Tag Archive | ghosts

Circus Trip 2018: Bannack State Park

Day 8, Monday, July 23, 2018

After a night spent in Dillon, Montana, I departed for my day’s destination.  I was going to Bannack State Park, which preserves the ghost town of Bannack.  Bannack was founded in 1862 after gold was discovered there.  It was remote then – it was connected by the Montana Trail wagon road to Salt Lake City, but was also rough and dangerous, due to the risks posed by Native Americans and weather extremes.  Bannack is still remote now!

The Bannack Sign

Bannack is named after the local Native American tribe that inhabited the area; the Bannock Indians.  When they sent the paperwork to Washington, D.C. the agent misspelled the proposed name and nobody ever corrected it.  Bannack it remains.

The town has quite a colorful history; it was the capitol of the Montana Territory for a brief period in 1864, until it moved to Virginia City.  And here’s a story for you!  The Sheriff of Bannack, Henry Plummer, was a criminal who had served time for manslaughter at San Quentin prison.  Apparently no one found out about his history when they elected him as Sheriff.  In Bannack, he was suspected to have been leading a band of road agents who were allegedly robbing and murdering travelers.  Some claimed that Plummer’s band had committed over one hundred murders!  That’s where the story gets stranger though; modern historians believe this number is very inflated, since only eight deaths were documented during the period in the area.  People believed what they wanted to though, and Plummer and two of his deputies were hanged without trial, and over twenty more received an informal trial and then were lynched by vigilantes.

The Bannack Jail

One man named Joe Pizanthia was killed when the vigilantes turned to mob violence.  They tried to question Joe, but he refused to leave his cabin.  A large crowd gathered, and two men volunteered to bring Joe out.  Joe ended up shooting them when they attempted to enter.  That got the crowd all worked up, so they borrowed a cannon, shelled the cabin, and injured Joe.  Then they dragged him out, and shot him over one hundred times, set the cabin on fire and then threw his body onto the flames.  Wow – they didn’t mess around!

Stranger still is that many suspected the vigilantes of framing Plummer and his deputies in order to hide the fact that they were the real bandits…  Yikes…

Today in Bannack, sixty log, brick and wooden homes and business remain.  Many of the buildings are open to visitors during the day and you can wander freely through them.  It was so cool to be able to explore these buildings!

With so many deaths among the suspected road agents, and the people murdered on the road, there are bound to be ghosts there. One story in particular that stuck with me wasn’t about the men murdered here.  The Bessette House was owned by Mitty Bessette, who arrived in Bannack in 1864 and died of old age in 1919.  The house was used as a quarantine house in the early 20th century, housing people during outbreaks of influenza, scarlet fever, diphtheria and whooping cough.  The house is believed to be haunted by the ghosts of children who died during these epidemics.  Some visitors hear the sound of crying babies coming from the house.

Bannack Home Interior

It was hot while I was there, but I enjoyed wandering and checking out the various places.  In a ghost town that is covered in snow each year and winter winds, it was great to see how well preserved it is. They even have some original outhouses!

I found one of the toilets!

 

The birds are plentiful there, with many birds nesting in the rafters and beams of the various old buildings.  Good from a birding perspective, but not so good from a historic preservation angle.  Birds are pretty hard on buildings.

Bannack has two cemeteries.  There is one at the top of the hill above town; it was the original cemetery.  Almost all of the stones are gone now and there isn’t much to see.  Down the road a little ways from the town site is the second cemetery.  This one has graves in various states of decay, it is always interesting to see cemeteries that are mostly rocks and sagebrush.  They are so different from the ones at home.  I spent a bit of time checking out the headstones there.

It only costs $6 to visit Bannack and it is free for Montana residents.  They also sell an informative guidebook for $2 more. I loved visiting Bannack!  Writing this makes me want to go back and see it again!

A Chipmunk!

 

A Ghost Named Arthur

I purchased my first home at age 27 when I was still single.  I purchased it in the spring of 2003 from a sweet, elderly widow named Doris, who didn’t have the time or ability to maintain a home and yard anymore.  Her husband Arthur had passed away the previous autumn, and she was moving into an assisted living facility.

