The Smoky Mountains were a pleasantly uneventful stop on our trip. In the morning, Kevin went a nice size hike by himself and spotted a baby bear. Luckily the mom didn't cross his path. In the afternoon, we drove up to the Clingman's Dome Trail together, and hiked up a short half-mile to Clingman's Dome. The whole way up we were wondering why we thought it was a good idea to bring a baby in a stroller up a hiking trail, but we felt better when we saw other babies in special hiking backpacks and what not. At the top, we took some family photos. And then walk-jogged half a mile back down. Easy-peezy.
At the top of Clingman's Dome
View straight down of the end of the Clingman's Dome Trail
View straight down from Clingman's Dome of the woods
Pushing James back down
We stayed in Gatlinsburg, TN which was awful, less because of it's ridiculous tourist-cheesiness, and more because they had no free parking anywhere. That made it impossible to do simple things like pick up lunch. And we got stuck in construction traffic driving to the trail and leaving it, but James was more or less a trooper for that. James hated the Gatlinburg lunch debacle as much as we did though. I had to change his diaper in the car, on my lap, a trick I learned from Audra when I was visiting her! All in all though, a fairly easy stop on the road.
I don't think I'm going to do these updates every single month since James has passed the 1-year mark, but I noticed some things worth mentioning this month so here goes. He has 9 teeth, the 8 center ones and a molar on the bottom left. His walking and running is much better and he doesn't fall as often. He will carefully step onto the sidewalk from the grass or vice versa. He can even navigate small hills.
James at 13 Months, May 20
James seems to understand a lot more, and is more willing to copy what we do or say. He knows the words: mama, dada, no, and maybe "leche." The other day he said "no" back to me. We were watching Two and Half Men the other day (which Kevin does not approve of) and when they sang "Men..." between segments, James trying to sing back, "meh...."
He points to things he thinks are interesting. I think he's copying what I do, more or less, because I'll point to things and say, "What's that?" and then tell him what it is. So now he points to things to get me to ask him and then tell him. And sometimes he points to copy us.
Pointing at fish at the Discovery Center in Charlotte, NC
He no longer just pushes down blocks and takes apart legos. Sometimes, if you watch him carefully, you see him stack some blocks, assemble legos, or play in some other advanced way.
He pretends to eat and drink from his stacking cups. He also pretends to feed me or Kevin. He'll take his spoon and some cup-like item and dip the spoon in, then try to shove the spoon in my mouth. Fighting it is not the best plan, so I usually accept and say "thank you" or "gracias." He sometimes grabs a large container of some kind and tries to wear it as hat even though he hates real hats. My child is officially pretending. How awesome.
We taught him to raise his arms when we ask "How big are you?" just like Owen did at his age. He's still very temperamental about when he will comply, and refused to do it the entire time we were visiting the Vonderhaars.
Showing all of Charleston, SC how big he is.
He's done high fives for a long time, but he's finally starting to wave hello and goodbye now. He's also a little spotty on this.
He loves music and enjoys his music box, a drum from Ash, and other children's musical toys. We need to get him a xylophone because he was really banging on Carter's when we visited the Padgets. He also likes modern dance music, much to Kevin's chagrin. He is particularly a fan of Nicki Minaj. But his favorite song is still "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and he's starting to do the hand signals in an almost recognizable way.
Our next planned stop after Charleston were the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, but that's pretty far away, and we try not to drive long stretches while James is awake, so when he woke up from his afternoon nap we stopped in South Carolina's capital Columbia. Um, yeah.
The capital building is probably the main attraction, and it's beautiful, but it displays a Confederate flag right in front, and it's all alone. Possibly the American flag and the flag of South Carolina are in the back somewhere, but you don't see them; you just see the Confederate one. Still divisive after a 150 years! Good job, guys. My friend who is from South Carolina says that in her state they have an expression, "South Carolina: We are not making this up."
We still took a photo in front of it, just away from the flag
Also, do most South Carolinians see the irony in having an African American memorial, complete with a slave memorial, just a few feet from a Confederate women's monument and a statue of Senator Strom Thurman? Ugh, forget it.
Anyway, we went to a coffee shop, Cool Beans to cool off and then we walked around the campus of The University of South Carolina. It's very pretty there and James loved running around "the horseshoe."
