Road Trip 2015 – Part 6 – Civil Wars and Civil Rights

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Alright, I am actually home as a write these last few blogs.  Apparently I hadn’t planned enough blog time on the trip and have to retroactively complete the posts.  So we left Savannah, Georgia and arrived in Charleston, South Carolina for a couple of historic trips and a surprise ball game.

Leaving Savannah was tough, it is so beautiful, but we hoped for Charleston to be similar.  I will be honest I was worried early.  The drive into Charleston is through some country towns that were pretty but then we arrived on the Savannah Highway street into Charleston. It isn’t the best introduction to the city, it is a street littered with car dealerships, pawn shops, some hotel and motels and some chain restaurants.  Looks like a lot of areas around nothing special and nothing nice.  We carried on to the hotel, a La Quinta located right across the street from a Marina.  I had not paid the extra for the Marina view figuring we wouldn’t need it, we don’t really spend long at the hotel.  Arriving at the hotel upped my level of worry.  Our hotel was under construction on the main floor, they had peeled all the floor off down to the concrete and had underlay runners as walking paths.  We checked in and moved up to our hotel room, that was conveniently a marina view at the not marina view price.  The room was ok but we instantly found a major problem.  The wifi wasn’t capable of reaching our end of the hotel.  Huge let down, especially since wifi was my only connection to social media and the internet.  It is a very uneasy feeling being so disconnected.  I know people will make fun of me and tell me I am too dependent on my technology.  My response to you.  You’re fucking rights I am, I love my internet and being connected, if I didn’t think these things were important I wouldn’t pay so much to be connected.  You aren’t proving anything by pretending you don’t value the technology as well.

This was the first night Tiana worked on the whole trip.  She worked for a number of hours.  We had to go downstairs to work in the breakfast area for access to wifi.  At the same time I wrote a blog about New Orleans.  She worked for a few hours and at the end of it we realized we were both hungry.  The problem was, everything was closed in town and we ended up having to settle for Wendy’s.  Even McDonald’s was closed.

Boone

The next morning we got up early and headed out to the Boone Plantation.  Tiana had wanted to find a Plantation to visit when we first started planning the trip to the east cost.  We did some research and found some of the best were located in the Charleston area and that Boone was one of the best regarded.  It has the only existing slave cabins in the area as part of the property.  We drove over the bridge into downtown Charleston and then over another river into Mount Pleasant.  This area is a pretty nice area for sure.  The Boone Plantation is famous, with a number of movies having done some filming there, including everyone’s favourite romantic classic “The Notebook”.  As you pull onto the property a small ticket toll is located at the front of the long driveway in.  There you pay for access and they tell you where to go after parking and explained due to the rain the trolley around the property wouldn’t run until noon.  We drove up the beautiful dirt drive between the rows of oak trees.  To our right was a field for the horses.  At one point in that field is the grave of one of the former owners kids.  To the left is 9 small brick cabins.  This is the slave street area.  As you come down the path, directly ahead is a large and beautiful house, seen through a gate in a brick wall.  The road comes out of the oaks and winds to the right and then to the left to the parking area.  We parked our car and went to the visitors centre to book our tour of the house.  We had a little bit of time prior to going to the house, so we went over to the butterfly garden.  It was pretty and the butterflies were freaking huge and awesome, I have never seen such awesome butterflies.  From there we walked over to look at the tractors, past the building that was under renovations and towards the main house.

At the house we walked through the gate and onto the walkway that is pretty long, at each side of the walkway are beautiful gardens with a large variety of flowers, all pretty and all made my allergies act up.  At the front of the walkway is two pergolas with chairs under them.  We walked onto the porch and waited at the front door as we were told to do.  Shortly after that two ladies walked out the front door, dressed in a more period specific look.  They introduced the house and gave us a quick run down of rules.  The obvious rules like don’t touch stuff and don’t sit on the furniture.  The less obvious rule was that there was to be no pictures.  The house is currently owned and the owners allow the visitors through the house but prefer no pictures be taken. At this front door I heard my first shot at the civil war, I think tongue-in-cheek, but the lady doing the tour referred to the civil war as “The War of Northern Aggression”.  Inside the house we went through the library, to the dining room and into the back seating area.  In the each area they talked a bit about where we were and a lot about the owners of the house.  They explained how the house had changed over time.  It had become a farmhouse and then was purchased by a Canadian who ripped down the farmhouse and made the grand estate that is there today, using much of the reclaimed products from the farmhouse in the process.  They talked about the transition from cotton, to Pecan and to its current state of growing many foods.  It is an operational plantation.