I moved in with my sweet, elderly kitty Zorro, and set about decorating the home to my liking.  It was a peaceful, charming little rambler on a small lot in the middle of town, three rooms deep on each side.  The right side, front to back, was living room, dining room, kitchen, while the left side was bedroom, bedroom, bathroom, bedroom (yes I know, that is technically four, but you get what I mean).  Running down the bedroom side was a hallway that connected all the bedrooms, with a entry between the living room and dining room.

Like this:

BEDROOM  BEDROOM  BATHROOM BEDROOM

…………………………..HALLWAY

……LIVING ROOM      DINING ROOM     KITCHEN

One morning a few months after I moved in, I was eating breakfast at the dining room table, and Zorro was sitting beside me.  I had just gotten up to take my bowl to the kitchen sink, when I saw a shadow about eye level move across my line of vision, from the living room towards the bathroom.  I was so startled that I dropped my cereal bowl on the floor, and all the milk made a huge mess.  When I got up the nerve to check out the bathroom a few minutes later, there was nothing there.

The Dining Room - I was sitting in the first chair on the left, facing the living room

The Dining Room – I was sitting in the first chair on the left, facing the living room

That was my first experience with the ghost I called Arthur.

I never “saw” Arthur again.  But at some point he discovered my electronics.  He liked to occasionally turn on the television.  But his real joy was the stereo.  If it wasn’t on, he would turn it on.  And whether or not it was on, he would turn up the volume.  WAY UP!  (In case you were wondering, the stereo and the TV were both plugged into surge protectors.)  After the first couple of severe startles, I got used to it.

Eventually I met Jon, and he moved into my cute, little rambler.  When I told him about Arthur, he didn’t believe me.  I don’t think he believed in ghosts at all…  Jon also thought his stereo was nicer than mine, so he hooked his up.  Arthur loved the new stereo!  I believe the first time Arthur tried it out was about 12:30 in the morning, and we were both fast asleep!  Arthur cranked that sucker up and scared the bejesus out of us!  I wonder if he was just trying to let Jon know that he really should believe.  But Arthur usually just played around during the day, every couple of months and fortunately never when we had guests over.

And I must say, even with Arthur’s love of music, I never felt uncomfortable in the house.  After initially being startled by the loud noise, I didn’t remain scared.  I just chalked it up to the goings on of an elderly man who was just waiting for Doris to join him.

Coincidentally, Doris passed away a few weeks before we decided to put the house on the market.  I hope Arthur found peace after his beloved came home.  After she passed away, the stereo was quiet – unless we turned it on.  And the volume stayed where we set it…

Ghost or no?  What do you believe?

California Road Trip: Alcatraz Island Federal Penitentiary

In my last post, I explored the history of Alcatraz Island prior to its time as a federal maximum security prison.  But no visit to The Rock would be complete without seeing the prison building.  The cell block that visitors see today was constructed between 1909 and 1912, and became home to federal prisoners in 1933 when the Army Fortress was deactivated and transferred to the U.S. Bureau of Prisons.

Alcatraz Island Penitentiary Sign

Alcatraz Island Penitentiary Sign

When you visit, you receive an audio tour (available in several languages) with headphones to wander around the prison and hear about the various areas of the prison. The audio tour also gives you information about some of the prisoners that were housed at Alcatraz, their daily lives in captivity, and details about the building itself.  The tour is narrated by several of the former guards and inmates, and informational posters give you some details on these men.

A Few of the General Population Cells

A Few of the General Population Cells

Me During My Incarceration

Me During My Incarceration

The prison had over 600 cells during its military prison days, but during its time as a federal prison there were 336 regular cells, 36 segregation cells and 6 solitary confinement cells in use. The rest were used as storage. The regular cells were 9 ft. by 5 ft.; smaller than the segregation cells which were 9 ft. by 7 ft.  The general population lived in cells along two main corridors, and there were 3 stories of cells looking out onto each corridor.  At one end was a gun gallery where guards had a clear view of the corridors and the fronts of the cells.

One of the General Population Cells at Alcatraz - 5 Feet by 9 Feet

One of the General Population Cells at Alcatraz – 5 Feet by 9 Feet

We got to see “The Hole” – the solitary confinement cells where prisoners were housed when they got unruly. In the hole, you were alone and confined in the dark for 24 hours each day – no exercise, no entertainment, no nothing.  You didn’t even get a toilet or a sink – just a hole in the floor – YUCK…  It was different than I expected though – I thought those cells would be in a basement or dungeon. Instead, they were right on the main floor with all the other cells – it only got dreary once they put you in that room and closed the window in the door.

