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Archive for July, 2010

It’s Longer Than the 2nd and 3rd Longest Caves Combined!

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 29, 2010

July 15, 2010

All Pictures

Surprise cave photo!

Me Spelunk?

I’m claustrophobic. But if I wasn’t, this would have been my spelunking paradise! There’s even a kids-only tour. I, and my family, stuck to the regular walk-through-the-cave tour. No need for me to have a melt down in front of my niece and nephews.

It’s a big cave!

Of course we got to the park a little later in the day than we’d plan and chose the “whatever’s next” tour. But, lucky for us it was the Historic tour, the one my brother would have picked anyway.

Stop moving!

It was 2 hours of walking through a deep, dark, cold, cave with story breaks of historic tails. The tour guide was very informative and loved when people asked questions, especially the kids.

I managed to get a few good photos in while everyone passed me. Flash photos didn’t come out so well. The cave is just too big for that to work. The key was long exposures if you can stand very still.

This is where I came close to a panic attack.

Fat Man’s Misery

My least favorite part of the tour was a section called “Fat Man’s Misery”. It was a tight fit. It would have not been such a big deal, but there was some bottlenecking. Those in the front walked through the area with no problem. Those in the middle and the back sections had to go slowly through the path, behind people who could not move quickly. For about 5 minutes all I could see was the person right in front of me and I was hunched over. I didn’t like it at all.

Checkers before goodbye

Adios Hermano y familia

This was the last day we traveled with Malcolm, Vonia, and all the kids. We ate at a family restaurant, played checkers, and said our long goodbyes. They headed north for Ohio and we headed south for Tennessee. It was fun traveling with them! But, I’ll see them once more before I head off to Japan.

"My friends back home are all having fun without me,

“My friends are all playing basketball without me.” 😦

Poor Matthew 

By the end of the trip, Matthew was just dying to get home.

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Mammoth Cave National Park

How to get there:

Address:

Mammoth Cave National Park
1 Mammoth Cave Parkway
Mammoth Cave, KY 42259

Phone:

  • 1-270-758-2180

Website

Download

Cost

Hours:

  • About 8:30 – 16:00

Notes:

  • You can camp here. Make sure to get reservations during the peak season.

Map:

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Posted in Kentucky, Mammoth Cave, United States, The | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Who knows What it Looked Like?

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 28, 2010

July 14, 2010

All Pictures

My nephew thinks he’s cool. 🙂

Let’s Reconstruct it

To tell the truth, the history of Fort Toulouse in Wetumpka, Alabama is not as interesting as the history of the reconstruction of the Fort. The Fort itself was built some time in 1717 and used by the French to ward off the British. It’s the same old good verses bad story. Here French equals good and British equals bad, I think. It’s hard to tell…

The Fort was abandoned by the French when the British showed them what’s what. The French ran off to New Orleans where they started a tradition of bead collecting and public intoxication. The British had no real interest in this Alabaman fort once the French were gone and left it to rot.

Who can get through that?

In the 1800’s the fort was used by Andrew Jackson; you know, Mr. 20-dollar bill. Well… he didn’t so much use the fort, as built a bigger one over it called Fort Jackson. Mr. Jackson needed more space than the French. He planned to win his war.

In 1976 someone had the great idea of reconstructing Fort Toulouse. They looked at the outline of the fort that was there and built upon that. Unfortunately, no one bothered to check with any reputable historians on the matter, because what they had actually made was a replica of Andrew Jackson’s fort.

They did eventually tear down the replica of Jackson’s fort and build, as best they could, a replica of Fort Toulouse. They hope one day to build another replica of Jackson’s Fort somewhere in the area.

nice ride

So Much to do in Bowling Green, but not after Six

The next stop on our tour through the southern states was in a nice town called Bowling Green in the state of Kentucky. According to the TomTom there were lots of great stuff to see and do in this town, from a Corvette Museum to a distillery.

But alas, it was all for naught! For you see, our arrival was in the late hours before dust at 17:30 in the afternoon. By then everything was either closed or closing. We did manage a drive about town in which we saw the aviational spectacle you see above.

It was flown by a Brigadier General Daniel Cherry, of whom Wikipedia, as of this writing, knows nothing about. But I know he exist because I saw his plane and because he wrote a book; My  Enemy My Friend.

open air sleeping

We Don’t Need No Sinkin’ Tents!

Malcolm, Vonia, and the kids didn’t feel like unpacking the trailer to get to the tents and set them up. Nor did they feel like taking tents down and repacking them the next day. They checked the weather report. Since there was no chance of rain, they put up only their camping gazebo to sleep under.

Mark’s and my tent, is a small tent that takes about 5 minutes to put up. As I slept in my tent, I felt jealous of everyone else who was sleeping a little closer to nature. Mark on the other hand was glad he was where the  bugs couldn’t bite him.

Mark’s skin glistens with bug spray.

