During our travels, we’ve visited and toured some remarkable exhibits that have ached our hearts. Our Country’s history is not without sadness, shame and embarrassment. We were educated by visiting these places and exhibits in ways we’ve never thought possible. If any good comes out of visiting these places, its to create an understanding of the progress our Nation’s made over the years.
All worthwhile sites or places can’t be the happy Disney World or beautiful National Parks. But, we felt the need to share these because, even in America, we take the bad with the good.
When you travel, please make it a point to visit one of these sites that tells the story of how our Country and her people changed. Even if it’s not sunshine and roses, they need their stories to be told. And that’s why we are sharing this.
1. Andersonville’s Camp Sumpter Confederate Prison Site and National Prisoner of War Museum – Andersonville, Georgia
In our first year of RVing, we meandered our way up the Mid Atlantic states to visit places and see old shipmates and friends. One of our planned stops was Andersonville, Georgia.
The 514 acre Camp Sumter military prison site at Andersonville was one of the largest Confederate military prisons during the Civil War. During the 14 months the prison existed, more than 45,000 Union soldiers were confined here. Of these, almost 13,000 died from exposure, malnutrition, lack of sanitation, and disease. Declining economic conditions and inadequate transportation system and the Government and Army’s lack of resource organization were the result of a stench-filled, deplorable tragedy.
Today, Andersonville National Historic Site is a memorial to all American prisoners of war throughout the nation’s history. Also, at the Andersonville National Historic Site is the Andersonville National Cemetery.
Andersonville National Cemetery was established to provide a permanent place of honor for those who died in military service to our country. The initial interments, beginning in February 1864, were trench burials of the prisoners who died in the nearby military prison. In fourteen months, nearly 13,000 soldiers were buried here. Today the cemetery contains nearly 20,000 interments.
The National Prisoner of War Museum is coincidentally located on the same grounds as the Camp Sumpter Civil War Military Prison Grounds in Andersonville, Georgia. The museum opened in 1998. It tells the story of prisoners of war throughout American History. This facility doubles as the park’s visitor center and is the best place to begin a visit.
This National Museum is very well exhibited with two videos; “Voices of Anderson” that focus’s on the Camp Sumter Prison and “Echoes of Captivity” is an introduction to the experience of prisoners of war throughout American history. The exhibit displays artifacts of our military’s POW’s and MIA’s of every war and conflict.
We’ve felt nothing but empathy for our American Heroes who were captured, tortured and held against will by our Nation’s enemies.
2. Heli Repeller Firefighter Memorial – North Fork, Idaho
Visiting this place was like receiving a punch in the gut. Dan happened upon this site while he was on a motorcycle ride while we were parked near Salmon, Idaho in the summer of 2016.
Small memorials like this need to be visited because they tell the stories rarely heard of or read about except by their local communities.
In 2003, two young Heli Repeller Wildland Firefighters, Jeff Allen 24, and Shane Heath 22, perished while fighting a forest fire not far from where we were camped almost 10 years later to the day. Visiting this memorial gave us a much greater respect to those ‘yellow shirts’ who combat the fiery savage beasts in terrain only few of us will ever see or step foot in.
This Firefighter’s Memorial is just one of hundreds across our Country that have been put into place as reminders of what the destruction causes and those who have given their all to protect wildlife, forestry and nearby homes.
We encourage you to read about their fate and the beauty we witnessed in this tucked-away peaceful memorial. Better yet, if you’re in North Fork, Idaho, we hope you visit it and pay your respects. I promise, if you don’t leave this somber place in tears, you truly don’t know what the true meaning of sacrifice is.
To read more about the two Fallen Firefighters: The Forest Knows Their Names
3. Big Hole Battlefield – Nez Perce National Historic Park – Wisdom, Montana
We found this site by accident one day while we rode our dual sport motorcycles across the heavily forested Bitterroot Mountains and the Continental Divide between Idaho and Montana. Our purpose was just a ‘lunch ride’ however, it turned out to be something so much bigger.
When we got to the other side of the mountains in Montana, we passed Big Hole National Battlefield on our way to our planned lunch spot. Once we dismounted and were having lunch, we looked up Big Hole National Battlefield up on our phones. We decided we needed to visit this one.
We arrived at the small yet very pristine National Site and entered the visitor center. Though the grounds and building were beautiful, there was an unexplained painful aura that surrounded the place. And, we felt it.
As always, we always watch the video first. At the end of the film, we both sat there; almost frozen and numb at what we had just learned.
On August 9, 1877 gun shots shattered a chilly dawn on a sleeping camp of Nez Perce. By the time the smoke cleared on August 10, almost 90 Nez Perce were dead along with 31 soldiers and volunteers. Big Hole National Battlefield honors all who were there.
After our two hour visit, we were deeply moved to tears. Put this on your list of historical places to visit. What we learned here will change you forever.
4. Pentagon 9/11 National Memorial
Memorial Day weekend 2016, we situated ourselves near Washington DC to ride in Rolling Thunder to honor our Nation’s Fallen Military Heroes and POW’s and MIA’s.
The day of the ride, after parking amongst the hundreds of thousands of other motorcycles at the Pentagon, we walked over to see the Pentagon 9/11 Memorial.
This Memorial is a painful reminder of what evil can accomplish. As we walked through the grounds reading the names and understanding the design, we felt nothing but sadness and grief for the families, the military and our Nation.
5. Tatanka: The Story of the Bison
While we were exploring the Black Hills of South Dakota, we happened upon this small but emotional exhibit in the town of Deadwood. It’s called Tatanka: The Story of the Bison.
“I believe today that this place is bigger than the dream I had for it. What it means to anyone that comes here will be up to them. Tatanka was not designed as the white man’s version of the Native American. Rather it stands as a centerpiece for two cultures, one whose very lives depended on the buffalo and one who saw it as a means to an end. It recognizes and accepts that this is our mutual history. It can also represent the chance to move forward.” — Founder and Owner, Kevin Costner
I guarantee you that once you visit this place and learn about the fate of the tens of millions of majestic creatures that covered the prairies and plains, you’ll leave sad and angry at the same time.
This exhibit connected the dots of how the Federal Government rid our Native American Tribes through the mass extermination of the American Bison. We hope if or when you’re in the Deadwood, South Dakota area, that you make it a point to visit this worthy exhibit.
So, those are just a few of the places that we’ve visited and learned about the ‘dark side’ of America. We appreciate the privilege of our nomadic life to be able to experience all facets of our Country’s growth.