Talk softly and carry a big stick
James, after the stick was taken away. Awesome.
We had a bit more time to kill until it was close enough to the time James might sleep in the car, so based on Wikipedia, I thought it might be nice to see Finlay Park. It was sketch. How sketch? After James ran around for a few minutes we decided to leave because the crowd there was making me nervous. James must have felt the same because he decided to puke all over me. I took him to the bathroom to clean up both of us, and there was a knife in the stall. True story. When I came out of the stall, puke-covered, looking really nervous, and with a baby under my arm, a possibly-homeless woman asked me if I was okay.
Pineapple Fountain in Waterfront Park- Look at how pouty James is!
I've been to Charleston, SC four times before so I knew there was a lot to do, but each time I've visited I was only there for a brief visit. The first time was in 2001 for work, so I didn't have much time. The next time in 2006, Katy, Sarah B., and I just did a quick drive through on my birthday because we were actually staying at Edisto Island. In January of 2008, Kevin and I left on an "engagement cruise" that departed from Charleston so we ran around a little before departure time. That March, I came back with my law school friends for dinner and drinks, but we were staying in Edisto again so we didn't see much. So on this trip, I tried to revisit everything I had seen before, plus any great sites I missed, plus one good restaurant.
We started at the City Market. I had perused it on my trip in 2001, but on this trip we spent a bit of time looking for some art to hang on our wall at home. (Thanks for the inspiration, Sunny and Trey.) Unfortunately, the one little frame we debated was nixed.
Charleston City Market is indoor and outdoor
Inside the market
From there we walked down some main shopping streets to Waterfront Park. James loves running around any and all parks, and I love the Pineapple Fountain. (Photo at top of post.) The first time I photographed it was in 2001. I had just graduated college and think I might have been a little bummed to hear that it would take me 10 years to have a husband and a baby, but I think both of my boys were worth the weight. Oops! Freudian slip! I meant worth the wait, but I guess both are true.
On to Rainbow Row where the houses are painted in pastels. I made Kevin take about a 100 photos of me here, but then I decided to use this one instead. James is not impressed with the houses.
Kevin and James being photo-tortured on Rainbow Row
At that point we were going to drive over to Hominy Grill so that I could enjoy the highly recommended shrimp and grits... but James fell asleep. If there's a parenting rule we take fairly seriously it's don't wake a sleeping baby. If there's one ROADTRIP rule we are religious about it's don't wake a sleeping baby. So we decided to walk to (and back from) Hominy Grill. I was exhausted and there was a wait when we got there, but a Rum Runner from the bar really helped me rally. The grits were good, and Kevin's chicken BBQ sandwich was even better, but the best part of the dining experience was that our well-rested child behaved inside a restaurant for the first time ever. Kevin and I left the restaurant shell-shocked.
The outdoor bar at Hominy Grill
We went back to the hotel for a while and then took James out right before bedtime so we could stroll through Charleston at night. Sadly we couldn't find anywhere to have for dinner that was sufficiently casual for a now past-his-bedtime James. And maybe it was just a little masochistic seeing how fun the bar scene was in Charleston on a Saturday night, when we couldn't participate in it, but we could pretend right?
This was a church once, but now it's a bar
The next day we went back in to Charleston and had an amazing breakfast at a place called Caviar and Bananas. I had a serano ham and manchego cheese burrito and jalapeno grits. Holy deliciousness. (By the way, for those of you who know me well enough to know that I don't like spicy food-- I have been somewhat successfully eating spicy food for about a year now!) We did part of the secretive Gateway Walk that takes you into the Unitarian Universalist Church garden and cemetery. It's very beautiful and extremely hard to find.
UU Church cemetery
Finally, we ended our trip at one of my favorite parks in Charleston, White Point Park near the Battery and the waterfront. James did his thing, chasing squirrels and trying to eat sticks like a puppy.
James in White Point Park
Chasing a squirrel
White Point Garden/ The Battery
Kevin and James at the Battery, in front of the Charleston Harbor
Savannah, Georgia is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous. She's romantic, clean, polite, and charming at every turn. It's easy to fall for her, especially if you start in Forsyth Park, with it's lush greenery and Spanish moss. We started there and let James run around the playground for a while before we tortured him with tons of photos in front of the Forsyth fountain.
