Southern Charm

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After wintering in Florida, it was time to get on the road again. First, a stop in Ocala to visit my mom and then on to Douglasville for a few weeks. We had tickets to see the Cirque du Soleil show, Alegria, on April 9. That was the very first Cirque show that we saw 10 years ago, and we fell in love with them. Diane and I have seen all the Cirque shows except for the first couple when we didn't know who they were. This was a great opportunity to take some of the grandkids to see Cirque. Three of them had seen a Cirque show before, but it was a first for 3-year old Ashley. One of the great things about taking grandkids to a show like Cirque du Soleil is watching the excitement and awe in their faces. We had a great time at the show.

We had passes to Walt Disney World that we bought last November and learned that we could get a deal on 4-day passes before the summer season started, so we decided it would be an opportunity to take a couple of the grandkids to Disney World. School ends in May  in Georgia, so we were able to plan a trip before the passes would run out. That gave us a few weeks to head out somewhere and we decided we'd go over to the coast to visit Charleston and some old friends up the coast in Myrtle Beach and in Southport, North Carolina.

Although we had visited other cities along the coast, we had never been to Charleston. We arrived in Charleston after a long day on the road from Atlanta.  It was a nice driving day after the rain we had the day before we left. We were going to stay at the county park, but we picked up a brochure for The Lake Aire RV Park and Campground a little further away. It was advertised as a Good Neighbor Park(GNP).  I called and they said only two sites were for GNP, but they were also a Passport America park, so we said fine. It was a little more than the GNP rate, but still a good price. The deal they had as a GNP was for water/elec, no sewer, and we wanted a full hookup.  We ended up with a 50-amp site with full hookup.  It was okay, but looks like it goes under water in some low parts (this IS the low country).  Although some sites were quite wet from the recent rains,  we were completely dry and also able to use the satellite dish.
After getting set up, I went next door to ask the guy (his name was Jim) in the Horizon about restaurants, but they had only been there a day and were leaving.  It turned out they were full-timers for a year and one of his brothers had just died in South Carolina.  His sister-in-law drove his 94-year old mother down from Michigan for the funeral (sad to have to bury your child, even at that age).  His wife went back to Michigan with her sister and Jim was taking a slow trip back to give his mom a vacation and some time to be away after the funeral.  Well, you wouldn't believe this lady.  She came out of the motorhome and you would never guess that she was 94.  She was spry and sharp.  Jim told me he and his wife had kids in the Minn-St Paul area and would spend most of the summer there. 

Charleston was cool.  We did a combo horse carriage ride and harbor tour to Fort Sumter.  The tour guide on the carriage ride was very knowledgeable and very funny.  We ate some good food and did LOTS of walking around the city. On one of our walks we visited St. Michael's Church (Episcopal). It was noted for being the oldest church edifice in Charleston and stood on the site of the first Anglican Church built south of Virginia in 1680. We also visited the aircraft carrier USS Yorktown docked at Patriots Point. We found Charleston to be a delightful city and were glad to have finally had an opportunity to visit.

The first shots of the Civil War were fired against Fort Sumter on April 12, 1861. The fort was started in 1829 as one of a series of coastal fortifications built after the War of 1812. The fort was held by Federal troops in 1861. The Confederate forces were led by Brig. Gen. Pierre G. T. Beauregard who ordered the Federal troops to evacuate the fort and give it up to the Confederate troops. When the Federal garrison under the command of Maj. Robert Anderson refused to leave the fort, Beauregard ordered the shelling of the fort. After 34 hours, the Federal troops left the fort and boarded ships bound for New York. The Civil War had begun.

I have always wanted to tour an aircraft carrier. With the Yorktown so close, it was hard to pass it up, so we drove to the Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum to check it out. The Yorktown was known as "The Fighting Lady" and was commissioned on April 15, 1943. She played a significant role in the Pacific theater during WWII until the defeat of Japan in 1945. The Yorktown was the tenth aircraft carrier to serve in the United States Navy. It was named for the old Yorktown that was lost during the Battle of Midway in 1942. The carrier was featured in two motion pictures: the documentary "The Fighting Lady" and "Tora! Tora! Tora!".

We couldn't get over how huge the ship was. It was 880 feet long with a crew of over 3300 sailors, and was able to hold 90 planes. In the 1950s, the carrier was modified to handle jets and served in the Vietnam War in the 1960s. It was also the ship that recovered the Apollo 8 astronauts in 1968. It was decommissioned in 1970 and towed from New Jersey to Charleston in 1975.

