Custer State Park in South Dakota

Custer State Park in South Dakota
We saw a LOT of these guys at Custer State Park in South Dakota!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Ft. Sumter- Charleston, South Carolina

Here are just a few photos from our trip to visit Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina.

South Carolina is an easy tourist town to navigate, and getting to the National Park Visitor Center was no problem.  For about $20 a person, you can take a nice boat ride over to the Fort.  The ride took maybe 45 minutes each way.  If you aren't up for the boat, you CAN see the island from a distance.

Its funny, I talked to someone the other day who also went to Charleston in the last couple of years, and they felt that going over to see the Fort was not the best use of their time.  They felt like it took too long, and there wasn't a lot to see there.

I firmly disagreed with my friend.  I felt that this one was an absolute "must see" in the area.  I mean, THE CIVIL WAR STARTED HERE!!!  Plus, it is a great boat ride over, and there are announcements about the sites as you ride.  For me, a nice ferry ride to a very significant Civil War site is an amazing way to spend a few hours.

Also, we talked to several rangers (at the Charleston National Park Visitor Center AND on the island) who made great recommendations for other things to do in the area.  One actually took our map and wrote out specific locations for us!

Check out my photos from where the Civil War started!

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Charleston, South Carolina

This was our first time making it to Charleston South Carolina!

I know that Charleston gets compared to Savannah a lot, and I have been talking to a couple of friends lately about which of the two towns we liked better.  It is a very close call.

We didn't have time to cover Charleston as thoroughly as I would have liked to.  We were able to walk around some of the town, and we did visit the main forts, and Patriots Point.  More on those sites later.

Oddly (and unfortunately) we did have encounters with a few sales guys.  It wasn't as bad as what we have experienced in Gatlinburg, but man are these people a pain.  We have learned to be very careful about "visitor centers".

Charleston is a very comfortable city.  There is something very pleasant and comforting about seeing water as you drive around an area.

We did have a surreal experience while crossing a bridge in town.  While in the middle of the long bridge, a HUGE gust of wind gave my car quit a push on the side.  Well, me and EVERYONE ELSE slowed down by about 30 miles all at the same time!  It was a bit scary and strange.

In Charleston (and in the area around it) we really enjoyed a lot of sites.  I will mention those sites more soon, but for now, check out these random photos!

Friday, March 27, 2015

Windsor Hotel in Americus Georgia

While we spent a lot of time in Plains Georgia, we actually stayed in nearby Americus.

Lets be honest, Americus isn't exactly a major travel destination, but we were able to spend some time at the Windsor Hotel in Americus (technically, it is the Best Western Plus Windsor Hotel).

The hotel lobby area is beautiful, and it reminded us of the Hotel Alex Johnson in South Dakota.  The interior and exterior and really attractive.

We were thinking about dinner one night in the hotel's restaurant, but we opted for the bar- Floyd's Pub.  Floyd's had a very casual, friendly feel.  We had an amazing waitress who kept the refills on the table.  I had about the best bar sandwich I have had in years, and I had a great bowl of tomato soup.  My wife was in the mood for pasta, and though it wasn't on the menu, our waitress said it wouldn't be a problem!

Floyd's is easily the coolest hotel bar we've been to in some time.

AND, they had a very attractive balcony area with a nice view of the city.  There was a lot of space and furniture- 50 people could hang out here comfortably.

This is the place to be in Americus!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Andersonville National Historic Site in Georgia

After visiting Plains, we headed down to Andersonville for about half a day.  Again, this is the kind of place that I really have nothing new to add to the readily available information on it.

In a nutshell, Andersonville National Historic Site includes the site of the actual prisoner of war camp, the National Prisoner of War Museum, and the Andersonville National Cemetery.  The Museum covers POWs in other wars, and the cemetery is open to veterans of other wars.

At the visitor center, a 1 hour CD is available to listen to as you drive around the former prison site.  It gives details about the prison and what happened specifically at various sites that you drive past.  The CD could be checked out for free!

Allowing only half a day here was a huge error on my part.  I was able to explore each part of the Historic Site, but I would have liked more time at each.  Also, there is a private Civil War museum close by that we did not get to see.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Jimmy Carter's Sunday School, in Plains Georgia

Our entire roadtrip south was built around one main goal.  We wanted to make it to Plains Georgia on a weekend to have the experience of seeing former President Jimmy Carter teach Sunday school.

To call this an amazing experience would be an understatement.  It is something that pretty much anyone can do if they want.  President Carter still lives in the small town of Plains, and he tries to teach Sunday school as often as possible, which is actually pretty frequently. 

This is something you should put at the top of your bucket list now.  The Carter's were born in the 1930s (though they could easily lie about their ages by several decades if they wanted).  They have maintained an extremely active lifestyle, but still, no one could get upset with them if they decided to stop appearing in public like this.