All Pictures


The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Fort Toulouse

How to get there:

  • 32°30’24.0″N 86°15’06.0″W
  • Exit on Northern Blvd. (Hwy 152, exit 173 off I-65 in Montgomery)
  • Follow Northern Blvd east to U.S. Highway 231 north towards Wetumpka.
  • Go approximately 8 miles;
  • look for the Key West Inn on the left.
  • Turn left at next red light onto Fort Toulouse Road.
  • After approximately 2.5 miles the road goes directly into Fort Toulouse.

Address:

Fort Toulouse/Jackson Park
2521 W. Fort Toulouse Road
Wetumpka, AL 36093

Phone:

  • (334) 567-3002

Website:

E-mail:

Cost:

  • $2.00 Adults
  • $1.00 for students and children 6 and over
  • Free for children under 5 and under.

Hours:

  • Open sunrise to sunset

KOA
(Bowling Green)

How to get there:

  • 36°55’02.0″N 86°26’10.1″W
  • From I-65 Exit 22, north on US 231,
  • left onto KY 884 at light #12.
  • 1.8 miles on left.

Address:

1960 Three Springs Rd
Bowling Green KY 42104

Phone:

  • (270) 843-1919

Website

Download:

e-mail:

  • bgkoamail@yahoo.com

Notes:

  • This site comes with free wi-fi.

Map:

Posted in Alabama, Bowling Green, Kentucky, United States, The, Wetumpka | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Let Freedom Ring

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 28, 2010

July 13, 2010 Night

All Pictures

Rosa Parks being booked

Life in a Southern Town

If you’ve ever read any books or watched any movies about the American south during the early 20th century you know that it was a bit behind the times when it came to racial equality. I mean, even more so than the rest of the country. People of color were not treated as real people and had very few rights.

When I think of Montgomery, Alabama I think of a place where the Civil Rights Movement started, grew, and spread through the country. I think of Rosa Parks who didn’t give up her seat to a white person on a cold December day.

As a kid I’d always wondered what she was thinking or how she felt. Was she scared, angry, a little of both? Did her hands shake like mine do when I’m afraid or nervous because I’m standing up for myself? Did working for the NAACP give her courage or did she work for the NAACP because she had courage already?

She was not the first to refuse to give up her seat and move to the back of the bus, but she was the one chosen to be put in the spot light. She was thought of as an up-standing citizen, so she was picked to be the poster child of the civil rights movement. She was someone decent who could be pointed to and have said of her, “How can we let this happen to a good person like her?”

Rosa’s bus

The Montgomery Bus Boycott

This little act of Ms. Parks resulted in a boycott of the public buses in Montgomery by the black citizens. Most of the bus users were black so they had the power, financially, in this struggle.  However, it still took over a year for blacks, who paid the same fare as everyone else, to be allowed to take a seat wherever they chose.

scorched earth

A Place Where People Demand Change

In 1861 eleven southern states, including Alabama, had had enough of the United States of America. They weren’t going to be told what to do by some Yankee president. They left the US and declared themselves a new country called The Confederate States of America. Unfortunately for the non-white residents of the new country, the main reason for the secession was so that the whites could enslave them.

Montgomery was the first place chosen for the capital of the new country, which didn’t last long according the southerners. It didn’t exist at all according to the northerners. Since the north won the war, they get the last say.

Dexter Avenue King Memorial Baptist Church

In 1886 Montgomery became the first US city with a bona fide electrical street car. This caused Montgomery to be one of the first US cities with suburbs. Imagine that!

Less than half a century after that, in 1955, Montgomery saw more changes in the start of the Civil Rights Movement. It grew out of the basement of the Dexter Ave church right down the block from the state’s own capital building.

This movement went a long way in helping African-Americans to become equal in the eyes of white America. Today organizations like the NAACP champion the civil rights of blacks and anyone whose civil liberties are being impeded.

united in marching

In 1965 when black American citizens tried to register to vote, they were turned away for bogus reasons. People in support of voter’s rights for blacks, and all US citizens, marched from Selma, Alabama to Montgomery. They marched peacefully to show that good people would not just sit back and silently watch injustice take control of their country.

I am grateful to all those who marched.

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Alabama State Capitol

How to get there:

  • 32°22’39.6″N 86°18’02.7″W
  • Take exit 1, I-85,
  • turn north on Union Street.
  • Continue 1/2 mile.
  • The Capitol is on the left after Washington Avenue.

Address:

600 Dexter Avenue,
Montgomery, AL36104

Phone:

  • (334) 242-3935

Website

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • M-Sa 9:00 – 16:00
  • Closed state holidays

The First White House of the Confederacy

How to get there:

  • 32°22’34.2″N 86°17’59.8″W

-Going 1-85 South (from Atlanta),

  • take exit #1/Union St. and turn right onto So. Union toward State Capitol.
  • Go 0.7 mi. and turn left onto Washington.

-Going from I -65 either from Mobile or Birmingham

  • turn onto I-85 North; take exit #1/Court St.
  • take an immediate left onto Arba St.
  • Go to Union,
  • turn left,
  • go 0.7 mi
  • turn left on Washington.

It’s the house on the corner of Union and Washington. The handicap entrance is on Union side.

Address:

644 Washington Ave.
Montgomery, AL 36130-3012

Phone:

  • 334-242-1861

Website

Cost:

  • I don’t know, but I doubt it’s free.

