May 18, 2024
Boats on the Shell Bluff Creek at Valona

St. Simons Island, Titusville and Kansas City (February – March, 2020)

Saint Simons Island (February 25-28, 2020)

We had not seen Woody and Susan Hunter since meeting them in Budapest in November, 2019. Woody grew up in this part of Georgia and it is always enjoyable to learn more about the area from a local and learning more about him and his family.

One of the first things I wanted to know more about, since I had first seen it back in November, was the wreck of the Golden Ray (if you search on “golden ray” and look at the images, you should be amazed). It was raining but we went to the pier to look at what was being done.

On Thursday, the 27th, Woody led us on a tour of the areas he grew up in, around Brunswick and Darien.

Heading toward Darien on US-17, our first stop was at the Needwood Baptist Church and Needwood School. The church was built in the 1870s; the school, in 1907. It is believed the congregation was originally established on the Broadfield Plantation (now part of the Hofwyl-Broadfield Historical Site). Then moved to the current site after the Civil War, when the freed slaves wanted to separate from the white-dominated churches.

Heading North on US-17, we entered McIntosh County, named for leader of the Scottish highlanders who came to this area in 1736 after receiving a land grants from King George II.

Just before crossing the river into Darien, we stopped at Butler Island Plantation. From the Explore Georgia website: One of the largest plantations in the South was the Butler Island Plantation, located just south of Darien, across the Darien River on what is now US Highway 17. The story of the plantation is a fascinating one, beginning in the 1790s, when Major Pierce Butler planted the land on the Altamaha Delta, which provided perfect conditions for growing rice. In 1838, the major’s grandson, Captain Pierce Butler, who married the famous and beautiful British stage actress Fanny Kemble, arrived at the plantation for a six-month working visit. Kemble, who was not familiar with the reality of slavery, immediately became very opposed to the treatment of the slaves. She penned her feelings and eventually published the notes in a book called “Journal of a Resident on a Georgia Plantation,” which some say helped persuade the British to oppose slavery and the Civil War.

Other good articles on Butler Island: and

After a stop for lunch at Skipper’s Fish Camp, we continued into Darien.

The first stop was St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church, where Woody’s family had been members for many years. This was where his Mother’s funeral service was held. It is a beautiful church, opened in 1879, after the original church was burned down in 1863 by Federal troops stationed on St. Simons Island.

On our way out of Darien, we drove through St. Andrew’s Cemetery, then on GA-99 to Valona. “Valona was known as Shell Bluff until about 1890 when my great-grandfather George Elliott Atwood applied for a P.O., but the name Shell Bluff was taken. One of George’s friends was Captain of a timber ship which called at Darien and the ship was registered in an Albanian port the name of which translated into English as ‘Valona’. George liked the name and Shell Bluff became Valona.” – Woody Hunter

One of the place we saw was the “… Valona federal building”. For many years a small store and post office then just a post office from about 1970-1997 when the post-mistress died at age 98. She ran the post office until one week before she died. Then the Valona post office was merged into the Meridian post office and the building was abandoned.” – Woody Hunter

The Valona federal building, for many years, was a small store and post office and then just a post office from about 1970-1997 when the post-mistress died at age 98. She ran the post office until one week before she died. Then the Valona p.o. was merged into the Meridian p.o. and the building was abandoned.

We also stopped to see Woody’s sister, while in Valona.

On the dock at Woody's sister's in Valona
On the dock at Woody’s sister’s in Valona


To finish off the day, we went to the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge and drove on the 4-mile Wildlife Drive. Our first stop was at Woody Pond, where we say alligators, anhingas and a bald eagle, although it was too far for the camera to catch, we could see it using our binoculars. It was a very pleasant walk.

After leaving Woody Pond, we drove through an area that in the 1940s had been taken over by the U.S. Government to become an Army Airfield and a gunnery training facility for Fighter pilots heading to Europe during World War 2. For some interesting photos of old airfield (which I took no photos of), see the Wildlife South website.

Our final stop in the National Wildlife Refuge, was where Pierre Lorillard, whose family operated the oldest tobacco operation in America, had built a mansion. Nothing is left but a wading pool and a fountain.

As is always the case with Woody, whether in Singapore, Budapest, Franklin (TN) or Georgia, this was an interesting history lesson from a great friend.

Titusville, FL (February 28, 2020)

On the way back to Boynton Beach, we stopped in Titusville, FL, to see my former VA teammate, Sharon McCormick, who had just moved there a few days earlier, from Minneapolis, MN. Pat had seen her in Minneapolis, just after Thanksgiving, but I hadn’t seen her for over a year. Sharon was raised in Titusville and moved back to be with family and friends.

