This Endless Search for Historical Markers

Saving history one day at a time

A foray North and (later) a Missed opportunity

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Picking up from where I left off, which was . . . was . . . oh yeah: me lamenting that I’m not in a position to get chased by angry horseman in a foreign territory. Yikes. Of all the things to lament about. I dont know who put that tonic in my coffee. But I’ll find out. And then they’ll pay.

I honestly do wish for more adventure (not the x-games variety, though) in my life and I get the twitch in my legs when I come across photographs of a time when mortgage was a foreign word (although I still have a hard time spelling it) and when I was free to get into all sorts of trouble. Recently I came across this gemstone:welsh-mountainsNow, I’m not sure if this image falls under the category of preening, posturing or just straight posing but that is one nice ‘stache eh? This picture is a self shot (I have incredibly long arms) taken whilst on a three or four day solo hike in Wales.54431391507_0_alb31092391507_0_alb10953391507_0_alb Days were spent trudging head down in the cold, blowing drizzle while at night I tried unsuccessfully to lure free ranging sheep to my bivouac with the hopes of either radiant warmth or pirated mutton. 38943391507_0_albIn other words I slept cold, wet and hungrily unsatisfied (my meals were of the canned, cold and perhaps spoiled variety. One can never fully understand the songs of the belly unless they are sung at a particular pitch. In this case the note was a low E, popular with American tourists in Central America as an urgent, sonorous note (some would even say melancholy).

Now then, where was I?

Leaving Statham, Georgia and The Stoneman Raid behind I proceeded West to Winder and on to Lawrenceville, the seat of Gwinnett County. Normally I have only disparaging things to say about Gwinnett County. And this case is no different. There is a massive slogan painted on a tower in North Atlanta that reads: “Success Lives Here” and “Gwinnett Is Great”. 528758426_80034258a5What lives in Gwinnett County is the pervasive notion that any growth is good growth and the more graded, paved landscapes the better. Gwinnett County used to be wooded and rural (sort of) now it is a complex of 4 lane highways flanked, virtually without interruption, by the kind of strip-mall development that most Americans have come to disdain. I know that, to some, these arguments are very trite and overused, but spend a few rush hours in August trying to get around, and see what you think then.

Ugh. I apologize.

Gwinnett County is named for Button Gwinnett, signer of the Declaration of Independence, Georgia Politician and unsuccessful dueler .buttongwinnettbutton-gwinnett-duel-sketch4727

Button had a particularly nasty relationship with a character named Lachlan McIntosh; their feud growing from a military appointment given to Lachlan over Button. The years did not quell their enmity and, apparently, only pistols at dawn could bring satisfaction to their quarreling. Alas! When pride conquers all.

For more information, please see an article written on Button by GHS’s own Stan Deaton in the New Georgia Encyclopedia: http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/nge/Article.jsp?id=h-2543. And many thanks to Stan for being a kind editor and not lambasting me over my historical vagaries.

By early afternoon I reached Gainesville, Georgia, searching for the cast bronze tribute to Gen. James Longtreet. Gainesville was the post war home of Gen. Robert E. Lee’s “old war horse”. Growing up, Longstreet was my favorite figure from the Civil War and I felt personally offended when I read that he was criticized for not pushing the action at the conclusion of the first day at Gettysburg. Granted, my impression of the General was partly shaped because he was played by Tom Berenger in the movie “Gettysburg”. fanfav5largeAt the time (I was 12) I was a big Berenger fan. Classic roles in “Platoon” and “Major League” (I was also a catcher and, though he clearly was a terrible baseball player, he nailed the essence of the salty veteran) made him a favorite in my register. And, come on, who doesn’t love a huge fake beard1386-7141 and film full of melodrama and terrible southern accents. The scene below features men born no where near the south playing iconic Confederates. Martin Sheen is especially gothic.

I actually enjoyed the movie, and I loved the book “The Killer Angels” by Michael Shaara. The book was my first experience with the history of the Civil War and (at age 11) I became enamored by Longstreet and his little utilized belief in defensive warfare. I once met a Englishman who studied military history and it was his opinion that Longstreet was the Father of modern warfare (he said modern warfare but through our conversation it was clear he meant early 20th century modern or trench warfare). Hmm. I don’t know about that, but it is interesting.