Hours:

  • M–F 8–16:30.
  • Closed weekends and state holidays

How to get there:

  • 32°22’34.7″N 86°18’11.8″W

Address:

400 Washington Ave.
Montgomery, AL 36104

Phone:

  • 334-956-8200

Website

Cost:

  • 2 USD Adult
  • Kids enter for free

Hours:

  • M-F 9:00 – 16:30
  • Sa 10:00 – 16:00

How to get there:

  • 32°22’38.2″N 86°18’09.8″W

Address:

454 Dexter Avenue
Montgomery, AL 36104

Phone:

  • (334) 263-3970

Website

Downloads:

Hours

  • Tues – Fri 10:00 – 16:00
  • Sat 10:00 – 14:00

Notes:

  • You can take a tour of the Parsonage for a fee.
  • The Parsonage is a few blocks away from the church.
  • Since this is still a functioning church, you can also go on Sunday, for  free, during services.

Map:

Posted in Alabama, Montgomery, United States, The | Tagged: , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Not Manuel’s Isthmus!*

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 28, 2010

July 10-13, 2010

All Pictures

Panama City Beach’s beach

Boogie boarding

We drove for 10 hours from Hollywood, South Carolina to Panama City Beach, Florida. Mark did most of the driving in our van and we got to the camp about 3 hours ahead of Malcolm’s SUV. He had to remount the tire on his trailer.

Since we where there before everyone else, Mark and I went swimming. There was nothing else to do. Malcolm had most of the stuff and all of the food. We took the kids that were with us and headed for the sea. Alex, my nephew, was hoping that while we were having fun, his dad and brother would arrive and put up the tent without him, so he wouldn’t have to help.

We had some boogie boards with us. We tried to ride the waves. It took me a couple of days to get a hang of it, but I did. I could still use some more practice though.

When Malcolm came we told him about the waves. Some of his sons, his daughter, niece, and Laura, the family friend, went to the souvenir shop and bought boards of their own.

We spent most of our mornings in Florida boogie boarding. In the evenings, we all swam in the heated pool at our campsite. At noon, during the hottest part of the day we went to the unheated pool at the campsite. I felt very spoiled with so many swimming options.

Fixing something delicious

The End of Camp-Food

In the picture above is my sister-in-law, Vonia. She did all of the cooking on our camping trip. She did a most fabulous job!

When Mark and I go camping, the food is okay if we can find a restaurant near by. If not, it’s mainly ramen and PB&J. It never occurred to us that one should enjoy eating while on a camping trip.

Then I met Vonia. She camps with a slow cooker and a rice cooker. While everyone is out enjoying the waves, playing with Mark’s aerobie, exploring a navy ship and submarine, our delicious dinner or lunch is cooking.

I ate so well on this trip. She made everything from beef stew and curry goat to pancakes and tamales. I have been so inspired that for our upcoming road trip to Canada, Mark, mom, and I, are bringing a slow cooker and a rice cooker.

All Pictures

* “Manuel” as in ex-Presidente Noriega and isthmus as in Panama. I like people to think that I am more geographically and post-politically aware than I really am.


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Raccoon River Campground

How to get there:

  • 30°11’41.9″N 85°49’43.7″W
  • From 79 head east on Front Beach road.
  • Then turn right on Alf Coleman (rd or st?).
  • Then turn right again on Hutchison Blvd.
  • The camp will be on your right.

Address:

12209 Hutchison Blvd
Panama City Beach, FL 32407

Phone:

  • (850) 234-0181
  • Toll Free: (877) 234-0181

Website

Download:

Cost

Hours:

  • check in time is 13:00
  • check out time is 11:00

Notes:

  • There is a library across the street from the camp site on Hutchison Blvd.

Map:

Posted in Florida, Panama City Beach, United States, The | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Libraries are Fun But Beaches are Funner

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 27, 2010

July 8-9, 2010

All Pictures

Mark heading out to sea

Upgrade from Alternate JET Position

When we got back from Patriot’s Point I checked my email. Mark and I had sent out many job applications to companies in Japan and I needed to see if any of them where going to give me a job interview. I hadn’t checked my e-mail in a few days.

When I opened up my hotmail account I saw an email from the Japanese consulate in Guam. They had been trying to reach me all day. If I still wanted the job I had to reply soon or they would give it to someone else. I emailed them back. Just to make sure they didn’t give my job away, I borrowed my mom’s cell phone and called them up too.

Back in February I went to Guam to do a job interview. I wanted to join the JET Programme. I thought the interview went really well. Or, at least I thought so until April when I got an email telling me that I had not been given a position. I was placed on the alternate’s list instead. If someone they had hired backed out or could not fulfill his or her duties, then I might be hired.

I gave up hope and started looking for jobs with other companies in Japan. I thought my chances with JET were next to zero. But, it turns out that many alternates do get hire. (Later, after working with the JET programme for many years, I would meet many alternates.)

