Friday, May 18, 2018

MACON CHERRRY BLOSSOM FESTIVAL EXPEDITION!

I have been reading about the Macon Cherry Blossom Festival ( www.CherryBlossom.com ) in my travel magazines for a long time, so I jumped at the opportunity to attend, when it was offered!   The visit came about because my good friends from college have a son who is a professor at Wesleyan College in Macon.  More importantly, they have GRANDCHILDREN in Macon, and have arranged their lives such that they can spend extended periods of time in Macon.  I had the blessing of getting to meet them there, during one of their visits!
The Cherry Blossom Festival is such a big deal, it even has its very own "Storefront location" in the downtown area!
Furthermore, certain parking spaces in the downtown area, are painted pink with a stylized pink cherry blossom symbol, indicating they are for parkers who have "official" Cherry Blossom Festival tasks to attend to.


The official Cherry Blossom Store had every imaginable type of souvenir---predominantly in the trademark pink color---that one could imagine!
One of the activities associated with the Cherry Blossom Festival, is an International Food Fair.  We were able to get a preview of some of the specialty foods available, from this young man who was giving out samples, in the Cherry Blossom Store downtown. 

The photo above shows one of the Yoshino Cherry Trees in bloom.  Just about anywhere you go in the Macon area in the spring, you will see similar blossoming trees.  That is because there are 300,00-350,000 Yoshino Cherry Trees around the city.  Since this tree is not native to the South, one might be curious how this phenomena got started.  The story goes back to the 1950's when local enthusiasts for this particular tree variety, planted 500 around the main downtown area.  ( The 1950's is also around the time, I was a little kid playing on the levee of Crooked Creek, that ran through the downtown area of my hometown.  There was the cutest little dogwood tree growing there, in freshly disturbed soil, so it was quite easy for me to pull up, carry home, and present to my mother as a gift.  I knew she liked dogwood trees, and thought she would be delighted!  I was WRONG!  I was severely scolded, and told that numerous dogwood trees had been planted by the city beautification committee, and my actions were a detriment to their beautification project!  UGH!  I do not remember what my punishment was, but it must have been severe enough that I have never pulled up plants again, from anywhere, no matter where they were located!)
Since Macon, Georgia, is located in the geographic center of Georgia, it has the nickname of "Heart of Georgia".  And, since Georgia is famous for its large trees, draped with Spanish moss, you can see plenty of it all over the city. 

During the festival, Macon calls itself "The Pinkest Place on Earth", and many properties decorate their entrances with huge pink bows---like those shown here on the banister, ferns, and door wreath.
The historic Sidney Lanier Cottage is in the downtown area of Macon.

Notice that the poet was born in this cottage in 1842.  The reason this is significant is that it is a reminder that this structure, as well as several other historic structures in Macon, are still standing, even AFTER the Civil War.  That is because Union General William Tecumseh Sherman spared Macon on his "March to the Sea", when much of the surrounding area was burned to the ground by Union troops, under orders from General Sherman. 

Public places are not the only ones that decorate with a pink theme during The International Cherry Blossom Festival.  Notice the lovely mailbox at this private residence, that is festooned with a cascade of pink blossoms!
And some people even color their dogs pink for the International Cherry Blossom Festival!  I was very fortunate to get to have my photo made with this gorgeous pink poodle, at the Macon Visitor's Center.  My friends and I were at the Visitor's Center, to hop aboard the tour that is available,  to show visitors the many historic sites all around the county.   I would definitely recommend the tour, and you can find out more about it at their official website, www.maconga.org
Another activity our group attended was the International Cherry Blossom Parade in downtown Macon.  This photo shows us with "front row seats" for the dozens of marching bands and floats that we watched, including the Anheuser-Busch Clydesdale horses!
This visit with my longtime friend and sorority sister, in Macon, Georgia, is my visual aid for my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verse, because the memory verse talks about MIRACLES, and my friend represents a miracle!  (We are shown in the photo above, sitting beneath a Macon storefront painted with pink cherry blossoms)  She said at the time she was first diagnosed with multiple myeloma, she was told that disease had an average survival rate of 3-5 years.  This reunion visit was held ELEVEN years since that original diagnosis, so I am PRAISING GOD and proclaiming, "You are the God who performs miracles; you display your power among the peoples."  Psalm 77:14

Kathy and I both attended the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, and it was through our sorority, Kappa Alpha Theta, that we became acquainted.  So, we are not only Razorback fans, but also sorority sisters, as well as "Sisters in Christ"!   That is an eternal truth that gives me "MILES OF SMILES"!!     Tricia

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

ALBANY EXPEDITION!

