Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Schoolhouse Gap Trail

Sunshine and sparkling silver streams were the highlights of our hike today.  We took Schoolhouse Gap trail to connect to the other end of Chestnut Top trail.

Enjoying lunch
We had on hats, gloves, and coats to start our hike on a cold morning.  The temperature was about 38 and since we started in the shade of rhododendron along the creek, it was a chilly start.  After the first mile, however, we were up in the leafless hardwoods and the sun was doing its magic.  We shed those coats and the day continued to warm to a balmy 70 something.

We began our hike on Schoolhouse Gap trail and ascended gently up what used to be called Anderson Road.  Dr. Anderson, in the mid-1800s, felt there was a need for a road from Townsend over the mountain to connect with settlements in North Carolina.  Logging companies were bringing more and more families into what eventually became the park.  Dr. Anderson felt these folks should have easier access to goods and services in the larger communities in Tennessee and North Carolina.  Dr. Anderson drummed up support for the portion of the road in Tennessee, but the folks in North Carolina let the ball drop and the road was never completed.  Schoolhouse Gap trail follows a short portion of this old road.

Spence Branch

At the lower end of the trail we followed along next to Spence Branch, a babbling mountain stream that sparkled in the morning sun.  After about a half mile, we left the stream behind and continue to climb along the old road.  We finally got to the junction with Chestnut Top trail after 2 miles.  This is the same Chestnut Top trail we hiked yesterday.  We had stopped at the top of Chestnut Top which was one and a half miles from the end of the trail.  Today, we wanted to hike that one and a half miles and ascend Chestnut Top form the opposite direction.  After 45 minutes of a gentle climb, we stopped for lunch under the same tree where we dined yesterday.

Schoolhouse Gap trail is fairly popular because it is a short trail along a gentle grade.  We saw several folks out for a walk in the park as we made our way back to the truck.  There were no wildflowers along this trail.  The guidebook says to look for flowers in late summer.  There certainly wasn’t anything blooming today.

It was another great hike and it worked all the soreness from yesterday out of our muscles.

Tomorrow we have chores to do so there won’t be any hiking.  That’s it for today.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Chestnut Top Trail

After a rainy day yesterday, the clouds finally cleared out overnight.  The sun came up bright this morning.  Even though it was still a little chilly, we headed to the trail about 9 AM.  This trail starts out with a steep uphill climb so we warmed up right away.

We chose Chestnut Top trail for our first hike.  It is a short drive from our campsite and is one of the best in the park for spring wildflowers.

Nice display of hepatica

Trailhead parking is in the large parking lot at the Townsend Y.  During the summer months, this parking lot is almost impossible to get into because this is a very popular place for tubing on the Little River.  There is also a large grassy area which is a perfect place to spread a blanket for a little sunbathing or a picnic.  It’s perfect, if you don’t mind the crowds.

Today, however, with the temperature in the 40s, there was only 1 car in the parking lot when we arrived.  We walked across the street to the trail and immediately started our ascent.  We were rewarded during the first half mile of our hike with the first of the spring wildflowers.  We saw lots of trillium not yet ready to bloom, star chickweed, hepatica, and blood root.  There were several others we didn’t recognize.

After that first half mile we had gained enough elevation that there were no more flowers.  That was probably for the best because we had already spent a great deal of time stopping to make pictures.

Trail break
Chestnut Top trail is a little over 4 miles in length.  We didn’t think we were quite up to 8+ mountain miles today, so we stopped at the top of Chestnut Top.  We had our lunch break there, then returned to the truck the way we came for a total of 5.6 miles.  At least, it was all down hill on the way back.

We didn’t see any wildlife, not even a squirrel.  We did see a fresh pile of bear scat on our return trip that hadn’t been there on our way up.  I like to see bears, but I prefer to see them from the safety of the truck.

This blowdown took part of the trail with it.
We had heard that there have been a lot of blow-downs from the many winter storms this year.  Gene took his small saw and we planned to do what maintenance we could.  A trail maintainer, probably a park service employee, had been there before us.  The trail was in good condition.  We cleaned out a few water bars and moved a few small limbs off the trail, but that was all there was to do.  There was one blow-down that had taken out part of the trail.  That will require more work than what we would have been able to do.

We had a beautiful day and a very pleasant walk in the park.

Yesterday, we discovered water leaking out of our basement storage.  We’re not sure how it got there; we’ll investigate that later.  The goal for today was to get the puddle mopped up and dry out anything that was wet.  Gene took care of that mess as soon as we got home from our hike.

Not much was wet, but what was dried out quickly in the sun

Tomorrow, I think we will do the other end of Chestnut Top trail.  That is, if we can get out of bed in the morning.  For the remainder of today, I’ll assume the reclined position in my chair.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Honey, We're Home

We arrived at Misty River Cabins and RV Park about mid afternoon.  We have spent several months at this campground and it has the feel of coming home.

A few years ago, Gene was asked by his boss to work out of the Knoxville office for a few months.  This is the campground we made our home during the 9 months he worked in Knoxville.  Since that time, we have stayed at Misty River for shorter visits on several occasions.

The first time we were here, the campground was brand new, having been open for only about 6 months.  As a new campground, it was more like a parking lot because the grass hadn’t taken hold, there were no trees, and the gravel on the interior roads and sites was freshly spread.  There are some big advantages of a new campground.  Every thing is new--the water spigots, electrical posts, swimming pool, washers and dryers.

Now, after about 3 years, the grass is taking hold, there are small trees on almost every site, and business is growing.