Mr. Tenorio at the consulate emailed me a whole bunch of documents that I had to sign, mail out, or send back to Guam. The next day, while everyone else went to the beach, I went to the library to get all my things in order. So I wouldn’t be alone, I talked my mom into giving up a day at the beach to come with me.

The beach is a nice alternative to the library.

Library Folks are Good Folks

When traveling in the US and you need wifi, just about every restaurant and shop has it, and for free. But if you need a computer or to print something there really isn’t anything for you… except for the library. There are very few internet cafes.

Just walk into any public library and ask for a temporary card or day pass. They call it different things at different libraries. Tell them you’re from out of town and you need to use a computer and/or the internet and they’ll help you.

Fun at the beach

Adult Swim

The next day all the kids were too tired to go swimming. I refused to leave South Carolina without swimming in its waters. I talked the adults into taking another trip to the beach. “It’ll be more fun without the kids. No one telling you how hot or hungry they are…” We went to Folly Beach.

There were some kids playing with a skim board. Mark wanted to buy one, but we didn’t think it was worth the price. Then Mark found one that was forgotten by its owner. We waited until most people left the beach, to make sure that it was really left behind. Mark and Malcolm tried it out while Vonia and I laughed and took pictures. We left it at the beach; that devil’s board!

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Lake Aire RV Park

How to get there:

  • 32°46’39.1″N 80°08’52.4″W
  • Directions from the website

Address:

4375 Highway 162
Hollywood, SC 29449

Phone:

  • 1-843-571-1271

Website

Download:

Cost

Notes:

  • There is free wi-fi. Not every camping spot can get wi-fi, but there are many hot spots throughout the camp.

Mt. Pleasant Branch Library

How to get there:

  • 32°48’58.2″N 79°51’50.8″W

The library is on Mathis Ferry road.

Address:

1133 Mathis Ferry Road
Mount Pleasant, South Carolina 29464-521

Phone:

  • 843-849-6161

Website:

Cost:

  • Mostly free.
  • Printing cost 10 cents a page

Notes:

  • There are very few internet cafes in the US. So, while traveling in the states, libraries are a great place to go when you need free wi-fi, free uses of a computer, cheap printing, cheap scanning, general information about the area, and just information in general.
  • This one in Mt. Pleasant even had a notary public that notarized papers for free.

Folly Beach

How to get there:

Website

Download

Cost:

  • Free

Hours:

  • Always available

Notes:

  • There is a changing area and many shops and restaurants nearby.

Map:

Posted in Folly Beach, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, United States, The | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

In the Navy

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 26, 2010

July 7, 2010

All Pictures

Malcolm in trouble

A Very Big Ship, and a sub

It was a very hot ship. It was a huge ship. Most of the ship was not air-conditioned. The day was very hot and there were a lot of stairs. I tried to see as much of the ship as possible. The heat and time were against me.

There are six sections, or as they call them, “tours”, on the ship. I got through only four of them and the top deck. Eventually, I had to take refuge in the cinema, one of the two sections of the boat with a/c. There was a video showing the history of the ship as well as the history of WWII.

We always walk through ships while posing at every turn.

The ship is the USS Yorktown (CV-10); the 4th USS Yorktown. Although this Yorktown did fight during WWII, neither it nor its predecessor was stationed in Hawaii at the time the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The Yorktown (CV-5), the ship the CV-10 replaced sank in the Battle of Midway in June 1942.

The CV-10 fought several battles in the Pacific during WWII, but my favorite of its missions is the retrieval of the Apollo 8 Command Module in 1968.

George H. W. Bush

After chilling out in the cool cinema. We went to see the sub in the front. It was cramp like most subs, but nothing that would bring out my claustrophobia. But I do have a lot of respect for the men and women who live in one of those things.

Filming Army Wives

You’ve Never Heard of the Show!?

As we were leaving, we saw a film crew setting up for a shoot. The kids asked someone in the crew what was going on. They were told that the show “Army Wives” was being filmed.

I’ve never heard of the show, but was still slightly excited to get a glimpse of some filming in action… well at least the setting up for the filming.

By the way, the movie Tora! Tora! Tora! was filmed on the USS Yorktown (CV-10). Again, a movie I have never seen. When I was younger I thought it was a movie about the Jewish holy book.

What should I buy?

More Shopping

We then went to downtown Charleston and walked through the Market Hall and Sheds. I was very much tempted by many of the items that I saw there. But since I knew that I would eventually be heading to Japan and that I wouldn’t be able to fit everything in my little suitcase, I had to hold back.

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Lake Aire RV Park

How to get there:

  • 32°46’39.1″N 80°08’52.4″W
  • Directions from the website

Address:

4375 Highway 162
Hollywood, SC 29449

Phone:

  • 1-843-571-1271

Website

Download:

Cost

Notes:

  • There is free wi-fi. Not every camping spot can get wi-fi, but there are many hot spots throughout the camp.

Patriot’s Point

How to get there:

Address:

40 Patriots Point Road
Mt. Pleasant, SC 29464

Phone:

  • 1-843-884-2727

Website

Download:

Cost:

  • Adults – 18USD

Hours:

  • 9:00 – 18:30

Videos:

Books:

Notes:

  • Parking cost $5 per vehicle.

