Savannah, Georgia

IMG_0792IMG_0791Day 28.

Miles Driven: 224

Sunday morning, we left our gracious Florida hostess, Barbara, and started the drive up the east coast. Barbara was so great. She let us come and go from her home while we went to the US Virgin Islands and to the theme parks. She was always eager to hear about the fun we had that day.

We were invited to lunch in Ocala with friends of my Tante Elke. Sue and Bill provided us with a nice pit-stop at their beautiful home on our way up the Florida peninsula.

Some segments of the drive north were on smaller highways and took us through small towns where a church was on almost every corner. As we passed into each state, we have been taking photos of the “welcome to…” signs, but, somehow we missed the Georgia sign, so we had to circle back and try again.

Now that we are back to camping, Bill and Sue recommended that we try some of the Georgia State Parks for our campsites. For this night, we narrowed it down to Crooked IMG_0793River and Jekyll Island for camping. We settled on Crooked River and decided to visit Jekyll Island the next day as we continued north.

Day 29.

Miles Driven: 197

We woke to a beautiful view of the Crooked River. We packed and headed out to spend the morning on Jekyll Island and then finish the drive to Savannah.

IMG_0802Jekyll Island, we learned, was part of the undiscovered south, back before Palm Beach became the vacation destination. This small island was purchased as a vacation retreat for the Jekyll Island Club, members of which were the poobas of their time like Rockefeller, J.P. Morgan, Marshall Field, and Joseph Pulitzer. Many of these great men had summer vacation homes in Newport, RI and Jekyll Island became their winter retreat. They had a beautiful clubhouse where they could stay but eventually members began building their own “cottages” (mansions really) to stay in.

As the rich and famous began vacationing elsewhere, the island became open to the public. The Clubhouse has become a hotel and restaurant. We really enjoyed the lunch menu at the restaurant and had the most excellent service. I highly recommend it!

IMG_0811We drove around the island a bit to see all of the cottages and visit the beautiful driftwood beach. Many vacationers were fishing or crabbing off the pier.

By late afternoon, we were in Savannah and checked into our second Georgia State Park campsite at Skidaway Island. We drove into Savannah for dinner and found a neat Farm-to-Table restaurant 22 Square where we enjoyed a meat and cheese plate and shrimp salad. Mom’s drink came in the coolest copper mug.

Day 30

Miles Driven: 65

Savannah is the oldest city in Georgia and was America’s first planned city. It was established by General James Oglethorpe for Britain, as their thirteenth colony. He had designed the city before even setting foot on Georgian soil. The city plan was designed in a grid with 24 public squares integrated into the city. Each square is unique and has different statues or memorial in the center. Only 22 of the squares still remain, and there would be even less if the historical society had not stepped in and began preserving the historic downtown. The Savannah College of Art and Design has also aided in preserving the historic buildings by buying, restoring, and using them for classrooms all over the city. The historic architecture and great weather have drawn both tourists and film makers. Forest Gump and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil are just two of the many movies to be filmed in Savannah.

While driving from our campsite into Savannah we passed over the actual Moon River. I saw the sign and started humming the song. Of course I had to look up the lyrics and we discovered that Johnny Mercer, the singer/song writer who wrote the song Moon River along with 1000s of other notable songs, was born and raised in Savannah. You might know his songs like “Jeepers, Creepers!”, You Must Have Been a Pretty Baby, and One for My Baby (and One More for the Road).

On our way towards downtown we visited Bonaventure Cemetery. Sitting along the Savannah River, this cemetery is filled with family plots adorned with memorial statuary (mostly statues of young ladies looking mournful). Live oak trees with Spanish moss shade the graves. Here, we found a nice memorial to Johnny Mercer and his family.

IMG_0816Our good friend from church, Diana, gave us extra tickets she had for the Old Town Trolley Tours. We were able to use them in Savannah. This hop-on/hop-off tour was much needed to help us escape the sultry heat and learn about the city. After taking an initial loop around, we first stopped at the birthplace of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of America. We also visited the park from Forest Gump where we see him sitting on a bench with his box of chocolate and telling his life story.IMG_0821IMG_0819

The afternoon passed with a walk through Forsyth Park, a bus ride to get some delicious ice cream at Leopold’s, and a visit to the Paula Dean restaurant and shop, Lady and Sons. We were told that Paula often likes to surprise her customers whenever she is in town. Butter anyone?