The tour doesn’t talk about this, but legend has it that a malevolent presence with glowing red eyes terrorized prisoners in “The Hole” – supposedly one man screamed throughout the night about this entity, but when guards checked to see if he was alone they found nothing with him. However, in the morning the man had stopped screaming and was found dead, with hand marks around his neck. Guards are said to have counted an extra inmate that morning at role call; the dead man was seen in the lineup and then disappeared.

"The Hole" Cells in Cell Block D - the Treatment Unit.  No Inmate Could Be Assigned to The Hole for More Than 19 Days

“The Hole” Cells in Cell Block D – the Treatment Unit. No Inmate Could Be Assigned to The Hole for More Than 19 Days

And of course, the tour details the escape attempts. During the life of the federal prison, there were 14 escape attempts involving 36 prisoners. Of these prisoners; 23 were recaptured, 6 were shot and killed, 2 drowned and 5 are missing and presumed dead.  Three of these men dug out of their cells using homemade tools and spoons, climbed up the pipes through the utility corridors to the roof, made it down to the ground, and set out in homemade rafts and were never seen nor heard from again.

The Cell that John Anglin Dug Out of in 1962.  He Made it Off the Island, But Was Never Heard From Again, and Presumed Drowned.

The Cell that John Anglin Dug Out of in 1962. He Made it Off the Island, But Was Never Heard From Again, and Presumed Drowned.

The most famous of the escape attempts is called the Battle of Alcatraz, and it occurred in 1946.  A group of 6 prisoners (there were 3 ringleaders), managed to overpower a guard while he was searching an inmate who was returning to his cell.  They then used a homemade bar spreader to spread the bars that protected the gun gallery (the thinnest inmate starved himself so he could fit between the bars).  At this point, they were armed and thought they had the keys to let themselves out.  However, a brave guard had handed over all the keys, except the one they needed.  He had hidden that one key in the toilet of the cell where he was being held hostage.  They were trapped.

The Actual Bars and Bar Spreader From the Battle of Alcatraz in 1946

The Actual Bars and Bar Spreader From the Battle of Alcatraz in 1946

Meanwhile, other guards were returning to the cell block from duties guarding the prisoners working during the day, and they were captured one by one as they returned.  When they didn’t check in, another guard was sent to check… and another… and another…  After some time, the inmates had nine guards held hostage.  The inmates were frustrated at this point because without the key to the door, there was no escape, so they decided to kill the guards who could testify against them.  They fired into the cells were the guards were being held.  Five were wounded, three seriously, and one guard, Bill Miller, later died of his wounds.  At that point, 3 of the inmates figured they should distance themselves from the situation and returned to their cells; the other three decided they wouldn’t surrender.  They got up on top of the cell block to fight it out.

The other guards had figured out what was going on by this point, and entered the gun gallery – a massive firefight occurred – one guard was killed and four others were wounded.  Prison officials then cut the electricity and waited for night to fall.  Guards went back into the gun gallery to provide cover for several other guards who entered the cell block unarmed in order to free the captive guards.  The guards in the gun gallery couldn’t get a clean shot at the inmates perched on top of the cell block though, so after the captive guards were freed and evacuated, they called in some heavier firepower – The Marines.  The Marines shelled the prison, and drilled holes in the roof and dropped grenades in to corner the inmates.  They were eventually trapped in a utility corridor.

The Gun Gallery at the End of the Cell Block - Where Armed Guards Kept an Eye on Inmates

The Gun Gallery at the End of the Cell Block – Where Armed Guards Kept an Eye on Inmates

The Marines entered the building and fired into the utility corridor at intervals throughout the day – the three inmates were killed in the corridor.  The three other inmates who had returned to their cells had been identified by the guards, and were tried for their roles in the escape attempt and the murder of the two guards – two were executed and the third received an additional life sentence.  As a result of the Battle of Alcatraz, security was increased and there was not another escape attempt until 1956.

The prison was closed in 1963, because operating costs on Alcatraz were more than three times what it cost at other federal prisons in the country (more than $10 per prisoner per day vs. $3 elsewhere).  Additionally, residents of San Francisco were becoming increasingly frustrated with the sewage being discharged in the bay from the prisoners and the guards and families that lived there. The last prisoners were moved to other correctional facilities around the country.

