Thursday, December 31, 2015

New Years Greetings!

Here Comes 2016! 




Focus on Family and Friends and Count Your Blessings!

Take Care,

Big Daddy Dave and Laurie

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Time for Dinner – La Grange Georgia

Despite a bit of research prior to arriving in La Grange, I must admit that I had a tough time locating an acceptable restaurant for dinner…


So…I gave up on the local dining scene and we headed to the Applebee’s Restaurant just a few miles up I-85 from our Hampton Inn.

What I didn’t know, (because we like local establishments I’d never considered Applebee’s as a possible dinner destination), was the on-line reputation of this particular restaurant.  On Yelp it has 1.5 stars.  Trip Advisor reviewers give it 2 stars with far more terrible reviews than excellent or very good ones.  Foursquare.com gives it 2.5 stars…

It’s probably a good thing that I hadn’t read any reviews!


We started out with an order of Brew Pub Pretzels and Beer Cheese Dip…white cheddar craft beer cheese dip plus honey Dijon. ($6.99) It was very good and all of these nice pretzel sticks and cheese dip were consumed.

Note: We have always considered Applebee’s to be a safe bet when we’re on the road and looking for a lunch break.  Our other favorites as reliable ‘fuel stops’ are Bob Evans, Waffle House, Ruby Tuesday, Steak ‘n Shake and Cheddar’s.


Laurie wasn’t that hungry and after the pretzels and cheese dip, so she decided to just order a cup of the French Onion Soup. ($3.99) She was very happy with her choice!


I opted for the Clubhouse Grille with potato chips. ($10.49) This sandwich was piled high with ham, thick-cut turkey breast, melted cheddar and Jack cheeses with Applewood smoked bacon, lettuce, tomato, mayo and a drizzle of honey BBQ sauce on freshly toasted Tuscan bread.  It was very good!

Many of the complaints about this Applebee’s outpost in La Grange were centered on lousy service or service with an ‘attitude’.  Our waitress, Raven, was pleasant, helpful and timely…no complaints at all!  I did note that the 2 most recent reviews of this restaurant, (August and September), were positive.  These reviews were on Trip Advisor and no recent reviews were noted on the other 2 sites.  I will add a third positive review although I must admit that we didn’t exactly sample the menu.

Applebee’s Restaurant in La Grange Georgia is located at 1524 Lafayette Parkway.  Phone: 706-242-9189.  Website: http://restaurants.applebees.com/ga/lagrange/1524-lafayette-pkwy.html.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave 

Monday, December 28, 2015

Wild Animal Safari – Georgia

As we wound down our September trip to Florida, I’d decided to take the back roads up through western Georgia, visit an attraction or two in the area and spend the night in La Grange. 


We arrived at Wild Animal Safari in Pine Mountain Georgia in the mid-afternoon, with plenty of time left to tour the facility.  We chose to drive through the park in our own car but, depending on the season, two other options are available.  If you don’t want to drive your own vehicle through the midst of all the critters, you can rent a “Zebra Van”.  During the busier times of the year, visitors can ride through the park in a tour bus. (Cost included in the ticket price)

Note: There is a second Wild Animal Safari located just northeast of Springfield Missouri. 


We took a lot of photos!  I won’t post too many in the blog but we both loved this one… There is nothing like a giraffe sticking his head in your car window begging, (no, actually insisting), on a handout! 


What do you think that Zebra is thinking?  During a previous visit to a similar park, I had a zebra stick his head in my window and reach all the way across me to get a handout from Laurie.  I would have been in big trouble if he’d suddenly swung his muscular neck into my face.  We have learned to be cautious, that’s for sure!

I believe that this is a Grant’s Zebra although the park also has Hartman Zebra roaming the grounds.  Grant’s Zebra are ‘least threatened’ in the wild but Hartman Zebra are ‘vulnerable’. 


The trick in feeding the animals is to have your window down so you can give them their treats…without letting them into the car.  Some of them really give it the old college try too!  You have to be fast…and/or out think them.  Tossing food on the ground to make your getaway is one solution!

FYI…Reticulated Giraffe is a subspecies of Giraffe native to north-eastern Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia.  They are an endangered species with less than 5,000 living in the world.  Fully grown Reticulated Giraffes can be between 16 and 20 feet tall and weigh up to 1,800 pounds. 



We weren’t unhappy that the resident Buffalo herd didn’t come over looking for handouts… In the first photo, a Fallow Deer is resting nearby.

