Generation Z. Cruising in an RV.: OLA: Putting Georgia on My Mind (Attractions)

Monday, October 31, 2011

OLA: Putting Georgia on My Mind (Attractions)


a little portion of the massive oil painting at the Cyclorama
‘Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness… Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime’, Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad. This quote came to my mind when Bill and I took a 2-day trip to Atlanta, Georgia, only 2 hours from our campground. Our travels finally brought us to a hotbed of the great prejudice of the past and it is a chance to confront whatever remaining prejudice, if any, we may still have
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Stone Mountain from across the other side of the lake in the Park
 It has been a long road from the time slavery became commonplace in the American South to help landlords run their plantations. Georgia was the fifth of eleven states to secede from the Union in January 1861 on the eve of the sure election of Lincoln, an abolitionist, as president.  Today, Atlanta is still largely black, 54% in the 2010 census versus 38% white, 5% Asian, and 3% Hispanic. As we went around, I found out that this demographic and slice of history shaped the city’s top attractions.

The ‘Battle of Atlanta’ Cyclorama
the entrance facade of the Cyclorama 
Our first stop in Atlanta was the incredible Cyclorama. The painting is the largest oil painting in the world. If unrolled, it would measure 42 feet high by 358 feet long. Cheapskate Carol first thought the admission fee too high for one painting but this convinced me to temporarily abandon Budgeting 101! We viewed the cylindrical painting from the inside where we were seated on a cylinder that rotates slowly affording a 360 degree view, including the diorama which has been seamlessly built around it.

The painting brings to life the fierce fighting as Confederate defenders of Atlanta staged an unsuccessful counterattack on the Union army on July 22, 1864. Commissioned after the end of the war, it opened to display in Detroit, Michigan, in 1887, going around until the circus that owned it went bankrupt. Finally, the Atlanta Civil War Museum was built in 1921 to house it and, after a period of neglect, the painting and building were restored in the 1980s. In the end, I was glad that my frugality did not stand in the way of this unique experience! We had already missed the smaller one in Gettysburg!


the Confederate Carving bas-relief on Stone Mountain
The Stone Mountain Park
Just 45 minutes east of Atlanta is the Stone Mountain in the town of the same name. Much like Devil’s Tower in Wyoming, it is an igneous intrusion. A dome of quartz monzonite, 1,686 feet at its summit and more than five miles in circumference at its base, it has been erroneously dubbed as “the largest exposed piece of granite in the world". It is well-known not only for its geology, but also for the largest bas-relief (3 acres, 3 football fields) in the world depicting the three pillars of the Confederate States of America: Generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee and President Jefferson Davis.

the 732-bell Carillon at Stone Mountain Park
I felt the Confederate Carving, however, fails in comparison to the grandeur of Mt. Rushmore whose very sculptor, Borglum, resigned from this project. Disappointed , we spent the time driving around the perimeter road. We were rewarded with awesome sights: the view of the mountain from the golf course across the lake, the 732-bell Carillon off a promontory into the lake (the music that was playing when we arrived was Ave Maria), the grist mill tucked away almost hidden by the blazing trees, and all the trails and winding roads with the muted fall colors of the southeast in full regalia. The Park such a neatly ‘landscaped’ piece of nature. .

And we didn’t have enough time to meander around its museums, plantations, playgrounds, and marina, camp at its campground, and dine at its hotels, all imprinted with Confederate memories.


The Underground Atlanta
Bill did business in Atlanta before. He was nostalgic about a historic downtown area of about 6 blocks where he had many a good evening of entertainment (wonder with whom?)!

Underground Atlanta today
Underground Atlanta grew from the Zero Milepost of the railroad built to connect Atlanta and Chattanooga in 1836. Many significant architectural features survived from original storefronts, including ornate marble, granite archways, cast iron pilasters, decorative brickwork, and hand-carved wood posts and panels. The construction of the MARTA rapid transit line in 1980 led to its closing.  21 years later, at a cost of $142 million, through a joint venture between the City of Atlanta and private industry, it reopened.

the stairs going down to the first level of the Underground
 It is sad that their investment has not brought back the bustling area it once probably was. Today it is largely a gathering area for African-Americans. But Bill treated me to dinner there, a fine way to end our day. He was the only Caucasian and I was the only Asian in the Georgia Peaches Restaurant at the bottom level, the entertainment level.


Andersonville National Historic Site
Andersonville National Cemetery
On our day trip to Americus, Georgia, we passed the town of Andersonville where the Confederacy had a large Civil War Prison and Cemetery. Called Camp Sumter, in existence for 14 months, the prison held 45,000 Union soldiers, almost 13,000 of whom died from disease, poor sanitation, malnutrition, overcrowding, and exposure to the elements. The largest number held at any one time was more than 32,000 in August of 1864. The National Prisoner of War Museum at the National Historic Site is dedicated to the American men and women who have suffered as POWs. The cemetery is now a National Cemetery, continuing to serve as a honored burial place for modern-day veterans.

I am so glad we travel. Little by little, we see that remaining vestiges of prejudice is being erased all around, even within, us.

Next Post: Keeping Georgia on My Mind: Great Institutions, Great Men