It is with a heart full of gratitude, that I am able to be communicating in this photo, the message, "Greetings from Albany, Georgia"!  It is a place I had never visited before, and knew nothing about.  However, that all changed after a tour of the area, that started at the location of this photo---the historic Bridge House, which is now home of the city's welcome center and the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau.  It is aptly named, as it is located adjacent to the bridge that crosses the Flint River, which was the original "lifeblood" of the city, and has continued to play a key role in Albany's growth and economy. 


Developments along the Flint River are a magnet to visitors, because they lead to an attraction that is dedicated to Albany's most famous musician---Ray Charles.  An area called The Ray Charles Plaza has the sculpture of the man and his piano, that is shown in the photo below.  However, this is no ordinary statue.  This sculpture slowly rotates over a circular fountain, while recorded music of familiar Ray Charles songs, emanates from the speakers that surround the sculpture.
The Ray Charles Plaza is part of a multi-phase development, that includes a 2.4-mile paved Riverfront Trail, kayak docks, scenic overlooks, Radium Springs Garden, and the new Broad Avenue Bridge.  Notice in the photo below, that one of the seating benches in the Ray Charles Plaza has been made in the shape of a musical note. 
Our group enjoyed listening to the music of Ray Charles, as we sat beside the Flint River, and soaked in the sun on this "Chamber-of-Commerce-Day" in Albany, Georgia!  There is a nice hotel right across the street from the Plaza, that would be an ideal location for folks needing overnight lodging, that wanted to take advantage of the water sports activities available on the Flint River.  (Note: There are several local outfitters that rent kayaks/canoes for just this purpose.)


The multi-phase development of the Flint River area goes all the way to the 800-acre wild animal park called Chehaw (www.chehaw.org ).  Chehaw has a zoo, conservation land, mountain bike trails, camping sites and more.  Part of the "more" is shown in the photo below---The Muckalee Swampland Station. 
It is called an alligator outpost, because we saw NUMEROUS alligators, of varying sizes, all over the swampy location.  Some of the alligators had crawled up out of the water, and were fairly easy to spot.

Then there were the "older and wiser and LARGER" alligators that were well camouflaged, and lurking just under the surface of the water, waiting for an unsuspecting critter to enter their "food chain".

We were also able to get quite close to a gigantic rhinoceros that seemed unamused to being photographed. 

Our guide did a wonderful demonstration of getting this camel to gallop, by running just outside its fence, causing the camel to gallop along after her.

There was also an exhibit of pink flamingos, which are an iconic symbol of this part of the Southern waterways. 

Our group was able to get in a good bit of walking, by following the deck that weaved through the spring-fed, black gum swamp.  There were educational signs posted all along the walkways, that helped us interpret what we were seeing.

At another attraction in Albany, we saw this antique candy delivery truck, and learned about the origin of the name "Albany".  The Native American inhabitants called the area Thronateeska (meaning "the place where Flint is picked up"), and thus the name "Flint River".  Then, in 1836, Mr. Nelson Tift, chose the city's site because of its river location and named it "Albany" with the hope that it would prosper as a trade location like Albany, New York.

Our group visited the Flint Riverquarium ( www.flintriverquarium.com ), which is also located near the banks of the Flint River. 

The
touch tanks at the Riverquarium lets visitors pick up and closely examine a variety of marine creatures.

One of the guests was particularly intrigued with a the sea cucumber shown in this photo, as she had never been able to pick one up before, and wanted to make sure I got a close-up photo of it!
Although this beautiful fish is not a fresh-water native, I have yet to visit an aquarium anywhere in the country, that did not have one of these colorful swimmers on view.  As a kid, this was my favorite fish shape  to draw and color in my art classes.


The Flint Riverquarium is unique in that it is built around a recreated 175,000-gallon blue hole spring, and houses more than 120 species of fish, birds, reptiles and amphibians that inhabit the Flint River watershed. 

Another very popular attraction in this city is the Albany Civil Rights Institute ( www.albanycivilrightsinstitute.org ).  Both audio recordings, videos, and still photographs are used here to capture the stories of ordinary people who became effective agents of change. 

The Institute was built so that it could be adjacent to the original Mt. Zion Baptist Church, that played a key role in what came to be known as the "Albany Movement". 