Our desire to avoid hand feeding these American Bison is based on another drive-through animal park experience.  We had a big bull Buffalo walk up to our car.  I barely got the window closed in time.  He wasn’t deterred… He slobbered on the window and rocked the car in an effort to obtain a snack.  I quickly rolled down the window and shoved half a loaf of bread in his mouth… His breath alone could have knocked us over but he was satisfied!


Hi!  Where is my snack?! 

This is obviously a deer of some kind and he/she is very handsome.  I’d like to identify him but Wild Animal Safari’s website isn’t very visitor friendly.  It lists the animals that are roaming the park or on display, but there are no accompanying photos…


Another deer and another snack… This one was very polite!


These critters look a bit like Texas Longhorn Cattle.  Instead they are Watusi or 'Ankole-Watusi', also known as Ankole Longhorn.  This breed of cattle is originally native to Africa.  These big bovines roam among the collection of grazing critters in the drive through portion of Wild Animal Safari.


The Water Buffalo is a large bovid originating in South Asia, Southeast Asia, and China.  Today, it is also found in Europe, Australia, and some American countries.  At least 130 million domestic water buffalo exist, and more human beings depend on them than on any other domestic animal!  Their milk is richer in fat and protein than that of dairy cattle.


Roll up the windows!!  Hurry!!  If there is any animal that we avoid when driving through an animal park, it’s the Ostrich… To coin a phrase, they are indeed bird brains.  You never know what they’re going to do and they can be very aggressive.  We’ve had them thrust their heads in our car, block the road and peck/hammer on our car.  As for this one, we just kept driving!


As we neared the end of the drive-through portion of the park, we drove past this Rhinoceros.  I’m guessing that this is a White Rhinoceros as they are the most common variety of this beast.  All species of Rhinoceros are at risk due to the alleged medicinal quality of their horn in some cultures. 

Amazingly, 2.2 pounds of Rhino horn can fetch up to $100,000!  A rash of museum burglaries around the world occurred in recent years with Rhino horn being the prize.  One can assume that these thefts have been due to the value combined with the increasing rarity of Rhinos in the wild.


A large variety of animals, large and small, populate the ‘walk about’ portion of Wild Animal Safari.  This big male Red Kangaroo was just lying about and chilling…

FYI...The Red Kangaroo is the largest Kangaroo breed.  It is also the largest mammal native to Australia.  Males can leap a distance of almost 30 feet in a single bound.  Red Kangaroos have a range of vision that is about 300 degrees due to the position of their eyes. They can reach speeds of 35 mph, but can cruise along at 12 mph for hours on end.


The Patagonian Cavy or Mara is essentially a very large rodent.  In fact, it is the fourth largest rodent in the world behind the capybara, beaver and certain porcupine species.  The Cavy is native to central and southern Argentina, mainly in grasslands and scrub deserts.

Pairs of Maras stay together for life with replacement of partners only occurring after death.  The male has almost the sole responsibility in maintaining the pair by following the female wherever she goes.  A male will mark his female with urine and mark the ground around her with secretions from his glands and with feces, in reality making the grounds around the female a ‘mobile territory’.


Why this goat photo?  Simple!  Goats are cute and Laurie thought that this little youngster had a sweet face…


I snapped this photo of a Siberian Tiger at rest… A male can weigh up to 675 pounds!  The Siberian Tiger, sometimes called the Amur Tiger, is the largest cat now living on the planet. Native to the eastern areas of Russia, they used to extend into parts of China and North Korea.  Currently they are considered critically endangered largely due to habitat destruction and poaching.


Wild Animal Safari in Georgia lists a number of different sheep and I can’t quite identify this fellow.  He’s apparently been fighting with someone!  Is he a Corsican Sheep or a Mouflon…or something in between?  In any case, we liked his attitude!

I’ve only featured a few of the animals that you can view via the drive through or the walk about portions of the park.  Other critters of interest include: Baboons; Alligators; Timber and Artic Wolves; Black Bears; Lizards and other reptiles; Parrots and Macaws; Monkeys; Wallaby, Bobcats; Caracal; Dingoes; Lemurs; Dromedary Camel; Coatimundi; Elk; Leopards; Hyenas, and; Lions.

Our visit was well worth our time and money.  We had a lot of fun feeding the animals in the drive through portion of the park.  I actually spent more money on food for the animals than the cost of admission!  While some may not agree with this zoo/park concept, I think that at the very least these operations, run properly, expose the public to wildlife and raise awareness while helping to perpetuate some of the endangered or vulnerable species.

