Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Plains, Georgia....Home of Jimmy Carter

The tiny town of Plains, Georgia is the home of Jimmy Carter our 39th President. Tiny is the operative word here with a population of less than 700 folks. On our day trip today we drove the short distance from Andersonville (see post on that) to Plains. By the time we left Andersonville, it was almost lunch time. When we got to the Plains city limits we saw the Visitor Center and pulled in there where they had a nice picnic area. We pulled out our own lawn chairs and table and sat away from the pond area. We had Annie the Schnauzer with us and we knew that she would want to chase the geese at the pond. We ate our lunch and enjoyed the quiet of the area...we were the only ones there.

After we put our lunch gear back into the car we drove into the center of Plains. First stop was 3 miles out on the other side of the town to the site of Jimmy Carter's boyhood home. This is where he lived from 1928 to the time he left for college. It is actually a small farm house as his family were farmers (you remember...the whole peanut thing). In additional to the farm house, there was the commissary and barn to see. We could have toured the home but we had Annie with us and there was also a school field trip going on. Here is a photo of the back of the home with it's screened porch.
Back to the car and we drove again to the center of Plains. This photo shows Main Street. As you look at this thriving metropolis, keep in mind that this is just about the entire shopping area for Plains. I'm thinking that without the tourism the 39th President brings to the town, it would probably dry up and blow away with the Georgia wind. Cute town, though, with souvenirs and stuff to buy if you are inclined. These brick commercial buildings were constructed in the 1890's and the street remains relatively unchanged since Carter's youth.
This is the nationally famous (and I do mean famous) Plains Depot. It was Jimmy Carter's Presidential Campaign Headquarters and was over run with national press and most likely some foreign members of the press as well during the campaign. It houses a self-guided museum today, detailing Carter's grassroots campaign.
What would a trip to Plains be without a stop to take a picture of Billy Carter's Service Station (see below)? Billy was Jimmy's younger brother and owned and operated this station from 1972 to 1981. It was a popular place for visitors and members of the news media. Remember Billy Beer???

This is all that can be seen by the public, from the street, of the home of Jimmy and Roslyn Carter. The home sits on 16 acres of property, but since he is a former president the public has no access to view or photograph the property. What you see in this photo is the guardhouse for the Secret Service detail. It was closed up today and the American flag was not flying....indications that President Carter was not in Plains at this time.

Plains is off the beaten path, west of I-75, but worth taking a look at. We are interested in all things "presidential" and even though we'd stopped in Plains on a prior trip, we decided to look again. The drive from our RV park in Unadilla to Plains took us through beautiful rural country. We passed dairy farms, peanut farms, and pecan groves. is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

Andersonville National Historic Site

On our way south to Florida, we stopped for a 2 night stay in the town of Unadilla, Georgia. We arranged for a camp site at the Southern Trails RV Park, which is in our membership system. While in the area we planned a trip to the Andersonville National Historic Site. It is not far from Unadilla.

So, this morning we packed our picnic lunch, got the camera and the dog and set out for Andersonville. The National Historic Site consists of three things: National Prisoner of War Museum, Andersonville National Cemetery, and the prison site.
This first photo shows the exterior of the Prisoner of War Museum. This building also serves as the site visitor center. There are 2 orientation films shown plus many exhibits on display. The museum examines the American POW experience throughout our nation's history and has information on the POW experience from the Revolutionary War up to the Gulf War of the 90's. There are numerous video displays with testimony given by former POW's that are still living. Many of their stories are heart-wrenching to hear. The museum stands as a memorial to the 12,920 Union soldiers and civilians who died at Andersonville during its 14 months of existance.
This second photo was taken in the National Cemetery at the historic site. As in all national cemeteries the simple white headstones mark the graves. These graves are from the Civil War era and simply have the soldier's name and home state indicated (although some have rank, as well).
This photo shows the remnants of the stockade from a distance. Originally there were 2 rows of fencing. An inner row of posts marked the location of the deadline and prisoners were forbidden to cross that 4-foot high rail. The outer of posts marked the location of the stockade wall. It was 20-feet high. If a prisoner crossed the deadline...they were shot and killed on site.