The Longstreet marker was missing, of course, but that did not dampen my spirits as I strolled around a surprisingly walkable downtown Gainesville and enjoyed fantastic autumn weather. (see video below)

While exploring I started playing with the shutter functions of my camera and realized that I can take photos in rapid succession. See below for a visual tour of Courthouse Square in Gainesville, GA.

Next: A steep climb, and a sadness at dusk.

Written by 4baldtires

January 15, 2009 at 11:24 am

Posted in Travel Journal

Goats LOVE Privett

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I left Athens and drove to Crawford, GA by way of US highway 78. Although now a major artery, the road largely follows the old transportation route between Augusta and Athens and along this path a traveler passes through many historic communities, some even dating back to the late colonial period. My host for the next couple of nights, Tim Walsh, has had a very active hand in the preservation of several of these historic properties. Tim has actually done some really interesting work over the past decade or so: brick masonry on a house made with site fired bricks, (opposed to bricks made in a plant and shipped to the site. For those interested in old school building techniques, you should research this. Essentially you make a beehive structure of wet mud bricks and light a fire in the middle) timber framing, log cabining (?) stone masonry and just about everything else one could do to an old house.

Tim’s house is rife with hilarity but also life threatening danger. Really. I’m not kidding. Smirk if you must but I’d like to see how you’d feel with 10 sharp claws at your neck with all the strength of 10lbs of tabbied flesh behind it (some will recognize the assailants) enemies-2I’m lucky I made it out of there alive. Throughout the night I was visited by these fluffy apparitions who used my head and neck like a whetstone (I was also visited by a not so fluffy, very tangible dog named Cornbread Cornbreadwho did nothing to dissuade my attackers and was only interested in swiping a slice of my pillow).

In the morning after dragging my self off of the couch (who needs sleep when you have excitement!) I emerged to an absolutely glorious morning (see video below). A cup of coffee later I strolled out among the wild brood as I took in the pastoral serenity of Oglethorpe County.dsc00907dsc00909

The most amusing member is Tim’s family is his goat Ike. dsc00911dsc00912dsc00915Ike really misses his old girlfriend Tina. His life just aint as fulfilling without her. We all know how much Ike loves Tina.

After leaving the farm I headed west to Lawrenceville by way of Statham and Winder and from there to Gainesville, (a place that must be populated with yankees and Floridians, cause I can’t image why a Georgian would ever want to live in a city so foully named) Baldwin and back down to Daniellsville (see future posts).

It was in the vicinity of Statham (Barrow County) and Athens that the bumbling Stoneman Raid took place in 1864 (see Gen. Stoneman’s gallant visage below). Perhaps bumbling is too severe an adjective. Bumbling is what I do when I ride a horse, I’m sure these Blues were fine horseman. Ill fated would do better; perhaps jarringly unsuccessful. Wait I get jarred in the saddle, these guys just failed.

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There are many Historical Markers dedicated to this event (see below) and, unless my emotional receptors are fouled, I can detect a little smear of pride in the marker text; written as they were about a glaring Union upstaging on sacred Georgia soil. But, heck, who am I to judge. Stoneman was, after all, the highest ranking Union officer captured during the war.

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The events of the raid, the capture and and the successful flight by some of Stoneman’s officers are more pieces of a history (an Adventure!) that I have hard time comprehending. These men must had suckled on pure adrenaline for days on end. A Narrative of the raid was written by a General Capron (who was actually 60 during the battle!). stoneraidinsidecover1webstonemanraidcover1webgeneral-horace-capron-th He and his two sons were members of the party that fled and his account provides details of an unbelievably stirring event. Capron tells of riding bare back through rapids and hiding deep in swamps to escape Confederate pursuers. I find myself being romantically drawn into these unimaginable set of circumstances whereby their lives flourished (or floundered). The rules that governed them during the war have little resonance in our time. It is a curse of this age. Oh well, I bet there is something good on TV.