Clous in front of the Forsyth Fountain
Thanks a lot, boys. (In front of the Confederate Memorial.)
Then we took a very long leisurely walk through different squares in the city, which are really more like small parks than European-style squares. I think there are 21 total in Savannah, and we went through about 6-9 of them.
Another method of travelling around Savannah
We plotted our course to lead us to Walls BBQ, which is basically a BBQ shack in the middle of nowhere that's received high praise from the New York Times. This was our 4th BBQ of the trip (!) and it did not disappoint at all. The pork sandwich sauce tasted a bit more like tomato sauce and mustard than a more traditional southern BBQ flavor, but it was juicy, meaty, and delicious. We also got a yummy side of okra and tomatoes, so we could expand our range of BBQ cuisine and get some vegetables into our bodies.
James can be bought for some burger bun and okra
Outside of Walls, happy from all the yummy BBQ
On our way out of Savannah, we hit a vaguely collegy-hipsterish coffee shop, leading us to believe that the hipsters have a serious foothold in the South. The Sentient Bean had a yummy coffee that had some licorice-like flavor to it. Good parks, good BBQ, and good coffee-- we're sold on Savannah.
We ventured a bit farther south to see Trey and Sunny's family. Trey is Kevin's close friend from high school in Florida, and they only get to see each other occasionally. We were excited to finally meet Trey and Sunny's 9-month old son Cort. James enjoyed Cort's company and his toys as they played together fairly quietly and grabbed things out of each others hands without too much fuss. Trey took the day off from work to spend with us, so the four guys spent the morning having guy time, as Sunny was at work and I was asleep.
Cort and James hanging out together
Once I got up the boys and I went for a long walk around Trey's neighborhood and two of the downtown areas in Jacksonville. Interesting little fact, Jacksonville is the largest city by area in the United States, so there is a lot of sprawl, and quite a few "downtown areas." We went to meet Sunny for lunch at a local pizzeria, where Kevin enjoyed torturing James by feeding him lemons. Despite the look on his face, James requested more lemon.
The boys strolling around the neighborhood
The Five Points downtown area
James actually loves lemons
The boys had more playtime after lunch, though James was a little more interested in chasing their dog Friday than in any other activities or toys. Trey and Sunny generously arranged for a babysitter to watch Cort and James while we went out on an adult double-date to a restaurant for dinner. So we gave the boys a bath before heading out, and the babysitter put them to bed shortly after we left.
James and Cort playing with Friday
The dads gave them a bath, and they thought it was funny to label them "J" and "C"
I really enjoyed dinner! We went to Mojo 41 and had our third BBQ of the trip, as well as brisket and grits. They had different sauces on the table we could try with the BBQ which as fun. My favorite sauce was the house sauce, Mojo. The drinks were especially delicious. By far my favorite part was hanging out with Trey and Sunny and just talking. (Not to mention -- without the constant stress of trying to keep James from either killing himself or annoying other patrons.) Plus, we rarely go out on double dates and I had forgotten how much fun they are. We talked about the kids, but we also talked about travel, work, and friends. I wish we could have stayed out much longer, but sadly it was a work night for Trey and Sunny. Thank you guys for a fun-filled day and evening!
We didn't plan on going to Macon, Georgia, but our next planned stop Jacksonville, Florida is 5.5 hours from Atlanta, so that meant either waiting until James was close to bedtime and getting to Jacksonville really late, or going part of the way during his second nap of the day. Macon seemed like a logical choice because we'd heard of Macon before and it was clearly on the way. The next issue was what to do in Macon. We were in luck. Macon is home to the Ocmulgee National Monument, home of the "earthworks" of Native Americans who lived in the area more than a 1000 years ago.
Me in front of the Ocmulgee burial mound
Believe it or not, this is not my first mound visit. In 2009, my parents and I traveled to Miamisburg, Ohio on a super intense 20-hour roadtrip of our on to try on my wedding dress at the designer's shop with no other stops or sights. Between fittings we went to the Miamisburg Mound and my dad and I climbed to the top. I had already been thinking of that trip because we'll be going to Ohio for my second time on this trip, but coming across my second mound was a surprise.