Closer view of the stockade wall.

This is a depiction of the type of shelter the soldier's had as prisoners at Andersonville. The confined soldier's suffered terribly. This prison, like so many others, was overcrowded, had poor sanitation, and inadequate food...even for the prison officials. There were soon over 26,000 men confined in a space intended for less than 10,000. These conditions accounted for a high mortality rate.
This was our second visit to Andersonville. We came the first time in 1989, but we wanted to return to see the addition of the POW Museum and Memorial. It was worth our time and effort to make the return trip.

The Big Social Security Birthday has arrived!

Well, it finally got here !! Yesterday was Bruce's 62nd birthday and it is now time to collect on that Social Security.

Before we left Tumwater, Bruce applied to S.S. and he arranged for his monthly payment to be done by direct deposit. We should be able to see if his first payment arrives in our bank by May 3rd. Let's hope there is no screw-up and things will go as planned.

Yeah....with the government when does that happen? (LOL)

Happy Birthday, Bruce !! You are now officially an old man.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Our last few days in Salem.....part 1

On Sunday we got our final look at some of the flowering Dogwood trees in the Salem Village park. On Monday the 27th, we are leaving to head south.

During our month-long visit with my cousin, Gail, and her husband, Rick, we ate at the Famous Anthony's Restaurant several times. It is their favorite hang out. After eating there, we could see why. It had a great menu with very reasonable prices. A couple of times Bruce and I got their grilled salmon salad...YUMMY. Every Tuesday we went there for dinner because the special was Hot Dogs and Hamburgers. Rick loved to get the Famous Anthony Hot Dogs with grilled onions and all the fixin's. We got them once and they were really good.

Here is the sign outside of Famous Anthony's on Main Street.

Here is a photo of Rick and Gail at the Famous Anthony's. Say CHEESE !

Here we all are in Randy & Lisa's family room. From left to right: Randy, Lisa, Gail, Rick, Me with Nicholas on my lap, Bruce on far right and little Natalie in front of her mommy and daddy.

Check the next blog...part 2 for the rest of the story and my final posting about our time in Salem, Virginia. We are leaving on Monday and will be spending several weeks in Florida.

Our last few days in Salem, part 2

We really enjoyed our month-long stay in Salem. It was mainly a time to visit with family. Last Sunday, we went to St. Paul's Episcopal Church with Gail & Rick. Here is a photo of the church on Main Street. It is a very old church and is really beautiful. It has a lot of wonderful stained glass windows in the sanctuary.

On many of the evenings we would get together at Gail & Rick's or they would come to our motorhome for a shared dinner and a game of cards. We all love to play card games. Here is a photo of Rick, Gail & Bruce sitting at Gail's kitchen table. We are playing a game called "Groups & Runs". It is very much like a game we play called "Sets & Runs". Rick wins a lot !!!Here is one of my hands for the "Groups & Runs" game. I won this game for a change!

We also taught Gail & Rick a game that was new to them. It is a real fun card game called "Hand & Foot". We first learned it about 15 years ago from Bruce's Aunt Phyllis and Uncle Buster. We played it for several years with our family in Washington and then we sort of quit playing. When we decided to teach it to Gail & Rick we couldn't remember all the rules. Bruce "googled" it and we downloaded a copy of the rules. It was easy then.
Here is Sosa. She is Rick's dog and she is a real sweet girl. She does like to grab your ankles when you walk by her sometimes, but she doesn't bite on you. She is funny. She and our Annie liked each other and got along well.

NOTE: I had intended to post some photos of our drive up on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I wrote in another posting....I'm technically challenged and somehow I deleted them. It's always something !! Believe me, though, when I say that our drive up on the parkway and our picnic lunch was wonderful.

Some of the family.....

This is part of the family contingent from Salem, Virginia!! The lovely lady on the left is my younger cousin, Lisa. She is the daughter of my 1st cousin, Gail. Next to Lisa is her husband, Randy. They met and were married in 1995. Randy is a native of Virginia and is a real southern gentleman. Randy and Lisa live in a beautiful brick traditional home. We were invited to their home for a lavish Easter dinner and then again last Sunday evening for a good-bye dinner. It was scrumptious.