Market Hall and Sheds

How to get there:

Address:

188 Meeting St.
Charleston, SC 29401

Phone:

  • (843) 853-8000 or
  • toll-free (800) 868-8118

Website

Download

Hours:

  • Mar.-Oct. 8:30-5:30;
  • Nov.-Feb. 8:30-5:00

Map:

Posted in Charleston, Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina, United States, The | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Blow Out

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 26, 2010

July 6, 2010

All Pictures

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Lake Aire RV Park

How to get there:

  • 32°46’39.1″N 80°08’52.4″W
  • Directions from the website

Address:

4375 Highway 162
Hollywood, SC 29449

Phone:

  • 1-843-571-1271

Website

Download:

Cost

Notes:

There is free wi-fi. Not every camping spot can get wi-fi, but there are many hot spots throughout the camp.

Map:



Malcolm changing the trailer’s tire

Isn’t That Malcolm?

As I said in the last entry, Malcolm left for South Carolina before Mark, me, and company. It was very late at night when we caught up with Malcolm on the road. He was easy to spot because of the trailer he was pulling. We tried to drive along side him or right behind him, but he was going way too fast.

Malcolm flew past us and we trailed behind. Then, way up ahead I saw their trailer swaying back and forth. I knew something was wrong. He pulled over on the side of the road. We passed him and then pulled over too.

the old tire

We called him on his cell. He had hit a bump on the road and one of the tires on the trailer ripped open. He needed a new tire and didn’t have a spare.

There was a cop helping him. But we would have to go to the nearest Wal-Mart and get him a new tire. He told us the type of tire he needed. We typed Wal-Mart into our TomTom and went shopping around midnight.

We got him 2 tires, just in case. When we returned to where Malcolm was, we parked behind him to shine our headlights on the trailer. He changed the tire, but needed to adjust the contents of the trailer to even out the weight on the tires. We all then went to Wal-Mart.

You repack. We’ll get snacks.

Should we offer them some chips? Nah, they look busy.

Malcolm and Mark unpacked, then repacked. Vonia, Malcolm’s wife and my sister-in-law, and I got some snacks at Wal-mart. Then, we all sat around the van and chatted… while Malcolm and Mark worked. We did offer them some of our snacks.

The trailer was a family project. Malcolm and his 3 boys built it together. They took the base from an old trailer they either bought, had, or found; I don’t remember which. Then they got some wood from Lowes and over a few weeks the four of them built the camping trailer.

instant camping kitchen

It’s a really nice trailer for camping. There are side compartments that open up to reveal the cooler and camping stove in such a way that it doesn’t need to be unpacked for cooking purposes. Shelves inside hold tents, sleeping bags, mats, and other camping gear. It was a great family project and you could tell that the boys took pride in their trailer.

Isn’t camping great!

Enjoying Nature

Needless to say, we got to the camp very late. We put the tents up in time to sleep during a few sunless hours left that night. The next day we didn’t leave the campsite. It was just a day to relax and recuperate from the last night’s adventure.

Malcolm taken out by an aerobie.

All Pictures

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The 4th of July

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 26, 2010

fireworksJuly 4-5, 2010

All Pictures

Americans enjoying the 4th of July

The Rockets Red Glare

Mark and I got up early to pick up my mom. She was staying in the Omni Hotel next to the CNN Center. Then we met up with my brother, Malcolm, and waited for him to pack up his trailer.

Let’s pack and repack and repack again, kids!

My brother is notorious for not being on time. Add to this, his four kids, a niece, and a family friend, all of which are also known for their tardiness. They all, well mostly Malcolm, were packing up their trailer when we showed up.

Malcolm’s eyes opened wide when he saw our van. To him, our van was more storage space. He took a few of our clunky items and repacked our van with some of his stuff… and 2 of his kids… and then he took our food.

fireworks

When we finally reach Stone Mountain Park, the lines for all the interesting activities were really long. There was no way that we could do any of them. So we thought up a plan B.

There is no charge to enter Stone Mountain park. The charge is for the rides and activities. We didn’t buy our tickets at the park. We bought our tickets at Kroger’s with a $4.00 per ticket discount and we had until November to use them. So we stayed at the park to watch the fireworks and came back the next day to ride the rides.

The fireworks and laser show were amazing! It must have lasted an entire hour. There was music and pictures. When they played the Star Spangled Banner, everyone stood up. It was my first 4th of July in the US for a long time.

The actual mountain made of stone

The Klan Made this!?

Well, sort of. It started out as a giant rock. Then it became a quarry. Rocks from this site  are now in some locks of the Panama Canal, some of the steps of the US capitol building in D.C., and many other prominent buildings throughout the world.

It was actually a member of  United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC) that had the idea of turning Stone Mountain into a carved memorial to historic confederates. They paid for the work in the beginning, but by the time World War I broke out only Lee’s head was completed and they had run out of money.

Later, inspired by the film  The Birth of a Nation a group of men re-started the Ku Klux Klan. The new klan made Stone Mountain their pet project. They held fundraisers and collaborated with the UDC to finish Stone Mountain. But, it was very much a stop and go thing. Sculptors quit. Lee’s head had to be re-carved. Designers and planners didn’t get along. Money ran out.

