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Taking a stay-cation to take in the Georgia sights
07.25 andersonville
Andersonville is also home to a national cemetery. - photo by Photo provided

We tried it, it was short, it was interesting and we did things that we probably would not have done otherwise — that is, see some of the worthwhile sights in Georgia. It was a good less-than-three full days.

Having business to take care of in Newnan, we decided that it was time to take in some of the sights in west central Georgia that we had not seen.

First, there was the disappointment that our travel and business took too long and we did not make it to the Little White House in Warm Springs before closing time. That is on the list for the near future.

The decision was made to spend the night in Columbus. Now, there should be a law against strangers or tourist-types coming into a city at rush hour time. Needless to say, we had a difficult time finding what was supposed to be easy, I-185 (not I-85), the big road through Columbus. When we finally found it, it got away from us — to this day, we don’t know what happened to exit 6 going north. We finally ended up at exit 12 and had to get off because the sign indicated gas stations and we only had fumes left in the tank.

While the other half was gassing up, I took my map that showed Columbus streets (not that it had been of any value to this point) and looked around at the patrons in the store and hooked onto a young couple that looked like they belonged to the neighborhood. And, yes, they did, and were friendly and gave good directions, strongly urging exit 8 over exit 6. We found it, we found a hotel and we found a restaurant, all before dark-thirty.

I-185 went south until it turned into Highway 27 that was going where we wanted to go. We were on our way to Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon through country not much bothered with traffic but a nice, big, wide, divided four-lane. Folks seem to live a long ways apart over in that part of the country.

Georgia’s Little Grand Canyon (at Providence Canyon State Park) is something to see. Costs you $3 to park. The name Providence came from an early church located in the park area. Since we are approaching the age of dirt, we did not go for the hike to the bottom where you could really get a good view of the colors and the strata. It was interesting. The Corps of Engineers realized after they had done it that kudzu was not the wanted cure for further erosion. They found pine trees did a more manageable job. This is a place not worth going for, unless you are in the area or like us, “just looking around.” I must admit that judgment is more than a little tainted because I have had the privilege of visiting the real Grand Canyon — you can’t compare.

From there, it was on to Westville, touted as an 1850s village. There’s a lot of houses, etc., laid out in streets, some few activities going on and they charged $8 (Bill says you have to be old to get that) each. In reading about it, I learned that most of the buildings had been moved from Jonesboro to set up the village in 1961 and it sort of lost some of its authenticity. I was disappointed that there was not more activity portraying the days of 1850. I have to tell you that the living history site of the Historic Effingham Society in Springfield has a lot of action and things to see. It could well become a real point of interest for Georgia tourists.

And now it is on to Andersonville. As you more than likely know, it is the site of a huge national cemetery that originally was a Confederate prison during the Civil War. The story of Andersonville is not a pretty one, and I had known this. In fact, I had not been anxious to visit because of what little I knew of its history. The story told there was that Andersonville was more or less typical of Civil War-era prisons, compared to the Yankee one in Elmira, N.Y. That comparison made me feel a little better about what would be described as our Southern poor treatment of prisoners. A lot of our failure came because of the lack of resources in the South at the time this prison was established in early 1864. The cemetery, with its row upon row of white headstones are something to behold. Many of these, some 20,000, are of soldiers killed elsewhere in the Civil War, as well as 12,000 who died in the prison.

The cemetery has a somber beauty that only such well cared for and orderly sites can have. It is still open for burial of the military.

Andersonville National Historic Site is the only National Park System area to serve as a memorial to all American prisoners of war. The special section that treats this area of war is something you should not miss, and it is worth the trip to go there. It depicts in real terms what those of our countrymen have suffered at the hands of our enemies. The displays and the information tell all too well the way of man’s inhumanity to man. I found it to be one of those places you want to see, but at the same time can’t bear to see it. While I have never believed that prisoners of war had an easy life, in my lifetime, there have been too many wars and too many stories of prisoners of war life to know that it was at best dreadful.

