Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Back in February, Bunny and I were looking forward to our annual extension retreat and the opportunity to visit with friends we had not seen in over 10 years. Unfortunately the special weekend was the same week as the ice storm and instead of being with friends Bunny and I were home cleaning up storm debris. A few weeks later plans were made with Deborah and Allen for a road trip through the Deep South in April. Reservations were made but as the date approached Deborah had a family emergency and could not go. Truly we were disappointed but decided to go forward with the southern adventure. The plan was to travel along back roads and spend the first two days wandering through Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi with New Orleans as our destination. The first night was spent in one our favorite southern towns; Milledgeville, Georgia. Milledgeville was Georgia's State Capitol in the 1800s and enjoyed great prosperity because of cotton. All was well until the Civil War and in1864 Sherman came through and devastated much of the city and surrounding countryside. After the War, the capital was moved to Atlanta and Milledgeville had to redefine itself. Life was difficult for sometime but during the 1980s and 90s the town began to capitalize on its heritage and revitalized the downtown area and historic district. The community leaders, with the future in mind, also added to its present success through creating a more diverse economic base. Milledgeville is a beautiful southern town and promotes itself through an educational and interesting tour. After leaving Milledgeville, the rest of the day was spent driving and driving. However, it's always interesting to see life along the back roads and it's worth noting that much of the countryside was similar to Williamsburg County. There were pine trees, small towns, and rural farm land. The main difference was that our state seemed to have more litter than others. As soon as we crossed the state line on Sunday, we noticed how clean Georgia was. And, unfortunately as we came back into Allendale the following Sunday, we observed large amounts of litter on the roadside. Lunch on Monday was spent in the small Alabama Town of Union Springs. It's interesting how much this town reminded us of Kingstree. The population and economics appeared to be similar and I immediately took note of what was going on around town. The sign coming into Union Springs got our attention as it displayed a big “USA.” However, looking closer, underneath were the words Union Springs Alabama. Union Springs promotes itself as being the Serendipity Center of the South as well as being uniquely and genuinely southern. Riding through the downtown area we saw the Bird Dog Field Trial Monument and discovered that Bullock County is recognized as the Bird Dog Field Trial Capital of the World. Each February people come from all over to participate in the largest most prestigious amateur bird dog field trial held at Sedgefield Plantation. During the event the town welcomes hundreds of tourist and to add to the festive spirit, each downtown store window displays decorations using the field trial theme. The town comes together at this time and promotes many activities in conjunction with the trials. Union Springs promotes itself as a relaxed place of living and a friendly place to call home. Umm… wonder what other small southern town could better capitalize on their “Horse Trials”?
Monday evening after arriving in New Orleans, Bunny and I chose to eat in the restaurant at the hotel and not only had delicious gumbo, but also enjoyed an entertaining conversation with our waiter. When we finished eating, the young man came by and after a simple question he talked at length about life during Katrina. It seems that he and his family were on the buses that left the city before the storm hit. His brother never came home, but chose to stay in Texas and made a good life for himself. However, our waiter and his mom came back to New Orleans to rebuild their lives. He then said, “You know, the storm was not all bad. Before Katrina, my mom's house needed a lot of work but we did not have any money. After the storm, with the help of insurance, my mom fixed up her house and you should see it now, it's a fine house”! The young man then proceeded to tell us everything to do in town and while he talked it was evident how proud he was of his southern heritage and how much he loved New Orleans. No one could have given us a better welcome to the old city. During the next few days Bunny and I saw all the usual tourist sites but one of our favorites was the National World War II Museum. The museum is very large and takes hours to see, but it's worth the trip.
I do not think my generation comprehends what a terrible experience World War II was for our military and for the world in general. It was a very humbling experience. In the next few weeks, I hope you will join me as I share the rest of our southern adventure. Truly, there is no place like home, and home for us that week was the Gracious Deep South.