Then the federal government took notice and thought it was a great idea. The government kicked the KKK off the project, sold special coins to help raise money, and completed the monument.

Maybe as a way to atone for its earlier associations with the KKK, a sample of Stone Mountain rock was sent to be considered for use in the building of a Martin Luther King Jr. memorial. It was not chosen. The MLK memorial planners went with granite from China instead.

overcoming my acrophobia

What Fear of Heights?

The next day Mark, my mom, and I did the ropes course. I am acrophobic, but this looked like too much fun to pass up. Plus, I saw little children on the course. I will not be labeled as someone who is more wimpy than children!

I was scared at first, but after a while, I was so focussed on getting through the obstacle, I forgot about the being high up part. Once I was done with the first level, I had enough confidence to move onto the second level. Then the third.

There were many kids who got scared and needed someone to get them through the course. There were also some adults who were scared and needed someone to get them through too. There were also a few people who fell off. Most of them were able to pull themselves back onto the platforms without help.

We like mountains with cable cars to take you to the top.

After our day at Stone Mountain we headed to South Carolina. My brother’s van was already packed up, so he headed out before us. My mom, Mark, two of my nephews, and I made one quick stop first… at Best Buy.

RIP Rasputin

Goodbye Rasputin

My camera, the one that survived the Laotian scooter accident, started giving what would turn out to be its death throes. After taking pictures the lens would not retract without me having to push it back into place. I thought that it would be a good idea to invest in a new camera in case Rasputin passed while on the trip.

I got a newer version of Rasputin, the Canon SX120. Rasputin stop functioning completely 3 days after I bought the replacement.

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

Stone Mountain

How to get there:

Address:

1000 Robert E. Lee Drive
Stone Mountain, GA 30083

Phone:

  • General Information 770-498-5690 or 1-800-401-2407
  • Group Information 770-498-5636
  • Campground 770-498-5710 or 1-800-385-9807

In the U.S. 800 number are free.

Website

Download:

Cost:

To get a $4 discount per ticket, buy your tickets from any nearby Kroger.

Hours:

Notes:

  • There is a lot to see here. Get here early.
  • You do not need a ticket to get into the park. The ticket is only needed to get on the rides or into the activities.

Map:

Posted in Georgia, Stone Mountain, United States, The | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Like Walking in a Movie

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 26, 2010

July 3, 2010

All Pictures

No. I didn’t look inside this outhouse.

Two Movies I have not Seen

Mark and I spent the night at another KOA in Forsyth. It was just the nearest campground outside Atlanta. We were delighted to find that we were near two interesting movie-centric towns.

We were to meet up with my family for the 4th of July and to kick off a huge multi-state camping trip. But that wasn’t going to be until the next day. We had to entertain ourselves for one day. I had the idea of breakfast at the Whistle Stop Cafe and then to head off to Atlanta.

The Famous Southern Fried Green Tomatoes

We first went to Juliette. Nothing was open except the Honeycomb. We went inside to look around. Mark bought some gifts for his mom and we chatted with the owners.

We really wanted to have breakfast in this cute little town, so we played checkers and walked around until the cafe opened. I have never seen Fried Green Tomatoes or read the book, but after walking around the town, I pretty much have an idea of what happened in it.

The fried green tomatoes were wonderful, by the way!

Movie Opening night relics

Next we went to Jonesboro, the town that was the setting for Gone With The Wind. This was another movie that I have never seen and book I have not read. But we headed off to the Road to Tara Museum anyway.We walk around the props from the movie and speculated about which house was used as the inspiration for the Tara.

We found out that Martin Luther King, Jr. sang at the opening of this movie as a kid with his choir. Even though it wasn’t planned, this whole trip to America followed the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Can’t wait to go to Japan and try it there too!

Samples From around the World

We drove into Atlanta and visited the World of Coca-Cola. It’s a little brain-washy. You hear them give you reason after reason why Coke is your favorite drink. I personally hate Coke… or any soda. I think if I spent a couple days here I would be convinced that I liked Coke. But I had to see the World of Coca-Cola because that’s what you go to see when you go to Atlanta; that, the Airport, and the CNN building.

My advice is to skip the “movies” except for the 4D movie. Make sure you have enough time in the sampling room. They have 60 flavors of Coke-Cola products from all around the world. You get a little cup and you can sample as much as you like. Even though I hate soda, my favorite drink was the pineapple stuff from South Africa. The worst was Stoney from Tanzania.  (In the video below, it’s Stoney that I’m trying  to drink when I, well… you’ll see.)

Martin Luther King Jr.’s resting place

We Can Just Walk There

Mark and I were lucky enough to find a place to park for a flat rate of only 3USD on the weekends. So when we were done with the World of Coke-Cola we thought it would be a good idea to walk down Auburn Ave. We took our TomTom and headed down the street.

This turned out to be a bad idea. On the TomTom the birthplace of Martin Luther King, Jr. was about 8 minutes away. But that’s if we were driving. We also couldn’t get TomTom to give us walking directions, which meant we were walking in mini circles to avoid walking the wrong way on a one-way street.

