Our trip to Georgia, or where Floridians spend their summer vacations

Blogger at the summit of Black Rock Mountain

By John Ruberry

As you may have noticed I haven’t posted here for a couple of weeks. Mrs. Marathon Pundit were on vacation. And we traveled to, at least if you live in the Chicago area, to an unlikely place, Georgia. 

After MLB’s spineless commissioner, Rob Manfred, pulled the annual All-Star Game out of Atlanta over Georgia’s voting integrity bill, my wife and I decided to “buy-in” to Georgia. 

MLB moved the Midsummer Classic to Denver, the capital of Colorado, even though that state has more more restrictive voting laws than Georgia. The switch cost Atlanta-area businesses millions. Don’t forget Atlanta is a majority-black city–Denver is majority-white. Of the Georgia election bill, Joe Biden said, “This makes Jim Crow look like Jim Eagle.” 

If that comment makes sense to you, or if Manfred’s panicky substitution swap does, then you need to switch off CNN and MSNBC.

Georgia’s new election laws, by the way, are less restrictive than those in Biden’s home state of Delaware.

So on Independence Day Mrs. Marathon Pundit drove south to the Peach State to make up, in a very small way, for the tens-of-millions of dollars shipped off by Manfred to Colorado. There were some diversions. We spent the night of July 4th in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which is just north of the Georgia state line. We did some sighteeing there the next day, including time on Lookout Mountain, where a pivotal battle of the Civil War Siege of Chattanooga occurred in late 1863. But the lion’s share of that day was spent on the site of the Battle of Chickamauga a few miles south in Georgia. The two battles are often presented as one, or part of a campaign, which is why the these two locations comprise the Chickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park.

Of our Civil War battles only Gettysburg, fought two months earlier in Pennsylvania, had more casualties than Chickamauga. Unlike Gettysburg, Chickamauga was a Confederate victory. After being routed in Georgia the Union army retreated to Chattanooga. The northern commanding general, William Rosecrans, was relieved of his duties and replaced by Ulysses S. Grant. His breaking of the siege set the stage for the army led by his close friend, General William Tecumseh Sherman, to capture the strategic city of Atlanta the next year. Sherman’s March to the Sea, where Union forces split the Confederacy a second time, ended with the capture of Savannah late in 1864. 

We eventually made it to Savannah too. 

Mrs. Marathon Pundit was stupefied by the sprawling expanse of the Chickamauga Battlefield and the hundreds of monuments there. Her hometown of Sece, Latvia, was the site of a World War I battle. With the exception of a German military cemetery, there are no commemorations of that battle there. C’mon Sece, at least erect an historical marker in town about the battle.

We wandered for the next two days in the luscious Blue Ridge Mountains, mostly hiking, in these state parks: Fort Mountain, Black Rock Mountain, Smithgall Woods, Unicoi, and Tallulah Gorge. The latter is where much of the classic but disturbing film Deliverance was filmed. Around the time that movie was shot Karl Wallenda crossed the gorge on a high-wire. In fact, the Great Wallenda accomplished that feat 51 years ago today. Our first night in the mountains we spent in Helen, Georgia. Its buildings are in a Bavarian style and it’s filled with German restaurants. While it only has about 500 residents, Helen is Georgia’s third-most visited town. And I encountered mobs of Floridians there.  

People often wonder where Florida residents go on vacation–after all the Sunshine State is of course one of America’s most popular vacation destinations. In the summer many Floridians head to the slightly cooler climes of Georgia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. Yes, Tropical Storm Elsa, which passed through coastal Georgia after pummelling Florida during our trip, might have chased some people up north, but not all of them. 

I almost forgot–we hiked the Applachian Trail too.

After a couple of days in South Carolina–at Abbeville, Beaufort, and Hunting Island State Park, with a quick return to Georgia for a walking tour of Augusta and lunch with a high school friend in nearby Evans, we spent our last two days in Georgia in historic Savannah, an even better walking city than Augusta. Our own March to the Sea was over. Then it was time to drive home. 

On our way back, the day of the Home Run Derby of the MLB All-Star Game, we planned to visit Stone Mountain Park, site of “the Mount Rushmore of the South,” the largest bas-relief in the world, which is comprised of carvings of Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, and Stonewall Jackson. But the weather that day was horrible–heavy rain–so we kept driving, straight through, back to Illinois. Stacey Abrams, the defeated Democratic candidate for Georgia governor in 2018, favors removal of the mountain carvings.

Stone Mountain Park is the most-visited attraction in the Peach State.

Abrams gave tacit support to a boycott of Georgia because of the voting reform bills, but she stealthily edited her USA Today op-ed call for one, but her disingenous act was later exposed. 