Wildlife Animal Park in Georgia is located at 1300 Oak Grove Road in Pine Mountain.  Phone: 706-663-8744.  The park’s Website can be found at: http://animalsafari.com/Georgia/.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for the tour!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Merry Christmas to All!
2015

 Artwork by Elizabeth Myers-Thomson


We hope that everyone has a terrific Holiday with family and friends!  When it comes right down to what really counts, family and friends are the keys to a happy life…


For our 2015 Christmas Holiday greeting, we chose this photo that our son took of Laurie and me, (Big Daddy Dave), and our two amazing, intelligent and handsome grandsons.   

To the boys we are known as Nana and Papa… David III just turned 15 and Emmett Lee recently celebrated his 12th birthday.

Feliz Navidad, Froehliche Weihnachten, Nollaig chridheil huibh, Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia, Yukpa, Nitak Hollo Chito, Mele Kalikimaka, God Jul and (Och) Ett Gott Nytt År, Shuvo Naba Barsha, Kung His Hsin Nien bing Chu Shen Tan, and Feliz Natal!

May You and Yours have a Blessed Holiday!

Laurie, David and J.D.


Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Old Railway Depots – West and Northwest Georgia

I took the ‘back way’ toward our home in East Tennessee because I had 2 possible attractions in mind that we could visit near Pine Mountain Georgia.  I planned to stay overnight in nearby LaGrange.

Of course, there was always the possibility of spotting another old railway depot along the way…


I found this little depot in Parrott Georgia.  This combination facility was built around 1889 when the Columbus Southern (Columbus to Albany) railway was constructed.  The first train arrived in 1890.  Back in 1896, 4 trains per day stopped in Parrott…

This 88-mile railroad between Columbus and Albany Georgia was chartered in 1885.   It started operations in April of 1890 and was soon leased to the Georgia Midland and Gulf Railroad.  Eventually it was sold to the Georgia and Alabama Railroad in 1896 and later was merged into the Seaboard Air Line Railway.
In the 1894 edition of The Official Railway List, the Columbus Southern reported that it operated 5 locomotives, 6 passenger cars plus 120 freight and other miscellaneous cars.


This is downtown Parrott Georgia.  Its estimated population in 2014 was 152 residents.  At its peak in 1930, there were 383 folks living in town.  The Parrott Historic District is listed in the National Register of historic Places.

In the late seventies, there was a bit of excitement in town when, because of its resemblance to an old western town, it was chosen as the location for the western, “The Long Riders”.   “The Long Riders” starred four sets of brothers: the Quaids, the Keaches, the Carradines, and the Guests, and it detailed the exploits of the Jesse James gang.


Moving on up the road from our overnight stay in LaGrange Georgia and our adventures at a wildlife park in Pine Mountain, I got off the Interstate for a bit to look for railroad depots as we moved northeast toward the Atlanta metropolitan area. 

Palmetto Georgia's depot, built in 1917, served the Atlanta and West Point Railroad for nearly a half-century before being adapted for municipal uses in the 1960s.  After 18-month rehabilitation, this old but completely refurbished depot reopened in the fall of 2012 as a community center which houses a local history museum, banquet hall and conference room.


While the population of Palmetto was under 1,000 when the depot was built, it’s now approaching 5,000 residents.  This is due to the nearby Interstate Highway and the city’s proximity to Atlanta.  

Notes:

·       On the museum/depot grounds one can find the burial plot with a headstone for Willis B. Menefee and his mother.  Willis is known as the ‘father’ of Palmetto.  He donated the land the town was built on. 

·       The Confederate Army of Tennessee, under the command of General Hood, arrived in town on September 19, 1864.  Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederacy, visited the town and gave a speech to the troops.  From here General Hood launched his disastrous Tennessee Campaign which ended with the Confederate’s loss at the Battle of Nashville. 



The first rail service to serve Fairburn Georgia was the Atlanta and West Point Railroad.  The line came through Fairburn after the then county seat, Campbellton, refused to allow the railroad through that town on account of the anticipated noise it would cause.  Consequently, Fairburn was designated as the new County Seat in 1870.

Fairburn has 2 old depots that are located almost adjacent to each other along the tracks, separated only by an old railway overpass that was built at the same time.  Both depots were built by the Atlanta and West Point Railroad in 1916 – 1917.  This is the old freight depot and it was or perhaps still is occupied by a graphics firm.



This is the former Atlanta and West Point Railroad passenger depot in Fairburn.  It was interesting to note that there are overhanging protected areas at both ends of this structure.  That is a little unusual, at least from my perspective.  The building is occupied by a law firm…and they need to trim some bushes and trees.  The building would look better and the firm would look more prosperous and successful!