Misty River is located in the tiny community of Walland about halfway between Maryville and Townsend.  It is 10 miles to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park entrance at the Townsend Y and about 10 miles to the town of Maryville; a town with a couple large supermarkets, a mall, a community collage, and a hospital.

This is a very convenient location to access the trails in the park, as well as the popular Cade’s Cove area.  Convenient, that is, if the roads are not closed.  Several roads in the park are closed due to rock slides or for repaving.

So, we’re all settled in for a month and looking forward to getting out on the trail tomorrow.

Our drive today was uneventful.  I-40, after you get out of the downtown Nashville area, is in good condition with new pavement in several areas.  There were 2 short construction zones that caused very little delay.

It was interesting to see the progression of spring as we came east.  Nashville, which is located in the central basin, is almost in full bloom with flowering trees and shrubs nearly at their peak, buttercups are blooming in every yard, and the bright new green of spring is really showing its color.  As we drove up on the Highland Rim and later up onto the Cumberland Plateau as we made our way east, the green vanished and we saw only the brown and gray of winter.  Coming off the plateau before we reached Maryville, we once again saw the bright colors of spring.  Although we can’t see if from here, there is still snow at the high elevations in the mountains.  I’m anxious to see the wildflowers along the trail.

That’s all for today.  Tomorrow we’ll pull on our boots and packs for a walk in the woods.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Summer Plans in the Making

This day sorta marks our official end of winter.  Clearly, the calendar says we are in the spring season and the temperatures have warmed up enough to lead us to believe mother nature thinks winter is over.  For us, the season changes when we leave our winter destinations and move to what we think of as our summer travels.

Tomorrow we embark on the first leg of our summer travels for 2010.  This will be a hiking year with not so much sightseeing.  There will be places, of course, where we stop for a historical site or a museum, but the focus will be hiking.  So, it is on to the trail.

Our first stop will be Townsend, TN where we’ll be for a month, to hike in Smoky Mountain National Park.  Townsend is a convenient location for several trails that lead up the mountain to connect with the Appalachian Trail.  Being AT hikers and the recipients of several instances of “trail magic”, we want to be “trail angels” for a change and make a little “magic” for other hikers.  More about trail angels and trail magic in another post.

Our next stop will be in northern Virginia south of Shenandoah National Park.  Our last section hike on the AT ended there.  Even though I have hiked the northern 20 miles of the Trail on the Blue Ridge Parkway and most of the trail through Shenandoah, Gene hasn’t, so we’ll start where we left off.  We hope to hike the 300 miles to the Pennsylvania border.  Our idea is to day hike with a self shuttle this time--something we’ve never done.  Basically, that means Gene will drop me at the southern end of the day’s section where I will start hiking north. He will drive north to our end point for the day where he’ll leave the truck and hike south.  We should meet somewhere near the mid point.  According to a link I found on the Appalachian Trail web site which lists all the parking areas along the trail, there is a place to park the truck about every 12-15 miles in this section of Virginia.   That’s a nice day-hike length.  We’re allowing ourselves 2 months to hike the 300 miles.  Of course, we’ll have to have days off for chores and we’ll need to move the trailer north as the drive becomes too lengthy.  Still, I think 2 months is an adequate amount of time.

The first of July will still find us somewhere around the northern end of Shenandoah.  We want to do a little sightseeing in the DC area and we want to spend a few days with our friends, Tony and Diana.   We are looking forward to seeing them--swapping tall tales and planning future adventures.

By the middle of July we will need to be heading north for what has become known as the “Maine Event”.  Several RVing couples are getting together on the Maine coast for fun, fellowship, lobster and chowder.  There will definitely be some tall tales told at that gathering.

By August 9th we will be in Gorham, New Hampshire, a small Appalachian Trail town on the Maine border.  You’ve heard me talk about our hiking buddy, Herb.  Herb has section hiked the AT over the past several years.  He has now (he probably thinks, finally) come to his last section.  He will hike from Crawford Notch in New Hampshire to the Trail’s northern terminus atop Mt Katahdin in Maine.  Herb has been a good friend for several years and has been a tremendous support in our hiking endeavors.  We want to help him out with his last section of the AT.  We’ll move the trailer north as Herb hikes his 300+ miles to the finish being there to shuttle him into town, hold extra gear, and provide an endless supply of chocolate chip cookies.

This will be a summer of hiking.  We haven’t hiked much in the past couple years and we are really looking forward to getting back on the trail again.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Chores Galore

There is only one thing to say--my home is clean.

This has been a chore day.  I’ve been putting off (for various reasons) several monthly chores.  I got started early this morning and worked through the day and marked everything off the “to do” list with the exception of defrosting the freezer.  Funny how I can keep putting that chore off.

In between dusting a mopping, I pulled out my Smokies map.  I’m anxious to get out on the trail again.  We haven’t had any chance for hiking during March and I can really tell the difference.

Tomorrow is going to be another big family day.  I’m gonna do a little shopping with my mother in the morning then Gene, my dad, and aunt and uncle will meet us for lunch.  We have another babysitting gig tomorrow night.

I think that is all I have to say for today.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Shopping for Free

Wow, what a day.

I was up at the usual time, but I didn’t sit around in my recliner sipping coffee for very long.  We had a busy day planned, but before that got started I wanted to bake a loaf of banana bread for our neighbor.  When we pulled in here yesterday, the couple in the rig next door came over with about 5 lbs of frozen Tyson chicken wings.  I’m not real clear on how they came about these wings, but it had to do with parking next to a Tyson delivery truck at one of the local groceries.  Apparently, the driver was handing out packages of wings; our neighbors got about 15 lbs and gave us 5 lbs.  These neighbors are really strangers to us, although we were parked next to them last Thursday at Chattanooga South KOA.  Anyway, we remembered each other and they came over with the chicken.  It was frozen and has a sell date of April 3. I think it is fine.  What I was getting at is I wanted to bake them a loaf of banana bread for their travel day today.