The trolley tour ended at 6:00 so we hopped into the car and drove off into the sunset, (north really) towards South Carolina.There was so much to see in Savannah and so many historic buildings to restore! Maybe a job here in the future? I’ll be back!

Now, let me leave you with the lyrics of Johnny Mercer. We feel like they describe our motivations and need for our road trip perfectly.

“Moon River, wider than a mile
I’m crossing you in style someday
You dream maker
You heart breaker
Where ever you’re going I’m going your way

Two drifters off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end
Waiting round the bend
My huckleberry friend
Moon River and me”

Total Miles: 4,928

Sweet (it feels like Home) Alabama!

AlabamaMississippiDay 14

Miles Driven: 394

After some final sightseeing in New Orleans, we hit the road. We enjoyed a lovely drive over Lake Pontchartrain, through Mississippi, and into Alabama. The drive did not seem to take as long as the GPS predicted. But we passed the six-hour drive with more podcasts, trying to memorize all 50 state capitals, and being the first to spot one of the many Cracker Barrel billboards along the roadside. And no offense to Louisiana, but we no longer saw the many accidents or shredded tires once we got into Alabama.

IMG_3490We are staying with some very old friends of ours. Nan and my mom have been friends since before I was born and they worked together at Mattel Toys. Mom and Nan were pregnant at the same time so I have grown up with her son Kev. We would visit them at each other’s homes in California or travel together to Catalina Island. Always a fun family to travel with. Now, Nan and her photo 1husband Lar have retired to Lake Martin, Alabama. Lake Martin is a man-made lake created by Alabama Power. The power company created a dam to generate electricity and the backed up water flooded the hill country creating lots of little peninsulas perfect for a lake house. Over the past 100 years, the shore line is slowly being developed with strict building codes. Nan and Lar are in the process of building a “dream house” and welcomed us into their temporary rental home on the Lake. Both Kev and Lar graduated from Auburn University, so they are HUGE AU fans!

Day 15

photo 4We spent the morning bumming around the lake house. A walk down to the lake side and a trip into town to buy new swimsuits and shoes passed the morning. In the afternoon, we drive into the town of Auburn (about a hour away) to see the university and buy souvenirs. It seems like Auburn University is to Alabama like Cal Poly is to California. Both Polytechnic Universities in cozy towns.

Dinner was at Oskar’s, a local seafood diner, where I had my first taste of grilled catfish. Yummy and crispy! We had a time understanding the local accent and phrases while ordering our food. Funny how much English varies from one side of the country to the other.

Day 16

Another lazy, rainy morning. By noon, the sun was starting to peak out so we all decided to rent a pontoon boat for the afternoon. The lake was very enjoyable and an easy escape from the humid weather. Nan and Lar showed us the lot for their future home along with many other lake houses they were using for inspiration. Wow! Every house around this lake is amazing!

photo 3IMG_3489

The visit with Nan was filled with catching up and remembering the past. It is always fun to hear some of mom’s old “wild” stories of her past! haha!

We had a lovely and relaxing time with our very hospitable friends! Everyone in Alabama has been very welcoming. It will be hard to get back in the car and leave the beautiful lake. Some day we will be back to Sweet Alabama.

FloridaDay 17

Miles Driven: 489

We made it to the east coast!

The drive into Florida was long! Lots of little back roads to get onto the I-75 towards Orlando. Yet, if we had not taken the back roads, we would not have seen the wonderful foods growing in Georgia! Peanuts, pecans and peaches! We stopped at a roadside farm stand and bought peach butter, hot boiled peanuts, and some peach ice cream. Everything tasted wonderful.

Day 18

In Orlando, we are staying with another one of mom’s friends. Barbara attended the Naz church with us in California before moving out to Florida to be with her family. She is letting us store all our camping supplies at her house while we travel to the US Virgin Islands for a few days to visit Mom’s younger sister.

So, lots of trading stories with Barbara and puttering today. We had to repack our clothes for a little side trip to the Caribbean. 😀

Early flight tomorrow!

Total Miles: 4,296