Born and bred in the Tar Heel State, nothing says home like Stamey’s Barbecue.
Thanks to all who have been concerned about the weather. So far we have managed to be one step ahead of the worst of it. We’re in North Carolina visiting my sister and her husband, and the forecast looks pretty good for the next few days. Tomorrow we head for home.
Unlike the beautiful, shining city of Montgomery, a veil of the past hangs over the streets of Selma. The National Historic Trail marks the 54-mile voting rights march between Selma and Montgomery, beginning at the Edmund Pettis Bridge. As we walked across the bridge, we could only imagine what it was like that ‘Bloody Sunday’ in 1965 when peaceful marchers were attacked by law enforcement officers, and the subsequent marches that eventually led to the steps of the state capitol.
The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute tells the whole civil rights story – the bus boycott, the sit-ins, the freedom rides, the marches – all in factual, gruesome detail. It’s located across the street from the 16th Street Baptist Church, where a Ku Klux Klan bomb killed four little girls one Sunday morning in 1963. Two of the three perpetrators were finally convicted on four counts of murder in 2001 and 2002. The third died in in 1994, and was never charged.
We had hoped to round out our civil rights tour with a visit to the Ebenezer Baptist Church and the National Center for Civil and Human Rights in Atlanta, but time ran out. We squeezed in a nice dinner with Russ’ cousin, Skip, and his husband, Rob, before setting our sights on home.
Known as the “Cradle of the Confederacy” and the “Birthplace of Civil Rights,” Montgomery holds its diverse history in tender hands. Without glossing over the tragedies that burned these eras into our country’s legacy, the stories are told with sensitivity and grace in every venue. Our first stop was Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church, where 24-year old Martin Luther King began his six-year ministry in 1954.
The year after Dr. King arrived in Montgomery, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to relinquish her seat on a city bus. The next day, the meeting to launch the Montgomery Bus Boycott was held in the church basement. Dr. King, already known for his oratory skills, was chosen to lead the group that called themselves the Montgomery Improvement Association.
The Rosa Parks Museum has a wonderful multimedia presentation of the events surrounding this ordinary woman’s extraordinary courage. Her arrest on December 1, 1955 was the catalyst that led to the 382-day Montgomery Bus Boycott and the launch of the 20th century civil rights movement.
Photos weren’t allowed inside the museum, but we loved running into these “Soul Sistahs” from Mississippi.
We read about MLK’s epiphany in the Rosa Parks Museum, and wanted to see the room where it took place. I called the Dexter Parsonage Museum to see if we could catch the next tour, only to be told they were closing in 20 minutes.
“Let’s go anyway,” insisted Russ. “Maybe they’ll let us just look at the kitchen.” When we arrived, we immediately connected with Dr. Shirley Cherry, a life long educator with a passion for MLK. She agreed to give us a quick look at the parsonage where Dr. King lived from 1954 to 1959. That quick look extended into a two-hour private history lesson, not only about the house, but also of Dr. King’s philosophy of love and non-violence that changed the world.
THE EPIPHANY: Dr. and Mrs. King, who recently had become new parents, were receiving up to 40 threatening phone calls a day during the bus boycott. Late Friday night on January 27, 1956, Dr. King received a particularly menacing death threat while his family slept. Unnerved and unsure of himself, he went into the kitchen and fixed himself a pot of coffee.
“I was ready to give up. With my cup of coffee sitting untouched before me, I tried to think of a way to move out of the picture without appearing a coward. In this state of exhaustion, when my courage had all but gone, I decided to take my problem to God. With my head in my hands, I bowed over the kitchen table and prayed aloud.
The words I spoke to God that midnight are still vivid in my memory. “I am here taking a stand for what I believe is right. But now I am afraid. The people are looking to me for leadership, and if I stand before them without strength and courage, they too will falter. I am at the end of my powers. I have nothing left. I’ve come to the point where I can’t face it alone.”
At that moment, I experienced the presence of the Divine as I had never experienced God before. It seemed as though I could hear the quiet assurance of an inner voice saying: “Martin Luther, stand up for justice, stand up for truth; and God will be at your side forever.” Almost at once my fears began to go. My uncertainty disappeared. I was ready to face anything.”
Magnolia Branch Wildlife Reserve is 900 acres of forest, creeks, and lakes, all cared for by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians. They’re the only federally recognized Indian tribe in Alabama, operate as a sovereign nation with its own government, laws, and infrastructure, and are pulling in buckets of money with their gaming businesses.