After we got the bread delivered, we headed into town.  Our first stop was Starbucks.  We hadn’t been to Starbucks in a while and had a gift card burning a hole in our pocket.  We each had coffee and we shared a blueberry scone.  The coffee was good and the scone was excellent and the whole thing was free, thanks to Ben and Amber who gave us the gift card.

We walked across the parking lot to one of my favorite stores--REI.  REI is a co-op and we have been members for years.  Members get a small dividend on each purchase we make.  Since we have accumulated some of almost all the hiking gear on the market, we don’t spend much at REI any more.  However, our credit card is REI and, like cards offering air miles, we get a small dividend on each credit charge we make.  We use this card almost exclusively for gas, food, and campgrounds so our dividend at the end of each year is substantial.  Today we came out of the store with underwear and liner socks for Gene, a pair of zip-off hiking pants, a small shoulder bag, and new balance tennis shoes for me--all for free.  This is my kind of shopping.

While in REI, we had a lengthy conversation with one of the employees who is also in our hiking club.  It was good to see Sue.  Our good hiking buddy, Herb, picked us up and whisked us away to lunch.  He bought lunch.  That was a nice treat.  Thanks, Herb.

After he dropped us off back at our truck, we went over to my folks for the rest of the afternoon.  Of course, we stayed for dinner.  With the smells of roast in the crock pot and the sight of banana pudding on the counter, who could resist?

What a great day.  However, after more than 12 hours, we were glad to get home.  Peanut was glad to see us, too.  He had been wondering who was going to feed him.

Tomorrow, I’ll be sitting in my recliner sipping my coffee.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Service Completed

Well, we are once again at Nashville Country RV Campground in Goodlettsville.  Our service appointment went well and they were finished in one day.

We are both really tired today.  I guess all the hitching and moving (4 times in 3 days) has taken it’s toll on these old bodies.  After we got back and settled into Nashville Country this afternoon, we did a major grocery run.  That is always a chore and was the straw that about broke my back today.

We have another busy day planned for tomorrow.  In the morning we are going to REI, one of my all time personal favorite stores.  Sometime about noon, our good friend and hiking buddy, Herb, will meet us there and then we’ll find some lunch.  Although we have contact with Herb via e-mail and the telephone, there is nothing as good as sitting down to eat together.  We’re looking forward to that.

After our lunch with Herb, we’re heading over to my parents’ house for the remainder of the afternoon.  I’m quite confident we won’t leave before dinner.  We haven’t seen them since Christmas, so naturally, we’re looking forward to seeing them.

That pretty much catches up the past couple days.  Time for me to get busy with dinner preparations.

Monday, March 22, 2010

A Short Move to Cornersville

Well, we are all set to get into Columbia in the morning for our service appointment.  This morning we moved from Goodlettsville south on I-65 about 75 miles.  The closest village is Cornersville, which can hardly be called a village at all.

The campground, Texas T, is good for a one-night stand.  There are about 40 sites, all pull-thrus.  The interior roads and parking pads are gravel and level.  The sites are spacious and some have a tree and most have a small row of hedge.  It is located just off I-65 so there is some traffic noise, but not too bad as there aren’t so many folks out on the road.  It is too far from a large city for there to be much traffic.

So many rigs have pulled in since we got here that the place is almost full.  We were about the only one when we got here except for the few long-term stays.  I can see where this would be one of those campgrounds used by snowbirds traveling north or south.  It is easily accessible from the interstate and the sites are long enough not to have to unhitch.  Perfect for one night.  It would actually be a nice campground for a longer stay, but it is too remote.  Columbia is the nearest town of any size and even it has precious little to offer the traveler.

It works for us because we can drive up to Columbia easily in the morning and not have to worry about getting into the Nashville rush hour traffic.

My cousin, Steve, and his family live near Columbia.  We invited them to have dinner with us tonight.  It was fun to have them all to ourselves.  We usually only get to see them at Thanksgiving. There are so many people we hardly have a chance to visit.  We enjoyed a quiet spaghetti dinner and got caught up with what is happening in each of our families.  In other words, we got all the latest family gossip.

Tomorrow is our service appointment and then we will be back here tomorrow night.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Trip Planning Shouldn't Be This Hard

I would love to say that we spent the morning with maps, computers, and calendars in hand and got our month in the Smokies all planned out.  I thought that was the way this is supposed to work.

We were sitting with maps, computers, and calendars and discussing the long drive on crooked roads around the North Carolina side of the mountain.  Gene mentioned the number of trails I need to hike which we could access from the Tennessee side.  He also mentioned the 30 inches of snow at high elevation.  I decided to look at the park website to check on road conditions.  Several roads are closed in the winter routinely and I wanted to know when those roads would reopen.  Much to my dismay, I discovered that two roads and a campground are closed for construction and will not reopen before we are long gone.  I had several trails from the Smokemont Campground and the campground in closed.  We already knew that Cades Cove Loop Road was closed for repair.  We were really surprised to learn that Clingman’s Dome Road is closed for repair.

I started checking other road closures and discovered that the Little River Road between Metcalf Bottoms and Townsend Y, Foothills Parkway East, and a portion of US 129 (the Dragon) are all closed due to rock slides.  Holy cow.  We were wondering if we could get into the park at all.

