Our Top Seven Biking trails – 2nd Anniversary

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Continuing with our 2nd anniversary celebration posts, this time we share our top seven biking experiences during the period March 1, 2013 to Feb. 28, 2014.  Steve is always happy when he can unload our bikes so we can actually ride them, rather than just haul them around the country.  Our qualifications for these rides is the most points for: (1) the trail was nice to ride and well-maintained, and (2) the experience during the ride was memorable.  The list below continues the tradition I started with last year’s top seven.

1. Jekyll Island Bike Path – Golden Isles, Georgia – 20 miles of  diverse  scenery, from biking on the beach with panoramic ocean views, traversing lush maritime forest, and cruising through the moss-draped live oak trees of the historic district.  The best!

Click related post here.

2. Block Island – Rhode Island – There is plenty to see while experiencing Block Island, and biking it is the best way to do it.  Our 20-mile ride meandered over rolling hills, a beach bluff, and a wildlife refuge – all while offering sweeping views of the Atlantic Ocean.  Then we stopped for a look at the lighthouse before returning to town to check out the old and new harbors so we could select a wonderful restaurant for lunch.  We took a ferry ride to get to the island and rode on the roads, sharing with automobile traffic and many other bike enthusiasts.

Click related post here.

Block Island, RI

Block Island National Wildlife Refuge

Block Island National Wildlife Refuge

3. Shark Valley – Everglades National Park, Florida – This is a 15-mile scenic loop in the Everglades where a multitude of alligators and birds will wow you!

Click related post here.

Shark Valley, Everglades

Shark Valley bike path – gators ahead!

4. Niagara River Trail – Niagara, New York – (12 miles).  Niagara (American, Bridal Veil and Horseshoe) Falls are your reward at the end of this journey – it really doesn’t get any better.  The secret to this ride is to start early and avoid the crowds that flock to the falls every day.  Our ride began at La Salle Waterfront Park in Niagara, then we headed past Goat Island until we reach the stunning falls.

Click related post here.

Niagara River Trail, Niagara Falls

Horsehoe Waterfalls, Niagara, Niagara River Trail

5. Western Maryland Trail – Hancock, Maryland – We clocked 20.13 miles on this ride, and fortunately we chose the western route which was more wooded and shaded.  This was one of our favorite quiet and serene rides.

Click related post here.

C&O Canal

C&O Canal Towpath

Western Maryland Rail Trail

Western Maryland Rail Trail – gorgeous!

6. PEI National Park – Prince Edward Island, Canada – 12 miles of breathtaking landscape along PEI’s north shore, and the striking red sandstone cliffs of Cavendish made this ride one of my favorites.  On this route we enjoyed a Red Fox walking along the path, a resting Bald Eagle and the cool breeze that made the ride very pleasant.  I love PEI!

Click related post here.

Bald Eagle, PEI

Can you spot the Bald Eagle?

Red Cliff Sandstone, PEI

7. Withlacoochee State Trail – Inverness, Florida – On the very last day of our date range (2/28/14), we biked 16 miles RT on this 46-mile rail-to-trail path.  What we liked on this relaxing tree-covered ride were the various shaded rest areas and a stop for fresh-squeezed orange juice at Ferris Groves – yum!

How about you?  Do you have a biking trail to share with us and our friends?

Next up:  Continuing on our celebration week – our favorite beaches.

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Our Top Ten Favorite Hikes – 2nd Anniversary

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Stone Mountain Trail

We have crossed another milestone.  Two years ago today, on March 1, 2012, we embarked on our new lifestyle of living on the road.  One of our many goals was to continue to exercise and be active.  Building on what I began last year, and to commemorate our 2nd year of full timing, I have compiled our new set of favorite hike/walk trails.  This top ten list covers the trails we explored between March 1, 2013 and Feb 28, 2014.  It does not include the dozens of beach walks we took while on the east coast.  Although we love long walks on the beach, they tend to be fairly similar and we decided not to try to rate them.

Our criteria has remained the same, and that is: (1) the trail had an awesome reward at the end (2) the trail was well-maintained and (3) the experience along the way was memorable.  These trails were fairly short, and some even overlapped each other – unlike the ones we blazed out West.