All in all, Alcatraz is a very lonely place.  Inmates in the early years were not allowed to talk, and throughout the prison years, inmates could have one visit from family once a month.  Inmates typically worked during the day, but outside of work, inmates were only allowed one hour each day of recreation.  The day we were there, it was very cold, and that was on an unseasonably warm, sunny March day in San Francisco.  It must have been brutally cold there in winter.  During the history of the federal prison, 15 prisoners died of natural causes, 5 committed suicide and 8 were murdered. 3 guards were also murdered during escape attempts.

Even though there are tons of people everywhere inside the prison, the tour is pretty good at moving you through efficiently, so it isn’t as claustrophobic as you might imagine. Jon is frequently annoyed around crowds, and Alcatraz didn’t bother him at all. And of course the other areas of the island are not crowded at all, because people really just want to see the prison.  We really enjoyed our visit and it was well worth getting up so early in the morning.  If you have the opportunity – GO!  But do buy your tickets online, well before your visit!

The Grand Tour – Day 6 – A Ghostly Tour

After our day walking around Savannah, we headed back to the hotel for some R&R and I took a nap for an hour while Jon recharged by reading sports websites on my Kindle. After my nap, which was glorious, by the way (I’m a big fan of naps!), we got up and had some wine and cheese for a snack at the Marshall House’ wine and cheese social hour (I’m also a big fan of wine and cheese!). We were heading out on our ghost tour at 7:30, so we wanted a snack to hold us over until we found a late dinner. We relaxed and hung out, and then when it got closer to the time, we headed out to find Reynolds Square, where the ghost tour departed.

There were Girl Scouts Galore in the Square – kind of a flash mob of girl scouts, only with flirting and giggling instead of singing and dancing (there was a bit of singing and dancing too though!). I’m not really sure why they chose Reynolds Square as their gathering spot, as most of them were not going on the ghost tour, but there they were. An enormous swarming gaggle of hormones. They were only slightly drowned out by the sax player who was playing for tourists in the square, but they kept asking him to play “Star Wars”, so let’s just say it was not romantic.

Shortly, our tour headed out (it was a walking tour in case you were wondering) and we were entertained with stories of first cemeteries, Indian burials, hangings and yellow fever outbreaks. It was still light out, and the ghost tour wasn’t scary, but was an interesting overview of the history of the City and what has gone on there since Savannah’s founding in 1733.  The house on Oglethorpe Street that my mom and I visited on our last ghost tour there in 2004 is still there, still vacant, and sadly, more vandalized.  I’m rooting for that home to find an owner – it’s an awesome turn-of-the-last-century townhouse – and the doctor who haunts it can’t be all that bad of a ghostly resident.

As the story goes, Dr. Brown lived in a former version of this home at 12 W. Oglethorpe (the current home was built about 1900).  He moved to Savannah to treat patients of the periodic yellow fever outbreaks, and he set up a hospital in the back of the home.  Yellow fever struck Savannah again in 1820, and Dr. Brown tended to the sick in his home – lots of them.  Sadly, his wife and child were both sickened by yellow fever too, and both died.  He was so filled with grief that he bricked himself in an upstairs room and slowly starved to death.  If you go up to the door and knock and look through the windows, people have seen his ghostly form coming down the stairs.  Mysterious orbs have also shown up in photos of the porch and through the windows.

Sadly, the home was heavily damaged by fire in 2009, and apparently the upper floors collapsed on top of themselves, so bringing this stately home back from ruin may not be in the cards…  I wonder what Dr. Brown would think about that.

The House at 12 W. Oglethorpe

The House at 12 W. Oglethorpe

We also heard about one of the resident ghosts at the Olde Pink House Restaurant, James Habersham Jr.  Mr. Habersham had the house built in 1771, but delays occurred and the house wasn’t finished until 1789 – darn that Revolutionary War!  It seems that long period of construction allowed the architect and Habersham’s wife to get a little too acquainted, and it is said that their affair was the catalyst for Habersham’s suicide in the basement in 1799.  He is said to be a friendly ghost, walking around the house greeting patrons and sometimes sitting at the bar downstairs.  We didn’t make it to the restaurant on our visit, but this is on my list of places to go one day, and not just because of the ghost – the food is supposed to be amazing!

