OTTUMWA — Sunshine Club members lucked out during our Spring Time in Dixie. Not one rainy day. Well, it dripped a little one afternoon in Savannah, Ga., but not enough to prevent us from strolling the steamy streets. The nine-day bus tour was loads of fun, filled with scenic byways and Southern charm.
Club members from South Ottumwa Savings Bank were gracious visitors to the Deep South cities. We made no comments when tour guides talked about the War between the States. Amongst ourselves, of course, we were amused that some Southerners can't seem to let the Civil War go. "Remember, we were a conquered nation," one Southern tour lady said. Or, did she say, "are"?
No matter, we learned a lot about Southern V.I.P.s and saw their grand houses.
Ah yes, the crab. Well, one evening, dinner, part of our package, was at The Crab House in Charleston, S.C. Yum, I thought, delicious fresh crab to feast on during the evening meal. Wrong. The choices our group had were: flounder, tilapia or shrimp. What? No crab? How can you eat at a Crab House and not have crab? After complaining to the tour guide, etc., I just decided to order crab legs on my own. And, they were tasty. Thank you, Nancy, for my treat.
OK. So, then we go to the Middleton Place Plantation near Charleston for an OK-fried chicken and collard greens lunch. Again, another surprise: No Southern mansion on the plantation. Let down! The best part there was strolling through the beautiful blooming azaleas and seeing the large trees covered in Spanish moss.
And speaking of fried chicken, it was the main course for the buffet dinner at Lady and Sons restaurant in Savannah. Oh, try the fried green tomatoes, one Southern told us. Nope. Not on the buffet.
I will admit that I developed a fondness for those greens - they know how to cook them properly.
A tea plantation tour was fun, and I learned it is the only tea-growing firm in North America. The owner of the plantation did have a beautiful house.
Speaking of great houses, if you are ever down that way, stop to tour Biltmore mansion. Wow. Now, that's a house! We thoroughly enjoyed the self-guided tour complete with head phones and recorded comments.
Thanks to a couple of gals on the bus, we did get to dip our feet in the Atlantic Ocean at Tybee Island near Savannah. I could stay on a beach like that for many days.
I loved Charleston with its Southern charm and openness. We found some bargains at the city market and enjoyed watching women weave those beautiful sea grass baskets. A tour of the Citadel military college included a stop in a church where all the state flags are hung. Guess who didn't know what the Iowa flag looked like? All of us.
We boarded a boat to tour Fort Sumter where the Civil War started. It was a great history lesson. I enjoyed lunch in Beaufort, S.C., home base for Marine Corps training. A great cemetery tour there as well as one in Savannah.
I was disappointed with the Savannah market, riverfront shops and the Atlanta Underground. But, the Savannah water front was intriguing, and the hotel location was great, right downtown in the historic district, with the free city bus rides close by. It was fun riding the eight-story escalator up to CNN studios in Atlanta, Ga., and although I would have rather come straight home the last day of the tour, I found the small Lewis and Clark Museum in St. Charles, Mo., on the Missouri River, fascinating. It's a place to visit again.
Another comment: It was made clear that seats would be rotated daily, so most everyone would get a chance to sit near the front. Well, my roomie and I started in the middle, moved up the next day, but the day after that, we started heading towards the back, and that didn't change. Since the bus had extra room, it was very nice to have two seats to yourself, if you wanted.
Returning home, you soon forget about petty annoyances and reflect on the trip highlights. Loved traveling with fellow Ottumwans, and see, I did not mention names, however tempted I might be. We were a delightful group, definitely full of sunshine.
Oh, I forgot to mention. Our last night farewell dinner was to be in one of St. Louis' fine restaurants. Turned out to be The Pasta House in St. Charles. And guess what the entrees were: chicken, chicken and chicken (parmesan, marsala, flamenco).
Judy Krieger is a retired Courier editor.