Never having been on a submarine, we also took the time to go into the Clamagore. One definitely can not suffer from claustrophobia to spend time on a sub. It was pretty tight down there.

There was a Medal of Honor museum inside the Yorktown, which was one of the reasons I wanted to visit.  I went to school on Long Island with someone who lost his life in Vietnam on March 12, 1967 and was awarded a Medal of Honor.  His name was Steven Karopczyc.  He only went to elementary school with us as he attended Chaminade High School and I went to Island Trees High School. I only have a vague recollection of Steven from elementary school, but my friend Frank Gallo (who has been in several of our travelogs) knew him well.

The museum was well done, but I was a bit disappointed that they didn't have a computer terminal available where one could look up the description of why each person was awarded the Medal of Honor.  One of the staff came by and he told me they had plans to do that over the next year as they expand the museum.  Other than Steven's name, the only other name I recognized was Audie Murphy from WWII and movie fame.  Each era had eight recipients highlighted in a display with name, photo, and copy of the Medal of Honor description.

If anyone is interested in seeing a description of a Medal of Honor recipient, Steven's can be found at:

There have been 3,459 recipients of the Medal of Honor since it was created in 1862 during the Civil War. Nineteen people have won the Medal twice. One woman, a Civil War surgeon, was honored with a Medal.

Our next stop was Myrtle Beach. I booked us into the Briarcliffe RV Resort in Myrtle Beach via the online Coast to Coast (C2C) system and it worked perfectly.  The lady in the office had everything waiting for us when we arrived and check-in was a snap.  There had been much negative press about the new reservation system implemented by C2C, but I guess the system can work for those willing to put in the time to play by the C2C rules.  I may have to rethink my position on their new system.  The bad news is that many parks were driven out of the network because they didn't want to participate, and I understand that.  It's not that an online system couldn't work, but it is a bit  presumptuous of C2C to think that every campground would be willing to follow potentially several different systems should the other membership clubs decide to implement an online reservation system.

I forgot just how much we liked Briarcliffe.  It was the very first campground we stayed in when we hit the road in 2000.  It's a very nice park.  Wide paved roads.  Concrete sites. HOT PHONES for $2/day, which meant I was in heaven.  It's where we first learned the term "park model" and they have some of the nicest looking park models we've seen anywhere.  The lady who checked us in knew her park.  She gave us a site and then I asked about being able to use the satellite dish given the many trees in the park.  She checked her availability and gave us a site with a perfect view for the dish.  It's true that they charge $2/day for cable whether or not you want it, but that's not an issue.  It's still just $10/night and that's a deal for full hookup, 50-amps, level concrete pads.  Plus, I use the cable to check out the local news and weather.

One of the first persons I met when I started my career back in 1966 was Mike Connor. We were friends and golfing partners for the 11 years that I worked in Poughkeepsie. Then Diane and I moved to South Florida for five years before moving to the Atlanta area in 1982. It turned out that Mike and Carol and their family also moved to the Atlanta area about the same time. So Mike and I renewed our golfing friendship throughout the 1980s and until I took an assignment that had me traveling 100% of the time. We retired and started full-timing in 2000, and Mike and Carol retired and moved to the Myrtle Beach area in 2003. This was an opportunity to visit with them as we passed through the area. Mike and I got to play a round of golf, and Diane and Carol spent the day shopping. We enjoyed a nice visit and dinner at their house. The rest of the time in Myrtle Beach was spent relaxing, and taking in a couple of new movies, and eating at one of those great Calabash seafood buffets.

On our maiden voyage in 2000, our "Friends and Family Tour", we stopped in Southport to visit former neighbors of ours from New York, Joe and Roxanne Larotonda. We only spent one night parked in the local Wal-Mart and had a nice visit with them. We vowed to come back some day and stay longer to see the area and play the golf courses where they live in St. James Plantation. This was our return visit year. We headed up to Southport and stayed for several days in the Long Beach Campground on Oak Island. It was a short walk to the beach from the campground and we got to take several long walks along a mostly deserted beach.

We got to play golf with Joe and Roxanne on one of the three courses at St. James. I then got to play another of the courses by playing nine holes with Joe and nine holes with Roxanne. It was loads of fun even though my golf game wasn't all that good while we were there. It was nice to see them again.

Since our last visit to Southport, some old friends of ours, Jon and Kathy Anders, who we made contact with in one of our visits to the Hudson Valley, moved to Southport and also lived in St. James Plantation. We got to spend a day visiting with them at the campground and in their new home. We like the Southport area and will probably return someday. We were there in May when there were no crowds and the weather was perfect for beach walking. It was a great time to visit the area.