TV Gut

More to come . . .

Written by 4baldtires

January 7, 2009 at 11:06 am

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Highs on the Highway

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I rushed out of Savannah, late as always. I think this part of my brain never quite developed properly. Actually, there are probably whole sections that could use some work. Handwriting is definitely in there. The spelling section is permanently understaffed with only a grumpy chain-smoking old hag manning the reception desk. I think the name-remembrance division shares the same office (I asked my girlfriend Summer for help finding faults and I soon realized that this game is not fun anymore)

So, I was screaming west on I-16, by far the most boring stretch of Georgia roadway. There aren’t even any exciting town names. Denmark: Have you met any exciting Danes? Soperton: Sounds way too clean. Dudley: actually Dudley is kind of fun, although I have lived with a dog named Dudley who was incredibly dull, so there you go.

I was driving fast because I had an appointment in Athens with some old Professors and I had to survey several counties before I arrived. I was still trying to wrap up “The March to the Sea” corridor and needed to hit several counties in North of I-20 and east of Atlanta; Newton County (it’s County Seat, Covington) being one of them.

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In addition to being the site of important corollary action of the “Battle of Atlanta” I also attended a really fun wedding in Covington and I was interested in revisiting some sites from the Fall of ’03. As it turns out, memory lane is a dead end and I could only find the interstate motel where I stayed for the weekend. covington-motelAll the other sites of fond recollections will remain unfound and largely unsubstantiated. This could likely be for the best.

Before the flashback I mentioned important Civil War Action and I do not mean to leave anyone hanging. Covington was captured and torched in 1864 while the Battle of Atlanta roared to the West (see photos). Apparently the Convingtonians were left undefended and Union horsemen swept through without much resistance. Later, after the Battle of Atlanta, Sherman sent the left wing of his forces back through Covington before juking towards Augusta and then turning towards the state capitol at Milledgeville.

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While surveying Covington and then on into Conyers I got the eerie feeling like I was being drawn into Atlanta. I don’t know for sure what it was, maybe the hordes of vehicles on the road at 3 pm, maybe the recently re-widened swaths of asphalt, the grumpy faces, NASCAR goatees, hip hop music and the teenagers, oh-so-many teenagers.

26aug08_roadconstruction2angry-driver12481999724_dd69cbfe203491_2All I do know is that it made surveying a little sweet slice of misery and I was becoming increasingly worrisome about the daunting task lying ahead of me. That day, however, I turned east, away from the big city, and cast my lot with the many others fleeing work and the early onset of rush hour congestion.

I eventually arrived in Athens uncharacteristically on time for my meeting with old (former and old) professors. After the meeting’s conclusion I ventured out on foot to conclude the days survey. Athens was a fun town to live in, even if it was for only 20 months. Graduate School was entertaining and quite engaging although I spent many weekends and both summers out of town. If given the choice I would certainly do it again, even if it meant returning to my pathetic monthly budget (not to be too specific but the figure does not include a comma).

Maybe the most interesting (and famous) Civil War marker in Athens has to do with the dubious double barrel cannon.dsc00896dsc00897 Rarely has an engineering and manufacturing blunder been so celebrated. The only positive from the story is that no one was killed during the failed test. This, of course, is ironic because the cannon’s creators believed the weapon would cut through enemies like a scythe through wheat. Yikes. Yet there it sits in front of city hall one big, shiny, proud, harmless killing machine.

With the Athens survey complete, I set off to Tim’s house to endure two nights of cat attacks and to make peace with my inner caprine.

More to come . . . Soon!

Written by 4baldtires

December 15, 2008 at 3:55 pm

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Special! The West Bank of Dunwoody edition.

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Please allow me to jump out of order a bit. And, yes, I do realize that I have a LOT to catch up on.

Last week I found myself in Dunwoody, GA, again. ( I suppose congratulations are in order to Dunwoody for their recent incorporation. Dunwoody cityhood rolls to easy victory | ajc.com Finally they have wrenched their futures free from the bosses of the greater metro area. Want to see a new project in Dunwoody? Well there’s a new band of outlaws to contend with now, my friend. Better bring your A-game.)

