Today’s Flyover People column as seen in The Emporia Gazette:

Bonaventure Cemetery

Bonaventure Cemetery, Savannah, Georgia.


Waves splashed onto my shins. Two little girls and their father were standing in deeper water and those girls allowed each giggling wave to knock them down.

If I’d have known I was going to be at the ocean, I’d have packed a swimming suit. Or at least shorts and flip-flops. But being spontaneous doesn’t always include a well-packed suitcase.

I’m not sure I like the ocean itself – with its endlessness, the constant motion, the lack of land, but the beach – I love the beach. And it was exciting to walk in the ocean again, to feel the soft sand reshape itself underneath my feet, to feel each wave caress my legs.

Originally, the trip I had planned was that of driving to Arkansas to hang out with my Mom for Mother’s Day and for her birthday at her home near Hot Springs.

But during my first morning in Arkansas, Mom and I talked about things to do and places to go while I was there. Usually my trips to visit Mom are just extended weekends, four days, with two of those days spent driving between Kansas and Arkansas. On this trip I had more time, a whole week away from home.

While Mom and I ate our bacon and eggs at the Home Plate Cafe, I did some quick and somewhat inaccurate mileage calculations in my head.

“How about going to Savannah?” I suggested. Mom’s eyes lit up. I had known she wanted to see Savannah again; she hadn’t been back to the coast since she moved from Georgia to Arkansas in 1998.

“Really?” she asked. “No, that’s too long of a trip.”

Two hours later, Mom and I were eastbound on Arkansas Highway 5, headed for Little Rock and beyond. That afternoon we crossed the Mississippi River, cruised through Memphis and then through Mississippi. We spent the night somewhere in Alabama, a state I had never set foot in. Somehow I hadn’t expected Mississippi and Alabama to be pretty, but they were beautiful with green rolling hills and trees.

Georgia was a long state to cross, and there was Atlanta to get through, but Savannah was worth it – land of salty air, palm trees, and Southern live oak trees draped with Spanish moss. And fresh shrimp. Heaven.

Once in Savannah, Mom and I set off to see the ocean at nearby Tybee Island. We took off our shoes and rolled up the legs of our pants and walked in the ocean.

The trip was fun already – Mom and Cheryl’s Great Adventure – but standing in the ocean, feeling the sand shift beneath my feet and waves crash softly onto my ankles – that’s what erased the physical stress of three days in a bucket seat, dodging road construction and tractor-trailers in Little Rock and Memphis, Birmingham and Atlanta. The beach was the prize, an elixir for the weary traveler.

Mom- ocean

Mom had lived near Savannah for about 15 years or so, and during that time, we visited many of the area’s highlights together. Mom is a studier of maps and a top-notch tour guide. When she first moved to Georgia, she and my stepfather took me to the Okefenokee Swamp, one of the spookiest and most incredible places I’ve ever been. And it seemed like an especially dangerous place when the motor of the Jon boat conked out and an alligator set his eyes on us.

Spanish moss is a distinguishing feature of Savannah. It adds an aura of mystery to the town and to Bonaventure Cemetery. This moss-laden cemetery became famous after the publication of the book “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.” The book’s cover featured Bonaventure Cemetery’s “Bird Girl” statue which has since been placed in a museum.

While Savannah was never home for me, I had visited here often and many of the scenes and images are permanently imprinted in my memory, so it felt like a homecoming for me as well as for my mom.

The South is a different place from the Midwest, there’s no mistake about that. The air is softer, the people move at a slower pace, and waitresses are genuinely surprised when you order unsweetened tea. To a Kansan, Savannah is exotic and I miss is already. I should’ve brought home a souvenir – a palm tree maybe, or perhaps a trunk full of sand.

Copyright 2013 – Cheryl Unruh



  1. GREAT one again Cheryl!! We love to visit that area also!!! You Mom is beautiful– easy to see why you are beautiful inside & out!!! Thanks for sharing– we may have to head the RV that way again soon!!! 🙂

  2. Cheryl – your Mom looks great! Would love to visit her one of these days and what a wonderful trip! I’d love to be able to do that but my “stay-at-home” husband is hard to drag any place. I am so envious of you and your mother to just drop everything and go!!! What a fun trip!!!

  3. Hah! Another great travel article. As a kid, I was in the Okefenokee Swamp Park back in, what, 1970? Saw alligators too (still shaking). Would love to visit Savannah.

    Rather a long way from England though: must save harder.

  4. Your mom is a gem and I hardly know her. Last time I talked with her was at the Kansas Book Festival when you won the Notable Book Award. You mom travels too.

  5. You stared back at the alligator, rolled up your sleeves and made a dive like Crocodile Dundee, gave the thing such a beating that it swam all the way to the Everglades to hide from you, yes?

  6. Trips like that are so much fun! That was how I saw my first Great Lake – travelling through the night and seeing Lake Ontario at sunrise. Such adventures! How long did you stay in Savannah?

  7. I love Savannah. My sis and our girls went a few years ago and I’ve been back once since. The food, the history, and the landscape is wonderful. I became intrigued when I read, “Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil.”
    It’s one of the best places I’ve been. I want to go back!

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