Olde Pink House Restaurant

So, I know it’s not a great photo of the Olde Pink House Restaurant (those live oaks were a bit of a drawback here), but you can clearly see the house is pink.  Well, James Habersham had the home built of brick, with white plaster on top.  Due to some flaw in the way the plaster was applied, the red brick kept bleeding through the plaster, making the house look – PINK!  Habersham was a manly man, and wasn’t all that excited about living in a pink house, so he kept painting the house again each time the brick would bleed through.  And subsequent owners did too.  What an undertaking!  Finally a woman purchased the house in the 1920s and adopted an “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em mentality” and had the house officially painted cotton candy pink.  It was going to be pink anyway…

After the ghost tour, Jon and I headed down to the River House restaurant on the riverfront to have a late dinner. I had the lobster crab bisque (which was excellent) and a Regency salad – basically a Caesar salad. It was good and since we were eating so late (it was about 9:30) we didn’t want anything heavy.  Jon had the peel and eat shrimp (also very good!) and the same Regency salad. On the placemat, the River House includes some information about George Washington’s visit to Savannah in 1791, and the Chatham Artillery Punch that Savannahians have served for occasions since the 1850s.  Boy it would pack a punch (pun intended)!  I’ll detail it in an upcoming post, I promise!

The River House Restaurant

After dinner, we wandered around a bit more before heading back to the hotel to turn in for the night.  So remember in my previous Marshall House post I told you it is haunted?  If not, here it is…  We went to sleep just fine, and then I woke up having a strange and terrifying experience.  I was awake, but felt that I could not move.  I couldn’t sit up or move my arms or legs… I tried to call out to Jon to wake him up, because I was really scared, but could not make a sound.  After a few moments of being completely paralyzed, I was able to move again, and the feeling of terror went away.  Ghost?  I can’t say if it was or wasn’t, but it sure was weird…

The Grand Tour – Day 5 – Savannah!

At the end of our drive for the day, Savannah was waiting for us!  And so was the Marshall House!  The Marshall House was the lodging I was most excited about during our trip. It is a historic hotel right in the downtown historic district of Savannah, built in 1851.  We got there and parked and had our first true experience with a valet! Jon had never used a valet or bellhop before, and I have only had very limited experience. But you can imagine how excited Jon was to find out they had a wine and cheese social each evening from 5:00 to 6:30 pm.

The Marshall House Hotel – Built in 1851

We got checked in to our room on the fourth floor, room 405, a petite queen. The petite queens are small and value priced. They are advertised as small, so you know what you are getting, and it gave us the opportunity to spend a couple of nights in this beautiful hotel that offers luxury amenities like wine and cheese social hours and turndown service without busting out budget. Frankly though, we didn’t think that the room was that small, and it didn’t need to be very large, considering that we were going to spend most of our time outside touristing!

The Wrought Iron Balcony of the Marshall House – Reproduced to Look Like the Original Balcony

The hotel has been renovated with up to date features like bathrooms in each room, flat screen TVs and mini-fridges, but it maintains the character of the original hotel, using the original doors, and wood floors.  Walking in the hotel hallways, you can tell that the floors are uneven, but I thought it just added to its charm and character.  The walls are decorated with historical prints and portraits of historical figures, like Robert E. Lee.

Room 405 – Courtesy of the Marshall House Website

The Marshall House (Savannah’s oldest hotel, by the way) served as a Union hospital during the Civil War, after Sherman occupied Savannah just before Christmas Day 1864. The second floor of the hotel served as the operating rooms and the third floor housed the recovery rooms. With all that suffering, it is a guarantee that the place would be haunted, and it is.  The story goes that the body parts from the amputations were thrown out the back windows from the second floor into the alley below.  Then they buried the limbs beneath the floorboards in the basement of the building because the ground outside was frozen during the extremely cold winter of 1864.  During renovations, workers found the bones, and to avoid disturbing the spirits, the owners of the hotel decided to rebury the bones in the basement.