Dunwoody will be featured prominently in upcoming posts. This is true for a couple of reasons. First, and all the kids will tell you, Dunwoody is one heck of a swingin’ place. Just ask the Johnson’s, residents since ‘65, or the Rosenberg’s, residents since ’62. They know what I’m talking about. Second, my sister lives there and she has a guest room.

I was in town because I was on my way to survey counties in Northwest Georgia and because I was to be photographed for an upcoming AJC article. (The article was really cool, Historian catalogs Georgia’s Civil War markers | ajc.com and I REALLY appreciate Mark Davis for developing this story and giving us so much exposure)

I finally shut my eyes not long after midnight, hoping to rise refreshed and charming (if such a thing is possible). In what seemed like a few leg twitches later I awoke to what turned out to be a car alarm. Confused, I hit the snooze on my alarm clock, tried to answer my phone and, just in case, I tried to deactivate the panic button on my rental car keypad. These actions having no affect on the evil sound, I slowly directed my half shut eyes toward the widow and saw this scene:

Bam. Awake, sort of, but still reeling like a drunk. The trauma had given life to my limbs, but my brain wasn’t offering any assistance.

I somehow managed to get some clothes on while yelling at the emergency dispatch about the burning truck. She was a lovely woman, really, who kept her cool admirably while I cursed at her for her inability to tell me the location of the fire.

As I raced out to the fire several thoughts rushed through my little, sleepy brain. One, I didn’t realize that the WTO was in town. Two, I thought the Philadelphia Phillies won the world series last week. Three, Hezbollah? here? Four, Wow, Americans are really making bad cars. Five, is On-Star’s self destruct feature standard on all GM vehicles?

Anyway, I rushed out there seriously concerned that there might be someone inside. I soon realized that, if there was, they were by now just elementary carbon particles. That sucker was really blazing. To me, however, the oddest thing about the experience, because I know cars get torched every day (my friends from Oakland, CA can attest to that), was the noise. Shortly after running out of the door, the alarm died, (presumably after the wire burned) and I was left with just the roar of the fire. After being in a semi-conscious state of alarm, the noise was oddly calming and very other worldly (again I was not thinking clearly). This state soon passed as tires started to explode shortly followed by trapped gasoline.

A few minutes later, while I was warming myself by the bonfire (it was pretty cold), the cops arrived and a few moments after that the firemen. No kidding, the first thing out of the police officer’s mouth was, “I hope someone wasn’t in there.” Indeed.

After further introductions and some assurances that, “No, this is not my truck” I went and retrieved my camera. Later I was told that this is a classic teenage joy ride/detonation scenario. Kids these days have really upped the ante.

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The first photos featured in this blog were taken after the fire was doused and when I had just about calmed my heart rate. Apparently the fire wasn’t contained and more trapped gasoline exploded and re-ignited the sucker.

In the morning, when it was really my alarm, I didn’t feel refreshed or charming. It’d be more accurate to say I was singed inside and out. And more than a little jumpy.

Written by 4baldtires

November 21, 2008 at 12:06 pm

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Next: What just touched me? Do I really want to know?

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For this leg of the trip I stayed in another cottage Indian Springs State Park (Georgia State Parks – Indian Springs State Park). Again, thanks to Judd Smith and the good people at DNR for helping me make this reservation.

This area has a long, sometimes confusing and often tragic history. Creek Indians valued the location for the healing properties of the spring. It was at this location that two “Treaty of Indian Springs” were signed. In the first of the two treaties, 1821, Creek Indians ceded their lands in Georgia to the state for cash and prizes. In the Second treaty, 1825, Creeks ceded all land east of the Mississippi. One year later, however, the Creek nation decried this treaty as invalid because it was signed without popular consent. Creeks were so upset that they assassinated signer William McIntosh and sued for a new treaty, signed in 1826, which repealed many of the provisions of the previous year’s treaty. For more information on this very important but also confusing saga please follow links.