Abrams all but said to stay away from Georgia. 

So we visited. And and Mrs. Marathon Pundit and I had a wonderful time.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Chicago aldermen making a wrong turn on proposal to rename Lake Shore Drive

Lake Shore Drive is between the skyscrapers and the lake

By John Ruberry

“And it starts up north from Hollywood, water on the driving side
Concrete mountains rearing up, throwing shadows just about five
Sometimes you can smell the green if your mind is feeling fine
There ain’t no finer place to be, than running Lake Shore Drive
And there’s no peace of mind, or place you see, than riding on Lake Shore Drive.”
Aliotta-Haynes-Jeremiah, “Lake Shore Drive.”

As I’ve stated many times before Chicago is a city in decline. Decades of rampant corruption and fiscal malfeasance, particularly with woefully unfunded public worker pension plans in regards to the latter, have placed Chicago in a bankrupty-in-name only status. The bleak future is now. Chicago can’t keep kicking the can down the road, whether that road is Michigan Avenue or Lake Shore Drive. 

Chicago’s woke mayor, Lori Lightfoot, who is halfway into her first term, has made Chicago’s situation worse with her overreaching lockdown response to COVID-19 and her feeble response to two rounds of summer rioting in 2020. The city’s murder rate is high. The quality of education provided by Chicago Public Schools is low and has gotten worse because the Chicago Teachers Union keeps pushing more convenient, for the teachers of course, remote learning lessons.

Politicians, particularly liberals, are adept at adopting symbols, as author Tom Clancy pointed out to Bill O’Reilly in an interview shortly after the 9/11 attacks. “The general difference between conservatives and liberals is that liberals like pretty pictures and conservatives like to build bridges that people can drive across,” Clancy said to O’Reilly. “And conservatives are indeed conservative because if the bridge falls down then people die, whereas the liberals figure, we can always build a nice memorial and make people forget it ever happened and was our fault. They’re very good at making people forget it was their fault.”

Okay, no bridges have collapsed in decline-and-fall Chicago. But some City Council members are lining up behind a proposal to rename Lake Shore Drive for Chicago’s first non-indigenous resident, Jean Baptiste Point du Sable. He opened a trading post at the mouth of the Chicago River at Lake Michigan around 1790.

About the Chicago City Council: Since 1973 over thirty-five of its members have been sentenced to federal prison.

Little is known about DuSable although it’s believed he was born in Haiti around 1750. In 1800 he sold his home and the land around it; the property ended up in the hands of John Kinzie, the first recorded European-American to live in what is now America’s third-largest city. One of Chicago’s first streets was named for him, but DuSable was forgotten, wrongly in my opinion, for many years. But his legacy caught up and surpassed Kinzie’s. There is the DuSable Museum of African American History on the city’s South Side, DuSable High School, a DuSable Park near the site of his former home, and a bust of DuSable on Michigan Avenue, even though because there are no known contemporary renderings of DuSable–no one knows what he looked like. Oh yeah, we were talking about bridges. The Michigan Avenue Bridge downtown was renamed for DuSable in 2010.

There are some urban streets that are iconic. Santa Monica Boulevard in Los Angeles, Fifth Avenue in New York, and Bourbon Street in New Orleans. And Lake Shore Drive in Chicago. 

Lake Shore Drive–it has had that name since 1946–is a fantastic driving road. Fifth Avenue, for instance, is a better walking street. Chicago’s early leaders, post-Kinzie, made the wise decision to keep the Lake Michigan waterfront open, and most of it is park land–with Lake Shore Drive. When I have out-of-town guests I always make a point of taking them on a trip up and down Lake Shore Drive. The response I usually receive is from them, “I had no idea Chicago was so beautiful!”

Of course if the road is renamed for DuSable, the views will be just as pretty and Lake Michigan will be equally blue. But Lake Shore Drive is in essence a brand name. An iconic one. Why mess with that?

The Chicago Tribune editorial board has suggested a sound alternative–renaming Millennium Park, which abuts Lake Shore Drive, for DuSable and merging it with DuSable Park. Mayor Lightfoot has a good idea too, renaming the Chicago Riverwalk, which arguably has no name, for DuSable. But Lightfoot has gained, many say earned, a lot of enemies in her short time as mayor. They oppose the Lightfoot’s proposal because of their dislike for her. Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass, the only reason in my opinion to subscribe to that paper, offers a superb knockdown of the Lake Shore Drive renaming proposal, which brings up many of the same points I have mentioned. Also, Kass, as I have done, has excoriated Lightfoot’s woke Chicago Monuments Project, which has placed, among other items, five Abraham Lincoln statues “under review.” Yep, right here in the Land of Lincoln.

Destroying symbols is important to liberals too.