Note:   

·       It has been documented that the first Confederate Flag was completed and unfurled here in Fairburn in March of 1861.  Some ladies on the train had purchased the materials for the flag when it stopped in Grantville Georgia on its way to Atlanta.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Monday, December 21, 2015

Tony’s Seafood Restaurant – Cedar Key

When we visited Cedar Key in early September, we decided to re-visit a restaurant we’d been to the last time we stopped by on our way north…


This is Tony’s Seafood Restaurant on Second Street in Cedar Key Florida.  This restaurant, which is located in the old Hale building, first opened its doors in June of 2005.  Featuring fresh gulf seafood, Tony’s 54-seat eatery is located in the historic downtown area. 

Note: Despite hurricanes, storms, floods and the passage of time old downtown Cedar Key still has several buildings dating back as far as 1859.  The Hale Building was built in 1880.


There are 2 dining rooms at Tony’s…and this is a decidedly casual dining atmosphere.  However, shoes and shirts are required!  The air conditioning can be finicky and opening that front door was a challenge for a couple of patrons while we were having our lunch. 


This is the restaurant’s major claim to fame!  Tony’s Seafood Restaurant won the Clam Chowder World Championship at the annual Great Chowder Cook-Off in 2009, 2010 and 2011.   With his 3rd win, Tony’s chowder was ‘retired’ to the Great Chowder Cook-Off Hall of Fame.

Chef Eric, Tony’s founder and owner, had introduced his famous clam chowder after being open just one month.  He’s lived in New England for 12 years and he’d sampled chowders all over the region.   The secret recipe isn’t available and only Chef Eric knows the exact ingredients.
 

Well, I do like clam chowder…but it’s easier for me to find quality clam chowder in East Tennessee than it is to find a nice fresh Fried Shrimp Sandwich. ($10.49) The shrimp sandwich was very good and the coleslaw was decent as well… For me, this was the right choice!


Laurie couldn’t resist and she ordered a bowl of Tony’s Award Winning Clam Chowder for her lunch. ($7.99) As advertised, it is indeed very good clam chowder and she was happy with her choice! 

FYI…The reason that I skipped the chowder is that I can buy as many cans of it as I want at the Publix supermarket in Farragut Tennessee and throughout the southeastern USA. (The canned version is very good too and we bought a couple of cans as soon as we got home!)

The food was good but service at Tony’s was rudimentary and not very efficient.  This was despite the fact that during this slow period at Cedar Key the restaurant wasn’t very busy.  Tony’s Seafood Restaurant is a 597 Second Street.  Phone: 352-543-0022.  Website: www.tonyschowder.com.   

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for lunch!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Friday, December 18, 2015

Railroad Depots – North Through Florida and Georgia

Back in September as we headed north toward our home in East Tennessee, I made an effort to find and photograph a few old railroad depots along the way…

We left Cedar Key Florida and headed on up US Hwy 19/US Hwy 98 and Alternate US Hwy 27.  It’s a little confusing but all of those roads run together for quite a while in the northwestern portion of the Florida peninsula.   One of my goals was to stay off the Interstate Highway System for a more interesting drive…


Our first stop was in Perry Florida at the Live Oak, Perry and Gulf train depot which was built about 1918.   Over the years, the depot had deteriorated but ‘Main Street Perry, Inc.’ purchased the structure in 2001 and with a grant restored the roof.  As it had been a goal of the City to create a "gateway" into the center of town with hopes of attracting people to the historic downtown, Perry purchased the building and began restoration.  The inside was divided into 4 retail spaces to serve as "incubator" business rentals.  The rehabilitated train depot was dedicated as "Perry Historic Station" in 2009. 

Perry is the County Seat of Taylor County Florida and it has a population of a little over 7,000 residents. 
 
Note: The Perry Race Riot occurred in Perry in December of 1922, during which whites burned escaped convict Charles Wright at the stake and attacked the black community of Perry after the murder of a white schoolteacher.  The day after Wright's death 2 other black men were shot and hanged.  Whites then burned the town's black school, Masonic lodge, church, amusement hall, as well as several families' homes.


What the heck!  Since we passed this imposing County Courthouse while looking for a railroad depot in Monticello Florida, I thought that I’d take a photo.  Why pass up the opportunity?  This had to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places…and it is!

Monticello is the County Seat for Jefferson County Florida.  The Courthouse is an historic Classical Revival style structure that was constructed in in 1909.  This courthouse is one of the contributing or anchor buildings in Monticello’s U.S. Historic District.  The district contains a total of 41 historic buildings.