Randy and Lisa have 2 lively children. Nicholas is almost 4 1/2 and is quite the charmer. His vocabulary is wide and varied and his interests are many. He was quite fascinated by our motorhome and wanted to know everything about it and how it worked and how we towed our car behind it. He wanted me to sit next to him at dinner on Sunday, so I did. While I was sitting there, Gail (his grandma) explained to him that Bruce and I were going to be driving away in our motorhome the next day. He got his face real close to mine and said with his little southern drawl, "That is so sad". He is so cute. Natalie is about 2 1/2 and just adorable. She is all about the color PINK. Everything is best if it is done in pink and she loves to wear pink clothing. She enjoyed coming to our motorhome and playing with our granddaughter's baby dolls that we keep inside our ottoman. She really loved playing with "pink baby" as she called the one dressed in pink clothing. We had fun being with her as often as possible. She was rather enamored of Bruce and he just ate that up.

Here is my buddy, Nicholas. I found him upstairs on his mommy and daddy's bed watching the Scooby Doo movie he loves. His family has nicknamed him "the hostage negotiator" as he always wants to negotiate every detail of what his mommy or daddy tell him to do. One of his favorite things to say is "Now let's talk about that first". He is a man with a mind of his own!

Here is beautiful Natalie. I caught up with her out in the backyard. She had a squirt bottle and was having a lot of fun spraying things like the garbage can or the siding on the house. She is wearing her signature color....PINK....of course. I've nicknamed her the "Diva in Training". She is precious.

We had a great time getting to know my littlest cousins, Natalie and Nicholas. We look forward to a return trip in the future.

Salem Red Sox Baseball Game

Here are Bruce and I waiting for the baseball game between the Salem Red Sox and the Myrtle Beach Pelicans to begin. Both teams are in the single-A farm team system. The Salem team plays in a wonderful baseball stadium less than 2 miles from where we are staying at Salem Village. This stadium is just as well done as the major league team stadiums...just smaller. We enjoyed nice seats behind home plate and they were only $8 a piece. Such a deal! We enjoyed a hot dog, too. You can't go to a ballgame and not get a hot dog.

Speaking of dogs, this character behind Bruce is Mugsy, the team's mascot. He is a funny guy that enjoys cruising through the stadium posing for pictures and being playful with the kids in attendance. I had taken several photos of Mugsy and the stadium, but being technically challenged I somehow made them all disappear. Gail allowed me to download 3 of her photos for this posting. Thank you, Gail.

Here are Rick, Gail, me and Bruce waiting for the game to begin.

Unfortunately, it wasn't the best day for the home team and they lost to the Pelicans. We had fun anyway and it was a warm night just perfect for the game.

Batter Up !!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Our Winnebago Motorhome

We've been asked a few times, "what does your motorhome look like"? I recently took a few photos of the interior of our RV so I thought I'd post them on here for anybody to see.

The first view is of our kitchen area. Being a diesel motorhome, the entry door is up at the very front on the passenger side. So we enter in the front and the first thing we come to is the kitchen. We like the forward kitchen a lot and it has been a new floor plan for motorhomes the past 3 or 4 years. The kitchen is compact, of course, but it contains all of the necessities for cooking anything I want to prepare. I have a convection/microwave oven, a 3 burner cooktop, double sink, and a side by side refrigerator with ice maker. You can get dishwashers installed now, but we do not want to add one as it will take away valuable drawer space. Storage is at a premium in any RV and you want all you can get.

This next view is from the living room area looking forward to the kitchen. You can see the refrigerator in this view. It also allows you to see our dining table when it is fully extended and we can seat 4 adults comfortably. On the left of the photo you can see our queen sized sofa bed. Our granddaughters love to sleep here when they come for a sleep-over.