After much deliberation, we decided to go to Townsend and hike what trails we can from Little River Road from the Y to Cades Cove.  There are several trails over there that go up to the AT (where the snow is) and give us a good climb.  We can also easily access Metcalf Bottoms and get around the slide area heading toward Sugerlands and the main road over the mountain.  It is a bit of a drive, but you do what you have to do.

We decided not to rent a campsite for a month giving ourselves the option of moving to Pigeon Forge if we decide the drive is just too much.  We decided to stay at Misty River Campground.  We’ve stayed there several times in the past and like the campground.  It is a little pricey, but Gene was able to work a deal with the owner for a 2-week stay and everybody is happy.

It will all work out.  Our primary purpose for this month in the Smokies is to get in some mountain hiking to prepare us for the AT in Virginia.  We can’t loose focus of the goal here.

We spent about 3 hours playing with Kayley and visiting with Jack and Ansley this afternoon.  There is no better way to spend a rainy day.

Time to get started with dinner so I’ll leave it there for today.

Doing the Grandparent Thing

Like everybody else on the road for extended periods of time, we were eager to see family.  Yesterday, we got to spend much of the day babysitting our granddaughter, Kayley.  She has changed so much since we last saw her in December.  There is really not much more that can be said about our day--just that it was wonderful.

This morning will be a time for more detailed plans for our stay in Nashville as well as the next leg of our 2010 journey.  As many of you know, I have had a goal to hike all the trails in Smoky Mountain National Park and have worked on accomplishing that goal for several years.  As a part of our training for the Appalachian Trail section in Virginia, we had planned to spend April in the Smokies.  Most of the trail that I have left to hike is on the North Carolina side of the mountain.  To our dismay, the rock slide on I-40 which occurred in late November, has still not been cleared and the interstate is still closed at the TN/NC State line.  We have been putting off our decision of driving around by way of Chattanooga to get to the other side of the mountain, or just going to Townsend and not hiking trails I need to complete my goal.  We need to make that decision today.

This afternoon, we will again spend time with Jack, Ansley, and Kayley.  We want to take advantage of the weekend because they, like all working couples with small children, are far too busy during the week to entertain guests.

With that said, I’ll get my calendar out along with the long list of things that we need and want to do for the next month or so.  Have a great day.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Home Again

We are back in the Nashville area and plan to be here for just over a week.  We consider Tennessee our home state and Nashville our home town.  Most of our family is here and we have many long time friends in the area.  Nashville is home for us and we enjoy coming home from time to time.

We have struggled with a place to park during our frequent visits to Nashville.  This time we are at Nashville Country RV Park in Goodlettsville.  Goodlettsville is in Sumner County just north of Metro Nashville-Davidson Country.  The campground is off I-65.  We have a favorable first impression, but will really check it out while we’re here.  This may be a possibility for our regular December visits each year.

We are here this week for our final warranty service on the Everest.  Of course, we could have gone to any Everest dealer around the country, but we had service done at a dealership in Columbia last fall and were very pleased with their work.  The service manager was also willing to order parts ahead of time to have everything we would need at the service department when we come in.  That is almost unheard of.  So, even though it was a couple hundred miles out of the way, we decided to come home for this last service appointment.

Well, since we were in the area, we thought it would be very convenient to visit with Jack, Ansley, and Kayley.  Kayley is now 5 months old and has changed so much since we last saw her at the end of December.  We are eager to spend some time with her.

Sunday is my great-nephew’s second birthday.  We hated to leave Perry before the big day, but had to make a decision on who to spend the time with.  It was too weird to see my parents as they passed us on their way to middle George for Brayden’s birthday party.  They’ll be back Monday.  We’ll have a chance to visit with them before we leave town again.

That’s it for today.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Halfway Home

We are settled into our campsite at the Chattanooga South KOA just off I-75 about 5 miles from the GA/TN state line.  I can’t say it was a pleasant drive because the traffic was pretty heavy as we made our way around Atlanta on the I-275 bypass.  We are always on pins and needles in heavy traffic in metropolitan areas.  Otherwise, we had a nice drive.  The roads were in pretty good condition with very little construction.  The rains from yesterday had passed out of the area so we had very nice weather.

This is a KOA and is typical of KOAs around the country with spacious, level sites.  The interior roads are paved with gravel parking pads.  The primary complaint of most users is the noise.  The campground is located next to the interstate and the heavy traffic noise is quite noticeable even in the sites farthest away.  Oh well, it’s only for one night.

We didn’t even unhitch this afternoon.  We’re ready for an early departure tomorrow.  Can you tell we are anxious to see Kayley?

That’s it for today.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Yea, Gene has his new crown.  Sure glad that is over.  He’s happy, too, but will be happier when the numbness is gone.

It is a rainy day, here.  I have stayed inside all day just piddling around with reading, knitting, and a few chores.  I baked chocolate chip cookies this morning and packaged them up with a green bow.  I’ll take them this evening when we meet my brother and nephews for dinner.  Just a little good-bye gift.  What could be better than cookies?

Hope everyone is enjoying St. Patrick’s Day.  We are celebrating in a multicultural way, I guess.  We are going out for dinner at a local Mexican restaurant.  I wonder if the Corona will be green.  If not, I’ll order a margarita.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, everyone.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Looking Forward

This has been a relaxing day around our home.  I got caught up with a few computer tasks I’ve been putting off.  I also got several rows knitted on the afghan I’m making for Eric and Leigh Ann’s first child.  I’ve gotta get a move on; she’ll be here before I know it.  Gene cleaned up the truck, inside and out, plus rubbed on the trailer a little.  We went together to the grocery this morning.  So, we got a whole lot done today.

