ve been looking for Volume 1 – and today I found it in the museum !!!  As friendly as the staff were, they would not allow me to borrow it to read, even though I promised to return it !!!

G, the staff person in this building, had a super story. One of the exhibits is of a small Bible with a bullet lodged in it. The Bible had saved the life of it’s owner – although later in the war he was not so lucky !!  The Bible belonged to G’s great-grandfather, and he recalled, how as a boy, the kids played often with this Bible and its bullet, and would have their friends over to show it off to them.   He said it’s a story used when the school groups are coming through to help the students realize there are personal connections to the artifacts on display !!

Isn’t that great?

To leave the complex, I had to retrace my steps back through the first building. How surprised was I to hear La Marseillaise playing !!  As I was handing my audio set back to the staff, I asked them why they were playing the French national anthem? They looked puzzled – and said they didn’t know the name but they knew it was music that was played frequently in the States during the time of the Civil War !!

As the afternoon was almost over, and most museums close at 5 pm, and I didn’t want to stop just yet. Fort Lee was near, so I went over to the U.S. Army Quartermaster’s Museum.  Why?  I believe there is an old adage about the army travelling on its stomach, and their lure card mentioned General Eisenhower’s field quarters, and General Grant’s saddle. I only had an hour to see what turned out to be quite a lot – but I think I did all right !!

Quartermasters have been around since 1775. They were there when Custer was massacred at Bull Run.

There was an excellent series of paintings by Don Stivers showing supplies being delivered to Civil War sites.

Seeing the equipment of each century was so cool. I saw a coffee making machine, that would have made me stop drinking coffee. It was scary looking !!

Eisenhower’s field quarters had the nickname of the Circus Wagon. He liked to be in the field with his men, so he had what looked to me like a dark green 5th wheel trailer, that he lived in while in England, and later on in Europe once the Normandy landings had occurred. Two years ago I got to see the location in Reims France where Eisenhower accepted surrender from the Germans.

I saw General Geo Patton’s jeep, with the highly upholstered seat for the General – apparently rank really does have privilege !!

The Quartermasters are also responsible for cemeteries for American personnel, and there was info relating to identifying bodies. Just back in 1988 some remains were found near Fort Erie Ontario, that were identified and interred.

Once again, I came across another reference and story about the American Camel Corps (that makes 4).

There was an excellent exhibit on how supplies (over the decades) have been dropped – whether it’s to survivors of war or disaster.

I learned a lot about the manufacture of flags (another Quartermaster responsibility).

Man, I stuffed a lot of looking and reading into that hour.

As I got back to the parking lot, i heard an alert of some kind over the loudspeaker system on the base. About a minute passed, then there was a trumpet/bugle playing but it wasn’t taps. Just then I noticed a van stopped and the driver in plain clothes standing next to it at attention. Then I spotted the American flag being lowered for the day !!  And I saw a couple of soldiers at the bus stop also standing at attention. Cool moment !! (I was also standing outside my vehicle – when in Rome…)

So – I am still in Petersburg, and shall continue working my way through the area again tomorrow.

Greensboro, North Carolina, Tuesday March 27

Today’s journey took me from Greensboro, NC to Petersburg, Virginia.

Greensboro turned out to be a gem of a city. They have a definite history with the Civil War, but move forward 100 years to the 1960’s and Afro-Americans still looking for integration as full citizens under the American Constitution.

The International Civil Rights Museum is located in the FW Woolworth building located in downtown Greensboro. Many of us might remember (if we think back a lot !!) to when every city downtown had a Five and Dime (Woolworths) with a lunch counter, and everything a person could want to buy. Boy, were they simpler times !!!

The museum has only been open 2 yrs.  They must have had some incredible funding to start up because their exhibits are all state of the art technology – something any museum would love to have.  The design and flow of the exhibits and the information they give a visitor is quite outstanding. Because of the complexity of getting through the exhibits, visitors go through in groups led by a docent.  This leads to complaints that a person can’t linger at any particular item that catches their eye. At the same time, the docents provide info that can’t be gotten from reading the signs and watching the video clips.  I went through 3 times before I was satisfied that I had read everything and made some notes.  While the museum focus is on the 4 students who began the sit-in at the Woolworth’s lunch counter, the museum also addresses international conflict, and even has a United Nations blue helmet in one of the displays.

I loved this museum !!!

Funny thing about maps – sometimes a city looks to be further away than it really is. Getting to Petersburg VA, looked like it would take more hours than it actually did, but that worked out nicely. I was able to slide into the Pamplin Historical Park & The Natl Museum of the Civil War Soldier just before they closed and picked up some tips for my visit tomorrow. They closed, I left, and as I was pulling back on to the highway I spotted a laundry. Couldn’t pass up on that opportunity, especially since it wouldn’t take up time better spent with any battlefield tours or going to more museums !!