Treaty with the Creeks at Indian Springs, 1825 (Senate Doc. 222, 18th congress, 2nd session)

Treaty of Indian Springs – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

U.S.-Creek Treaty of Washington, Jan. 24, 1826

Treaty of Washington (1826) – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

After 1821 new settlers arrived at Indian Springs and they developed the area into a popular little resort town based around the spring’s qualities. I also went to the spring in search of liquid rejuvenation. My reaction was that by “healing properties” they meant sulfur water, and if I really wanted to smell like a match head then I could save myself a lot of time and just go swimming in the Savannah river (just kidding, not about the Savannah river part, though)

Indian Springs State Park is thought to be the oldest state park in the nation. In the 1930’s many buildings, including the spring house and adjoining stone buildings, were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) to beautify our state and to keep young men out of trouble. And it really is pretty. The stone work is first rate and the setting is very nice. Indian Springs really is a quirky little community with pretty Victorian architecture, and I can’t wait to re-visit. Especially so I can buy some well-worn metal junk, which just so happens to be available in abundance from nearby peddlers.

For my purposes (that’s another way of saying: more importantly) Indian springs hosted (or was inhabited by) Sherman’s army on his “March to the Sea”

Sherman at Indian SpringsIndian Springs

According to the marker a detachment of Sherman’s forces was assigned to protect the town population and to keep order. Mmm. Protect from whom or from what, I wonder. Melancholy? Was the 100th Indiana actually a singing troup? Sounds dubious, but, heck, what do I know, I wasn’t there.

The park also has a 105-acre lake (see the many beautiful photos on the the park’s website Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites), which at 9pm after an exhaustive day on the road seemed too inviting to resist (although I’m pretty sure swimming out of the boundaries is not allowed). So after sauntering down the hill from my cabin I reached the edge of the darkened abyss. Nary a light was to be seen (really, I am pretty sure that I was the only person in this place) so I stripped down and eased my bones in. No matter how many times you tell yourself that there is nothing in this lake that could possibly hurt you, you just can’t help twitch a little at suspect noises (during one such attack I actually ducked under water in an attempt to hear an approach). Jeez. Click the link for an artistic recreation of the event!

Being from Tallahassee I have plenty of experience with swimming critters.

From this experience I know that 1) they won’t bother you and, more importantly 2) there are no gators up here! So after side stroking to the middle of the lake I felt sufficiently relaxed and more than a little fatigued so I turned forth and aimed for the darkened spot where I thought that I had triangulated as the location of my clothes. Close enough. Only had to stumble on the bank for about 30 yards groping with my way ignominiously over rocks and roots.

I went for another swim in the morning just to see if my visions were at all accurate. Oh, not even close. Not even the spiders.

Later in the day I surveyed Macon and was surprised, this being my first time in downtown Macon, to find a really pretty, interesting place. It also seemed a nice enough place to walk around, grab a bite and enjoy life a bit. I, on the other hand, had no time for such pleasantries and I was off again before my shadow could catch up, the Chevy crossover leaving a dust cloud in its wake.

Before crossing the Ocmulgee, though, I stopped at Rose Hill Historic Cemetery. It was amazing (pics).

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I had the place to myself, that is excluding a dozen state prisoners on work detail who were menacingly eying me, my wheels and my freedoms. Perhaps we had a failure to communicate? Who knows? They were, however, doing a fantastic job of landscaping! Rose Hill is built on, well, a hill (appropriately enough) just north and slightly west of downtown. Broad views to the river below and thoughtful, well crafted Victorian funeral monuments throughout. Among the significant personages buried in Rose Hill are General Edward Dorr Tracey Jr. (he of the cadenced appellation) and Alfred Holt Colquitt. Both men served in the war (though only Colquitt survived). In Rose Hill these men were buried not far from many dozens of their brothers in arms.

I hope I make the time to go back because I spent a few nice moments of an otherwise wearisome afternoon there, and its not everyday you get to negotiate through dozens of men in striped jumpsuits wielding power tools.

Written by 4baldtires

November 10, 2008 at 12:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

Part Three. Soupy Grits, Cold Coffee, Runny Eggs and Hard Biscuits . . .