Then the sun started to set. Harmless Atlanta started to look a bit seedy. We got nervous any time someone drove too slowly passed us completely convinced that we looked like to two out-of-town rubes needed to be mugged or scammed. We stopped in front of the Ebenezer church and stood there looking at it. Then some guy walking on the other side of the street started yelling at us.

The Ebenezer church

My first thought was that he, obviously, mistook us for some other people. He kept yelling. He was trying to tell us that we were at the wrong church. What we were looking at was the New Ebenezer church. The one we were looking for, the one in which MLK worked, was across the street, where he was standing. We thanked him and he went on his way.

We then walked along the street and saw MLK’s grave and his birthplace. A few weeks later we would visit Montgomery, where he led the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Memphis, where he was shot, The William J. Clinton Presidential Library, where his influence can be seen, and later the Washington Mall, where he did his March on Washington.

MLK’s eternal flame

Here is Mark’s first video of our Visit to America.

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

KOA
(Forsyth)

How to get there:

  • 33°06’24.2″N 83°47’58.6″W

By car –

Take I-75 exit 186.

Address:

414 Frontage Road
Frontage Road
Forsyth, GA 31029

Phone:

  • (478) 994-2019

Website

e-mail: ke123@msn.com

Notes:

  • This KOA comes with only 1 hour of free wi-fi per day 😦

The Honeycomb

How to get there:

  • 33°06’02.5″N 83°48’11.4″W
  • Take I-75 exit 61 to Forsyth.
  • Head east for about 8 miles to get to the town of Juliette.

Address:

474 McCrackin St.
Juliette, Ga 31046

Phone:

  • 478-992-9996

Notes:

  • Most stores were closed when we got to Juliette.  But this one was open. The owners were very friendly.

The Whistle Stop Cafe

How to get there:

  • 33°06’23.9″N 83°47’55.9″W
  • Take I-75 exit 61 to Forsyth.
  • Head east for about 8 miles to get to the town of Juliette.

Address:

443 McCrackin St
Juliette, GA 31046

Phone:

  • (478) 992-8886

Website

Hours:

  • Sun – F 11:00 – 16:00
  • Sat 11:00 – 20:00

Road to Tara Museum

How to get there:

  • 33°31’17.2″N 84°21’15.7″W

Exit 228 off I-75, follow the brown signs to the Road to Tara Museum

Address:

104 N. Main Street
Jonesboro, GA 30236

Website

Hours:

  • M -F 8:30 17:30
  • Sa 10:00 – 16:00

Cost:

  • 7USD – Adults
  • 6USD –  Seniors, Kid, Students

World of Coca-Cola

How to get there:

  • 33°45’46.2″N 84°23’33.6″W

by car –

  • Go Southbound via I-75/85.
  • Take exit 249C Williams St.
  • Turn right onto Ivan Allen Jr. Blvd.
  • The Parking garage is on the left at the second traffic light.

Address:

121 Baker Street NW
Atlanta, GA 30313-1807

Phone:

  • (404) 676-5151 or
  • 1-800-676-COKE (2653)

Website

Cost:

  • 15USD – Adult

Hours:

  • Check website for hours

Notes:

  • At the end of all the exhibits, right before you exit, there are soda fountains with 60 different flavors of Coca-Cola products from around the world. You might want make sure you have enough time to sample all the drinks.
  • You also get a free bottle of Coke as you exit.

The MLK Tour*

The Birthplace of MLK:

  • 33°45’18.9″N 84°22’16.1″W

450 Auburn Ave NE
Atlanta, Ga 30312

For more information visit this website.

To go inside the house, you have to be on an official tour. Mark and I just saw the outside of the house. We got there too late for any tour.

Martin Luther King’s Church, Ebenezer:

  • 33°45’19.0″N 84°22’27.0″W

There are two Ebenezer churches, one across the street from the other. One is the historic site where MLK preached. The other is the new church where people come to worship each week.

The Resting Place of MLK

  • 33°45’18.1″N 84°22’23.2″W

This spot is always open.

Notes:

  • There are tours that will take you through all the places mentioned above while giving you historical information.
  • I’m not sure how much these tours cost or the times these tours are available.

*A walking tour made by Mark, Me, and our TomTom.

Map:

Posted in Atlanta, Forsyth, Georgia, Jonesboro, Juliette, United States, The | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

My First Stay at a KOA

Posted by Heliocentrism on July 25, 2010

July 1-2, 2010

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It’s summer in Florida; expect some rain…

Camping in the rain?

We started out on our long trip with a stop in Tallahassee so that Mark could see his old high school friend. They kept in contact through e-mail, phone calls, and Skype. But, they hadn’t seen each other in many years. So when they found out that they were both in Florida, they arranged a meeting in Tallahassee.

Mark and I planned on camping at the KOA in Monticello right outside Tallahassee. But when we got there it was raining the end of the world type of rain for which Floridian summers are known.

