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Archive for the ‘BBQ’ Category

We left Cherokee, North Carolina, on a rainy Saturday evening and headed south to Atlanta.  Driving in the dark while it is raining with a van full of tired people will always test the mettle of the driver.  We could not make it all the way to Atlanta, and decided to stop for the night in the suburb of Buford, 30 miles north of Atlanta.  We found the Wingate by Wyndham in Buford so enjoyable that we made it our home for the next three nights.

Our first day was a day of rest.  Dad and the kids went swimming in the pool for a couple of hours while Mom did laundry and enjoyed some quiet time in the room.  Quiet time is very hard to come by when you are with your family 24 hours a day.  That evening we met Mom’s college roommate and her family for dinner.  Dodie gave us the lay of the land in Atlanta and some suggestions of places we should visit.

The next morning we headed to downtown Atlanta to visit the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Site.  We had been a little worried about the notoriously bad traffic, but we left around 10:00 and had no problems getting downtown.

The Martin Luther King Jr. Historical Site is a complex operated by the National Park Service and includes the home where MLK, Jr. was born and grew up, his tomb, the Ebenezer Baptist Church, an Interpretive Center, and the King Center For Non-Violent Social Change.  Luckily, we had a beautiful day and enjoyed the walks between the buildings in the neighborhood known as “Sweet Auburn”, where Martin had played as a boy.

Similar to Independence Hall in Philadelphia, you must have a ticket to tour the birthplace.  Tickets are free but limited in number and must be obtained the day of your visit.  We picked up tickets to take the guided tour of MLK, Jr’s birthplace and childhood home, and then visited the final resting place of Martin and Coretta Scott King.

The atmosphere in the courtyard is peaceful and serene.  The Kings’ tombs are set above a reflecting pool and an eternal flame burns in their memory.

We met our Birthplace tour guide on the steps of the beautiful historic house built in 1895.

Over the years, the National Park Service has purchased and restored most of the homes on the block where MLK, Jr. grew up, so you get a very accurate feel for what the street looked like at the time.

The interior of the home has been restored to look as it did back in the 1930s when MLK, Jr. lived there.  Martin and his two siblings were born in the house because their father did not want them to be born in a segregated hospital.  The tour was very interesting and helped give us a more complete picture of MLK, Jr. and the influences that shaped his future.  It was hard to believe that we were walking through the house where one of the most influential people of the 20th century lived, played, did chores, and studied, just as our kids do.

After touring the home, we walked through the neighborhood fire station a few doors down. MLK, Jr. walked past this station every day.  One of the few segregated institutions in this vibrant black community, it was a constant reminder of the need for change.  Andrew really liked the vintage fire engine inside, and it was interesting to learn about fire fighting in the 1930s.

A few blocks away from the Birthplace is Ebenezer Baptist Church where his father was the preacher and MLK, Jr. was ordained at age 19.  Unfortunately, the church is closed for a major renovation project, so we were not able to go inside.

In the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Non-Violent Social Change, we saw many of the personal effects of Martin and Coretta Scott King.  It is really cool to see actual items from such an important part of our country’s history.  Our daughters found the wall of photographs very interesting.

This is the room key for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s room at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis.

In the NPS Visitor Center, we watched an inspiring film about children in the Civil Rights Movement and saw many multimedia exhibits about key events in the Movement.  Here we had an “putting the pieces together” moment.  Our 4-year old Andrew saw statues representing the “March from Selma to Montgomery” led by Dr. King in 1965 and stated, “Hey, that is the march!”  We were able to learn a lot about the Civil Rights Movement in the South, and the MLK, Jr. National Historic Site was a great way to wrap it up.  (You can read about the other Civil Rights sites we visited here.)

The next day we drove to historic Grant Park in Atlanta to see the Atlanta Cyclorama and Civil War Museum.

This attraction teaches its visitors about The Battle of Atlanta in 1864 where General Sherman and the Union Troops defeated the Confederate troops, capturing the city of Atlanta.  The main attraction here is an oil painting depicting the battle in great detail, but this is no ordinary oil painting.  Completed in the 1880s, this panoramic painting in the round is over 40 feet tall and encompasses more than 16,000 square feet.  We sat in theater style seats that rotated in a circle, allowing us to see all of the painting as a narrator described the events of the battle.  It was really amazing, but even more so when you realize that the painting was done over 120 years ago.

A sample of the incredible detail in the painting

In the attached exhibit hall are many artifacts from the many Civil War battles fought in Georgia.  Our kids were amazed that the soldiers wore thick wool uniforms all year long, even in the 95+ degree heat.  Seeing the actual weapons coupled with the great detail from the painting helped them visualize and understand how terrible the battles must have been.  Also on site is the original steam engine “Texas” that was involved in the Great Locomotive Chase, a very interesting Civil War event we had never heard of before.  (You can read about our visits to other Civil War sites here.)

