Sunday, 31 March 2013

Macon, Georgia and cannonballs

In my quest for antebellum-ness and in a fit of enthusiasm that is quite unlike me, I booked myself into a hotel in Macon for the last night of my trip to Atlanta. Now, perhaps it would be a reasonable critique of my decision to say that maybe, just maybe, I should have checked just how far Macon was from anywhere on a map - but I like to live a little dangerously!

In consequence, I spent most of Friday driving along the manic freeways that are the backbone to Georgia. I made life just a little more difficult for myself by deciding that it would be a good idea to meet Mikey out on the trail with breakfast. This resulted in a 150 mile round trip and two hours of walking - but look at his little face, it was worth it, no?

By the way, you might be curious as to what the terrain is like that Mike is walking through. The photo to the left would suggest that it's lots of spectacular views (weather permitting) and standing around eating peanut butter and jam bagels. It's not.

This photo more accurately shows the general terrain. It's up and down hills shrouded in thick woods on both sides. Hard work to achieve these few view points. more info here at Mikey's blog.
So, I arrived into Macon at about 5pm. Just as the museums were closing. I was staying at a place called the 1842 Inn, because it was built in 1842. It was quaint. I'm not sure if it was ironic or not, but the staff in the place were all black, and were all dressed in a slightly subservient uniform and didn't make eye contact, which I found a wee bit spooky.

The Macon residential area survived the civil war, despite many of its houses being made of wood, and that Sherman was still happy with his "scorched earth" policy. I think Macon got lucky that Sherman despatched General Stoneman to deal with the town (which was the main manufacturing site for shells and cannon, so was a legitimate target). Stoneman seems to have been a bit daft - he didn't think to check how he should cross the flooded Ocmulgee river to get into the town to attack it. He managed to get himself cut off and arrested.

Macon town today is a bit of a sad derelict place. A wandered into downtown, and apart from a very few restaurants it really is dead. This is the main street of Macon. If ever there was a place that needed money, this is it.
After a mediocre dinner, I wandered back to the hotel, past several decaying relics of the pre war period.

This one is for sale. I imagine the asking price will not be that huge if you are interested, and it almost certainly has a history! Big house too. But no cannonballs, I'm afraid!

I decided that sepia might be a bit more sympathetic. This house could be in Inverness really.

The next morning, I had time to visit one of the three house tours that were open to me. I narrowed the list down to two immediately, because I did not know where the third one was. Also, it is famous because the owner was famous - Sidney Lanier?  Apparently a poet, but not one I know of!

My choices were "The Hay House". Here is a photo. It is apparently an architectural gem. Cost was $10 though, and tour was only once an hour. I'm too impatient for that sort of nonsense!

This is the Cannonball House. I know it looks less interesting, but it was the only house in Macon to be hit by a cannonball! It was also only $6 and as I was the only visitor, I got a very personal tour! Loads of interesting stuff (I have photos of lots of this, but will not bore you)

It should be noted that even the two ladies looking after the cannonball house were surprised to the point of distress that I had walked passed Hay House to visit them. One of them recommended I go to the Hay House, and come back if I have time. But by then, the die was cast.

The house had a complicated history, and given that my only documentary evidence of this is a photo of a metal plaque that was created in the 1970's and is incorrect, you are not going to be much wiser than me at the end of this blog!

It was built in 1853 by Judge Holt, who planned to retire here with his wife... who died. So, not a man to be gainsaid, he remarried (a woman 40 years his junior) and she moved in.

Inevitably, the old Judge died. and his widow remarried - this time to someone who was young enough to consummate the marriage, and they had children. The last descendent of this union died in the 1970's. Unable to pay her taxes in the 1960's she had reached a deal with some historic society that they would buy the house from her, so that she could continue to live there.

As part of this deal, or maybe just to earn a few pennies, she hosted tours of the house. Often she was not "ready to receive" visitors when they arrived, so she used to lower a front door key out of her bedroom window, and invite people to help themselves! Sounds like my sort of woman!

So the house is full of old tat. (basically the last living descendant had sold everything before letting the historic society near the house, so any old tat that has been donated in the last 40 years is hanging on the walls). I could share the photos - but you won't enjoy them.