We met the reserve’s general manager, Billy Smith, who served on the Tribal Council for 20 years, and also on the Gaming Board.
The reserve has been in the making since 2004, and new buildings such as this one use reclaimed wood whenever possible. Cypress, juniper, cedar, and long leaf pine downed by hurricanes Eric and Ivan are all part of this structure.
Gaming is their main source of income, and the money is pouring in, with three thriving casinos in Alabama, and three more in the works for Aruba. In 2012, the Poarch netted over $300 million for their tribe of 3000. They continue to buy back the land they were forced to give up in the 1830’s, and have established a museum and clinic on their reservation. Scholarships are available to any tribal member who wants to further their education. They also contribute to the greater community, such as the $14,000,000 Boys and Girls Club that’s in the works.
When I made Russ stop so I could take a photo Alabama’s red dirt roads, his comment was, “Janie, I don’t think people care as much about red roads as you do.”
We’re at Gunter Hill, a Corps of Engineers campground near Montgomery AL. As luck would have it, a dulcimer group has gathered here for the weekend, and last night we enjoyed the sweet tunes of old time music.
We chose to get an early start to beat the weather that was heading our way. It was just starting to sprinkle as we pulled out of our campsite, becoming a steady rain as we drove through NOLA 20 minutes later. We hit Lake Pontchartrain and the bottom fell out.
We soon got ahead of the weather, and probably would have stayed ahead of it IF we hadn’t noticed this sign:
The Science Center serves as the Visitors’ Center for NASA’s largest rocket testing facility, the John C. Stennis Space Center.
The center also has extensive earth science exhibits, and we were drawn to the one on hurricanes. Six rotating alphabetical lists (excluding Q, U, X, Y, and Z) are used for Atlantic hurricanes. If a storm is memorable (like Katrina in 2005) the name is retired and replaced. If there are more than 21 storms in a season, the Greek alphabet is used: Alpha, Beta, etc)
When winds reach 39 mph, it’s considered a tropical storm and is given a name. Once it hits 74 mph, it becomes a Category 1 hurricane.
“Robert Rick’s NWS warning for Hurricane Katrina got people’s attention – and changed the way hurricane warnings are written. Rick’s warning used clear language with attention-getting phrases for the first time in the National Weather Service’s history. Read for yourself. Would you pay attention if you read this?”
After our good intentions of beating the weather, we ended up slogging our way through “so-loud-you-can’t-hear-the-radio” rain before arriving safely at our next destination several hours later.
We couldn’t leave New Orleans without a visit to the French Quarter, so we hopped on the Algiers Ferry ($1 for Sr. Citizens) and took a 6 minute trip across the Mississippi.
We opted for a 2 hour walking tour with the historical society, but for me, it was too much information. I bailed after an hour to do some walking on my own, and met up with Russ when the tour was over.
Because New Orleans is practically a floating city (our guide told us it has more canals than Venice, but they’re all underground), burials are done above ground. We walked up to Saint Louis Cemetery to pay our respects, but found out it would cost $20 each if we went to Saint Louis Cemetery #1 (the oldest and most famous, dating back to 1789). We opted for Saint Louis Cemetery #2 a few blocks away, dating to the 1820’s and free.
For those of you who missed Mardi Gras, we stumbled across a storage lot on our way to the library. Let the good times roll!
When we tried to visit City Park in 2013, it was raining cats and dogs, but today the sun was shining. We loaded up our bikes and set out early, before it got too hot. Five hours later, happy and exhausted, we called it quits and headed for home.
Established in 1854, 1300-acre City Park offers miles of hiking/biking trails, the Besthoff Sculpture Garden, the Botanical Garden, the world’s largest stand of Live Oaks, and the Carousel Gardens Amusement Park – truly something for everyone.
It’s also home to the outstanding New Orleans Museum of Art, which provided a cool respite after our visit to the Sculpture Garden. (Margaret, put this on your “to do” list when the 95th is in New Orleans next fall!)
.On our way back to the truck, we decided to take a quick look at the Botanical Gardens – WOW – It became the highlight of the day for me!
Well designed and filled with beautiful, well-tended plantings, it showcases 14 works by Mexican-American artist Enrique Alfred (1901 – 1999). When he was 12, he ran into Pancho Villa’s army, and was given the choice to join them or die. He stayed with them for 10 years before coming to the US to study sculpture in Chicago. In 1929 he moved to New Orleans and initially was employed by the WPA to create sculptures and bridge adornments for City Park.
We stopped at a seafood shop on the way home and bought some redfish to cook on the grill. Russ was a happy camper, and cooker!