Category Archives: US Deep South

Everyone MUST go to Columbus, Georgia

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We spent a fast paced 3 days in Columbus, Georgia over the US Thanksgiving long-weekend and LOVED every minute of it. We knew very little about the town other than what I had seen online from the Kellogg and Holcombe families kayaking experiences and were blown away by the amenities, the history and the people.

Columbus is located on the Alabama/Georgia border with the Chattahoochee River running right through the middle of town. It was built on a bluff beside the river and founded in 1828, named for Christopher Columbus. In 1850 the railroad arrived and by 1860 it was one of the more important industrial locations in the south, with textile mills up and down the river. With the civil war in 1861 Columbus industries increased capacity and Columbus ranked second to Richmond as a centre of commerce within the Confederacy.

Although much of the town was destroyed at the end of the Civil War by union troops, most things were quickly rebuilt and by the Spanish-American War the town was thriving again. The addition of Fort Benning has also been a significant contribution to the community and local economy.

The late 1990’s saw a significant revitalization occurring through the establishment of a Business Improvement District downtown. This non-profit group has focused on major capital investments that have resulted in Columbus being noted as a top place to live as a young person.

We made good use of our bikes to explore Columbus and rode all the way out to Fort Benning and the National Infantry Museum (37km round trip). It was a beautiful fall day and the river walk trail is very scenic and well maintained. The museum itself is a bargain – there is no entry fee, just a requested donation of $5.00. The exhibits cover off the life of the Infantry from the Civil War to current day as well as highlighting the role that Fort Benning plays in the development of the Infantry. Needless to say, Hunter was thrilled and we spent a good 3 hours wandering around the various exhibits.

The main draw for us to go to Columbus was the whitewater play park that they have built right downtown. As part of their Ready to Raft 2012 campaign, the community developed over 8 miles of whitewater features on the Chattahoochee and some great play features right in the middle of downtown. This created the longest urban whitewater rafting venue in the world. The river is dam released and while we were there the water ranged from 1 Turbine (about 1,000 cfs) up to 3 turbines (about 8,000 cfs). At times it can run full out at between 15-18,000 cfs, which makes it the biggest water volume on the east coast outside of the Ottawa River. On both Saturday and Sunday it was running at 1 turbine during the day and then shifted to 3 turbines at 5pm. We planned our paddles to warm up at 1 turbine and then get to ride the flow increase all the way up to 3 turbines – it was really neat to see the features change as the flow increased.

There is a nice big island right at the put in and it usually attracts lots of people for photos along the river and to watch the paddling scene. The lights kick on just as dusk starts and stay until 10pm in the winter and 11pm in the summer making you feel like a total rockstar! It does help to have paddled the features during the day so you have some sense of the water…

IMG_3157Broadway Avenue is 2 blocks up from the river and full of shops and restaurants. We did not move the truck between when we arrived Friday night and when we left on Monday at lunch time. Everything we needed was in walking or biking distance, which was so handy. Best dinner was had at Your Pie – a custom pizza place in the historic district. Hand made, brick fired pizza plus yummy drinks on tap. It was so good (and came after our epic day of biking) that we ordered a full second round of pizzas!

DSCN1501Our amazing experience in Columbus was completely due to the five star service from the staff at The Outside World, a local gear store in town. They helped us find somewhere to park, pointed out everything we needed to know and were beyond friendly. They also have great gear in their store! In addition to that, every kayaker we ran into was happy to contribute to our knowledge and education about the water and the waves.

Columbus has something for everyone and we will definitely be back again!

 

 

5 days in the BIG EASY

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There are not many big cities on our list of things to see and do while we are away for 8 months – I guess that is somewhat telling about our interests… we are just not big city people. Our stop in New Orleans was all about history and culture – closing off our work on American History, experiencing the mighty Mississippi River and learning about the southern culture through food and music.

To make the most of our visit we stayed at the French Quarter RV Park. As it is 5 minutes north of the French Quarter, it is very expensive and right next to I-10 but well worth it as we were able to park everything and just walk everywhere. It was even a novelty to be able to grab a taxi when it was pouring rain and go out for dinner.

