North Carolina Stopover

We’ve spent two nights in NC enjoying a visit with my sister and her husband. Connor loved playing with Jo Jo, while Nancy and I cooled off in their pool. Weather is looking iffy for Charleston on Monday, so we’ve made alternative reservations near Greenville SC where it looks more promising. We’ll make the final decision tomorrow morning. O


 

Looking Up

Nancy gave us the perfect send off as we’re off to see the total eclipse of the sun, our closest star.  Yesterday I hitched up Ollie and picked up grandson Connor. Today the three of us are  heading south to Charleston SC where Russ will join us on Sunday.

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The Home Stretch

Born and bred in the Tar Heel State, nothing says home like Stamey’s Barbecue.

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Chopped sandwich with a side of hush puppies

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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.

 

Selma, Birmingham, and Atlanta

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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.

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Seen outside the Brown Chapel A.M.E. Church, where the marchers assembled in 1965.

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.

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The 16th Street Baptist Church

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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.

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Montgomery AL – A Spiritual Experience

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.

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Our tour guide, Wanda, often had us repeat phrases, a technique that was especially moving as we recited in unison part of the “I Have a Dream” speech while  standing in front of the pulpit where Martin Luther King preached.

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.

 

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It was from this office that Dr. King directed the Montgomery Bus Boycott.

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.

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Photos weren’t allowed inside the museum, but we loved running into these “Soul Sistahs” from Mississippi.

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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.

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MLK’s Parsonage at 309 S. Jackson Street where the Southern Christian Leadership Conference often convened around the dining room table.

 

“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 – Alabama

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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.

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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.

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They were especially pleased with their red cedar bathroom

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.

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The Great Escape (Almost)

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.

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The last time we drove in rain this hard was leaving New Orleans in 2015! Our windshield wipers were going full speed.
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A waterspout as we crossed the bridge.

We soon got ahead of the weather, and probably would have stayed ahead of it IF we hadn’t noticed this sign:

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The Science Center serves as the Visitors’ Center for NASA’s largest rocket testing facility, the John C. Stennis Space Center.

The Saturn 5
THE SATURN 5 ROCKET weighs 100,000 pounds by itself, but when it’s on the launch stand fully loaded with rocket fuel and liquid oxygen, weighs 800,000 pounds.
Space Station workspace
INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION MODULE  Port and starboard are printed on each end of the module to help astronauts stay oriented.
Sleeping pod
SLEEPING POD WITHIN THE SPACE STATION MODULE  The sleeping bag keeps the astronauts from floating out of bed, and their heads are strapped onto the pillow. Clean socks are a priority since no shoes are worn on the Space Station.
Werner von Braun's office
WERNER VON BRAUN’S OFFICE  German-born von Braun developed the V-2 rockets that devastated London during World War II.  He was captured by the Americans and brought to our country where he became the father of the American space program.

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)

Atlantic Hurricane Names

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.

Category 1-5

“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?” 

Katrina Warning

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.