After some searching we located what appears to be an old freight depot.  I suspect that at one time it belonged to the Atlantic Coast Line/Southern Air Line Railway.  The good news is that it’s been well maintained and is apparently in use.   It sits along a paved walkway in a park like setting that appears to be a former railroad track right of way…


Our next stop (in my depot search) was in Pelham Georgia.  This is the former Atlantic Coast Line Depot on Depot Street.   It was built in 1914.  From what I could glean from the Internet, it used to serve as Pelham’s City Hall but it’s now the home of the town’s Welcome Center, Museum and the Chamber of Commerce.   The other end of this depot consists of an open air freight platform. 

Since I hadn’t originally planned to take this route, all I knew was that there was supposed to be an old railroad depot somewhere in town.  As it turns out, I missed another depot, a two-story structure built by the Flint River and Northeast Railroad was just a couple of blocks away... Bummer!

Pelham still has rail freight service through the Florida and Georgia Railroad.  It’s a short line railroad with 297 miles of track that is owned by OmniTRAX, a company that owns 18 regional and short line railroads in 12 states and 3 Canadian provinces.  Among its holdings is the Hudson Bay Railroad that serves the port of Churchill on Hudson Bay in Canada.


This is a rail side view of the 1911 Atlantic Coast Line combination passenger and freight railroad depot in Camilla Georgia.  From what I’ve noted, it appears that this depot was built by the Gulf and Florida Railway.  As with Pelham, freight service continues for Camilla via OmniTRAX/Georgia and Florida Railroad.

Note: The ‘Camilla Massacre’ took place in this town in 1868 following the Civil War.  This early civil rights march took place before the term had been invented and it resulted in a number of deaths among the marchers… To learn more, go to http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/history-archaeology/camilla-massacre.


Both sides of this handsome brick depot are quite attractive and it’s very well maintained.  The Camilla Depot is the home of the local Chamber of Commerce and the town’s Welcome Center.
   
Camilla, a city of about 5,000, is the County Seat for Mitchell County.  In 2000 and 2003, disastrous tornados tore through this town… The first storm killed 11 people in town and the second storm injured about 200 people throughout the County.

Note: The city was incorporated in 1858.  The name Camilla was chosen in honor of the granddaughter of Henry Mitchell for whom the county was named.  He served in the American Revolutionary War and later as the General of the Georgia Militia.  He was also an important politician in the state.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a visit!


Take Care, Big Daddy Dave

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Quality Pizza on Cedar Key!

Back in early September we were searching for dinner options while staying in Cedar Key Florida.  I checked through the recommendations that the owner of ‘Tranquility’, (the condo we rented while in town), had sent us.


She had heartily suggested the pizza from Island Pizzeria, even telling us that they would deliver to the condo.  We decided that we’d go to Island Pizzeria ourselves just to get a look at the place… Cute, don’t you think?

FYI… I checked TripAdvisor back at home when I wrote this post for my blog site.  It showed 136 Excellent/Very Good reviews vs. 4 Poor/Terrible for Island Pizzeria.  It can’t get much better than that! 


The interior of Island Pizzeria is compact and it was hot in there!  Between early September heat and the pizza oven, it was stifling!  Perhaps that’s why ‘Ms. Personality’ at the counter was so unfriendly and uncommunicative…


Fortunately the pizza chef was really into his 'craft'...making pizzas.  I know that he looks like he might be a fisherman but you just can’t judge a book by its cover!  He spent quite a bit of time meticulously ‘building’ our “Meat Pizza”. (10" - $9.25; 14” - $18.00; 18” - $22.00)


This is a photo of our waiting area… No dining in here!  It’s all take out or delivery…

The menu offerings go beyond pizza.  There are a few appetizers including toasted ravioli, a couple of pasta dishes, (ravioli and spaghetti), salads and a number of sandwich options with slow cooked Italian beef being the most unexpected.  (When reading some of the TripAdvisor reviews, I noted that the burgers received high praise)


We took our Meat Pizza back to the condo for dinner… The chef at Island Pizzeria definitely loaded our pizza with protein goodness!  It was covered with pepperoni, sausage, bacon and slices of meatballs.  Laurie doesn’t really like meatballs but she thought these were pretty good.  It was a very nice pizza…better than anything that we have been able to find after living for over 6 years in the greater Knoxville Tennessee area!

Island Pizzeria is located at 12720 State Hwy. 24 in Cedar Key, Florida.  Phone: 352-543-5999.  Website and Menu: www.islandpizzeria.net.

Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…

Thanks for stopping by for a slice of pizza!

Take Care, Big Daddy Dave