[Floodgap Roadgap presents the Summer of 6]

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27 July 2006: Hiatus, Or, The Trouble I've Been Up To (in ME, NH, MA, CT, PA/MD, WV, VA, TN, NC and GA)
 
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2 August 2006: Historic US 80: Dallas, TX to Tucson, AZ (Hiatus 3)
 

31 July 2006: Hiatus 2: "What I Did On My Summer Vacation by Cameron K."

Since it's been a little while, here's a big entry -- 33 pictures! -- but there's been a lot going on the last couple of days. This hiatus entry covers me through Georgia, then Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and eastern Texas. Most of it reads like "What I Did On My Summer Vacation" but you know what? you'll love it anyway. :)

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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.

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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.

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These various jellyfish made a ghostly silhouette against the hypnotic blue backlight.

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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 tank.

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Centennial Park, a major downtown redevelopment project as part of the 1996 Olympic games, and now a popular destination for picnics and strolls.

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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.

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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 concessionaire.

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Stone Mountain is now famous for its nightly light shows projected on the rock, complete with fireworks ...

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... and lasers. And yes, these are my pictures, taken with a mini-tripod on top of the picnic cooler at 4" exposures.

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Myself, my aunt and my uncle. I had a wonderful time with them!

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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.

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Downtown Birmingham has a couple of these obviously old quasi-honeycombed black signs still up.

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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.

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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 positions.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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The interior is modeled on the Roman Pantheon. Bronze plaques on the wall note the war dead.

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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 sides.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Good luck with that. They don't call it "the vine that ate the South" for nothing.

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Georgia's monument, on the Southern side. The park is divided into "Union Avenue" and "Confederate Avenue" with each representative state on either side.

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Crossing the Mississippi again into Louisiana.

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A real, honest-to-goodness bayou (here the Walnut Bayou) along US 65 between US 80 and I-20.

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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.

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Louisiana calls their counties "parishes" and they appear on county parish route pentagons as such, too.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Next: Interstate 19! (when I get to Tucson)

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27 July 2006: Hiatus, Or, The Trouble I've Been Up To (in ME, NH, MA, CT, PA/MD, WV, VA, TN, NC and GA)
 
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2 August 2006: Historic US 80: Dallas, TX to Tucson, AZ (Hiatus 3)
 


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