But this site has a whole series of mounds, and includes an "Earth Lodge" you can enter and listen to a recording explaining what the Native Americans did there. So we did that, and after letting James run around outside for a few minutes, we were ready to go.
Kevin about to duck into the Ocmulgee Earth Lodge
Ocmulgee Earth Lodge
James favorite part of the day is anytime he gets to run around outside
So we head into Downtown Macon to grab dinner and kill some time. Macon was pretty dead for a Wednesday after work. The town looks nice enough, with cheerful pink flowers spray-painted on the corners and cute little shops, but lots of the stores looked like they had gone out of business a while ago. We picked a sandwich and coffee shop from Yelp, and it was great.
Roasted Cafe and Lounge turned out to be a hipster coffee shop which was very odd for us to find in Macon, but the people were nice, the coffee was good, and there was free WiFi. We got delicious vegetarian sandwiches because we were still in a bit of a meat coma from the BBQ we ate in Atlanta for lunch. All in all, Macon worked out pretty well for us so it earned a blog post.
Hipster coffee shop in Macon, Roasted Cafe and Lounge
One thing we have learned immediately on this roadtrip is that you can take in much fewer sights with a baby, and Monday night I saw Christina's Facebook message that our motto should be "Survive!" so we paced ourselves on the first day in Atlanta.
We took recommendations on where to go, and everyone agreed we should try Varsity, a drive-in chili hot dog place. The chili hotdogs were okay (a little small), but the place itself was awesome. They gave James a server's hat that we put to good use.
Varsity for chili hotdogs
Varsity hat for James
Beyond food, people we asked had no consensus on what we should do in Atlanta. The top guidebook recommendations are the Aquarium, Coca-Cola World and Centennial Park, but the Aquarium is prohibitively expensive if we're going to make it almost 3 weeks on the road, and we couldn't stomach paying to be advertised soda in 4-D. We put Centennial Park on the list, but left it for day 2.
So we started at the Martin Luther King National Historic site in the Auburn section of Atlanta. The visitors center is a pretty small but interesting museum, and you can also go see MLK's grave at the Center for Nonviolence, his childhood home, and
Ebenezer Baptist Church in the immediate area. I thought the most moving part of the exhibit was seeing the very modest wagon that his coffin was carried in when he died. I've seen Presidential funeral processions in D.C., and the comparative modesty for a man who was a national hero is sad.
Outside the MLK visitor center
A civil rights march exhibit where you can join the march
The MLK Memorial at the Center for Nonviolence
Then we head over to Piedmont Park which James loved because the Active Oval had a huge section of grass he could run in without hurting himself. After we saw how happy this made him we tried to fit in a park during as many days of our trip as we could. We liked it too because Piedmont Park is really beautiful with the city skyline overlooking lush green fields. And that was it for me and James for the day. Kevin really wanted to see an Atlanta Braves game and see the stadium. It was a night game and we don't think James is stadium-friendly even if it were a daytime game so James and I stayed behind while Kevin checked it out.
James gives Piedmont Park his vote
The Atlanta Braves
For Day 2, we started with the more touristy Centennial Park, designed as the Olympics town square during the Atlanta Olympics in 1996, but now more well-known for the terrorist bombing that took place there during the Olympics. It was nice, but it wasn't as good for James to run around in, and apparently that's how we judge parks now.
James, stroller-bound in Centennial Park
Afterwards, we went for lunch at Fat Matt's Rib Shack, and wow, did that make our day. We had the most terrific BBQ of our lives. Delicious! And everyone who worked there was really nice to us and asked us a bunch of questions about James.
At Fat Matt's (notice James is about to steal my sandwich)
After lunch, we got one more site in-- the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum. The guide books aren't big on this museum, but I'm a big fan of President Carter. I think he really stuck to his ideals in Washington, even if it turns out that it doesn't work-- I think he was our one "Mr. Smith" president. More importantly, the work he's done through the Carter Center after leaving the presidency has been really impressive. Anyway, I enjoyed the museum a lot because I'm a fan, and James enjoyed the museum because it wasn't crowded at all and it was largely child-proof and he got to run around.