After the museum, we made the final and greatest stop on our barbeque tour of the south, Daddy D’z BBQ Joynt.  At first glance, this was the type of place that we would normally have been hesitant to go into.

Year Long Adventure declares this the best BBQ ever!

Luckily we gave it a try, and had the best meal of the trip.  The service was excellent and the food was even better.  We were still raving about it days later.  If you like barbeque and you find yourself in Atlanta, then you need to eat here.  We promise, you will thank us afterward.

You can follow our adventures at Year Long Adventure on Facebook.

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After our great stop in St. Augustine, Florida (read about it here), we continued up the Atlantic Coast toward our next destination, Savannah, Georgia.  We did not reach our hotel until well after dark, so not much was accomplished on night one in Savannah.  Our unscheduled trip to St.Augustine, FL,  had bumped our scheduled trip to the Georgia Sea Turtle Center, so we left Saturday morning to backtrack down to Jekyll Island.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center is an education center as well as a rehabilitation hospital for injured turtles.  The center has a lot of great information, and our kids learned a lot.  On site is a “turtle hospital” where you can see many different species of sea turtles that are being nursed back to health.

We all enjoyed the interactive exhibits, including one very reminiscent of Frogger, which requires you to get a sea turtle across a road and back again.   Another activity lets you randomly choose one of four options at critical stages in a sea turtle’s development and see how each affects its life.

We headed back to Savannah and continued our Bar-B-Q tour of the South with lunch at The Smoking Pig in Pooler, Georgia.  Final ratings will be announced at the end of the tour, but we all left with smiles on our faces and sauce on our lips.

We then drove to historic downtown Savannah.  Savannah was founded by James Oglethorpe in 1733.  Oglethorpe planned the city by setting aside many different squares for parks in the city.  Twenty-two of the original twenty-four squares remain, resulting in a beautiful city filled with lush green spaces every few blocks.

We ordered “Savannah Safari” booklets prior to our visit as a guide to visiting historic downtown.  The guide leads you on a trek around the city looking for different animal related items in the architectural elements.  The kids really enjoyed finding all of the items on the tour, and it led us on a very informative tour of the city.

Sunday morning we headed back downtown to attend Mass at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in Savannah.  We have been very fortunate on this adventure to visit many amazing Cathedrals across the country, and this one was one of the best.

One of the highlights was when the priest announced at the end of the Mass that Jim Caviezel (the actor who played Jesus in “The Passion of the Christ”) was there.  The Priest had Jim recess with him at the end of the mass and greet the parishioners as they left.  This all lead to the surreal moment of our 4-year old Andrew having his head rubbed by Jim Caviezel, and then announcing to the priest that “We were going back to the Holiday Inn Express”.

After Mass, we walked back through downtown to find a couple of items that we had missed on our tour and then to the birthplace of the Girl Scout Founder Juliette Gordon Low.

On a tour of the Low family home, we learned about the life of Juliette and also the history of the house.  It was a very interesting tour and left us in awe of the quality of home that could be built 200 years ago.

We were very impressed with the beauty of downtown Savannah, with its mature, moss-covered trees, grand fountains, and magnificent old homes.  It is easy to be transported into the past while walking down these streets, and we felt the history come alive.

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Leg 3 of our Year Long Adventure has us touring the Southeast U.S. in hopes of avoiding snow and ice.  As usual, we took MUCH longer than we intended to load the van on Tuesday morning, resulting in our estimated departure time of 10 A.M. looking a lot more like 3 P.M..  As we pulled out of the driveway, we felt like we must have forgotten something big because there was so much more room in the van than on the first two trips.  The truth is that we have become a mean, lean, packing-machine.  If only we were faster…

We drove from Richardson through Louisiana to Vicksburg, Mississippi.  (We are touring Louisiana on our way home).  Nothing like a seven hour drive to get the family back into the traveling groove.  We checked into our room at the La Quinta in Vicksburg, and we were quite pleased with the accommodations.

Early the next morning, the adventure began with a visit to Vicksburg National Military Park.

We used our National Park Pass for free admission (a must if you plan on going to a lot of the National Parks), and headed into the Visitor Center to do some learning.  The adults of the group needed some of this education since neither one of us could answer with 100% conviction which side won the Battle at Vicksburg.  (Please don’t tell Mom’s AP History teacher!)

After viewing the standard NPS Visitor Center movie and obtaining our Jr. Ranger booklets, we headed out on the Audio Driving Tour of the park.  Each of the states that had troops fight in the battle have placed a monument in the park, and some of them are quite impressive.

This area of Mississippi is surprisingly hilly, making this site high above the Mississippi River very desirable to both sides.

The Union desperately wanted to capture Vicksburg to gain control of the river, but found it virtually impossible to invade.  In the end, it was keeping new supplies out of the city that won the battle.  After 47 days of brutal fighting and incredible numbers of casualties, the Siege of Vicksburg ended when Confederate General Pemberton surrendered the city to Union General Grant on July 4th, 1863.  The 5,000 Confederate soldiers who died are buried in a city cemetery in the city of Vicksburg, while 17,000 Union soldiers are buried here in the park.  Graves of unidentified soldiers, 13,000 in all, are marked with smaller concrete posts instead of headstones.  It is quite sobering to see the cemetery stretching out in front of you.