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. . . But the atmosphere was entertaining. Maybe I arrived late for breakfast but I swear I’ve cooked better breakfast while camping. Without a fire. Still, I was starving and I needed strength after the night I’d had. A night hike can be invigorating but also alarming. Maybe that wasn’t dog fighting, maybe it was only a lot of dogs barking aggressively to the amusement of human voices (at least I think it was human voices). Who knows? I’ve never been to Taliaferro County before.

So breakfast was cold. No matter. The morning had the first hint of nice weather I’ve felt since June, I was in a pretty little town (see Greensboro gallery below) and I had the whole world open in front of me (i.e. five counties in central Georgia). First though, a tip was due. Now what is 20% of $3.89?

A note about Greensboro first: If you are driving through, and I assume that is the usual extent of one’s interaction with Greensboro, try to get out and stretch your legs. Check out the Old Gaol, learn about the town when it was on the Creek Indian frontier (see pics below) and, for goodness sake, let loose some legal tender. The more towns like Greensboro, the better!

From Greensboro on to Madison I had an enjoyable ride along beautiful farm country near Lake Oconee and back through the little hamlet of Buckhead (photos belos). What one could do with these empty buildings if one never needed a return on their investment?

In Madison, a town that I visited often while in graduate school in Athens, I spent a pleasurable few minutes touring avenues filled with the grand homes of ancient (by new world standards) Georgia families and, more often, modern day Yankee transplants and wealthy Atlantans who fled the sprawl of a still-proud, just increasingly unlivable city, at least, anyway, for those who love walking and small town convenience. (Note: I will be in Atlanta in three weeks to test this theory,).

I also visited a beautiful cemetery (see video).

I’m sure I could spend a year only touring historic Georgia Cemeteries and be quite happy. This one in Madison was in an especially beautiful setting with interesting topography and even boasted a kudzu monster

Here’s what I have to say about my trip to Milledgeville: “If I get honked at one more time, I’m gunna lose it.” Seriously, I understand that I drive a silly car. Lay off the horn.

And, “Go see Flannery O’Conner’s Andalusia (Flannery O’Connor – Andalusia Foundation)” It is very special place and I am sure they could use the patronage. During the spring of ’05 I executed a historic resource documentation project on the two story vernacular farm house on the property. It was well nigh to collapsing when I last saw it. I hope things have changed since. Also, I wonder if Flossy, the disgruntled mule, is still there . . .?

Written by 4baldtires

October 24, 2008 at 11:17 am

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Part 2: Yes, that is a camera around my neck. And I’d appreciate it if you stayed out of my personal space.

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Apparently there are a couple of blocks in Augusta where one garbed in new camera and folding map should not tread after dark. Yes, I know that I’m an easy target and yes, I may be willing to stay in a situation longer than I should because, after all, intimidation is a bitter pill and, besides, what if it is all bluster? On the other hand a good jolt of adrenaline does help clear the head and my thoughts were crystal when I fled out of there.

Regardless of my close call, I did have a good time in Augusta. The areas that I surveyed were largely full of historic resources, some being renewed and others on the unfortunate side of dereliction (see video below).

The streets were walkable (mostly, see above) and, to my delight, I was able to spend a few minutes at the Confederate Powder Works, which is just west of Downtown in a little, rough, depression-era neighborhood (see photos in gallery below and lament the lack of video). Pink Floyd fans are sure to expect a giant pig to float above this huge historic complex of crenelated brick facades and one giant obelisk of a smoke stack.

The coolest thing about this location though was the Augusta Levee Road that begins at the Confederate Powder Factory and follows the Savannah River north from the city to a lower levee spillway. It always goes that my favorite spots are nature oriented getaways, but this one is especially cool in that, just minutes from the city (and well upstream from the industrial sites south of the city), an Augustan or spirited visitor can find some river solace and stretch their legs all at the same time. And they may not even be accosted.

*Food/Dining Note: Be sure to stop in at the “The Soul Bar” and ask Coco or Jason to put a drink on Tom’s tab (sorry Tom, but you offered).

Written by 4baldtires

October 14, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Posted in Travel Journal