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