We arrived in Plains early on Saturday and we took time to first explore the shops in town.  The area is small, and there is only one small row of shops, but we had a blast at all of them.

We first went to Plain Peanuts.  This is a small shop packed with peanuts, and various peanut products along with various Jimmy Carter memorabilia.  As we walked in, we were offered a sample of fried nuts, and a sample of their peanut ice cream.  Both were great.  We ended up buying several bags of nuts for snacks on our trip, and to take home to friends... AND I picked up some cool political items (some political buttons and an empty can of Billy Carter beer).

We also stopped by the Plains Trading Post.  If you like history, and collect really anything related to politics, this place is for you.  I really enjoyed my visit here, picking up postcards and political buttons (many great vintage items were available at cheap prices!).  The couple running the place was very friendly and sweet.

We had lunch at the Old Bank CafĂ©, and this small restaurant was cozy and very affordable.  AND, they have displays relating to the Carters and the local high school.

After lunch, we went to the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site visitor center, which is the old high school (attended by Jimmy and Rosalynn).  We watched a film in the old auditorium about the Carters, and a very kind ranger told us some fun stories about Jimmy once skipping school, a very influential teacher, and about the Carters' relationship.  The school has several rooms open, and there are many displays about the Carters.

After that, we visited the Jimmy Carter boyhood home where we had a very thorough and informative tour of the home and surrounding property.  The nice but dated tennis court and family store were fun.  Our knowledgeable guide on this tour told us about a table in the home.  Jimmy Carter made a small table for the current National Park site to look like the one he remembered from his youth.  Well, since President Carter made it, it was viewed as too significant to leave out on display at the home.  It was replicated and replaced.  The original is in safe keeping.

In the evening, we drove around Plains to see other homes and places associated with the Carters.  Pretty much every shop in town sells a nice and easy to use little book about all of the historic homes for $2.50!

On Sunday, we arrived at Maranatha Baptist Church around 8:15.  There was a small line at the church door already forming.  There is a good (but reasonable) amount of security here.  A dog walks around each car with a security person.  After a friendly thumbs up from the handler, you can park.

The line moved very smoothly, as the secret service does its job.  These guys were efficient but friendly.

Once inside you are assigned a seat.  Ms. Jan (who was Amy Carter's school teacher at one time) helps keep the program moving, and she gives a thorough  lesson on etiquette at the church.  She is a pretty entertaining person herself, directing, giving instructions, and telling stories about the church and the Carters.  She could do stand up comedy if she wanted, as many of her stories are very funny.

After the orientation, President Carter comes out and begins his class.  There are prayers, and a lesson book.  The man knows he is at church, but he knows his audience.  A large majority of the congregation on any day that he teaches is visitors- and there  is a good chance many are not Baptists... or Christians.  Jimmy Carter is though (as are the members of Maranatha) and he is teaching and connecting to the believers and the non-believers.  Though his teaching was on creation, he discussed the topic while also touching on modern topics that concerned him, peppering in statistics here and there.  I think anyone (religious or non-religious) would have appreciated hearing his message.

After Sunday school, there was a church service, and then you could have your photo taken with the Carters.  Ms. Jan explained that this would be a quick chance to do photos, and she instructed the crowd how things would go. 

The line goes out of the church and in almost no time, you have your chance to get a photo with Jimmy and Rosalynn.  My wife and I ran up next  to the Carters.  Both seemed very sweet and kind.  Rosalynn linked arms with my wife, and Jimmy put his hand on my shoulder for the photo.  I wanted to let President Carter know how much it meant to us, to be able to get to rub elbows with him briefly on this Sunday morning.  I had nothing profound to say to him, and even though I know he hears it many times a day, I told him, "this is a huge honor."

He made a point to look at me and to thank us for coming out.  I am sure he says it hundreds of times each Sunday, but there was no tiredness in his voice.  He is sincere in all of his actions.

I do want to mention that my wife bumped in to Ms. Carter at another point while in Plains, and she said that she could not have been any sweeter.  I asked three Plains residents that I talked to about their experiences with the Carters.  ALL talked favorably, and affectionately about them.

After church, we briefly went back to Plain Peanuts for a few more gifts for friends back home.  My wife wouldn't let me go back to Plains Trading Post after the coin I dropped in there the day before.

We wanted to make it to Andersonville before the day was over, but I was kind of sad about leaving Plains.  This is a friendly community with pride.  And the whole Carter/Plains relationship is very sweet.

I also can't say enough about the kind people of Maranatha Baptist Church.  It is pretty disruptive for them to have hundreds of visitors each Sunday.  They are very kind to accommodate this situation.  They obviously have good hearts and all, but this is a pretty big burden for them in many ways.

Check out:

Maranatha Baptist Church

The Carter Center

Again, seeing President Carter and his wife in this setting was an amazing, rare experience.  This was easily one of the most exciting moments of any of our travels.  Thanks again to the Carters, Maranatha Baptist Church, and the good city of Plains Georgia!