One of the coolest things in the park is the U.S.S. Cairo Museum.  The Cairo was a Union ironclad gunship that was sunk in the Yazoo River by the Confederacy.  One hundred years after the sinking, the ship was raised and restored.  The restored ship is in the park, and you can actually walk onto the deck.

The entire driving tour took about two hours including stops, and is totally worth it if you find yourself in the greater Vicksburg Area.  (You can read about another great Civil War site we visited here.)

Our next stop after lunch was to head to downtown for lunch and then head to the Biedenharn Candy Store which houses a Coca-Cola Museum.  It was at this location in 1894 where Coca-Cola was bottled for the first time.  It was only sold in soda fountains before this.

The museum mainly shows Coca-Cola memorabilia from over the years, but it was pretty entertaining to show the kids some of the items that reminded us of our youth.  They were interested to hear about returning empty bottles to the store and getting the deposit money back.  We thought it was cool to get that quarter back in the late 1970’s for returning a 32 oz. bottle, but they had those same bottles on sale at the museum as collectibles for $20 each.  If only we had known at the time.

After leaving Vicksburg, we headed on eastward toward our destination of Tuscaloosa, Alabama (home of The University of Alabama – “Roll Tide”).  On our way in, we used the iPhone to search for good Bar-B-Q places.  We found that there were quite a few, and decided to visit Mike & Ed’s Bar-B-Q.

It was REALLY good.  Mom liked it so much that as we were driving to the hotel later she said, “Man, that was so good, I don’t even know what to do”.  Take that as a strong recommendation.

Feel free to check out our Facebook page for more timely reports on where we just ate or see pictures from State Welcome Centers…

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The 2nd leg of the Year Long Adventure started off slowly, but surely.  Mom and the girls had been Girl Scout camping over the weekend, so the final packing and preparations for this trip did not begin until late Sunday afternoon (really not until Monday morning – Mom was pooped!).  We were planning a 2:00 departure, but we finally hit the road around 5:00 – just in time to hit Dallas rush hour traffic.  Opting for an easier first day, we stopped for the night around 10:00 and stayed in a lovely La Quinta in downtown Little Rock, Arkansas.

Despite our long track record of 11:15 check outs, we knew we had to leave early the next morning to make up for lost time.  Miracle of miracles, we were showered, fed, and back in the car by 8:30!  Even the pouring rain wasn’t going to dampen our spirits.  On our way out of town, we drove past the Arkansas State Capitol Building, Bill Clinton’s Presidential Library, and Central High School.  We promised to come back someday when we had more time and headed northeast toward Memphis.

Our goal was to arrive at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis in time to see the famous “March of the Ducks” at 11:00.  Cutting it close as usual, we pulled up to the hotel entrance at 10:58.  Luckily, there is a long introduction before the event!   As if on cue, a concierge spotted us and led the kids to front row seats along the red carpet.  Before the March, the Duck Master explained the history of this tradition which began as a practical joke.

The Duck Master explains the story of the Peabody ducks.

Every day for 70 years, a Duck Master has escorted the five ducks who reside on the roof of the hotel down to the lobby in the elevator.  The ducks then march down a red carpet and climb three steps into an ornate fountain.  Here they happily swim until 5:00, at which time the entire process is reversed.  People come from all over to play papparazzi, snapping pictures of this unusual spectacle.  The kids loved it, and we were happy to have made it just in time.  Five more minutes and we would have missed it.  You can check out our video here.

The ducks go marching one by one, hurrah, hurrah...

Up close view of the ducks in the fountain

From the Peabody Hotel, we ventured down Beale Street in search of some authentic Memphis BBQ.  We found it at a little place called Pig: Pork With An Attitude.

Junior Feast at Pig

VERY stuffed and VERY happy, it was time to pose for pictures on the safety barriers disguised as oversize sports balls surrounding the Fed-Ex Forum before hitting the road again.

An unexpected traffic jam outside of Nashville forced us to hit the back roads  in an attempt to avoid more delays.  Thanks again, iPhone maps!  Not only did we bypass the accident, but we were rewarded with views of gorgeous fall leaves in amazing colors.  Unfortunately, it did add more time to our journey, so for a second night we decided to stop short of our intended destination.  We spent the evening relaxing and watching the Texas Rangers playoff game in the brand-new La Quinta in Bowling Green, Kentucky.

On this leg of the Year Long Adventure, we (mostly Mom) are trying to be more flexible and less stressed.  Even our itinerary is more fluid, allowing for stops to experience the unexpected.  This is uncharted territory – hitting the road without every moment planned – so we’ll see where it takes us.  We are looking forward to tomorrow and just enjoying the ride.

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