We were at the Institute shortly after the national day recognizing Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., so his portrait was still on display in the lobby, along with memorial wreaths. 

The Institute courtyard has a recreated covered porch, and it includes signage that comments on the importance of the front porch in Southern history (before air conditioning was developed!)

After we toured the Institute, we walked into the adjacent Old Mt. Zion Baptist Church.  There we were treated to a choral recital by Rutha Harris.
 Ms. Harris (in the red dress on the left of photo) was assisted by her niece, in telling the story of the Freedom Singers.  Both ladies are retired school teachers now, but continue to engage visitors to the Institute with oral history presentations, and songs.  Mrs. Harris was a member of the original SNCC Freedom Singers, and was invited by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to be part of the March on Washington, on August 28, 1963.  She stated that singing at the March on Washington, in front of Dr. King, was one of the greatest experiences of her life. 
The 2018 Albany, Georgia, Visitors Guide has a six-page article about Rutha Harris, and she was kind enough to give those who wanted one, a personalized autograph of her B/W feature photo in the magazine.  She is called "The Voice of Albany". 
This sign is a visual aid for my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com )memory verse, because they both have the word "Zion" in them.  Psalm 84:7 says, "They go from strength to strength, till each appears before God in Zion."  I am thankful for the strength that Rutha Harris has displayed in her life's journey.  She stated that "Freedom is a constant struggle.  This is why I still sing."    It takes strength to struggle, and walking by faith in God can supply that strength.
I want to thank all those who made it possible ( www.visitalbanyga.com , www.exploregeorgia.org, and www.grouptravelleader.com ) for me to take this most interesting tour of Albany, Georgia, because it gave me "MILES OF SMILES"!    Tricia

Monday, April 16, 2018

THOMASVILLE HISTORY EXPEDITION!

Folks who work in the tourism marketing field are often curious about how the visitors who come to their destination, first heard about it.  My answer to this query, in the case of Thomasville, Georgia, is "word of mouth".  That is because during a visit with two sisters who were Georgia Tree Farm owners, I mentioned that I was scheduled to be driving from the Florida panhandle, up through Georgia, on my way back to Arkansas.  I mistakenly assumed they would tell me about panhandle attractions, when I asked what would be an enjoyable place to visit along my route.  Instead, they said their favorite spot along my proposed route, would be the town of Thomasville, Georgia.  I had never heard of Thomasville, Georgia, but I read up on it via the Internet, and planned to make a slight detour on my route, so I could visit it.  As my friend and I drove along the highway leading to the town, I was in awe of the acre-after-acre of pecan trees!  Although the ladies I met grew pine trees, it was readily apparent this area had the necessary climate and soil conditions, to grow some mighty fine TREES! 

However, the plantations of pine trees and pecan trees, do not garner even a tiny portion of the public's attention, as does THE BIG OAK TREE!  This is probably the most "historic" tree in the entire Thomas County area.  Taking up almost an entire city block, this incredible tree boasts hundreds of visitors on a regular basis.  Because of its gigantic size, and visitors' desires to have their photo made with it, arrangements have been made such that visitors can stand beside the sign describing the tree, press a certain "technology button", and a camera mounted on a telephone pole, very high up across the street, will snap your photo! Then you can see the photo on the Thomasville, Georgia website www.ThomasvilleGa.com!  Perhaps the need for such an elevated camera was made obvious, whenever President Eisenhower came to see the tree, and "trespassed" on a home owner's porch across the street, in order to capture the entire circumference of the tree in a photo!  (Photos from that first trip to Thomasville can be seen in this blog's archives, on the post dated April 19, 2016)

Very close to The Big Oak, one can take a tour of a most unusual historic home.  It had more corners in it than any house I have ever visited!   I notice corners because, when involved in building our first home, my father advised us that the two-story hexagon room we had planned, to take advantage of a beautiful mountain view, was a bad idea, because every time you added a corner when building a house, you increased the cost of the construction by hundreds of dollars.   He would have been "aghast" at the number of corners in the Lapham-Patterson House!!  However, the original builder of the home was involved in the timber industry, and wanted the house to be a "showcase" of wood construction---so the more corners, the better!   Learn more about the Lapham-Patterson House at www.thomascountyhistory.org

This is the first home I have ever visited, that had a staircase above the fireplace.  Plus, as you can see from this photo of our guide standing beneath the staircase balcony, such a design required that there be TWO chimneys leading from the fireplace---another example of the extravagance of the original builder.  Also, notice the triangular design made on the floor, by using especially cut wood , and different varieties of trees. 