Lake Oconee was on the way back to Atlanta, so it was a no-brainer to plan a stop at the campground we stayed at last Fall as we were returning to the South from our tour of the Maritimes. It would give us an opportunity to visit again with our former Marietta neighbors, Tom and Linda Roberts. We made it a two day trip and spent one night at a Flying J. They offered a WiFi connection, so I sprang for the $4.95, which I think is a bit high for a daily fee, and had high speed access for the rest of the day and in the morning before we left.

Diane and I have always loved being in the Lake Oconee area. We got together with Tom and Linda a couple of times and I got to play a round of golf at the Port Armour course with Tom and some of his golfing buddies. Although we had lived in the Atlanta area for 18 years, and had been out to Lake Oconee several times, we hadn't toured much of the area around the lake. Madison was always on our list of towns to visit and this was a good opportunity to do that. Madison, GA is known as the town that General Sherman refused to burn on his march through Atlanta and then east to Savannah. The town was incorporated in 1809 and considered "the most cultured and aristocratic town on the stagecoach route from Charleston to New Orleans."  Wealthy planters built gorgeous plantation homes in the Madison area.

In November, 1864, a detachment of General Sherman's Union Army under the command of General Slocum approached Madison. Senator Joshua Hill was a friend of General Sherman's brother and was a strong Unionist. He resigned his seat in Congress in 1861 rather than join the rest of the Georgia delegation voting for seceding from the Union. As a result, he had a gentleman's agreement with General Sherman to not burn the houses in Madison. The story goes that Senator Hill led a delegation out to meet with General Slocum to remind him of the gentleman's agreement he had that the houses in Madison not be burned.

As we toured Madison we were able to see houses that dated back to as early as 1818. We had a great tour of Heritage Hall. The lady who gave us the tour of the house was very pleasant, very knowledgeable, and very Southern. Her accent was delightful. Heritage Hall was built in 1811 by Dr. Elijah Evans Jones, a prominent physician who lived in Madison. We were told that it was built in the Greek Revival style of architecture. It was the only home in Madison with four columns flanked by two square piers. The home was a private residence until 1977 owned by Sue Reid Walton Manley who was know as "Madison's First Lady". She was a philanthropist and the house was donated to the Morgan County Historical Society.

We headed back to Douglasville to await the end of the school year on May 23 and then we were off to Disney World with grandkids Richard and April. We stopped in Ocala for one night to visit my mom and let her see her great-grandkids, and then drove to our favorite Orlando area RV park, the Encore RV Resort. The weather cooperated all week as we spent four days visiting the four Disney Parks.

I love small world stories. We were at Disney World and standing on line for the Rockin' Roller Coaster in the MGM Studios park when I notice several young folks walking up the ramp and waving to three girls standing in front of us.  So being my usual self, I say:

"Must be a school trip, huh?"

One of the girls says, "Yes" and I ask "where are y'all from?".
She says, "NY" and I ask "where in NY".  She says "Montgomery".  They were in town for a band and chorus competition in Disney World.

Now if you aren't from, or familiar with, the Hudson Valley, you'd have no clue where that is.  So I say:

"Cool.  I used to live in Newburgh, in Colden Park" and one of the girls says "yeah, we know where that is".

Now it starts to get better.

I say "I bet you all go to Valley Central High School" and she says "yeah, how'd you know that?".  I tell her that my brother graduated from VCHS back when the earth was still cooling.

And even better....

I ask "do any of you know the name Trapini?"  and two of them say "yes".  I take it further and ask "how about Anthony Trapini?"  One of them  says "yes, he's the chief of the volunteer fire department" and she tells me that her dad is a friend of Anthony's.

How's that for small world.  I mean if they were up front or behind us none of this would have occurred.  Or if I was shy and didn't ask where they were from, but you all know I'm not shy.

Small world indeed!

It was great week with the grandkids and we had a grand time. Jill and Tonya decided to use our time share week for vacation and spend it at Sea World and Universal Studios. Jill wanted to take her grandmother (my mom) to Sea World, so they stopped in Ocala to pick her up on the way to Orlando. We transferred Richard and April off to them and hung around the area over the weekend. After the day at Sea World, we picked up my mom at the time share condo and took her home to Ocala. Then we headed back to Douglasville for a few days to celebrate our anniversary and wait for the crew to get back from Florida to celebrate Richard and April's birthdays.

It was a fun Spring for us. Now it was time to head out for the start of our summer tour of the Dakotas. But first, we would make a few stops along the way to do some Elvis stuff in Tupelo and Memphis, and take in the Newmar International rally.

Until next time, safe travels.....

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