The Stairwell of the Marshall House

People staying at the hotel have reported hearing groans like sick and dying men, and seeing a man with no arm wandering around asking for a surgeon.  Apparently maids have also opened the door to a room and seen a Civil War hospital operating room, with people laid out on tables and bloody bandages littering the floor.  A little girl has been seen and heard running up and down the hallways.  Apparently she was friends with the children whose parents owned the Marshall House, and she died tragically at the age of 7.  She used to haunt her own home, but when it was torn down she came over to the Marshall House, where she had played as a child.  There is also reportedly a woman in the lobby ladies room who will lock the door to one particular stall.

After checking in we washed off the grit and grime from Magnolia Gardens (you haven’t forgotten us sloshing around in all those puddles, have you? My feet were pretty gross!) before we went back downstairs for the wine and cheese social hour.  We are never late for happy hour!  We had some wine and cheese and did some relaxing while we pondered dinner. The wine was an everyday selection of Merlot, White Zinfandel or Chardonnay, and you could have cheddar, pepperjack, and a white cheese (provolone maybe?) with a variety of crackers and grapes.  While none of the food was fancy, the wine was decent – something I would even buy for a regular occasion, if only I could remember what kind it was!

The Lobby Area of the Marshall House

After having a bit of refreshment, we set out to check out Savannah. We ended up at the Pirate’s House restaurant, a seafood restaurant which has been operating continuously as an Inn and restaurant since 1753! Part of the building is the original Gardener’s house for the Savannah colony, and was built in 1734 (it is thought to be the oldest house in the state of Georgia). The original community garden area was turned into a residential area in 1753, and the Gardener’s house was expanded and turned into an inn and restaurant for sailors who were stopping over in Savannah.

Legend has is that there were tunnels beginning at the liquor cellar under the Pirate’s House and extending to the harbor, enabling unscrupulous captains to shanghai drunken sailors and depart with them. They would take an unconscious drunken man through the tunnel and out to a ship, and the ship would set sail before the sailor woke up. By the time he realized where he was, they were well out at sea, and the sailor had no way to get back to port. What a way to get free labor! One shanghai story involves a policeman who stopped by the inn for a drink, and next thing he knew, he was on his way to China. It took him two years to make his way back to Savannah.

Now, you aren’t at risk of being kidnapped, and the food is amazing. They serve all sorts of fresh fish; so Jon and I of course ordered fish! Jon had the flounder stuffed with crab meat, and I had the trout. This was some of the best fish we have ever had! We paired our entrees with a bottle of New Zealand Pinot Noir, but sadly, neither of us remembers the winery name, and the Pirate’s House doesn’t post their wine list online (I’m  considering emailing them to ask them what the Pinot was). Our server James was fantastic too – he was friendly and courteous and a first rate server. And outside, we got a view of female pirates. Judging by the knee brace that one of them was wearing, I would say they weren’t authentic pirates though.

My Trout Meal with Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Grilled Vegetables

The Pirate’s House also has another fun history – it is one of Savannah’s many haunted houses – the placemat under your plate gives you the rundown of the residential ghostly experiences. I suppose any Inn that has been around over 250 years is bound to have a few ghosts!  Apparently, in the seat I sat in for dinner, a man brazenly scoffed aloud at the idea that the restaurant could be haunted and the Treasure Island art print hanging over the spot fell off the wall at that moment and hit him in the head!  I tried saying aloud that I didn’t believe in ghosts, but I must not have been very convincing, because nothing happened to me.

The Fireplace in the Captain’s Room at the Pirate’s House

After our fabulous dinner, we wandered down to the riverfront and checked things out. Savannah has an open container law, so you can wander around with your beer, as long as it is in a plastic cup.  Having wine in a plastic cup isn’t quite as appealing though, so we didn’t take ours to go. After walking the length of the riverfront tourist area it was pretty dark, so we headed back to the Marshall House to call it a night.  We needed a good night’s rest so we could get in a full day of sightseeing the next day!

Planning for the Grand Tour of the South – 2012

Jon suggested that I include a post on the planning process for our vacation, so here I go…

We made the decision to visit the South because I wanted the opportunity to get back to see some of the more historical areas of our country. When you live in the Northwest, history is either the history of Native American settlements (which tend to be rather sparsely documented, due to the transitory nature of a lot of these settlements, and the fact that the tribes did not have a written language), or history of European settlement in this area that goes back at the very most about 150 years. In our city, the oldest building we have was built by George Pickett (of later Civil War fame) in 1856.  After that, there really aren’t any other homes until the 1880s. The Pickett House has been extensively remodeled/updated (although many years ago, and now it seems very dated – think flowery wall paper and old carpeting), and the Northwest weather has taken its toll, causing the home to smell significantly of mold. Oh my, I’ve already gotten off topic!