After the house tour we went to the Slave Street.  Here were two presentations.  The first was just a quick introduction and talk about the slaves and their conditions.  Also an explanation that the cabins we were seeing would have belonged to house slaves and not field slaves, they had a lot more privilege.  The reason the slave street was on the drive up to the home was it was a way for someone to show their status.  Wealthy people could have more slaves and wealthier people could afford more house slaves and reasonably nice accommodations for those slaves.  They wanted prospective business clients to see the slaves and cabins on their way to the main office basically.  At one point the property had 27 such cabins, now 9.  In each cabin was a theme, from religion to living conditions all the way to abolition and civil rights movements.  All of the history was focused on African-Americans from slavery to President.  Those first 9 cabins were incredibly interesting.  I really enjoyed reading the history and seeing the information on slave lives.  In one cabin was a list of all the slaves one of the plantation owners had held at one point.  He had so many he used the name Somerset 5 times with altered spellings or adding big to the front. A lot of the owned people had just the name infant.  Also was a list of slaves he had received from a ship, on that list would include a name “Jon and 3 sons”.  Across the cabin a huge poster was up, on that poster was a list of ships, ports in Africa they left, How many potential slaves they left with and how many arrived at Charleston harbour.  The numbers never matched, and they also never grew.  It was an incredible number of slaves brought to that area.  Slavery was awful that is for sure but when we got to the cabins that talked about African-American treatment after slavery, I almost think it is worse, from the perspective of how the white people acted.  After the law told people that Black’s were deserving of equal rights, the white people still did terrible things and it was really disgusting to walk through the history of slavery, see how bad it was and then realize that wasn’t enough for some people and they would continue to punish a whole race for no reason.

The ninth Cabin is not one you go inside of.  Instead it is for a presentation.  We were told to make time for it by everyone who worked there, it is a favourite.  The presentation is about the Gullah, which were the enslaved Africans. It was about their language and their traditions.  The lady who does the presentation is the descendant of Gullah family.  She explained many people still are connected to their Gullah heritage.  She sang some beautiful songs and explained how many traditions came to be.  It was definitely worth making it to see.

After the Slave Street we headed over to the trolley for a tour of the property, it was about a 15 minute ride around the fields and through the trees.  An older man was the tour master / driver and his well rehearsed act was pretty funny.  Really this part was pretty but after seeing the history of the house and the Slave Street it was anti-climactic.

After the plantation we headed back to Charleston and out to the beach for a while.  Folly Beach was our target, about 30 minutes out of Charleston.  It was a pretty nice beach, although not as nice as Savannah and the town not as nice as Tybee either.  But not bad.  The beach had potentially the hottest sand I have ever set my foot too.  I thought the skin was going to melt off my feet, so I had to walk through the sand in shoes.  We set up shop at the busy beach with a beautiful 33 degree sun, our sunburns from the previous day fresh.  This time we lathered on some sun protection.  We sat there for long enough for the sun protection to work in and then went out into the ocean.  Which was enjoyable and would have been no more noteworthy than Tybee, except there was a lady who was taking her pug out for a swim.  The little guy had a life jacket on and was being carried out, certainly against his will.  You could see the fear in his eyes.  As she worked out towards where the waves broke, the dog did not relax and as they jumped through a wave, holding him above the water, his little paw’s clawed at the air, hoping he was jesus dog and could walk on water, and air, to make it to safety.  After a short stop at the beach we wrapped up and headed back to the hotel.

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I had hoped to catch a A-level ball game but the Charleston Riverdogs were on the road, as I had researched before we left. I thought it would be cool to be in a minor league ball park in the states, like a junior arena for hockey at home.  To my luck however, it turned out the reason the Riverdogs were away was because the Southern Conference Championship Tournament (NCAA) was being held there.  So that evening we headed over to the ballpark to watch the local military college (The Citadel) play a game.  Even luckier is we got there early and accidentally used the wrong entrance.  As it turns out the only thing we paid for was a soda and corn dog.  I was surprised it was free and when we left the game in the 6th inning we discovered it wasn’t intended to be.  The baseball was enjoyable for the most part, lots of mistakes but no one with the power to really crush a home run.  However we did see something very special.  We saw a triple play.  In of itself, rare enough but it wasn’t just any old triple play, no it was a triple play starting with a strikeout.  As the third strike was pitched the guy on first left for second, obviously the guy on second didn’t get the notice and started to leave only after the ball made its way second base for the runner coming from first.  He saw this, and in error thought the only way to protect his guy was to start of to third.  Well the guy coming to second rammed on the brakes and headed back to first only he was a little bit slow on the turn and was quickly tagged out, from there the ball was fired to third to start a routine run down.  Bet not many have seen a strikeout triple play before.