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter: Everything to Gain

Well, knowing that we were going to take a little road trip to Plains Georgia, I wanted to read a book on the Carters.  I picked up "Everything to Gain- Making the Most of the Rest of Your Life" by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.

The thing that made me want to read this particular book (Jimmy Carter is a prolific writer) is the fact that it was written, and put out during the Reagan years.

Its a bit funny to me.  Jimmy Carter is the first President I remember having knowledge about as a child.  I barely remember him being in office, but I remember vividly watching on election night as Ronald Reagan defeated him soundly.

But Jimmy Carter never went away.  He stayed in the public eye AND he stayed there with pride and dignity.  Sure, he took the worst beating an incumbent president could take, but he still hung around like the scrappiest fighter ever.  The man is tough.

Not only was he tough, he was a good role model- as this book proves.  Let me back up a bit....  Jimmy Carter is not bragging in this book, he is walking the walk of a man willing to personally get involved when he feels that it is the right thing to do.  If he mentions to some people that he will personally help them restore a building for needy people to live in, he will be there with his tools.  Especially in his community of Plains Georgia, he has made himself more available to the public than any other modern President.

"Everything to Gain" is by Jimmy and Rosalynn (sometimes expressing a thought separately and sometimes together) about getting on with their life after leaving the White House.  They both realize that they want to stay active, and they want to contribute.  There is also a lot in the book about their desire to stay healthy.

The Carters, who must have been tempted to talk trash about President number 40 barely mention him.  In this 80s book (and in interviews I have seen with Jimmy) he has been nothing but classy about his political rivals.

Its almost like the Carters are preaching about staying healthy, active, and productive- especially in your later years.  I know that almost sounds funny, as Jimmy is now OVER 90 and it seems that he has never retired.

I could go on and on about Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter.  I really admire them on so many levels, and I am eager to read more of their books.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Moon River Brewing Company- Savannah Georgia

I have to give a HUGE tip of the hat to Moon River Brewing Company in Savannah.  This was a convenient restaurant just across from our hotel while in Savannah that served some great food!

Its become a bit of a rule of thumb for us that brewery type places are very safe bets for dinner....and we don't even drink.

I had a buffalo chicken sandwich there one night that I am still thinking about.  It was massive and tasty.  We really liked everything we had, and we had plenty of everything.

We had an amazing waiter named Brad that took care of everything.  I hope Brad is there next time we are in town!

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Biltmore 1949

There is some GREAT personal writing on the back of this postcard I found recently, sent in 1949. The writer tells her friend that she had difficulty talking her travel companions in to seeing the Biltmore as it was $2.40 each to go! She notes that one rug was valued at $75,000! She describes the beautiful garden and mentions the flowers she saw. She also talks about the Holly Inn, where she had reservations, had closed.

This blogger payed about $60 to visit about a year ago with a coupon. I was happy to see it, by the way.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Pies and Pints in Lexington KY

Me and a buddy walked in to the new Pies & Pints in downtown Lexington the other night.  This place is something special.

The vibe is cozy, casual and fun.  Its at a good location too.  It is a very short walk from Rupp Arena.

Pies & Pints has the best service.  The manager came over a couple of times to ask about our food.  He seemed excited to be there.  Our waitress was on it.  She wasn't intrusive, but she made sure we had refills and whatever else we needed.  After our meal, she boxed up our pizza, and got the to go items we added.  She had no problem splitting the wings and pizza on our checks.

I got a strong impression that this business does a good job of finding enthusiastic staff and training them to take pride in their product.  We were told all about their beers, various pizzas, and wings.  All had a unique flavor.

Anyway, we really liked this place and hope to go back soon!

Sunday, March 15, 2015

National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, Savannah Georgia

We were able to spend a couple of hours at the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Savannah while we were there.

This is a very nice museum obviously focusing on the Air Force in World War Two.  I was impressed with their collection of authentic items from that conflict.

This is not an overwhelming museum like the one in Dayton (there is no museum like the one in Dayton) so you can cover this one in a reasonable amount of time.  It is still informative enough that a true fan could easily spend a day or more here.

I was personally moved by the huge photo of Hitler with some of the children of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels.  The children in the photo were murdered by their mother after she learned of the death of Hitler.

The museum is very interactive, and we participated in a film viewing situation, that allows the viewer to pretend that they are going in to the Air Force, and preparing for a mission.  A short film is watched in 3 different rooms, and the last room is a very visual one involving actual footage from the period of air combat.  You feel like you are in the middle of it.

Also, at the beginning of the presentation, there is a briefing for the new pilots, on the targets that will be bombed.  I have a much better understanding of how this sort of mission worked.  A lot is involved!

Check out the museum next time you are in the Savannah area!