Race horses. Fine whiskey. Coal. The Bluegrass State has earned a reputation for all of these things.

My travels in Kentucky were limited to driving through (usually with rain) while on my way to spend a vacation in another state. That changed in 2004 when I put it on my list of places to visit and get to know a little better.

While I did not have the time to see everything — always leave something to see on the next trip — I expanded my knowledge.

Kentucky has a unique national park centered around Mammoth Cave. History and natural wonder share the space. But I did not spend my entire visit underground. A distillery tour highlighted an afternoon. History included a visit to this reproduction cabin — the childhood home of Abraham Lincoln. I topped off my visit with a stop at Fort Knox. No, they didn’t show me the gold. But I did tour a military museum and learned more about tanks and artillery than you want to read in my blog.


Let your imagination out to run when visiting historic Kentucky sites.



Our journey turns takes a step north. While Tennessee is known as the Volunteer State, it has a rich heritage in music also.

Nashville, the state capitol also has a reputation as the capitol of Country Music. But don’t forget Memphis, center piece of the Blues and significant in the history of Rock ‘n Roll.

My first tourist visits (I’ll ignore a quick drive through years before) occurred in the 1990’s when friends lived there. Historical exhibits and lip-smacking BBQ made for a memorable weekend.

By 2001, the desire to visit The Hermitage outside of Nashville drew me to travel there. If you enjoy US history I recommend you add this to your list of places to go and things to see. The house is good, the visitor center is interesting, and the grounds are the best of all. In fact, this photo of an interesting rail fence was taken there.





The state, not the river, is one step west from our last pause on the map.

Piney woods. The wide Mississippi River. Catfish.

These are three of the top impressions of my visits and travels in this state. Miles and miles of pine trees line the interstates. The smell is delicious and the dirt is sandy red. The river — well — as you may have guessed from previous topics — it’s my favorite of all American rivers. While I’m more familiar with the upper (northern) portion, the wider, slower waters hosting the barge traffic have a different sort of charm. And the catfish? Well, any self-respecting cafe, diner, or restaurant should have pond raised on the menu. And if my small sampling is any indication — they know how to both raise and cook them. Yum. Yum.

Like it’s neighbors — Mississippi is rich in Civil War history. One of my very first solo tourist trips was to visit the battlefield at Vicksburg. I was there in early April. It was already warm. The siege extended from May to July. Uniforms were wool. I’m glad I wasn’t there for multiple reasons.


Go ahead. Convince a horse to pull a cannon up one of these in July heat.



We take a step north on our tour. Or it could be west if you’re very precise. But either way you’ll end up in Alabama.

It took until 2010 for me to actually plan and execute a visit to this “Heart of the South”. On one visit I was able to accomplish two things. I attended a formal program with college friends on the east side of Mobile Bay. And I was able to visit family friends I’d not seen for too close to 40 years.

We picked up a little history, sailed on Mobile Bay, and learned a bit about the local flora and fauna. Between scheduled tours and presentations we did what three mid-western friends always do — we talked. We stayed at a retreat center and were welcome to use the equipment. I thought I’d try a kayak (I’ve paddled a canoe.) but the water was rather choppy for a beginner that evening. The next morning, when we were packing up to leave — the water was calm as glass. I guess that’s a cue to return.

After getting a little lost and confused finding the family friends — cell phones are a wonderful thing. He found me and led me on some of the twistiest roads (all without signs) over hills and around draws. It was as bad as where we grew up.

The next day we went for a drive and found a magnificent sight.

Lake Martin
Lake Martin


Sunshine. Oranges. Beaches. Tourist attractions for all ages!

The first time I saw Florida from an airplane I found it difficult to believe. It’s flat! Very, very flat when you’ve grown up among the bluffs of the Upper Mississippi River.

My visits to Florida have been a mixture of business and pleasure. Often on the same trip. And water is always involved — whether a corporation was treating their students to an outing on Biscayne Bay or I rode a water taxi around a large resort.

The map can be a little misleading. It looks like a moderate sized peninsula. But when you drive it appears to get larger and larger. The distances between the major cities greater than expected.

My most recent visit happened in 2010 when I gifted myself with a day of tourist activity before a professional conference. I need to go back. There are historic and interesting places I’ve not seen.

Downtown Disney - Lego sea serpent
The Sea Dragons are friendly in Florida




Did you know….  Georgia is the largest state east of the Mississippi River?

Gen. James Oglethorpe obtained a charter and then established the first permanent colony in 1733. It was a refuge for English debtors and fought a battle with the Spanish — who also claimed the territory.

For decades the state has been known for their peaches. And during the presidential election of 1976, won by Jimmy Carter, the important crop of peanuts was highlighted.

My visits to this state have centered around Atlanta. Previous to a visit of several days in 2013, I’d either driven through on the way to other places or changed planes at the large and busy Hartsfield-Jackson airport. (Once at almost a run — made it — think I was second-to-last person to board.)

Atlanta was privileged to host the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. Today the downtown is a busy area of hotels, office buildings, and tourist destinations — including a world class aquarium.

I believe this sign at a northern entry point sums up what to expect on a visit.



South Carolina

We travel south, then back to the coast, for our visit to South Carolina.

This state, the eighth to ratify the US Constitution, is rich in history. The Spanish and then the French attempted and failed to establish viable colonies.  More than a century later, in 1670, the English established a settlement. When conditions proved too harsh, they moved it to the present site of Charleston and named it Charles Town after the English King Charles I.

Battles took place within the state in the Revolutionary War and the first shots of the Civil War were fired here. While many of these sites are remembered in parks and museums, the state also has modern agriculture and industry.

My visit occurred in 2006. It was the first of several trips to interesting places with a college friend. Our destination was Charleston and we picked up many interesting facts about history and architecture. Of course we had to visit the beach. It was a charming place at both sunrise and later in the day.


Afternoon surf at Isle of Palms


North Carolina

Three ladies, friends since college, invaded the western portion of this state in 2011.

Early spring in the mountains including watching snow melt on the approach one morning. We also had a delightful time learning with a group collected from several states. We listened to lectures on the Scots-Irish heritage of the area. Learned to appreciate the unique sound of mountain music. Plus, we were given a peek into Cherokee history and culture.

There’s more to this state than we experienced. The eastern coast has a reputation for secluded beaches, lighthouses, and fine resorts. Cities with thriving, modern industry and education comprise the  Research Triangle.

Marine Corps and Army veterans are sure to have either experienced or heard personal stories of Camp LeJeune or Fort Bragg.

Be sure to take your sense of adventure as well as your sense of humor along when you visit.

How to make a North Carolina lake.
How to make a
North Carolina lake.


Over the river… (come on, you can sing this)

Over the river is also the only way to get from our previous stop – Washington DC – to the state of Virginia.

The history inside this state is rich and varied. Rivers and seacoast were the early highways of the state. And harbors remain important. The US Navy facilities at Norfolk are some of the largest in the world.

Do you like fine old houses? Then make a point to visit the homes of several of our early presidents. Do you enjoy walking a civil war battlefield? Virginia has many. Or do you prefer a peek at Colonial life in Williamsburg? In the mood for scenery? Drive a portion of the Blue Ridge Parkway.

The most recent time I visited this state (aside from an airport layover) was way back when I was a teenager. Thus the black and white film in the camera my parents loaned me for the trip.


On the grounds of Mount Vernon