That night we headed to Bo Jangles for chicken for the first time.  Larry had recommended it.  We had the most useless staff help us but the food was pretty good, very similar to Popeye’s though.  From there it was back to the Hotel and the breakfast area so Tiana could work and I could sort of follow the hockey game between Anaheim and Chicago.  Also in the breakfast area was a teacher and some of his students.  A really well behaved group who were bringing assignments down to him.  He was an awesome teacher.  An older black man who was stern with his students but had a lot of fun.  You could tell he was demanding but the students really respected him and enjoyed his company.  At the end of the evening we asked him why they were there.  Turns out they were a class from a Maryland school.  The kids were IB level students who applied for the special program as Freshman.  Each year they go on a trip to a different area, while there they experience the culture and history of the area and also visit colleges.  Was a really cool program from a public school and he said the program had some of the best teacher retention around because the students were a joy and the program was so fun for them.   Very cool program.

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The next morning it was off to a stop for me.  Fort Sumter, the location of the first shots fired to start the civil war.  The Fort is at the mouth of the two rivers that feed the Atlantic, in between the two rivers sits downtown Charleston (what was Charles Town) back then.  The fort is not anything like what it was back then, it was demolished in the fighting to take it over the years.  To get to the fort you take a ferry that lets you stick around the fort for about an hour before taking you home.  On the way over a presentation was done on the history of the fort for the civil war was done.  Here was my second civil war southern blast as the presenter took a short period of time to explain how hard the north had worked following the war to hurt the south by keeping it extra poor.  He also explained some more about the civil war motives.  I had always assumed there was a lot to it but as it turns out not really.  See Charleston was the number 1 port to bring slaves in from Africa.  The slave trade was a huge part of the economy of the area and of the south, turns out when Abe Lincoln was elected with a promise of change ahead, the South got a little testy.  Charleston’s confederates saw troop movements by the north’s military as a threat and started cornering the northern troops.  The general for the north quickly retreated to Fort Sumter to garrison for the time being.  And that is when they were fish in a barrel and the confederates could attack.  For a couple of days they bombarded the fort prior to surrender.  The General who surrendered requested he be permitted to keep his flag and do a 50 gun salute.  The salute was cut short when a Daniel Hough had a firing error and his gun exploded maiming and killing him.  He was the first casualty of the civil war.  The North would work for a very long time to reclaim Sumter and mostly get their asses kicked in the process.  This is also the area of the Hunley success and eventual self-induced sinking.  Finally when the North reclaimed the fort the general who had lost it was brought back to raise the flag he had taken away when he surrendered.  The flag is my feature image and is a huge flag on display in the museum.  Inside the fort are some areas that are existing from the time of the civil war and some of it from its uses after.   When the North had reclaimed it, it was just a pile of rubble for the most part.  It was rebuilt a bit for other conflicts before being left.  It was excavated as tourist spot sometime later.  Inside the 1 wall are three rounds of cannon fire still there from the civil war.  For me this was a very exciting stop and I was disappointed only by two things 1) one hour wasn’t near enough for me to absorb all the history of the location and see the entire museum. 2) The gift shop absolutely sucks with no real civil war texts or flag history (which would be cool since each regiment had its own american flag) or a cool souvenir replica of the flag from the fort.  Nothing at all really.  A  bunch of books on Lincoln and other presidents.  This would be an ongoing disappointment for me.

After the fort we were done with our trip to Savannah, from there it was off to Charlotte, North Carolina about 3.5 hours north-west.

CITY SCORECARD

Charleston – I could definitely live in the Mount Pleasant area but definitely not as nice as Savannah and a little off the beaten path.  A good ways from really anything else.

PART 7 – Boogity Boogity Boogity Let’s Go Racing Rednecks

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