Tomorrow morning Gene will get his new crown put on.  That’s what we’ve been waiting for.  After that we will get on with our journey.

At this point, we are planning to hitch up and pull out of Perry Thursday morning heading toward Nashville.  It is about 350 miles from Perry to Nashville which is a little farther than we like to drive in one day.  We’ll probably stop for the night somewhere near Chattanooga and finish our trip on Friday.

We have two primary goals in Nashville.  We want to see Jack, Ansley, and Kayley and we have a service appointment for the Everest.  This will be our last chance to get all the warranty issues taken care of before the 1-year warranty is up.  We’ll work in a visit with my parents, of course, but that may be the only family we will have time to see on this short visit.  We only plan to be there 9 days.

We are typically in Nashville during holiday season--November and December.  We usually park at Two Rivers RV Park on Music Valley Drive.  Because it is off season and because we stay for 2 months, we get a reasonable rate.  Not cheap, but reasonable.  For the three campgrounds on Music Valley Drive, they start their peak season on March 1.  Rates at any one of those campgrounds is about $45 per night.  That’s way beyond our budget.

After several hours of leafing through the campground books, Gene finally found a park in Goodlettsville with good ratings at a decent price.  However, Goodlettsville is too far away from our Everest dealer in Columbia to get there early on service day.  We came up with a real hair-brained plan.  We’ll go to Goodlettsville on Friday and stay until Monday.  Then we’ll move to a tiny town 20 miles south of Columbia so we’ll be more conveniently located to take the trailer in on Tuesday morning.  Then, we’ll move back to Goodlettsville on Wednesday or Thursday.  It’ll be a week of hitching.  I’ll probably be completely over hitch itch by the time we’re ready to leave.

After our brief stay in Nashville, we’ll be heading to Smoky Mountain National Park in east Tennessee for a month to do some serious hiking.  We’re hoping to get back into hiking shape--something that goes away far too quickly when you’re not out there everyday.  April should be a good time in the Smokies with all the new spring growth and the wildflowers.  There will probably still be snow at higher elevations.

I think that’s about all I know for today.

Monday, March 15, 2010

FDR's Little White House

We got to spend the afternoon today with our RVing friends, Mike and Gerri.  We first met this fine couple early in January while we were at Rainbow Plantation in Summerdale, Alabama.  We were glad for the opportunity to get together with them again.

Mike suggested we meet for lunch at The Bulloch House in Warm Springs.  This historic home was built in 1893 by Benjamin Bulloch.  Mr. Bulloch was the co-founder of Bullochville, what we now know as Warm Springs.  At Bulloch’s you can gorge yourself at the buffet or order off the menu.  We all decided to order from the menu.  For me, it was plenty of food.
The Little White House

Living Room

After our lunch, we drove around the corner to the small cottage where President Franklin Roosevelt died in 1945.  FDR originally came to Warm Springs in 1924 to swim in the warm pools of spring water in an effort to find some relief from polio.  He liked the area so well, he had a small vacation cottage built.  During his presidency, this simple white clapboard cottage became known as the “little white house”.

The cottage is much the same as it was in 1924 when Roosevelt died.  The cottage, as well as the servants’ quarters and guest house are open to the public.  There is also a very nice museum containing several artifacts from the president’s life.  We finished our tour by walking through the two rows of flags, one from each of the 50 states.

Walk of Flags

We like to see a bit of the area when we are on our way to a particular destination.  Today, we took the “scenic” route and passed through Manchester, Woodland, Talbotton, Fort Valley, Roberta, Yatesville, Pleasant Hill, Roland, and Thomaston.  Oh, and I mustn’t forget--Po Biddy Crossroads.  Most are tiny villages along the railroad line whose hay day is long past.

It was a long day and we are both tired this evening, but were not in the least disappointed with our day.  We almost always ask each other, “what was you favorite part of today?”  Our answers were the same today--spending the afternoon with friends.  Thanks, Mike and Gerri.  Hopefully, our paths will cross again soon.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Peaches to the Beaches

The rain has finally moved out of the area and the sun is shining through a large hole in the few remaining clouds.  Yesterday’s heavy rain and thunderstorms were the worst we’ve seen in a long time.  We had planned to visit Warm Springs and the Little White House, but changed our minds after seeing the forecast and consultation with Mike and Gerri Jones.  Good call, guys.  We are now rescheduled for Monday.

Way back when we stopped at the Georgia Welcome Station as we left Florida, we picked up a handful of brochures of things we thought we might like to do while in Middle Georgia.  One of those brochures was a description of the annual spring Peaches to the Beaches yard sale.  Since that day, I have been looking forward to this event.  In the words of the brochure, this is “a springtime tradition, running over 200 miles along Highway 341, from Culloden, GA to Brunswick & the Golden Isles.”  I had visions of parking the car in downtown Perry and walking about 3 miles down one side of the street, crossing over, and walking back along the opposite side.  I could not imagine the treasures I would hear calling my name along that stretch of pavement.

We headed out about 9:30, but as we approached the downtown area I began to become suspicious.  Crowds is what I expected to see, but there was no one milling around.  We were able to get a parking spot within a few yards of the booths.  We got out of the truck armed with a wad of cash and an empty backpack.  What we found was one city block of booths.  The street had been closed to traffic and booths had been set up by anyone wanting to sell anything.  There were maybe 30 booths all together.  Most were selling what you would expect at a yard or garage sale--old clothes, shoes, children’s toys, tools, and small kitchen appliances.