I liked this quilt though. It inspired me. To do what, I'm not sure.
Before I leave Georgia, there is one last thing worthy of note. There is an unhealthy obsession with accents. Some woman that I brushed past in a shopping mall exclaimed "Oh, I lurve yo accent!" Many people claim to be able to imitate the "Briddish" accent (I NEVER took them up on that. It would probably have been embarrassing). But perhaps the worse thing of all is the impact that this focus on accents has on me. I suddenly became more posh than the bloody Queen! I actually walked up to one poor man (who had been admiring my accent earlier) and said "I should like to take the opportunity to procure one of these fine garments from you" (a T-shirt). What is wrong with me??

Friday, 29 March 2013

Athens, Georgia....

I had a slightly haphazard agenda for this trip, being primarily about making sure that Mike got away ok, but I was curious to explore the antebellum period in Georgia (definition: the period before the war... just looked that up!) You know the sort of thing, "as god is my witness, I'll never be hungry again"...

There is a narrow strip of Georgia that runs south from Athens to Macon, which Sherman didn't notice (dunno why. Might find out tomorrow when I visit one of these old houses).

So, being pragmatic, I thought, "I'll start in Athens and drive south to Macon, because that's downhill..." Didn't factor in the need to drive 70 miles out of the way to collect a phone charger from the Apple store in Atlanta, and another 150 miles round trip (tomorrow, as far as you are all concerned), to deposit it into the sweaty (grateful) hands of Pom (the walker formerly (and formally) known as Michael).

I reached Athens in the mid afternoon, and checked into my eco-hotel, which is one of only a few hotels that are LEED Gold certified. I like to be supportive - but really, why is it that LEED buildings have to be built to look like prisons from the outside?? Once I'm back in Switzerland, I'll post a picture of our new headquarters in Zug, and that too has prison-like tendencies!

It was a glorious day,  so I went for a wander around the old town. Not so old, and not so town-like really. I was tempted by a couple of jewellery shops (but resisted) and soon found myself back in cell block H with a sweetened iced tea, sitting in a pod chair in the sunshine. Bliss. I like sitting down, I do!

Hunger drove me out of my stupor, and I was not prepared to settle for a subway sandwich like yesterday, so I did some research, and came up with a barbecue place that was about 1.5 miles away, so I decided to walk. Luckily, it was in a residential area, where there are also people who go out running, so I was not shot on suspicion of any sort of dodgy activity for walking - but there weren't many other pedestrians on such a nice evening as I would have expected in the UK. 

I saw a big bug though:

And another....

And a Robot Dog... by an animal hospital - do you think they all come out like that??

Restaurant was fine, but I don't think I like barbecue much!

Goodbye Mikey...Hello Pom!

OK, so I am now an Appalachian Trail widow for the next six months - so I realise that I am either going to atrophy into an alcoholic haze, or I have to DO SOMETHING!

To be fair, I do normally do stuff, I'm just not so good at telling you all about it. so, here's the deal: each time I post into Mike's trail journal on his behalf, I will also post what I have been doing, with at least one bad photo.

So, the first thing I did was to wave ta-ta to Michael. He seemed happy, with a pocket full of trail mix and his merino wool pants (and for those friends of mine who speak American English (slight shudder) I DO mean pants, not trousers).

Oh yes, Woody, this is a picture taken at Woody Knob.

Then I reversed down the trail back to Amicalola Lodge, where I was staying another night before heading off to explore whatever it was that Georgia had to offer. From the guide books, this seems to be whatever did not fall victim to General Sherman's "scorched earth" policy during the civil war.

On the way down the trail, I bumped into dozens of would-be companions of Michael - although, with the best will in the world, I do not think the man I met within sight of the lodge, sitting on a log, smoking a fag, and complaining of the climb from the river (about 50 metres) was likely to even get as far as Springer Mountain (the official start point for the Appalachian Trail).

Back in the vicinity of the lodge, I found a swinging bench! My sorrowful heart lifted! There is nothing I like more than a swinging bench. Here is a photo of my left foot, and my rucksack on said bench. trust me, my arse is also on it, and there it stayed until sunset!

Oh, thought I should also explain the name Pom here. Apparently the Appalachian Trail is a little like school, in that you get awarded a "trail name", which is impossible to lose once you've been given it. Mike was unfortunate (or maybe fortunate? who knows?) in that the first person he met on the trail was an Aussie, through their respective blogs... Now, if you know any Aussies (and I am desperately trying to remember if any Aussies are likely to be reading this... I don't think so!) they don't really have an imagination. A duvet is a dooner. A toilet is a dunnie, and an Englishman is a Pom. That's all there is to it.