On March 31, there is going to be a special event. A new walking trail to the Jones Farm battlefield of March 25, 1865 has been created. This battle is called the Petersburg Breakthrough battle. The battle actually took place pre-dawn, so the special event is going to start at 4:30 am !!! They suggest participants bring a flashlight as they walk the same ground under the same conditions as the soldiers of 147 yrs ago. How is that for fun ???  Bonus – at 8:00 am they’ll serve a hot breakfast.

As my fellow Civil War colleagues know, I am now in the heart of all things Civil War, and I suspect I’ll stick around a few days.

TN to NC – Monday March 26

Tonight I am in Greensboro , North Carolina.

Another gorgeous day, and I wish I could stay longer in East Tennessee, but the road calls !!

A few yrs ago, when I was down-sizing, I got rid of my Lodge Dutch ovens. One was a 12 and one was an 8, very handy when making family dinners, and I would put the pots out on the deck in the snow to store the leftovers. I first learned how to cook with them over an open fire from cowboys in Nevada. Anyway – all those welcome centers I stop at offer coupons sometimes, and I had a coupon for a Lodge store. As I went along I-40, I saw a billboard advertising a Lodge store, so down I went. I bought a crepe pan and got a new frying pan for almost free !!  I can hardly wait to use them !!

Looking up at the Great Smokey Mtns I was awed. They are almost as spectacular as the Cdn Rockies. They are covered with trees, even the tops, and it occurred to me that they looked like a bunch of heads with bad mohawks. You may have had to be there fo that visual. The drive through them was probably as close as I will ever get to the German Autobahn, and I was kinda wishing I was driving something a whole lot closer to the ground with a stick shift. Trucks were only allowed to go 35 mph, and there was probably a speed limit for cars, but everybody seemed to go as fast as they dared.

On the downside of the Smokeys was Asheville North Carolina, but I was making good time so decided not to stop at Mr. Vanderbilt’s house. But once again I got to thinking, did they have a gift wrapping room like Candy Spelling in Hollywood? Wouldn’t it be a treat to never have to look for the scissors or Scotch tape ?  or clear off the dining table ? and if the scraps got brushed to the floor there would be a maid to pick them up?

I’m so excited to be in Greensboro – the site of the famous Woolworth store sit-in back in the 1960s – 4 black college students sat at the “whites only” lunch counter. The initial sit-in lasted over 4 days, and the movement spread to other cities. Nevertheless it was still a full 6 months before the lunch counter was fully segregated. Part of that counter is in the Smithsonian in Washington, and I got to see it a few years ago.

I’ve calmed down somewhat now, but this morning I was sad and angry at the same time. On the morning news, I heard a woman talking about standing in line to get into the Supreme Court to hear the American health care discussion. I cannot believe that someone is so stupid as to not want to have health insurance. What are they thinking? that they’ll never get sick? that someone in their family will never get sick? that they’l never be in a car accident or get hit by a bus?   I remember a few years ago when I was crossing the States by Greyhound Bus. I met a man with a broken left hand. He had not gone to a Dr to have it looked it because he didn’t have any insurance, and he couldn’t afford what it would cost to be treated. The hand was as big as a ham and obviously very painful to him. This man had a family – and how irresponsible was it for him to disregard his health in this way? This is one of the reasons America is not the greatest country in the world and Canada is !!!  My apologies to anyone I have offended. I know when you don’t have your health, it impacts on the rest of your life !!

I guess the legal question before the Supreme Court is whether or not the govt has the right to legislate people to buy health insurance. I’m not saying the govt always does the right thing, but I see this particular point taking two steps back rather than two steps forward.

I’m just saying !!! and now I’m going to watch some TV that is not the Weather channel or the news !!!

Tennessee – Sunday, March 25

What a beautiful day in Chattanooga – lots of blue skies, warm temperatures !!

I knew that the National Parks Service have a presence at the top of Lookout Mtn. That is because back in 1863, boys being boys made their ways to the top of the mountain, and had their photos taken looking out over the land. Then they got down to business and fought over who would get to stay as “King of the Mtn”. It also had to do with Chattanooga being a transportation hub, and important to the North to use as a supply base, as they pushed their army south.

These days at the top of the mtn, there are lovely homes, and the NPS Point Park (site of Grant’s win) the prerequisite gift shop, and a small museum out-lining the Civil War battles which took place in and around Chattanooga.