I went in search of wine glasses and found one to add to my eclectic collection.  Gene discovered a booth selling baked goods and purchased a single serving sized buttermilk custard pie (what I call a pielet).  I didn’t think it tasted as good as what I make, but, then again, I may have been a tad prejudiced.

I evidently misinterpreted that “200 miles along Highway 341” part of the brochure.  Apparently, each town or community along the designated route has its “block” of yard sale booths.  I was terribly disappointed.  Oh well, I found a treasure anyway.

This afternoon we drove over to Warner Robins to visit the Museum of Aviation at Robins AFB.  They had several planes on display and 3 aircraft hangers of exhibits.  Even though my dad is retired Air Force and my brother is a civilian employee at Robins AFB, I still have to say that the Naval Museum in Pensacola outshines the Air Force on this one.
Boeing B-1B Lancer

Circle of Flags

That’s it for today.  Gotta get busy with dinner.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Running on Empty

Well, I just can’t resist the urge any longer.  It’s just too great an adventure not to share even though I said something like, “what happens in Mike’s car stays in Mike’s car”.  So, forgive me, my brother.

You will recall I rode with my brother when he went for his doctor’s appointment in Columbus Tuesday.  Our return trip had an added dimension which I have never in my life experienced before.

Unlike many in our family, my brother is not a type A personality.  He takes life in a much more relaxed fashion.  He’s not one to make long range plans; he doesn’t try to anticipate the next sharp curve on the road we call “life”; he lives in the moment enjoying each gift that comes his way.  It’s enviable, actually.  He avoids all the stress and anxiety associated with trying to manipulate the future.

On our return trip from Columbus, we were chatting away as we motored down Georgia 96.  It was a good four-lane highway with very little traffic, so we could enjoy our conversation without paying too much attention to the demands of driving.  I’m not sure why 96 is such a fine highway.  It is out in the middle of nothing.  For nearly a hundred miles there are corn fields, cotton fields, pecan and peach orchards.  That’s all.  There is hardly a house out there and only a couple tiny communities.

We were rolling along enjoying the beautiful day when all of a sudden Mike says something like, “Oh, my gosh”.  I won’t say what went through my mind when he pointed to the gas gauge and I saw the needle below the empty mark.  There was nothing but empty fields for miles around.  He tried to remember how far we were from the next small village.  We started watching the mile post signs.  Every mile that went by was a mile we wouldn’t have to walk.  I was thinking a lot about walking.  I think that was the first day this year I hadn’t worn my tennis shoes.  I was suitably attired for a doctor’s office in dress slacks and black shoes.  Mike was recovering from back surgery and could hardly walk to the mailbox.   A 10-mile walk seemed impossible.

Then I began thinking about what we might put a gallon of gasoline in to carry it back to the car.  We had a couple pint water bottles and two paper cups from our lunch.

It’s amazing what your mind can find to think about and how much thinking can go on between one mile post to the next.  I was looking out the window at the vast emptiness of rural Georgia.  Then it occurred to me that this is farmland and farmland requires tractors and tractors need fuel and often farmers have small gas tanks at their barns.  Now there was a thought.  The only problem was I didn’t see any farm houses, barns or tractors in the vast emptiness.

Then the car gave that dreaded stutter.  By some miracle, we were approaching some sort of small business with lots of trucks gathered in a small parking lot.  We agreed to pull into this business.  At least there were enough people around that some good soul might give us a ride to the next gas station.  Just as Mike pulled off the highway, the car died.  We coasted on for a few feet down the dirt driveway.  Mike tried to start the car again and, with another little miracle, the engine turned over.  I suggested he pull to the side of the driveway so whoever gave us a ride could get out.  He didn’t want to do that.  He had seen it before me--a small drum with a gas pump sticking out one end.  He pulled the car right up to the pump as though he were at any gas station in America.

He went in to talk to the proprietor about purchasing a gallon of gas.  He came out after a couple minutes followed by a lady in a pink shirt.  She consulted with another lady who pumped a gallon of gas into his car.  He tried to pay, but pink shirt wouldn’t allow it.  “Put your money back in your pocket”.  By this time, I could almost see the hand of God taking care of us.  That gallon of gas got us five more miles down the road to the next gas station.

Thank you, Lord, for seeing us home safely.  And thank you, Mike, for another great adventure.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Lunch at the Boarding House

Well, we got the rain that was predicted, but it wasn’t as bad as I expected.  We’ve had good weather for a week so I can’t complain about the rain today.

Gene and I met Mike and Eric at Owens Boarding House for lunch today.  I’ve heard Mike talk about this place for years and never had the opportunity to eat there.

The Boarding House is located just off 1st Street in Warner Robins.  1st Street is just like most 1st streets across America--in a run-down, neglected business/industrial section of town.  From the outside it doesn’t look like a place you’d even want to go into and it certainly doesn’t look like a restaurant.  At least not until you get to the parking lot and smell the fried chicken.

Inside, there are two large spaces--the kitchen and the dining room.  The dining room is set with four long tables each surrounded by about 24 old fashioned ladder-back chairs.  The tables are covered with red checkered vinyl tablecloths and there is a plate and fork at each chair.  Just sit down wherever there is an empty chair.

Ordering is easy.  You have a choice of water or sweet tea.  That’s it; everything else is on the table.  On the table today (and being replenished regularly) was fried chicken, ham, potato salad, green beans, boiled cabbage, macaroni and cheese, turnip greens, field peas, butter beans, cornbread, biscuits, and a big pan of banana pudding (the real kind with cooked pudding and meringue).  You just eat until you can’t hold any more, stay as long as you like, and visit with your table mates.  When you’re ready to leave, you take you plate, fork, and glass up to the small window at the kitchen, pay $8 at the door on you’re way out, and waddle to your car.  Incredible.

