My aunt and uncle managed to cram a very, very full day into one -- we
started out with the Georgia Aquarium in downtown Atlanta, which opened on
23 November 2005 as the world's largest aquarium with more than 120,000
animals representing 500 species in eight million gallons of water (salt
and fresh). They are justifiably proud of their whale sharks, two of them
shown at the planet's largest aquarium window; Rhincodon typus is
the world's largest fish, with the largest recorded length being 39', but
this great beast
is a gentle giant that simply strains the water for algae and plankton
rather than hunt.
These beluga whales were tremendous hams and knew when they were the
centre of attention. In fact, most of the mammals seemed to know when
they were on stage and grabbed the spotlight appropriately. The beluga
whale (Delphinapterus leucas) is an Arctic/sub-Arctic species of
whale related to the famous horned narwhal, a gregarious, curious
and "chatty" creature growing up to 16' and over a ton in weight.
These various jellyfish made a ghostly silhouette against the hypnotic blue
I forgot to write down the species, but I think this guy was a loggerhead
turtle (Caretta caretta), one of the five species of turtles that
nest on the Georgia coast. Loggerheads can weigh as much as 200 pounds;
they are long-lived creatures that may persist for over half a century.
Every two or three years, the female comes up on shore to deposit her eggs
in the species' now-famous fashion. Like the mammals, this dude was a
complete ham and let everyone get a good look at him swimming lazily in the
Centennial Park, a major downtown redevelopment project as part of the
1996 Olympic games, and now a popular destination for picnics and strolls.
CNN Center, established in Atlanta by (in)famous mogul Ted Turner and now
a unit of Time Warner. We took the studio tour, which actually was very
interesting (but they wouldn't let us take pictures of most of it, and there
were security officers everywhere). Fox News is apparently the F-word at CNN.
An interesting factoid is that the escalator in the background, eight stories
up, is the largest freestanding escalator in the world. Apparently this
building was briefly part of the World of Sid and Marty Krofft (!), and the
escalator was built as a part of that indoor amusement park. The park failed
and Turner bought the building, escalator and all, ripping out most of the
park but keeping the ascent. It is the first part of the studio tour.
Stone Mountain outside of Atlanta, the world's largest exposed granite
monolith, and one of the largest monoliths in the world, period. Modern
geology believes it to be approximately 300 million years old; its summit
is 1,683', but most of the rock is actually underground. Besides this
geological claim to fame, it also has this famous bas-relief of three
heroes of the Confederacy -- Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson
Davis -- first commissioned in 1909 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy
chapter in Atlanta. Stalled until 1923, when the job was given to Mount
Rushmore sculptor Gutzon Borglum, the job stalled again when Borglum and the
project backers had a controversial difference of opinion and his work was
eventually blasted away. Finally, the state of Georgia expressed interest
in completing the project and it resumed work in 1964 under sculptor
Walter Hancock to be finished in
1972 by a third sculptor, Roy Faulkner.
The park surrounding the mountain is privately operated by a state
Stone Mountain is now famous for its nightly light shows projected on the
rock, complete with fireworks ...
... and lasers. And yes, these are my pictures, taken with a mini-tripod
on top of the picnic cooler at 4" exposures.
Myself, my aunt and my uncle. I had a wonderful time with them!
Leaving town. Georgia likes to use these suspended combo shields for
advance and reassurance signage. Also note how US 19 is co-signed with
GA 400; all US highways have a companion GA highway, although they might
not be the same one over the entire length and frequently aren't.
We take the Loop around Atlanta to pick up I-20 and head west.
Downtown Birmingham has a couple of these obviously old quasi-honeycombed
black signs still up.
Near the Alabama-Mississippi border I-20 starts to parallel US 80, a little
touch of home as US 80 used to go all the way to San Diego and still survives
as Old Highway 80 and modern Interstate 8 (which we will look at in more
detail). US 80 jumps on and off I-20 at intervals; here is a rerouted portion
in Vicksburg, MS where the old alignment is now signed as HISTORIC US 80.
Vicksburg is home to the Vicksburg National Military Park commemorating the
siege of the city as part of the American Civil War in the summer of 1863.
Fiercely defended by the Confederates, Union Major General Ulysses S. Grant
was ordered to clear Mississippi of the rebels and take control of the
Mississippi River. It was Confederate Lieutenant-General John C. Pemberton's
job (and his 50,000 troops) to ensure that didn't happen. Grant even tried
digging a canal to outflank the enemy in several complex manoeuvres that
were completely rebuffed by Pemberton's superior position, but Grant finally
started to prevail by May. However, he could not penetrate their fortifications
and simply decided to starve out his opponents instead. It took 46 days of
siege before Pemberton capitulated and the city was surrendered on 4 July.
