Since our bear quest ended in the Smoky Mountains, we've been working our way south to warmer climes. First came Lake Oconee in central Georgia and then a campground just outside Charleston, South Carolina. Now we're working our way down the coast, so we've crossed the border back into Georgia again to hang out 40 minutes south of Savannah. We're staying on Savage Island in Fort McAllister State Historic Park. We toured the fort, which was a confederate stronghold during the Civil War until it fell to Union general William T. Sherman and his army, but the park also contains 1,725 acres of salt marsh, the Ogeechee River and a forest full of beautiful giant live oaks covered in Spanish moss.
Our campground in Savage Island is connected to the mainland by a long causeway across the salt march. This area lost a lot of trees and suffered extensive damage during Hurricane Matthew. In fact, the park only opened a week ago, after a month of clean up with the help of a teams of volunteers, and there are still fallen trees and mounds of tree debris everywhere you drive around here. When we tried to visit Hunting Island State Park in South Carolina earlier this week on the recommendation of friends, it was still shut because of hurricane damage and the campground there is not expected to reopen until next May. Instead, we visited Coligny Beach Park that day on Hilton Head, South Carolina, where the picture of both of us on the beach at sunset was taken and where we saw a pod of dolphins close to the shore.
Although our campground has definitely lost a lot of trees and undergrowth, our spot on the island is still amazingly beautiful. This and our federal campground in the Smoky Mountains have been so much nicer than any of the private camp sites we've stayed in so far. There have been forest fires burning for a couple of weeks in the northern part of Georgia, but we have been completely unaffected in the south. There are hardly any other campers around, we are surrounded by mature trees draped in Spanish moss and all we can hear are the sounds of woodpeckers above.
Sonny loves it here as it is a super quiet place for him to explore outside and watch squirrels–a first for him– scampering about everywhere. A short walk away is Redbird Creek, where you can go sea kayaking (as long as you don't mind the alligators), begin a number of hiking trails and take in panoramic views of the salt marshes, which are also home to four different species of egrets and six different species of herons, pelicans and cranes, among hundreds of other birds. This was also where we saw the super moon, but let's come clean here, our photos were crap, so we won't post any of those.
We'll write about our stops in Charleston and Savannah in another post soon, but in the meantime, if you'd like to see more photos from our trip, we're posting some every few days to our @nycnomads Instagram account. Hope to see you over there too!
As it turns out, cooking in our Keystone Bullet trailer kitchen is not all that difficult and many of the same limitations and tricks that we learned in small New York apartments apply. Full Disclosure: Shane lived in a studio in Chelsea in Manhattan that had a smaller kitchen, and unlike our camper, no oven and no freezer for six years. So when we have successes, we'll post some meals that work in the camper.
This one is not really a recipe – we just made instant pancakes and added chopped fruit to the batter. Seems like a good way to use whatever fresh items we impulse buy from the produce stands on the sides of the roads of America. In this case, we bought a sack of local apples from Waynseboro, North Carolina (this type are supposedly Arkansas Blacks) and were running out of ways to eat them.
The conventional wisdom regarding when to flip a pancake is when complete bubbles begin to burst on the surface, but with our mix loaded with apples there were bubbles immediately. Again, the first pancake should be sacrificed to science. If you can get the spatula under it, then even if it’s not cooked enough you can always flip it back to that side at the end. With practice (or by the third or fourth cake in each batch) you will figure out the timing to get that golden brown that is the platonic ideal.
Slather with butter to taste and add 100% pure maple syrup and enjoy!
We took a side trip from Knoxville to visit Oak Ridge, TN and the American Museum of Science and Energy. Oak Ridge is known as the ‘Atomic City’ or the ‘Secret City’ because it was founded as a site for work on the Manhattan project. Much of the uranium researching the ‘upstream’ work that was ultimately used to create ‘Fat Man’ and ‘Little Boy’ at Los Alamos was done at Oak Ridge. The site is now home to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL), the largest ($1.6B) Department of Energy laboratory, and also hosts US ITER, the hub of the US’s seat in ITER, the international collaboration on fusion power research and development.
Note: ITER is one of the most important things that our species is doing at this time, see their website http://www.iter.org/. It is also an inspiration in that at least someone in our world is interested in working across national boundaries and toward common or at least shared interest. Politically speaking, this may be because scientists are awesome.
The museum itself was very interesting and surprisingly (admittedly my bases for comparison are the AMNH and Liberty Science Center) almost empty on a weekday afternoon. Items of interest included actual relics from the first fission reactors, once-secret photos, interviews, film of the Manhattan Project sites, and displays and learning activities related to the current work being done at ORNL.
The AMSE's exhibits were inspirational but also sobering, balancing a portrayal of the heroic sacrifices made by the scientists and their families with unflinching descriptions of the human cost of the horrific result and the serious risks of nuclear proliferation.
One theme that kept resurfacing in the historical exhibits was the degree of public/private partnership in the project. It was an all-hands-on-deck proposition where failure (losing the atomic race to Nazi Germany) was not an option. I guess that it is for this reason that politicians and private sector visionaries still characterize important R&D programs as ‘the Manhattan project for Cancer’ or ‘the Manhattan Project for Anti-Virus’ when they want to convey the idea that an all-out effort beyond the normal limits of bureaucracy and economics is required. The examples of US corporations, private citizens, and the military really putting their time and their money on the table in the 1940s made me think of other revolutions that happened in the same way - Alan Turing’s work popularized in the film 'The Imitation Game', for example, which led to the Universal Turing Machine and the modern computer.
To my mind, these examples pose an interesting lesson regarding pure science. If we were to assign a dollar value to the invention of nuclear technology or the computer, what would it be? How can we estimate the value to gross cumulative human productivity of having developed those technologies, say, conservatively, 5 to 10 years earlier than they otherwise would have been?
There are current technologies (genetic, energy, computing, AI, and many less obvious ones) with even greater potential return on investment for the species, which we don't invest in in quite the same way, financially or culturally, perhaps because of our short sightedness. One imagines that if aliens were to attack us with a genetic weapon, we would learn to understand and rewrite our genome more rapidly than we are, just because the stakes would be clearer. If the Chinese developed a bio weapon capable of consuming or contaminating oil reserves, articles and books exist on the potential of these technologies and the urgency with which we should be pursuing them.
The point made clear for me by the Manhattan Project exhibit was this: it is easy culturally and politically for humans to spend money on the needs of today, either through state or philanthropic projects and programs or free market allocation of resources and innovation. It is more difficult to focus on pure science efforts that will bear in some cases infinitely more valuable fruit tomorrow and it is a shame if it takes fear of annihilation by Hitler to get us to act more wisely.
Another takeaway from the museum was the contribution of Enrico Fermi to the atomic program and also ultimately to the development of nuclear power, which provides about 8.5% of US energy and 5% worldwide. Names like Oppenheimer and Einstein are part of the public lexicon, but Fermi’s immigration to the US (his wife was Jewish and they fled Mussolini’s Italy) was perhaps tactically more critical. Fermilab in Chicago and fermions (half of the types of matter in the universe) are named after him, but he should probably be the most famous Italian whose name isn’t a Ninja Turtle or Caesar. Someone please make a movie about him so that he can become hip like Turing and Tesla.
Kathryn Tully and Shane Sesta are a married couple, one American and one Brit, who are spending a year traveling across America and writing about their discoveries. Sonny is their rescue cat and fried chicken aficionado.