The Boarding House is only open for lunch Tuesday thru Friday, but they do a steady business during that short period of time.  And no wonder; it was some of the best down home, Southern country cookin’ I’ve had in a long time.  Thanks Mike or Eric or whoever it was that suggested we go there today.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

To Columbus and Back

I got to do something today I haven’t done in I can’t remember when.  I got to spend the afternoon with my brother.

In December, he had back surgery and today he returned to his doctor for another check-up.  I volunteered to drive him to Columbus.  He has been driving for several weeks, but Columbus is almost a hundred miles from here and the return trip might seem like three hundred if he wasn’t feeling up to it.  As it turned out, he drove going and coming and I felt like I really didn’t help out all that much.  I did get to consult the GPS when we missed our turn.  We knew we had gone too far when we crossed the river and saw the big “Welcome to Alabama” sign.  Perhaps we should have gotten the GPS out sooner.

Now, you may not think it was too exciting to ride in the car for several hours just to wait in the doctor’s office for an hour, but I loved it.

You know how it is at holidays, or birthdays, or reunions when the whole family is there.  It is great seeing everybody, but you don’t get to spend any one-on-one time with anybody.  That’s how I’ve been seeing my brother for the past 30 or 40 years.  Always in a crowd of people.  Today, I got to spend about 5 hours with him, just the two of us.  It was great--the highlight of my week.

His back is healing nicely, by the way.  He can resume his golf game in April.  Hurray!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Days Like That

We have spent the past two days catching up on household chores and relaxing.  We have been so busy checking things off our list since we arrived in Georgia, that we were craving some down time.

Everyone pitched in to help with dinner
Yesterday, after a morning and early afternoon filled with the routine chores that go along with maintaining a home, I baked a couple chess pies to contribute to our evening meal at my nephew’s home.  Ben prepared a fantastic meal for us of grilled steaks, fresh broccoli, and risotto.  Since we had munched on my brother’s speciality, stuffed jalapeno peppers, along with clam dip and chips before the meal, by the time we left we were all full enough to pop.

Mike and Eric
Even though we stayed home most of Sunday, we were still very busy.  This morning when I got up, all I wanted to do was sit in my recliner.  I finally rousted myself into motion by mid-morning and went out for a short walk around the campground with my hubby.

Ben and Amber
Our afternoon has been almost as uneventful at the morning. We went shopping for a new phone, but after browsing through the Verizon store and chatting with the sales representative, we decided to put that purchase off for a little while.  We bought a few groceries (not at the Verizon store, but at Kroger next door) before coming home.

That’s pretty much it and I don’t anticipate the evening to be more than a quiet dinner followed by a little TV.  Sometimes, we just need days like this.

Tomorrow, I am taking my brother for his doctor’s appointment in Columbus.  The rest of the week is rapidly filling up with a variety of things.  Wednesday, we plan a visit to Warner Robins and more eating with my brother and his boys.  The weather doesn’t look to promising for Wednesday, so we may not get much sightseeing done.  Friday, we are driving over to Pine Mountain to meet RVing friends, Mike and Gerri, for lunch followed by a tour of FDR’s Little White House in Warm Springs.  Saturday is the first day of Georgia’s longest yard sale--Peaches to the Beaches.  It goes right through Perry.  The search will be on for wine glasses.  I hope I don’t have to walk all the way to the Atlantic Ocean before I find some I like.

Enough of this rambling.  I’ll get back to my relaxing.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Ocmulgee National Monument

Keeping with our theme of visiting National Park service units while in middle Georgia, today we drove to Macon to visit the Ocmulgee National Monument.  On our way, we stopped by my brother’s to drag him along for the outing.
Visitor Center and Museum

Earth Lodge as seen from the Visitor Center

It is estimated that native peoples have lived on the Macon Plateau for more than 9,000 years.  Eventually, the Woodland Indians began to establish villages in the area and plant their crops of squash, beans, and corn.  The Ocmulgee site really focuses on the Mississippian people who planted extensively and established large villages.   There are several mounds on this site, but the most notable are the greater and lesser temple mounds and the funeral mound.  Also reconstructed at this site is the earth lodge.  It also looks like a mound from a distance, but is a large meeting room completely covered by sod used as a ceremonial building.
Entrance to Earth Lodge

Great Temple Mound in the distance

We were also impressed with the fantastic art deco style visitor center.  This building was started in the 1930s, but due to funding issues was not finished until the 1950s.

Much of the southeast is dotted with mounds built by Mississippians.  Ocmulgee is typical of many such sites in Georgia, Alabama, and Tennessee.  We have visited several mounds over the years.  The best we’ve seen so far is Cahokia Mounds in Illinois.  It has the distinction of being an International Heritage site and is worthy of that honor.  If you’re ever near St. Louis, give it a visit.

We stopped for a late lunch of BBQ, then dropped my brother off at his home before returning to Perry.  I now have to concentrate of getting my home cleaned up and the laundry done.  That should occupy my time tomorrow.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Plains, Georgia, Home of Jimmy Carter

Today we took a drive over to Plains some 20 miles or so southwest of Andersonville.  Plains is the tiny rural community which is the home of the 39th President of the United States.  Mr. and Mrs. Carter still have their home in Plains and much of the community is designated a National Historical Site.

We began our tour of Plains at the local high school.  Mr. Carter graduated from Plains High School in 1941.  The National Park Service now occupies the building and has restored it to the way it looked when Jimmy was a student.  One classroom has been set up as it would have been, otherwise, the rest of the rooms now exhibit photos and artifacts of the Carters’ lives.