Port Hudson fell five days later and the Mississippi River
was in the hands of the Union. The national park was established in 1899.
This is the entrance arch, the first part of the 16-mile auto tour around the
many state momuments (both Confederate and Union) to their fallen soldiers
and many reconstructed lines and trenches marking troop and infantry
One of the large Union batteries hammering Confederate formations, this
one led by the 8th Michigan Artillery and Captain Samuel de Golyer (killed
during the battle).
The only surviving original structure from the Civil War is Shirley House,
known as the "white house" to the Union troops and headquarters for the
45th Illinois Infantry during the siege. It has since been restored to
its original 1863 appearance.
Of the state memorials, the Illinois memorial is widely considered to be the
biggest and most ornate. Built in 1906, it cost approximately $200,000 to
construct from granite and marble.
The interior is modeled on the Roman Pantheon. Bronze plaques on the wall
note the war dead.
At another battleground, we see several more small memorials (left) and part
of the battlefield with replica cannons and red and blue markers for both
Along the way we pass by the USS Cairo, a failed December 1862 attempt by
the Union to clear the Yazoo River north of Vicksburg. It was immediately
detonated by a shore-triggered mine (then called a "torpedo"), the first
ship to be sunk in this manner. Salvaged and restored, the ship now rests
under a large tent at the north end of the park.
The Vicksburg National Cemetery. Approximately 17,000 Union soldiers were
buried here, but only 4,000 are named. Later it accomodated casualties of
the Spanish-American War up to and through the Korean War until it was
closed to further burial in 1961.
A statue of Jefferson Davis (1807-1889), the only president of the Confederate
States of America. Attaining prominence as a soldier and politician,
eventually becoming Secretary of
War for President Franklin Pierce, Davis actually opposed secession and spoke
against it several times during the late 1850s. In a show of solidarity,
he resigned from the Senate when the state he represented, Mississippi,
seceded in January 1861. Shortly afterwards he was named president of the
new Confederacy and the Civil War broke out when attempts to forge a peace
deal with the Union failed. Many believe his administration showed compromised
military judgment, and he spent several years in jail after the end of the War
until the case of treason was dropped in 1869. Barred from returning to
political office, he became a popular public figure in the post-War South
and wrote several books on the Confederates' rise and fall. Dead at the age of
81, his funeral was one of the largest in the region's history and he was
buried in Richmond, VA, the former Confederate capital.
Good luck with that. They don't call it "the vine that ate the South" for
Georgia's monument, on the Southern side. The park is divided into
"Union Avenue" and "Confederate Avenue" with each representative state on
Crossing the Mississippi again into Louisiana.
A real, honest-to-goodness bayou (here the Walnut Bayou) along US 65 between
US 80 and I-20.
I like the new Louisiana state markers a lot. Not only are they a pleasing
green (and not the boring black and white of most states), but they are a
very detailed marker too -- look at how exactingly the coastline is reproduced.
The older ones seem to be sloppier.
Louisiana calls their counties "parishes" and they appear on
parish route pentagons as such, too.
Texas farm-to-market routes. These are minor routes providing service to
rural areas for arterial access. There are also "ranch roads" which have
a similar shield. Next to it is a loop shield; the state shield is the same
as the loop, but with "TEXAS" on it instead.
I crossed over onto US 80 to enter Dallas and catch the modern day end.
I missed the end on the first pass and went right onto I-30.
Turns out they took it down. Hope they put it up again.
US 80 still goes out to Tybee Island, GA as it always had to the east, but
its original 2,747 miles are now only 1,032 today after it was gradually
cut back starting with California's decommissioning in 1964.
Dallas is America's nineth-largest city at 1,213,825 [2005 est.]. Established
in 1841 by settler John Neely Bryan after the formation of the Republic of
Texas, it was ostensibly named for a friend of Bryan's who has now lapsed into
obscurity. A minor town until the establishment of the railroad, it
incorporated in 1871 and grew rapidly thereafter. When oil was struck in
1830, the region exploded even faster; when Texas Instruments developed the
integrated circuit in 1958, its hi-tech sector followed suit. With most of
the oil industry now in Houston, Dallas maintains its legacy in technology
and is widely considered to be Texas' "Silicon Valley."
Whoo, I'm tired.