I’m a little embarrassed that the blog has only included news of our trip–of the details we can convey from what we experience on the road–and not more information about the areas we’re seeing. A better person would be reading up on each town she pedals through, and talking about the very rich history that is fanning past us like a deck of neatly riffled cards. Maybe if I’d boned up on my history of the south before leaving home, I’d be more energized to share little facts, such as, “Today we visited the home of Juliette Gordon Low, founder of the Girl Scouts of America.” Or, “Today, we stayed near the mouth of the Cape Fear River, in the town of Southport, NC, which was developed around the 18th century fort that was built in order to protect the area from Spanish pirates and privateers.” Or, “Today, we saw the Green-Meldrim House, which Sherman occupied and used as his headquarters in Savannah during the Civil War.”
But mostly, we’re on a mission to return home. And although I’ve probably read clost to 1000 placards since starting this journey, I’m going to have to admit that the main thing I’ve retained is this: the Civil War happened here. [If you pick up a copy of the excellent book, Killing Ground: Photographs of the Civil War and the Changing American Landscape, by Vermont artist John Huddleston, you’ll know that the Civil War actually ventured as far north as Vermont. Huddleston made a project of visiting Civil War battle sites and photographing them today, then printing old battle photographs next to his record of those sites now. I had the pleasure of interviewing him for the show…]
But while it touched other areas of the country, mostly the war happened in the south. And the south retains that truth in every fiber of it’s contemporary being. The war is so much a part of the south, far more than it continues to play a role in our cultural identity in the north. And the truth is that, although I’m not writing a lot about the history that we’re traveling through, I do want to state for the record that I’m learning a great deal, or re-learning it in some cases. It’s fascinating. That said, it probably won’t be a large part of the blog. Strange, though, how much I’m aware of that being a choice. If I were riding up north, it probably wouldn’t even occur to me. Because to some extent (if this makes sense), in the north, history was. Whereas here in the south, history is.