We woke up on our first morning at the campground to this really cool view out the window – the Ghostbuster car! It turns out that they were here for a VIP event at the NADA conference that was in town. You can rent it from Bob’s Prop Shop in Texas…

In order to get a history overview and see as much of the old city as possible, while still having fun, we did a bike tour with Crescent City Bike Tours. Their business is just in it’s first year and is run by a very friendly couple Kristine & Richie and it reminded me very much of Boreale, our local bike company. The tour was close to 3 hours and we learned lots of neat facts while seeing some great architecture and being active. The pace is quite easy and the bikes are big cruisers so it’s a great idea for almost anyone.

Just around the corner from the RV Park was historic St. Louis Cemetery (#1). Right next door to us was the larger St. Louis Graveyard (#2). We stopped into #1 on our way downtown one day and checked out what a historic graveyard is like. Due to the water table here (at, below, or barely above sea level) you are not able to burry anyone underground here. In many cases, families have crypts with up to 8 people in them!

We took a wander down Bourbon Street late in the afternoon one day to get a sense of the area without the chaos of the evening crowd. At 5pm things were definitely getting warmed up. Hunter thought it was much too loud and chaotic for his tastes. I figure that’s a good thing!

One of our outings was on the Creole Queen – a paddle wheeler that takes people down the Mississippi River for history cruises. We went on the afternoon cruise out to the Chalmette Battlefield – site of the 1815 Battle of New Orleans. It was a sunny day, which was nice after a number of rainy and cool ones. We enjoyed being out on the river and seeing all the boats, barges and tugs. We were really disappointed to learn that the Battlefield site, which is a National Historic Site managed by the National Parks Service, is closed on Sundays and Mondays. This made it a very flat experience with me reading information off my iPhone.

Our culture efforts were focused on food and music.

  • We started out at Mulate’s (Business District) for live Zydeco music (band there every night) and Cajun Food. We boldly got a sampler platter to start with and tried frogs legs, grilled alligator, fried crawfish amongst other things. They also had yummy crawfish étouffée and jumbalaya
  • We experienced live Jazz at Preservation Hall (FQ) and this was Hunter’s favourite and a bargain at $20.00 per person (they let Hunter in free)
  • We did the House of Blues Gospel Brunch (FQ) for yummy southern food (waffles & fried chicken!) and amazing Gospel
  • Cafe du Monde (FQ) for Beignets and Hot Chocolate
  • The Grill (FQ) was an awesome find when we couldn’t get into Deanie’s (FQ) – true diner layout and service, really good food and dirt cheap prices
  • Hard Rock Cafe (FQ) because Hunter really wanted Ribs and the House of Blues was closed for a private party

The absolute recommendations that we have are The Grill for any meal, Preservation Hall for intimate Jazz in a historic building  and the House of Blues Gospel Brunch for anyone that hasn’t done Gospel before.

We spent our last planned day at the National WW2 Museum, which is located in the downtown business district. They have an extensive exhibit section, multiple small videos and then 2 hollywood style movies/experiences. We chose to do everything since we were there. I personally was a little disappointed with the lack of a global focus – it really is about the US’s role in WW2 and there is very little about the events prior to them becoming involved. I found myself doing a lot of explaining to Hunter about what started the war. The scale and scope of the exhibits was impressive and certainly captured Hunter’s attention. We had lunch at the soda shop on site which I would not recommend due to high prices and very slow service.

NOLA road closures jan 29th

Our 5 days actually turned into 6 thanks to Winter Storm Leon (I didn’t know that they named winter storms like they name hurricane’s). It rolled in on Monday night from the west (the direction we are going) and brought snow, freezing rains and high winds, which resulted in road closures, school closures & city shut downs. We hunkered down all day Tuesday and then decided to venture out on the back roads Wednesday to try to make some progress towards Texas. It only took us 6 hours to travel 200 miles…

 

Tybee Island, Savannah Georgia

hunter tybee turtle 2We used Tybee Island as our home base for all of our Savannah activities. It is a great little beach community about 20 minutes east of downtown Savannah. It is a bike friendly community and the local surf spot. We stayed at the Rivers End Campground, which is owned by the City of Tybee Island. It is clean, well cared for and has good internet and cable (and space for us to sprawl since it is low season).