After lunch at an Irish Pub, Sharon took us to see her new house. It was not quite ready to move into, but we walked around the outside and looked through the windows.

Then she drove us to Merritt Island where she wanted to show us Black Point Wildlife Drive. When we first arrived, the gates were closed, so off we went to see some other parts of the island.

We stopped at the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center and discovered Black Point was not closed for the day, someone just forgot to open the gate so we drove back to Black Point.

While driving through Black Point, I Checked in with Pat’s cousin, Donna Faylo, who lives in the Orlando area and often goes to Merritt Island to photograph birds (see her website Wings of Nature FL). She knew exactly where we were driving.

After the drive, Pat and I had to say goodbye to Sharon and head on down to Boynton Beach. It was a fun stop in Titusville and we will be back.

Kansas City, MO (March 10-14, 2020)

The Moros, Annelise and Gloverson, whom we met through a book club in Singapore, moved from Singapore to Minneapolis, and then to Kansas City, MO. It was off to KC for a visit and to celebrate Gloverson’s birthday. We flew from Fort Lauderdale (FLL) to Kansas City (MSI) and were picked up at the airport by Annelise.

When Gloverson got home from work, we all got in the car and headed into town, with Boulevard Brewing as the destination to celebrate his birthday. Annelise stayed away from brews, since she was going to drive us home but the rest of us had no problem trying several small glass of their very good beers. We also shared an appetizer plate.

Unfortunately, this being a week night, the brewery closed early. When we left, the Moros wanted to show us the view of Kansas City, at night, from the National World War I Museum and Memorial, located on a hill overlooking the city. This is the only museum in the U.S., dedicated to WWI.

The next day, while Gloverson went to work, the rest of us went to The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Annelise had a docent training class for a couple of hours, so Pat and I wandered the museum ground and then went inside to view some of the exhibits. Annelise met us for lunch at the museum cafe.

After lunch Annelise wanted to show us a particular art installation that we missed. It was primarily outside the museum, although a small part extended inside. This was the “Walking Wall” by Andy Goldsworthy. Although Pat and I had walked by the wall, we didn’t know what it was. It was extraordinary.

Later, we enjoyed a peaceful evening on the deck and watched the sun set.

The next day, after spending quite a bit of time getting a new tire (found a nail), we went to the . The primary exhibition while we were visiting was “Summer Wheat: Blood, Sweat, and Tears“.

The next stop was at the Hallmark Card Headquarters, where we watched a very interesting movie on the history of Hallmark.

From Hallmark, we went to Union Station. For me, this was the highlight of the day. A beautiful building and model trains!

We finally met up with Gloverson and went to dinner with some of their friends at Chaz in the Plaza (located in the Raphael Hotel and enjoyed a great jazz combo with Lonnie McFadden. (The video below was provided by Gloverson.)

We were not done with fun things to do, so Friday, our last full day, we started by driving to a storage facility named SubTropolis – not a place most Kansas City tourist have on their list of places to visit. However, it fits with the way we like to travel. Thanks to Annelise for mentioning it and driving us there. It was a fascinating place to see and drive through.

Next we tried to find the site of the Imperial Brewing Company, which “… began brewing its signature lagers – Mayflower and Imperial Seal – in 1902.” [Atlas Obscura] Although we did find the building, we could not get close as it is fenced in.

While searching for the brewery, we noticed a sign with a full-sized airplane on it. It was The Roasterie. We decided to stop for a cup, and a sweet (for me). It was worth the stop. Annelise bought an empty bag that had contained coffee beans from Brazil.

The next place to visit was the Kaufman Center for the Performing Arts. Although there were no performances in progress, the building was open for tours. The architect for this building, Moshe Safdie, also designed the Marina Bay Sands Resort in Singapore and Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, AR.

Our flight back to Boynton Beach was mid-afternoon on Saturday, giving us time to ride in Gloverson’s Mustang convertible into the town of Liberty, MO. Once we got there, the top went down until it was time to leave. One of the sites pointed out was the Clay County Savings Association, know for having been the site of one of the first daylight robberies. Another highlight of our visit to Liberty, MO was the first geocache Gloverson ever helped find. Annelise’s first geocache was found just down the street from her house.

We had a great time on our early 2020 trips. Glad we got these trips in before Covid-19 struck and ended our family trip to Ireland with Michelle, Claire and David.