A mile or so from the high school is Maranatha Baptist Church where the Carters’ are still members.

The five or six stores on Main Street are really all there is to Plains.  We went in and browsed around each one.  In the Plain Peanut store we bought some fried peanuts and a small jar of peach preserves.  The Plain Peanut Store (under the Plains, Georgia Home of Jimmy Carter sign) is the business Billy Carter started in his service station across the street.  This building was the warehouse of President Carter’s father’s peanut business.  The rest of the stores along the block are antique dealers, but we failed to find anything we couldn’t live without.

Plains Depot and Campaign Headquarters
Across the street in the next block is the Plains train depot.  The depot building was used as Carter’s campaign headquarters during his presidential campaign.  The park service has restored the building to its 1976 appearance and it now exhibits memorabilia from that campaign.  The depot was chosen as the campaign headquarters because it was about the only building in town that had restroom facilities.

Boyhood Home of Jimmy Carter
A couple miles west of town is the family farm where President Carter spent his childhood years.  We had a ranger show us around the home, the small store which Earl Carter ran, the vegetable gardens and barn area, and the sharecroppers home of Jack and Rachel Clark.

Down on the family farm

I know you're surprised to see peacocks in Georgia

Along the road to the farm is the Lebanon Cemetery where the President’s mother and father are buried.  We did not stop there.

Between the farm and the downtown area, is where the Carter’s home is located.  It sits back from the main road in a large clump of trees.  It certainly creates a peaceful, secluded area for their modest home, but all those trees completely obstruct the view of the house from the street.  With all the security, there is no way to get close enough to get a clear view of the house.

We enjoyed our day and, as we always do at historical sites like this, we learned a great deal.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Perry, Georgia

This has been another fine day in Georgia.  The temperatures are cool, but the sun is shining.  Boy, does that make all the difference in the world.

This morning, Gene took the truck in for an oil change and I spent the time relaxing with a book in hand and the cat in my lap.  It was a fine morning.

After lunch, we drove the couple miles to downtown Perry to do the self-guided walking tour of the historical district.  Perry is a small town of about 11,000 in what all the Georgia tourism brochures call Georgia’s Historic Heartland.  The tour began at the New Perry Hotel which is so old now that it needs a facelift.  We walked up and down the streets looking and reading about the older homes in this area.  Most were in very good condition and looked well cared for and loved.  The same is true a couple blocks over in the business district.
Boyhood home of Sen. Sam Nunn

Confederate Monument

What finally caught our attention was the number of structures which had been used as funeral parlors.  It seemed like every other building had, at one time or another, been dedicated to the service of the dead.  On Carroll Street, the Toomer Building had been build in 1905 as a merchandise store with living quarters upstairs.  In 1915, it too was converted to a funeral home.  Pay particular attention to the photo.  Those two large, bay-type windows on either side of the double front doors were where the dearly departed were displayed for all to view.

Cooper-Evans home
You may be wondering why, since I claim to be from Nashville, that my brother and his family are living in middle Georgia.  My brother is younger than I and when he graduated from high school my father was stationed at Robins AFB in Warner Robins.  My brother married in Warner Robins and never left.  His boys were both born there and thus they all live in the area to this day.
Toomer Building

General Eli Warren Home
This evening we all gathered at Ben and Amber’s home for a great dinner together.  It was go good to see Eric and Leigh Ann and Ben and Amber.  Haven’t seen them in over a year.

That’s all for today.  We are without a plan for tomorrow.  We’ll pick something from our list in the morning.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Andersonville National Historic Site

Our visit to Andersonville National Historic Site today was a real education in American history and one which we seldom hear about.

National POW Museum

Andersonville, Georgia was the site of a Confederate prisoner of war camp.  This camp was constructed late in the war (1864) after Washington banned the practice of prisoner exchange.  Built for an occupancy of about 6,000, but during the short time it was open before the end of the war, the population quickly grew to more than 30,000 at one point.   More than 45,000 Union soldiers came through the camp, but due to overcrowding, shortage of food, lack of water, and unsanitary living conditions some 13,000 died.
North Gate. Every prisoner entered through here

Each prisoner was responsible for making his own shelter

Andersonville was selected because it was far from the fighting and was near a railroad line.  A more secure place than where most of the camps were located near Richmond. This particular area also had a stream running through what became the center of camp.  This small stream was woefully inadequate for the thousands who depended on it for their only water source.  The stream is still running through the middle of the camp and it is hard to imagine why anyone would have thought it adequate even for 6,000 men much less 30,000.

Today, the 26 acres which comprised the area of the camp is preserved by the park service.  We toured the area, stopping at the various points along the route to contemplate what the lives of these poor men would have been like.  It is impossible to imagine.
Statue at entrance to the cemetery

We also toured the cemetery.  When the camp was in operation, prisoners died so rapidly there was not enough manpower to keep up with individual graves.  The dead were buried in trenches and marked with a stick which identified the fallen by their number.  Later, the sticks were removed and small wooden crosses were put in their place.   Still later, the crosses were removed and stone markers were placed to honor the brave men who died imprisoned at Andersonville.  This is a National Cemetery and soldiers of other wars are also buried here.  In fact, we saw a fresh grave today.

We started our visit at the National Prisoner of War Museum.  We saw two very sobering and thought provoking films--one on Camp Sumter, the original name of the Andersonville camp, and one on prisoners of war in general and the ordeal they endure.  The museum is very well done and outlines the life of a POW from capture to release.

How can we adequately express our gratitude to those men and women who have and do serve their country?