We stayed here before and after our trip to Charleston. One of our reasons for coming was for Tim to try out some surf kayaks. Nigel from Savannah Canoe and Kayak was amazing – he spent tonnes of time with us and allowed Tim to demo abunch of boats.

We had one really nice day onour 2nd stop here so we got out for a beach bike ride and an afternoon of surfing. It was wonderful!

We would definitely recommend Tybee as a place to come and stay. It seems like it is fairly busy from March to September in terms of Campground traffic so be sure to book ahead!

Rock Climbing & Slack lining in Charleston

family photoFor our visit to Charleston we camped at the James Island County Park Campground. It is about 15 minutes away from downtown Charleston and a fabulous facility for outdoor people. It is a 643 acre park with an outdoor centre, bike paths, dog park, playgrounds, canoeing and multiple activity centres where they hold programming. After 3 days of playing tourist, we needed some adventure time. We got up early on our last morning and headed over to the outdoor centre for a morning of playing. They have a slack line area, a portable climbing wall with self belaying, a large climbing wall and a frisbee golf course.

We started in the slack line area and had a great time. They had 3 different heights and we did pretty well on the beginner side. Tim and I did the intermediate but no one tackled the advanced (3 feet off the ground).

We moved over to the portable climbing wall. It has a self belaying system so we could all climb at the same time. After testing it out a few times in one on one climbs, Hunter decided we should have races. Everyone hooked up at the same time, taking 3 steps back from the wall and then GO – you have to get to the top of the wall, hit the button (which rings a bell) and then get back to the ground first to win. We probably did this 10 times and by the end were laughing so hard we had to rest.

The main wall was a pretty busy place so we chose to play in/on the scrambling hut. It is a smallish building and the idea is that you should be able to climb all the way around the walls without touching the ground, yet you are never more than 1-2 feet off the ground. A great learning environment for everyone and often harder than the big walls themselves.

The big wall was the last part of the park that we tackled. It requires that you are belayed by a staff member or that you take a test that demonstrates you can belay. Tim and I took the test (and passed) so everyone got at least one climb in on the big wall. After playing so much on the portable wall, the big wall felt really long in terms of climb time. We were all very tired, in a good way, after our morning here.

We would definitely recommend James County Island Park. The outdoor centre facility is impressive and has very friendly and helpful staff and incredibly reasonable rates ($12 pp for the day). The campground is very clean and well maintained with top notch internet but no cable.

Fort Moultrie National Monument, Charleston

fort moultrie signFort Moultrie was first built in 1776 (at that time called Fort Sullivan) to prevent British naval incursions into Charleston Harbour. It was built of palmetto log walls that readily absorbed the shots and shells fired when 9 Royal Navy warships attacked on June 28, 1776. Colonel William Moultrie and his 400 men fought a day long battle that ended with the heavily damaged British ships being driven from the area. This decisive American victory galvanized the Patriot’s cause for independence, and resulted in the fort now being called Fort Moultrie.

The first fort was beaten up and washed away by storm waves so a 2nd fort was built in 1798 of earth and timber. It unfortunately faces the same demise due to coastal storms. The third and present fort was constructed of brick in 1809. Originally fitted with 40 guns, the fort garrison consisted of 500 men.

On December 26, 1860, six days after South Carolina left the Union, Fort Moultrie’s small Federal garrison abandoned the fort, moving to the unfinished but more defendable Fort Sumter. State militia troops occupied Fort Moultrie the next day. Confederate Fort Moultrie participated in the April 12, 1861 firing on Fort Sumter that began the American Civil War. Heavily damaged by Federal bombardments that commenced in 1863, Fort Moultrie remained in Confederate hands until February 1865.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Fort Moultrie underwent numerous changes as improving military and engineering technologies added to the complexities of coastal defence.

New threats of submarine and aerial attacks ultimately rendered static seacoast defences obsolete. On August 15, 1947 the army lowered Fort Moultrie’s flag for the last time, ending 71 years of service.

This was the last of our Charleston Forts and Hunter proudly got another Junior Ranger Badge along with his Civil War Historian patch!