This third, and final, photo I'm posting shows our living room/dining room area. We have a nice lounge chair and ottoman next to the sofa and opposite our entertainment center. That's the chair Bruce has claimed as his own. We have a nice 30 inch TV and DVR in our entertainment center, plus more storage above and below the TV. We also have room against the wall by Bruce's chair for a computer table.

Past the living room area and down the hall is the bedroom with a queen sized Sleep Number bed a large wardrobe closet, window seat with storage and a washer/dryer. There is a second closet in the hall between living room and bedroom. Off the bedroom is the bathroom with a shower and plenty of counter space and 2 medicine cabinets.

This motorhome is a 40-foot Tour model from Winnebago. It has a 400 hp engine so it gives us plenty of power to climb mountain passes and keep up with traffic. We tow our Ford Explorer behind the RV so we always have a smaller vehicle to get around in once we've set up at an RV campground.

This is our only home now....hence the term "full-timers" to describe our RV lifestyle. We've now been full-timers for 9 months and are still enjoying it completely. We've come across the country to Virginia from Washington to visit with family and since we've brought our home with us we do not have to intrude on our family. It makes it nice for everyone this way. I don't think we've worn out our welcome yet.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Swinging Bridge Restaurant

Last week cousin-in-law, Rick, suggested that we all venture out on a little trip to the Swinging Bridge Restaurant. This restaurant is in the tiny town of Paint Bank, Virginia which is west of Salem and almost to the West Virginia/Virginia state border. Rick drove us in their car and we left before lunch time.

We drove out Hwy. 311 and it was a scenic drive that took us over 2 mountains and through the Jefferson National Forest. Along the way there were farms with cows grazing in the fields and many scenic overlooks with fantastic views of the Appalachian Mountains. It only took us about an hour to get to the tiny town of Paint Bank. The Swinging Bridge Restaurant is at the back of the Paint Bank General Store. There was already quite a full house of diners seated so we had to wait for a table. While we waited, we decided to mosey around the general store. The store stocked a lot of supplies for campers plus the usual souveniers that can attract the attention of the visitor or tourist. It was done up in the style of the general stores of the past.

This is what the Paint Bank General Store looks like. Penny candy? They have some, but it isn't a penny any longer. This is the front porch of the General Store and it has the requisite rocking chairs for the visitor to relax in.

This is cousin Gail, Rick and Bruce seated at our table and waiting for our lunch to arrive from the kitchen. The menu read, "Slap Your Mama, cause she don't cook like this no more". The menu was full of wonderful selections with the usual southern flair found in most country restaurants. Bruce and I opted for the more calorie and fat conscious choice of a Buffalo Burger although we did eat the french fries that came with the burger. Rick got a BBQ Buffalo sandwich and Gail got a nice cup of Ham 'n Bean Soup and a salad. Gail enjoyed that soup so much she couldn't stop talking about it and I swear she was ready to "slap somebody's Mama" if it would get her another bowl !!
This is the actual swinging bridge that is found upstairs in the gift shop. Shoppers can cross back and forth across this bridge as they make their selections from the wide array of merchandise. A great deal of the merchandise was handmade and some of the quilts on display were amazing. They also had a lot of items for the fisherman or the hunter. We are not in the market for keepsakes or souveniers so we just did the window shopping.
After we had eaten our wonderful meals and looked at all of the stuff in the gift shop, it was time to make our way back to Salem. It was a lot of fun going to the Swinging Bridge Restaurant and the weather cooperated with a lot of sunshine and blue skies for the whole day. Terrific outing !!!

Catching Up With a 32-Year Friendship

During the spring time, Virginia is filled with the beautiful flowering Dogwood trees. You can see them everywhere you go during this time of year. They show off their beautiful pink blossoms or a pure white blossom.

Last Sunday, April 19th, Bruce and I drove north from Salem to Charlottesville to meet with our dear friends, Jim and Pat. We have known them and their 3 boys for 32 years. We first met them when both of our oldest children were in the same kindergarten classroom back in Garden Grove, California. Jim, Pat and the boys made the move to Stafford, Virginia back in 1986. Jim held a government job at that time and took a transfer to work at Quantico. Pat had been a teacher prior to the births of their boys and when they moved to Stafford she went back to work as an elementary teacher. Now, both of them are retired....but not idle.