But this memorial to all prisoners of war makes it real, makes you wonder first how anyone survives such treatment and beyond that, wonder what in their life has made animals of what should be human beings as they torment fellow human beings. It is a constant struggle for survival from the forces of disease, starvation, exposure, lack of medical care, forced marches and outright murder. Whether for a few days or for years, they all suffered the loss of freedom. This is the story of the Andersonville Memorial to Prisoners of War.

This is something we all should see and understand what was endured. I found that it was too much for one visit. At a later time, I would like to go back — I think that the surprise of what this memorial so forthrightly depicted left me with rather frayed emotions and a feeling of more than I could contemplate. And, having said that, I would say that if you haven’t been, you need to go. We need to know that these dastardly things do happen.

From here, we had time to take a detour down by Cordele, “the watermelon capital of the world,” to visit the farmers’ market. Watermelons were in full control. They were everywhere, being brought in by old school buses with the tops cut off, being loaded in the big bins to be shipped who knows where by 18-wheelers with big, long trailers.

There were watermelons galore to be bought in the size and number of your choosing. Those going into the big trucks seemed to be on the small size. We saw a couple sitting under a shed that were $50 apiece. They were big. We were not looking for watermelons but for tomatoes and we found some fine ones, grown just up the road in Montezuma.

Along the road north, heading for Warner Robins, we found a Dairy Queen in a stop advertising cheaper gas and we indulged in something called an earthquake. After eating, I thought the name should have been been the mountain — but it was tasty, at least the first half of it.

The next morning we were off to the Museum of Aviation at Robins Air Force Base. There are planes and planes — big planes, little planes, huge planes, old planes, sleek, high-flying planes and of course, the black B-1 bomber, the SR-71 Blackbird and a U-2.

There is all kinds of other stuff, like helicopters, missiles and drones. The big cargo planes and big bombers sitting on the ground just defy the imagination of them taking off and flying.

Among the planes, Bill found a first cousin of the F-89 he flew, a later model. I found a C-46. I once flew on one of these from Anchorage to Homer, Alaska, when I was a sponsor for a girls CAP drill team when I was teaching school at Elmendorf AFB in Anchorage. That was an adventure, the trip to Homer. I don’t recall that they had seat belts; I do remember that it was a rocky ride.

The first plane we boarded would not go, so we got off and into another one that took us safely there and back with no required use of the parachutes. It was a noisy, rough ride.

A funny thing happened to me and picture taking. I truly wanted a picture of the SR-71 and the U-3, but wouldn’t you know it, my battery died on me. The same thing happened when I tried to take a picture of the SR-71 Blackbird at the Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. Guess it really is invisible. The U-3 had my interest because my older brother worked public relations at Lockheed at the time of the U-2 incident over Russia and had some PR involvement in that story.

If you are into airplanes at all, this is a must-see place. It takes a lot of time if you do more than just breeze through. It is manned by volunteers and there is no charge. Take the time and make the effort to see this.

Our last planned stop was Macon and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. After a little trouble with the Macon streets (if we had come off of I-16 at MLK Boulevard, it would have been easy) as we were coming from the south and Warner Robins, it got a little complicated. You may be familiar with the crazy streets in downtown Macon.

This is a fine facility and if you are into music from gospel to rock-n-roll to blues, whatever, you are sure to find something to your liking. It is set up with a lot of interactive headsets, etc. A couple of video presentations give you a good feel for the music. They charge here, again $8 (if you are old). We were pleased to see that our former neighbor over in Statesboro, Emma Kelly, was one of the inductees into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame.

Back home after three days on the road and seeing the Georgia sites was interesting to say the least. As you can tell, I had my preferences but all were worth a trip such as ours that sort of lumped them together. The aviation museum was fascinating and offered a lot. The Memorial to Prisoners of War at Andersonville has to be one of those see and do things, not that you will enjoy but you will gain perhaps a new appreciation for those who have fought and lived through the agony of being a prisoner.

It was good to get away for a few days and see sights nearby. Aren’t we all guilty of going distances to see things when we have many good things close by? My next trip may be to the Okefenokee. I have not been there to the “Land of the Trembling Earth.”