Camping in the rain is not so bad. All new tents are water proof. The difficult thing is setting up a tent in the rain. First off, the ground on which you build your tent is not dry. It’s cold and wet. Second, while you set up your tent in monsoon type weather, no matter how hard you try to keep things dry, water will get in. Third, all the stuff you take out of your car to put in your tent will get wet.

When we got to the KOA one of the owners of the campground, or as they say it, “Kampground”, asked us if we would rather a “Kabin” instead. It was only 45USD and completely waterproof with no assembly required. We took it.

Old Grandpa Mark

The “kabin” came with three beds, one a queen sized bed and a set of bunk beds. The beds have no bedding, but we had our sleeping bags and pillows. We just waited for the rain to stop a bit before taking our stuff out the car.

Looking for stuff to do in Tallahassee

Sightseeing in the Capital of Florida

I have been a resident of the state of Florida for about 5 years and this was my first time in Tallahassee, the state’s capital. When Mark’s friend arrived I suggested seeing the sights of Tallahassee.

There isn’t much to see. We drove around downtown Tallahassee, but because of the rain and the overall lack of interesting things to do, we didn’t get out of the car.

You see, most state capitals are placed in very uninteresting cities. There are some exceptions, like Atlanta, Georgia or Columbus, Ohio which are both the biggest cities in their respective states. But for the most part, the capital city of many states are in the boonies.

Robot Sushi Chef

What do Americans Know about Sushi!?

Although we weren’t really hungry we decided to get a bite to eat since there was nothing else to do. We looked up restaurants nearby on our GPS and found a Mr. Roboto.

Maybe I would have enjoyed it if I didn’t know what real sushi tasted like. It was ok, but it was all sushi rolls with very little fish in it. The one I ordered had more cream cheese than salmon.

Don’t get me wrong, not all American sushi places are like this. It’s just that many are. If you want better sushi in this country, you’re going to have to pay more for it. Or you can go to a grocery store. A tray of sushi there costs about 10USD and it’s better than the stuff sold at most low-end restaurants.

Vampires at the car museum

It’s Not Just about Cars

The next day, all three of us went to The Tallahassee Automobile Museum. It was good. There were tons of cars. But I felt that they could have done more to make my car viewing experience a little better.

First off, there were too many cars in the building. They were all wedged into their little parking spots and we could not walk around to look at the cars from different angles. They had many repeats with the same make, model, and year, but in different colors. I would get rid of the repeats and try to spread the cars out a bit more.

The museum was not as interactive as I thought it should have been. I understand that many of the cars are old and they wouldn’t want people to dirty or break anything in the cars. But, they weren’t all old. They should have put a few cars on display that guests could climb into and take pictures.

It seemed to me that while buying items for display, someone forgot that they were buying things for a car museum. Okay, I can see adding motorcycles. I can see getting a replica of Lincoln‘s hearse. I can kinda see having the hundreds of bikes. But what was up with the pianos and the vampire slaying kits?

I was so confused walking around in the second room upstairs. Was I in some old guy’s garage?

Wow! Look at all this non-car related stuff.

All Pictures


 

The United States of America

How to get there:

You can enter my country by land, air, or sea. But I think flight would be your transportation method of choice.

I have no clue how to get a visa to the US or who needs one. Just assume that you need one if you are not American or Canadian and check with your local US embassy.

Phone:

  • Use 911 for the police, fire department, or to get an ambulance
  • Use 411 for information (This might cost money.)

Website:

Downloads:

Videos:

Books: 

Notes:

  • It’s a big country. You’re going to need a car.

KOA
(Tallahasse East)

How to get there:

  • 30°28’36.9″N 83°55’16.6″W

by car –

Take exit 225 off I-10 in Florida.

Address:

Tallahassee East / Monticello KOA
346 KOA Road
Monticello, FL 32344

Phone:

  • (850) 997-3890

Website

e-mail: tallehokoa@aol.com

Cost: 

  • (20~50 USD)

The cost of the cabins, or as KOA calls them, kabins, tents, and lodges vary from campsite to campsite. But, both options are a lot cheaper than most motels.

Hours:

Most KOAs close after 20:00. You can only check-in after 20:00 if you have reservations or can do a self check-in.

Note:

  • This KOA came with a free waffle breakfast, free cookies, and free OJ.
  • Most come with free wi-fi, but not all.
  • The kabins do not come with sheets.
  • Bring your own towels and toiletries. Only toilet paper and hand soap are provided.

The Tallahassee Automobile Museum

How to get there:

  • 30°29’10.1″N 84°09’43.2″W

by car –

  • Take exit 209A of I-10
  • Then take high way 90

Address:

6800 Mahan Drive
Tallahassee, FL 32308

Phone:

  • (850) 942-0137

Website

Cost:

  • 1 Adult $16.00         2+ Adults $13.50
  • Students $10.75
  • Kids 5-8yrs $7.50
  • Kids under 5 $0.00

Hours:

  • M – F 8:00 – 17:00,
  • Sa 10:00 – 17:00,
  • Su 12:00 – 17:00

Notes:

You are not allowed to touch most of the cars.

Map:

Posted in Florida, Monticello, Tallahassee, United States, The | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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