Jim is a very busy guy with volunteer work in his community and Pat enjoys a quilting group that meets in their home each week. Pat and Jim also enjoy spending a lot of quality time with their 4 adorable grandsons. We had intended to drive in the RV up to Stafford for a few days and visit with Pat and Jim there. Unfortunately, we need to get some repairs done on our large slide-out and we'll need to head to Florida instead. So the next best solution was to meet them up in Charlottesville for lunch. At least we would get to visit with them for a couple of hours. We were going to be gone for several hours so we had to bring Annie the Schnauzer along with us.

Charlottesville was a good meeting place as it is about half way between Salem and Stafford. I called Pat on the phone and we arranged to meet at McDonald's off of I-64, exit 120. Then we would decide where to go after that. We had not seen Jim and Pat in 15 years so we were anxious to see them and catch up on family events. We got to McDonald's, in the heart of Charlottesville, a few minutes before they arrived. They arrived....and it was great. We immediately hugged, laughed and it seemed like those 15 years just melted away.

Jim checked with "Mabel" his GPS system for local restaurants. Charlottesville is a college town (University of Virginia) and is very historic and not a town with a large commercial district. "Mabel" had a hard time giving us a location for a restaurant. Eventually, she issued a name of a small cafe and Jim led the way in his car with us following. None of us really had a clue where we were going. "Mabel" did not recognize the fact that she was trying to send us the wrong way on a One Way street. With frustration, Jim pulled their car over and we discussed what to do. I saw a woman coming up the street walking 2 very large dogs so I asked her about the cafe we were looking for. She directed us much better than "Mabel" did and we set off once again in search of it. Eureka! We finally found it 2 blocks away.

We had to wait about an hour for a table in the small cafe, but that afforded us the opportunity to share photos of grandchildren and catch up on what our "kids" were doing. We had a wonderful visit and the best thing about our friendship with Jim and Pat is that when we do get together, it seems like it has been no time at all. It is like we can pick up our conversations right where we left off on the visit before. Since they moved to Stafford in 1986 we have seen them 4 times. Hopefully on our next visit to Virginia we will be able to stay in Stafford and visit with them for a few days.

We said our good-byes a couple of hours later and we each went on our way. Bruce and I decided to drive back to Salem via the Blue Ridge Parkway. We LOVE the Blue Ridge Parkway. The Parkway connects Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and the Great Smoky Mountains in North Carolina and Tennessee. The drive was beautiful and there was very little traffic since the tourist season has not yet begun. This coming Friday we intend to pack a picnic lunch and drive back up to the Parkway. I'll write about that, and include photos, at a later time.

More of the beautiful flowering Dogwoods from the Blue Ridge Parkway.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Appalachian Music and Flat-footin'

If you have ever traveled to the states around the southern Appalachian Mountains, you probably have some knowledge of the music that represents that area. We really enjoy the folksy music and attending the little jam sessions you can find in the small mountain towns.

Right here in Salem, Virginia we found one of those little jam sessions and we went there yesterday with my cousin, Gail, and husband, Rick. Gail read on the website for the Salem Senior Center that a jam session was planned for Monday afternoon. So, we jumped into the car and I brought along my camera for some photos to share on this blog.

We got to the Senior Center and the "Senior Mountain Pickers" were already playing. There were about 10 of them in all. One particular lady was the lead vocalist and there were a variety of guitars, a couple of banjos, and a fiddle or two in the group as well. It just ain't right if there ain't a fiddle in the band! The fiddle and banjo are really the mainstay of the music. The banjo was introduced to mountain musicians in 1860 and the guitar became popular in 1910.

This type of music gets its origins from anglo-celtic folk ballads and instrumental dance tunes. They are often lively tunes but some are slow, almost mournful, songs telling some sad tale regarding life in the "hollers" of those mountains. It was often a hard way of life (still is for many) and all they had for enjoyment and pleasure was often just simply gathering to share their music and their "song stories". There is a tonal, nasal quality preferred by most traditional Appalachian singers.