The George Pickett House – 1856

Interior of the Pickett House – Note the Floral Wallpaper

Jon, without my intervention, would plan every vacation to California, so I put my foot down several months ago and said that our next trip would be to Civil War Battlefields! Jon, although he loves history, wasn’t all that excited about a trip of exclusively Civil War battlefields (I’ll keep working on that though), so there had to be other historical interest in the places we picked. That wouldn’t be difficult, considering anyplace with Civil War battlefields will have other historical sites too. We settled on seeing Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. I had been to Savannah before, and loved it, and had been to Charleston for one afternoon, but have always wanted to see more. We originally planned to fly into Charleston, but plane tickets there were running about $650 per person! Savannah was about $100 less per person, but still pretty pricey! So, we settled on Atlanta, where we could save almost $300 per ticket and rent a car for $240 for nine days.

As for the rest of the itinerary… We pondered the Biltmore Estate for awhile before we decided to drive out of our way to see it. Asheville isn’t really on the way to anything from Atlanta (unless maybe you are heading to Knoxville, Tennessee), but the Biltmore is one of those ‘bucket list’ places for tourists, especially history nerds like me. Plus my mom was enthusiastically encouraging the Biltmore detour, since she has always wanted to see it too!  And Andersonville National Historic Site. I know many of you will find that morbid, but you can’t be a Civil War buff without having an appreciation for all aspects of the war, and certainly the Civil War was bloody and gruesome even without POW camps. I had an interest in seeing it when my mom and I visited Georgia in 2004 and didn’t, so I figured I shouldn’t pass it by again.  I knew that would be a lot of driving, but Jon says he likes to drive!  And I’m always willing to drive too, although he rarely lets me.  So with those being the four corners of our exploration route, we were set!

As for lodging – obviously, I would love to do a trip where I stay in all historic hotels in the historic areas of all the cities I visit. Spa massages and gourmet meals would be on the wish list too… But until I get that anonymous benefactor, we’ll have to continue to compromise. We decided we would stay just outside downtown Charleston, and in the historic district in Savannah. While researching hotel options, I also found a neat historic hotel that was reasonably priced in Americus, Georgia too, so that went on the list too.

Jon isn’t that great about deciding what he wants to visit, but I knew that if I did too much of one thing, he would start to rebel. I could do every historic home tour I come across, but for Jon, he gets trompe l’oeil and antique furniture burnout. So I tried to find a mix of different things along the way. Native American history sites, Civil War stuff, and some nice antebellum architecture thrown in too.  And National Parks.  With some good food and wine. And some ghosts. So I researched, and gave Jon some options, and he said he didn’t care, so I picked! For the most part, we stuck with the original plan even! Except I planned to go swimming more (but it was the rain that changed my plans)! So stay tuned for future installments of the 2012 Grand Tour of the South!

The Hiatus…

Don’t worry, loyal blog readers… (all half dozen of you!)  I have not abandoned you!  Jon and I took the last 9 days to do a “Grand Tour” of the South, with visits to the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. I had intended to do some mini blogs along the way, and get some comprehensive posts ready for when I got home, but karma had its own plan.  Jon’s laptop bit the dust on the first day of the trip!  And since it is pretty tough to type much on my Kindle, we ended up with a rather low-tech vacation!  I had brought a paper (paper of all things – CRAZY!) journal with me, so I took notes and started devising my blog posts to share all of our adventures!

So bear with me as I sort dirty laundry and try to get the spray on sunscreen stains out of my ivory sweater (yes, that was another minor mishap…) and I promise I will transcribe and photo-accessorize our entire eclectic vacation itinerary to share with you.  Lots of history, dead people (ghosts and otherwise) great food, long drives, full memory cards (and a bit of a panic when the new one didn’t work!), thunder and lightning storms, and sore feet but no sunburns!  Small towns, big cities, merchants, slaves, soldiers, and some Native Americans!  We had it all!  I just need to do a lot of typing and uploading of photos.

Just let me unpeel this cat from my lap so I can start another load of laundry first…