James Walker was an artist at Chattanooga when the fighting took place. He was commissioned to paint 2 pictures, the Battle of Lookout Mountain, and the Battle of Chickamauga. They were only 40 inches wide. The painting currently on display is 13 feet by 30 feet, and weighs almost 700 pounds. It took 4 years to complete, and is a larger version of the original (Lookout Mtn). The painting provides an accurate picture of the event and the day !!

It was spectacular !!!

  • Parking @ the Incline Railway – $1.00
  • Return ticket on Incline Railroad – $14.00
  • Knowing I got to see Walker’s painting – Priceless

And my trick for getting up and down the mountain was to plug into my MP3, and turn Lady Gaga up real loud !!

Once I  got down to the bottom, I found funnel cakes, so I bought them and shared them with the lady at the incline railway ticket booth. She was really nice to me.

Then I headed off to the Chickamauga visitor center and that battleground. This park is the largest of all the military parks, and was the first one created by the federal government back in the day. It covers 5300 acres, but the driving tour is only a 7 mile drive. The visitor center had a film and a great portrayal of the troop movements.

Something I have learned from visiting these battlegrounds is how much the geography affects the events. When I was leaving Chattanooga, I was really glad my GPS was leading me along the highways, because I couldn’t tell which way was north; and that had been an issue for the armies back then. At one point one of the Generals had been one mtn short of where he thought he was going.

My goal was to get to Knoxville TN, which I have, and apparently I am only about an hour out of Asheville North Carolina. I was reading a tourism guide for Knoxville, and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet are going to be down here on a few days. I would love to be able to stay and see them. I miss them.

Asheville has the Biltmore House. It is the largest home in America, and was built by the Vanderbilt’s. It shows up on Public Television programs every now and again.  I may decide to visit it, or I may decide to drive further. What I do know for sure is that I am going to be crossing the Great Smokey Mountains – never done that before. All I know about them is what I have read about the Appalachian Trail.

Tomorrow should be interesting !!!

Corinth MS/TN/AL/GA to Chattanooga TN, Saturday March 24

Huge day !!!

Started off the morning with hot delicious buttermilk biscuits and coffee – that came from a local restaurant with the dirtiest kitchen I have ever seen.  I took photos at the Corinth Civil War Interpretive Center while I waited for it to open. I mentioned yesterday how they have bronze artifacts incorporated into the sidewalk that goes from the parking lot to the building, and some of the bronzes are semi-buried next to the sidewalk. I hope I have been able to capture what a brilliant idea it is.

On to the Shiloh battleground about 20 miles north. First a film in the visitor center, then they send you out to drive a 14 mile route through the 4700 acre battleground. I had barely gone a mile when my vehicle warned me “low fuel” – Quandary !!! – do I act responsibly and get gas, or carry on and cross my fingers? Duh !!!  Carried on !!! I did have a chance about half way through the tour to head off 5 miles for gas. The Stantonville One Stop doesn’t get too many out of state customers, so I was invited to add my name and hometown to the lunchroom wall !!  Back at Shiloh, I finished the tour, and hope I have taken enough photos. The signage is so detailed – it made me think the National Park Service must have had a person at the battle taking notes. Signs are not only in the battleground area, but down the road away from the park, on people’s front lawns, and in the woods. Cannons are everywhere. Very impressive !!!

Back in Corinth, I took in the exhibits at the Interpretive Center, and will share what I learned about the contraband camps later.

It was mid-afternoon already, and I wanted to get to Chattanooga TN. Three and a half hours later, I was at the Tennessee/Chattanooga Welcome Center. But before I got there, I had crossed the Tennessee River several times, came through another pouring rain storm, saw space rockets and a space shuttle in Huntsville Alabama, crossed into the Eastern Time Zone, and spent about 5 miles in Georgia. Who expects to see space rockets as you’re driving by on the interstate ??

In Chattanooga, I am hoping to see about 5 battlegrounds, and a Civil War museum  – but at the Welcome Center I learned that one of the battle sites and museum is at the top of Lookout Mountain. I can get there by driving (not going to happen) or on an incline railway at a 72 degree angle. I’m not happy about that option either, but it’s going to have to work !!!

Fried pickles – a Southern delicacy I have not rushed to try. One of my readers emailed me to say they were wonderful (the readers are wonderful too), so tonight I added deep fried pickles to the menu. They weren’t bad, tasted like fried zucchini, especially with the ranch dipping sauce. I doubt I’ll ever see them on a Canadian menu, but then again maybe it can be a new trend ?

The Chattanooga Choo Choo is not just a song, but also a historic hotel.

The sales tax here is 17%, which might explain a downturn in tourist traffic !!

Tomorrow I see how many Civil War sites I can get to. Wish me luck !!!