Although this music style is considered "old time" and archaic by some, a visit to Virginia, West Virginia or North Carolina will find singers and musicians holding forth on banjo and fiddle. You can find Fiddler's Conventions, house parties, and back porch jam sessions in most small towns around the southern Appalachians.

Here is a photo of part of the group and it shows our "lead singer" on the far left.

This is the larger group and they were a playin' and a-pickin' to the delight of all the listeners in the hall.

Here are some of the "flat-footin' dancers". What is commonly called flat-footin' is a type of dance akin to clogging. This dancing emphasizes the downbeat of music using enthusiastic footwork. Cloggers traditionally wore shoes with taps or wooden pieces on the soles to make the loud sounds as they danced. Flat-footin' shoes are normally without taps and made of leather or velvet with soles of hard leather. Of course, folks now a days go dancing in their Nikes! Flat-footin' is also a style of dancing where you don't need a partner. Just get out there on the dance floor all by yourself and have at it. When you attend a jam session you'll see people of all ages just jump up out of their chairs and start the fancy footwork on the dance floor. Usually the arms are held down at their sides but sometimes they hold them up a bit as the music just overtakes them.
Here is a close-up shot of one woman just enjoying the music and having fun. See, she is wearing her athletic shoes and she don't care !! Below that photo you can see a group of a few people just dancing away.

We stayed and watched and listened for well over an hour before the musicians began to disperse. It was great fun and we hope to find some more jam sessions before we leave the area. Awesome fun for a real cultural experience.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Life in Salem, Virginia

We are living in Salem, Virginia. We arrived on March 27 and we will be here for a month. Salem is a town of approximately 25,000 population (according to AAA 2008 stats) and lies in a valley surrounded by the Appalachian Mountain Range which includes the Blue Ridge Mountains on the eastern edge of the valley. It is early spring and all of the trees have not leafed out but they are getting there. All in all, it is still a beautiful part of Virginia.

This is a view of the town of Salem from the East Hill Cemetery. Salem is next to the larger town of Roanoke. Near Salem is Fort Lewis which was built in 1752 to protect the early settlers. The town was chartered in 1802 upon land previously owned by the son of General Andrew Lewis.

Throughout the area are these beautiful, flowering Red Bud trees. Even though the name is Red Bud the blossoms are a pinkish purple. We were able to get a photo of a couple of great specimens.

Our past 2 weeks here have kept us busy by visiting with our cousins that live in Salem.
My first cousin, Gail, and her husband, Rick, have lived here since the 1980's. Gail's daughter, Lisa, and her family...husband, Randy and children, Nicholas & Natalie live here also. (More about all of them later). We have gone to local church services on the past 3 Sunday's and eaten at about a dozen restaurants so far. I have also attended a Thursday morning Bible Study that Gail teaches at her church and that has been fun.

We have had some cloudy or rainy days lately but here is a picture of Bruce sitting on our patio at the Salem Village Park in the beautiful sunshine. We took advantage of the day to pull our lawn chairs out and catch up on some reading. We also took cousin Gail to her radiation treatment one day when their car had broken down...she has 2 1/2 more weeks to go. Our dog, Annie, when to Pet Smart and got a haircut that she needed badly.

Here is Annie showing off her new hair do.

After church on Easter Sunday we put Annie in the car and took off into the rural hillsides seeing what was there. We had no idea exactly where we were going but went for the adventure of it. We went south of Salem down to a small town named Shawsville and then took a left turn (heading East) into the mountains. We passed a lot of dairy farms and interesting homes along the way. Eventually we ended up at a T-intersection and took another left turn which we assumed would lead us in the general direction of Roanoke. It did, and about an hour later we ended up in familiar territory.

Later that afternoon, we joined the rest of our cousin-family at Lisa and Randy's for Easter dinner. More about that later.

In postings over the next 2 weeks I'll write about our family and some of the places we are planning to go to before we have to leave the area and head for Florida. Please check with this blog again for new information and photographs.