Friday, November 27, 2015

Trip Wrapped Around a Seminar: Georgia, Alabama and Florida

I had a week long seminar in Florida in January 2014 and decided to make a trip out of it. We picked up a car in Atlanta then drove down through Alabama to Mobile, east through the Florida Panhandle through Tallahassee, then to Gainesville, then put Judy on a flight back home from Orlando where I stayed the week for my seminar. After the seminar, I spent the next weekend on Sanibel Island and in Everglades National Park before returning to Orlando for the flight back home. This post gives a brief day-by-day itinerary with links to posts by Judy and by me. 

On Tuesday morning we flew from Ontario, CA to Atlanta, GA, arriving about 3:00 p.m. We rented a car, tried to visit the Catholic Shrine of the Immaculate Conception and found it closed, so visited the Georgia State Capitol building instead which was about a block away. We ate a New Mexican style dinner at Agave and spent the night at a Holiday Inn. 
     Agave - Atlanta, Georgia  (Bob)

Wednesday morning we visited the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, which included a visit to King's birth home and the Ebenezer Baptist Church. This was the beginning of an eye opening and memorable journey into civil rights country. Late morning we drove to the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum, our sixth presidential library, and came away with a greater appreciation of Carter as a good person. We'd asked several locals at the King Historic Site for a recommendation to a restaurant that served good southern food. They recommended Gladys Knight's Chicken & Waffles and that is where we went for some southern fried chicken, grits and collared greens after the library. After lunch we drove 100 miles (nearly two hours) to Cheaha Resort State Park in Alabama where we mostly drove, and walked just a little, to the high point of the State of Alabama. From there, it was another 100 miles and two hours to Montgomery where we spent the night. 

Thursday was another memorable civil rights day and packed with activities. We started with a visit to the Alabama Capitol building. Then, right across the street, we visited the First White House of the Confederacy, the home of Jefferson Davis until the capitol was moved to Richmond. Then, just a block down from the capitol was the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King Jr. was pastor during the Montgomery bus boycott. Then to the Dexter Parsonage Museum where Dr. King lived while he was pastor and where a bomb went off one evening, galvanizing King's commitment to the civil rights cause. For a change of pace, we stopped at the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum in a house that they lived in for a short period of time. This was a must-stop for my literary wife. The head of the museum suggested that the "best hamburger in the world" could be purchased at Hamburger King, so we stopped by, purchased one and shared it. Good, but not best by any measure. St. John's Episcopal Church, the church of Jefferson Davis and his family, was next. Lots of beautiful stained glass. Finally, we did a quick visit to the Civil Rights Memorial Center sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center and then had the best meal of the trip, at True, a real culinary gem. We ended the day with a 106 mile drive to Monroeville, AL where we spent the night at a Best Western. 
     True - Montgomery, Alabama  (Bob) 

We started Friday morning with a drive into rural Monroe County, including a stop at the Burnt Corn Methodist Church. We were back in Monroeville for the opening of the Monroe County Museum which is the old courthouse and the model for the movie courthouse in To Kill a Mockingbird. We stopped for lunch at Mel's Dairy Dream, right about where Harper Lee and Truman Capote used to live, and we enjoyed breaded and fried chicken gizzards and livers. An 88 mile (one and a half hour) drive to Mobile brought us to beautiful Dauphin Street and the Cathedral of Immaculate Conception. We got sandwiches to go at the Mediterranean Sandwich Co., the highest rated restaurant in Mobile, and drove 110 miles (one and three quarter hours) to De Funiak Springs, FL where we spent the night. 
     About Town in Mobile, Alabama  (Judy) 

We woke up Saturday morning to a deluge. Britton Hill, our first destination, was 25 miles away, the lowest state high point in the U.S. It was so flat we had a hard time finding it, but we did find it and got a few minutes for pictures without rain. The next two and a half hours (146 miles) were spent driving with heavy and never-ending rain. Once we reached Tallahasee, we spent a little time on the Florida State University campus (their football team had just won the national collegiate football championship at the Rose Bowl) and then toured the old Florida Capitol building, now a museum, which is right next to the new and current capitol building. We finished the day with a two and a half hour (150 mile) drive to Gainesville. We had an un-memorable dinner at Ker's Winghouse and spent the night at Sleep Inn & Suites. 

Sunday morning we had better weather and drove 23 miles (30 minutes) to Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings Historic State Park. Marjorie wrote The Yearling, for which she got the 1939 Pulitzer Prize, and Cross Creek. The park includes her home and grounds which we toured. From there it was a nearly two hour drive (112 miles) to Orlando where I put Judy on a plane back to Ontario, CA. I checked into the Wyndham Cypress Palms for a Monday to Friday seminar. 

One of the days during my seminar there were no classes that I felt particularly drawn to. So I drove out to Cape Canaveral and visited the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge (I took the Black Point Wildlife Drive and Biolab Road), the Canaveral National Seashore and the Kennedy Space Center (where I saw the Vehicle Assembly Building, Atlantis Shuttle and Launch Pad 39). I did not blog on any of these destinations, all of which were fantastic, but did blog on some specific animals I saw. 
     Raccoon  (Bob)
     Hooded Merganser  (Bob)
     Northern Pintail  (Bob)
     Bald Eagle  (Bob)
     Great White Egret  (Bob)
     Snowy Egret  (Bob)
     Pied-Billed Grebe  (Bob)
     Laughing Gull  (Bob)
     Ring-Billed Gull  (Bob)
     Tricolored Heron  (Bob)
     Loggerhead Shrike  (Bob)
     Osprey  (Bob)
     Ruddy Turnstone  (Bob)
     Sanderling  (Bob)
     Willet  (Bob)
     American Alligator - Florida  (Bob)
Canaveral National Seashore
Kennedy Space Center
Launch Pad 39 - where the moon launches took place.
An alligator near the launchpad.
Shuttle Atlantis

Friday, after my seminar which ended at noon, I drove from Kissimmee, a suburb of Orlando, to Sanibel Island, near Fort Myers, 168 miles (3 hours, 15 minutes). I had a nice lunch along the way in Fort Meade at Just Ribs. I had enough time to walk the four mile round trip Indigo Trail in the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge and saw some beautiful roseate spoonbills. I spent the night at a Travelodge. 
     Just Ribs - Fort Meade, Florida  (Bob)
     Roseate Spoonbill  (Bob)
Bridge to Sanibel Island

Sunset on Sanibel Island

Saturday morning I was out early to the Darling NWR and drove the four mile one-way road twice. Then I decided I really wanted to see Everglades National Park again (I'd been the year before), so I drove to Shark Valley, 125 miles and a little over two hours. Along the way I stopped for lunch at Lagoona Grille Restaurant and Bar in Naples and arrived at Shark Valley just in time for the tram which I'd reserved ahead of time. Lots of alligators and birds, but on the tram you have no control over how much time you stay at any particular spot or what kind of vantage point you have for the wildlife. After the tram I walked out for a distance on the road, then skeedaddled back to the car for the long (five hour plus) drive back to Orlando. I stayed at a Best Western relatively near the airport.
     Lagoona Grille Restaurant and Bar - Naples, Florida  (Bob)
     Purple Gallinule  (Bob)
     Red Shouldered Hawk  (Bob)
     Great Blue Heron  (Bob)
     Little Blue Heron  (Bob)
     Reddish Egret  (Bob)
     American White Ibis  (Bob)
     Eastern Brown Pelican  (Bob)
     American White Pelican  (Bob)
     Wood Stork  (Bob)

Sunday morning early I caught a flight back to Ontario, CA. 

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