Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cool and Zany Stuff in SC

While out riding in the more rural areas of South Carolina the past couple of weekends I stumbled upon a couple of neat things and a couple of odd things that I thought were worthy of sharing.

In Latta I visited the Bethea Store and Post Office, built around 1890. Considering my love of post offices, this was quite a treat! Robert Bethea, an African-American, was appointed Postmaster by President Grover Cleveland - this was quite an honor at that point in history.

At the same location is the Vidalia Academy, built in 1877. Annual tuition at the time was a whopping $3.50! :-)

In Canadys I passed the Big Ass Farm. A few days prior my friend Tim Franklin had posted a photo of it in his "Weird SC" online photo album, and he mentioned that it was in Colleton county. So, while I was out riding I happened to pass a sign indicating that I'd crossed into Colleton, and I thought, "Hey, that's where the Big Ass Farm is; wouldn't it be funny if I stumbled upon it!" What are the chances of that? Well, before the day was out, I DID stumble upon it!

Not too far from there, in Bowman, I saw the UFO Welcome Center. We Southerners are friendly to everyone. :-)

One of the things I love about South Carolina is that building wall murals are pretty common. I found a cool locomotive one in St. George. Got my bike positioned well so it looks like I'm waiting for the train to cross, and check out the clouds - they look like an extension of the smoke coming out of the stack.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Georgia Aquarium

On July 3, 2009 Donna and I visited the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta; it is the largest aquarium in the world in terms of volume of water, with over 8 million gallons. It has more than 100,000 animals of 500 species. Yet with all that, it is designed very well and is easy to navigate. It is divided into 5 sections, each radiating from the center like a star.

In addition to the aquarium, they currently have a temporary Titanic exhibit with many interactive displays, photos, and nearly 200 artifacts recovered from the wreckage. It is a very impressive exhibit.

We arrived around 4:00 to find a massive crowd; we initially thought we'd have a lengthy wait, but we managed to get in pretty quickly. We first spent a couple of hours in the Titanic exhibit (no photography allowed, so nothing to show) and then took a break and enjoyed a bite to eat and a cup of coffee from their onsite eatery. A jazz group was performing out in the center section, so we were able to enjoy them a bit while eating and as we moved from section to section.

We then visited each of the 5 sections from around 7:00 until closing time at 10:00. It was all very impressive, but the creature that stood out the most to us was their 8-foot wide manta ray; this aquarium is one of only 4 in the world to house a manta ray, so seeing one is quite an opportunity. The pictures just don't portray just how large this guy is.

The manta ray:

These spider crabs were huge! About 3 feet in width.

A parting shot of downtown Atlanta before we headed home:

Monday, July 06, 2009

Virginia Highlands Camping Trip

On June 25-28 I traveled to southwestern Virginia for the annual Virginia Highlands camping trip with Daryl, his wife Sheila, their friend Tyrone, and their dogs Lexie, TT, and Bubba.

En route I stopped and visited Linville Caverns; you may recall from my previous posts that I'd planned twice before to visit there but both times foul weather foiled my plans, but this time I finally made it. It wasn't quite as spectacular as other caves I've visited, but it was still pretty cool and definitely worth the visit. It was discovered in the early 1800's when fishermen noticed fish swimming in and out of what appeared to be solid rock; they discovered the opening that led to the underground stream, and further exploration led to the discovery of a magnificent cave system.

From there I headed on to our camping spot in the Jefferson National Forest, riding along the Blue Ridge Parkway for a while.


Ninja out of its usual habitat:

This year was similar to years past; we cooked breakfast and dinner each day over a camp fire and just enjoyed the natural beauty and solitude and the cool temperatures (daytime highs were around 80.) We were fortunate this year to have no rain at all; we usually have a few showers, and one year we had a massive storm.

Daryl cooking:

Breakfast is served!

On Friday Daryl and I headed into Wytheville to buy groceries, and we stopped to visit Skeeter's World Famous Hot Dogs, where we had a really good slaw dog and Coke in the bottle. It was a very neat little restaurant with lots of character, great food, and very friendly staff. Woodrow Wilson's wife was born in the building in 1872.

On Saturday Daryl and I headed over to Grayson Highlands State Park to hike up to Wilbur Ridge; we attempted this 2 years ago but had to cancel due to a nasty storm. This time we made it. It was a pretty strenuous hike of about 7 miles round-trip over rocky terrain. About 2 miles of the hike each way was on the Appalachian Trail. At the top of the ridge we took a much-deserved break and enjoyed the lunch we'd packed.

Our destination:

Heading up the trail

Closeups of our destination

We made it!

On the way back, we encountered several wild ponies that live in the area.

As always, a great camping trip, and the side visits to Linville Caverns and Wilbur Ridge made it all the better. Here are all the photos that I took.