Those against the renaming Lake Shore Drive find themselves in a trap. In this cancel culture environment opponents of DuSable Drive will be called racist by the virtue signalers–even though they are not. Sears Tower, when it opened four decades ago, was the tallest building in the world. The naming rights of it were purchased by a British firm and it’s official name is now the Willis Tower

No one I know–and I have a large circle of relatives, friends, and acquaintances–calls this iconic structure anything but the Sears Tower. No one. A DuSable Drive faces the same fate. Except nobody has ever called a Willis Tower-denier a racist. 

I’m with the Tribune and Lightfoot on this controversy. Rename Millennium Park, which has only been open since 2004–because of delays and cost overruns it opened well after the millennium began–for DuSable. And rename the Riverwalk too for DuSable. It’s another relatively new city attraction, it opened in stages beginning in 2001.

And I have my own idea. The former Meigs Field, a small lakefront airport abruptly closed by the midwife of Chicago’s pension crisis, Richard M. Daley, is now known as Northerly Island Park. I suspect that Daley wanted that space named for him. If Millenium Park keeps its moniker–then rename Northerly Island Park for DuSable. Call it DuSable South–a twin of the other park.

Don’t mess with success Chicago. But the city, like the state of Illinois, has a habit of making bad decisions. Call it tradition.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

My wife and daughter escaped the Illinois lockdown and traveled to Wisconsin

By John Ruberry

As I wrote a couple of posts back the unemployment rate is 67 percent in the Marathon Pundit home here in suburban Chicago. Because of the COVID-19 epidemic, they were furloughed from their jobs.

Obviously in possession of free time Mrs. Marathon Pundit and Little Marathon Pundit decided to travel on this holiday weekend–they headed to Wisconsin. I stayed here to work.

Illinois, run by a Democrat from Chicago, J.B. Pritzker, remains under lockdown. You cannot enter supermarkets or any store with out a mask. Up in Wisconsin, its state Supreme Court struck down its shelter-in-place order made by its Democratic governor, Tony Evers. And its mask requirements.

Wisconsin is a free state. Illinois is a lockdown state. It’s that simple. My wife and daughter’s money is being spent not her3 but north of the Cheese Curtain. In a way they remind me of Poles in the last years of the Cold War visiting West Germany.

Illinois, according to WalletHub, has the most restrictive COVID-19 restrictions in the nation.

I just got off the phone with Mrs. MP. She enthusiastically told me about her first dine-in restaurant experience in two months. The restaurants in Illinois that are open are open for take-out only. On Friday outdoor dining will be allowed in the Prairie State. What if it rains? What if these diners aren’t equipped for al fresco serving? What if they don’t have the necessary permits? What if the restaurant owners can’t apply for an outdoor dining permit because their village hall is closed because of the coronavirus lockdown? Thanks for next-to-nothing, Pritzker.

Then my wife told me about their arrival yesterday in the small town of Mineral Point in the southwestern part America’s Dairyland. There was–wait for it–a parade! One for recent high school graduates. While the graduation ceremony was cancelled, grads in Mineral Point received their moment of glory on the streets. As far as I can gather all parades scheduled in Illinois in spring or early summer were cancelled. “A few people wore masks,” she told me of the people participating or viewing the parade, “but most didn’t.” Some stores are open–mostly the locally-owned ones as opposed to the big chains. “When you go in those places, you don’t have to wear masks,” she enthused.

My wife and daughter went inside, yes inside, a coffee shop, and drank coffee, although a sign outside of that establishment said, “Masks are recommended.” But masks weren’t even recommended when they entered an ice cream parlor.

Many other Illinoisans have escaped to Wisconsin too. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel spoke to one refugee from the Pritzker Lockdown who journeyed to Lake Geneva. “‘All for it,” said Dave Gragnani of McHenry, Illinois, who said he planned to visit a coffee shop and skatepark without any mask or hand sanitizer. “People should have a choice. I’m having a wonderful time.'”

Good for you, Dave!

As the saying goes, “You don’t know what you have until it’s gone.”

Not as much as Wisconsin, but Indiana is opening up too. And of course the welcome mat is open there for Illinoisans fed up with the lockdown. I’m sure Iowa, where my family traveled last month, as well as Missouri and Kentucky, the other states that border Illinois, are enjoying an influx of cash-flush Illinoisans.

Yes, I’m aware that nearly 100,000 people have died of the coronavirus in the United States, although nearly every one of them already had serious health problems. Nursing homes, hospitals, and senior centers need extra protection. 

It’s time to open up the rest of America. And the world. 

Dennis Prager earlier this month wrote that the worldwide COVD-19 lockdown might be biggest mistake in history

John Ruberry regularly writes at Marathon Pundit.