There are so many scenic spots in Thomasville, that regardless of the direction you point your camera, you can find a picturesque vignette.  The one in this photo is a "pocket park" in the downtown area, ideally suited for husbands who prefer to "sit a spell", rather than tag along behind their shop-a-holic wife!

If you check Trip Advisor, you will see that a restaurant in downtown Thomasville that has excellent reviews, is Jonah's  www.jonahsfish.com  Our guide told us that the place is so popular, that there is usually a bit of a wait to get a table, especially if you have a large group.  However, the Thomasville CVB rep had prevailed upon the management to come up with a plan that would get our group seated and fed, in a timely manner, since we were on such a tight schedule. 

We only waited a very short time, which I found totally enjoyable as it gave me an opportunity to check out the location, the menu, and take photos!

The section of the menu shown in this photo is "upside down", because "upside down" is the direction the owner's life took at the time he started this restaurant.  He tells the story of how he was sitting in church, listening to a sermon, based on the Bible story of Jonah.  He realized, that , like Jonah, he had been "running" from what God was calling him to do.  He prayed for direction, and the result was the restaurant we were dining in!  That is why it is called "Jonah's"!!  I am using this image as a visual aid for my First Place 4 Health ( www.FirstPlace4Health.com ) memory verse that says, "Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective"  (James 5:16)   The success of Jonah's Restaurant, and all their downtown partners, shows that this Georgia man's humble prayer was both powerful and very effective!! ( Another "God-moment coincidence" occurred when I opened up the Bible devotional app on my phone during my time in Thomasville, and yes, it was based on the Old Testament Bible story of Jonah!)  This "right side up" photo shows that the founder of Jonah's is doing what the memory verse says---confessing sins, praying, and receiving the powerful, effective healing that God's Word promises!


I like to include lots of salad greens with my entree, so when the waitress brought this delicious-looking piece of salmon on a "bed of lettuce", I was delighted !

After lunch, our group traveled to Pebble Hill Plantation, on the outskirts of Thomasville, to walk off a few of those calories we had for lunch, and to do so in a gorgeous Southern venue!

This photo shows the approach that visitors to Pebble Hill Plantation would have used, during the estate's early beginnings, when travel by horse and carriage was prominent.

A more recent addition to the property includes a brick serpentine wall, modeled after the one designed for the University of Virginia campus, by former American President Thomas Jefferson.  (See a previous blog, dated April 6, 2017, I wrote about University of Virginia architecture)

The Visitor Center and Administrative office complex opens up to a lovely courtyard, that is often scheduled for weddings and other special events.

A water feature provides the pleasing sound of a babbling brook to the serenity of the courtyard. 

Giant spheres of twinkling lights, hang from the massive oak trees in the courtyard, and make for a romantic atmosphere during the twilight hours.


Inside the historic home, the visitor will get to see numerous rare, original Audubon prints.  The previous owners of Pebble Hill Plantation were friends and contemporaries of the Audubon family, which accounts for their prominence throughout the home. 

This long passageway, with vaulted ceilings and symmetrical archways, leads to another addition to the original living space.

One of the guestrooms in the home, as well as the bed that is in it, is famous and historic, because it is the bed used by American President Dwight D. Eisenhower, when he was a visitor to the plantation, back in the last century. If sleeping on the same plantation grounds used by a former U.S. President is something you would like to do, please note that overnight lodging is available at Pebble Hill Plantation, in addition to its availability for wedding venues, and other special events.  Check out their website www.PebbleHill.com for more details.


Our group was treated to a wonderful tasting experience at Pebble Hill Plantation, that was made possible by the founder and owner of Sweet Grass Dairy ( www.SweetGrassDairy.com ) of Thomasville.  The family that started this business, wanted to establish a "back to the earth", sustainable, artisan cheese creamery, and their efforts have been very successful! Yum!

I want to recognize some of the folks who made this outstanding experience in Thomasville, Georgia, possible.  They are an example of
the power of partnerships, and I hope  you will check out their websites for more information.  ExploreGeorgia.org   www.thomasvillega.com  www.sweetgrassdairy.com  www.grouptravelleader.com  These ladies represent an area of the South that provided a very beneficial familiarization tour, and gave all of the participants "MILES OF SMILES"!!   Tricia