Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Travel Tuesday: Birthplace of James K. Polk

Back on the road for SummerTrip '11 and our next stop was on the south side of Charlotte, NC. Roadsigns helpfully guided us there, but the entrance isn't exactly huge so we drove past it and had to turn around.

This small plot is part of the original farm the parents of James K. Polk owned early in their marriage. A small museum shows some of what like was like at the time and has a few pieces of family furniture. Admission is free.

This amused and scared me at the same time. Those scissors are for umbilical cord cutting, the hook thing is for breaking a laboring woman's water, and the salad spoon things are forceps. Forceps are hardly used anymore, but they apparently haven't changed (Patrick was born with their assistance, so I can verify that). The little bubble thing is a 200+ year old glass breast pump.

Some of the more interesting articles were about Andrew Jackson (whom he admired) and Henry Clay (whom he defeated). James Polk is usually thought of as one of the no-name presidents, but historians have referred to him as the "least known consequential president" and at a time when many rested on their political laurels once they held the highest office of the land, he took the job very seriously and worked into the wee hours of the morning almost every night of his term. His major achievements include leading the nation into and out of the Mexican-American War and winning a staring contest with Britain over Oregon. He also was president when the U.S. Naval Academy was officially opened, though most of the work in creating it was done before he took office. He did not seek re-election and died of cholera 3 months after leaving the White House, likely worn out from the job.

Reconstructed homes on the property. They are only open to school groups and for special events. The land itself is less than 1/5th of the original homestead, it changed hands several times in the last 200 years and was divided over that time.

The family garden would have been fenced in to protect the vegetable from deer and other forest animals. The area also has some short and fairly gentle nature trails.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Travel Tuesday: A Little Bit of Low Country

We loaded up and hit the road last month, going the gramma's in a roundabout way. It actually wasn't too bad going it alone. We took it slow and enjoyed the journey. Our first stop out of the gate was this place 30 miles into South Carolina.

It was less museum and more visitor's info center and gift shop. Kind of disappointing, but if I had wanted info on SE South Carolina attractions, it would have been handy. Out front was one of those gorgeous classic southern live oak trees.

Out back was a fabulous climbing tree. Even I itched to have a go at it, but the sign said not to. Also behind the house are the remains of some Confederate breastworks built as a fall-back position in protecting the railroad nearby. They were never used.

There was a place to picnic, but we weren't hungry yet so we pressed on to Colleton State Park, where we got out and hiked a little through the cypress groves. They had nice camping facilities and river access. It wasn't even that buggy, but the weather was on the dry side that week.

There were enough bugs, though, to keep us from picnicking. We decided to head back to the interstate and eat in the car, but then we saw a sign we had missed on the road to the park:

We didn't have time to pick our own, so we bought a container each of blueberries and blackberries. The kids assured me the blueberries were the best they'd ever eaten (I'm not a fan unless they're in muffins), and the blackberries were HUGE and very juicy. Since my kids have never had the experience of actually picking blueberries, the lady allowed us to go to the first row and pick a few straight off the bushes. I had the cutest picture of them, but somehow it's disappeared.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Travel Tuesday: Magnolia Plantation and Gardens

Last year we took a family trip to Charleston, South Carolina. I blogged about Fort Sumter at the time, but I put off talking about Magnolia Plantation and Gardens since a lot of the cool things we got to do were for the 4th of July weekend.

Several antebellum farms are scattered around the Charleston area, the most famous being the Boone Plantation, but we don't like crowds, so we opted for a more secluded one on the opposite side of the city. We didn't intend it this way, but as it was July 4th, military members and their families were free for basic admission and tour of the house, so all we had to pay for was the trolley tour around the property including the swamp. As you can imagine for a family of 7, this significantly reduced the financial burden of the trip.

In addition to being able to stroll around the long winding garden pathways (the map doesn't keep you from getting lost, BTW) and see the farm animals, for the holiday they had tents set up for blacksmith demonstrations, brick making, and free sno-cones and popcorn and watermelon. Patrick and Sam made a clay brick, and they gave us good instructions on how to dry it out in the sun for several days, glaze it with honey and water, and then fire it in our own oven, but we unfortunately left it out through a huge rainstorm (or two) and the poor thing never recovered well enough to bake. The blacksmith gave all the kids "Revolutionary War Hero" swords which were basically nails flattened on the pointy end. The legends goes that in a day of fierce fighting the British, the brave soldier wore his grand sword down to a mere nub by the time the sun set.

There are several different tours to choose from- we opted for the one with very little walking and more nature. We passed by the slave cabins but the trolley didn't stop. For that you have to go on the special heritage tour that tells the history of slavery in area and details slave life on the plantation.

It was hot, but the sno-cones sure helped.