Below are our top ten favorite hiking/walking experiences.  Clicking on the name of the trail will take you to a website that describes it further.  The “Click related post here” link will take you to our posting that included the hike/walk.

1. Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail – Acadia National Park, Maine

Click related post here.

Cadillac Mountain South Ridge Trail

Going down Cadillac Mountain

2. Buck Hollow Trail – Shenandoah National Park, Virginia

Click related post here.

3. Combined Trails at Schoodic Peninsula – Acadia National Park, Maine

(Anvil Trail, Adler Trail, East Trail and  Schoodic Mountain Summit)

Click related post here.

 

4. Sleeping Beauty Trail – Lake George, New York

Click related post here.

Sleeping beauty trail, Lake George

Sleeping Beauty summit

At the Sleeping Beauty summit – what can we say?

5. Overlapping Trails at Blackwater Falls State Park, West Virginia

(Allegheny Trail, Yellow Birch Trail, Elakala Trail, Red Spruce Trail, Balanced Rock Trail and Lindy Point Overlook)

Click related post here.

6. Overlapping Trails at Stone Mountain Park – Atlanta, Georgia

( Walk-Up Trail with connections to Cherokee Trail, Nature Garden Trail and  Songbird Habitat Trail)

Click related post here.

7. Overlapping trails of Cavendish Duneland Trail and Homestead Trail – PEI National Park, Prince Edward Island, Canada

Click related post here.

Cavendish Duneland Trail

Cavendish Duneland Trail

Homestead Trail PEI

Homestead Trail

8. Niagara Gorge Trail – Niagara, New York

Click related post here.

Whirlpool Bridges, Niagara

Upper Great Gorge Hike

Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Hike

Great Gorge Scenic Overlook Hike

9. Black Ridge/Rock Castle Gorge Trail – Blue Ridge Mountains, VA

Click related post here.

10. Lake Monroe Conservation Area – Osteen, Florida

Click related post here.

Lake Monroe Conservation Area

How about you?  Do you have a favorite hiking trail to share with us and our friends who might be there one day?

Next up:  Our Top Seven Favorite Bike Rides – 2nd Anniversary Post

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The Golden Isles of Georgia

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St Simon Island, GA

One last stop in Georgia, then we’ll be heading into the sunshine state for the winter.  For our final exploration in the peach state, we ended up near the Golden Isles of Georgia.  On the southern end of Georgia’s scenic coastline is a collection of barrier islands.  With their history, natural beauty and huge variety of recreational opportunities, St. Simons Island, Jekyll Island, Little St. Simons, Sea Island and the mainland port of Brunswick make up the Golden Isles.  The area is surrounded by expansive golden marshes, miles of sandy beaches, breathtaking views, maritime forests and generations-old oak trees draped with spanish moss.

Jekyll Island, GA

Beautiful marshland like this show why it’s called the Golden Isles

Jekyll Island is Geogia’s jewel, for several good reasons.  There are only a couple hundred homes on the island and only the northern part is developed, with the majority of the island remaining as dedicated conservation space.  As we biked on the excellent paths (17.5 miles), we experienced its tranquility – partly because we were here during off-season 😉 – and its wild side.  Biking underneath magnificient moss-draped oak canopies, along golden marshland and on the beach made us really feel near nature as we appreciated the beauty.

We wanted so much to be active here and enjoy the island with its surrounding natural side, but the weather was mostly a killjoy. After the one beautiful day that we spent on our bikes, the rain, wind and cold temperatures prevailed.

Jekyll Island, GA

Brewing Storm

Then one morning we decided to walk part of the trail, rain or shine.  Wow, did it rain!  We walked the southern end of the Jekyll Island Trail, for it was wooded and lined with palmettos, pine trees and beautiful live oaks.  We managed to cover only a quarter of the island before gusting winds and torrential rain finally wore us down.  Even the seagulls were hiding from this storm!

Unlike the many islands we’ve visited and biked that were overrun by hotels and vacation rentals, Jekyll Island is unique.  The strict conservation clause limiting future development, preserving wildlife and protecting natural habitats has led to keeping 65% of this island natural and wild.

St Andrews Beach, Jekyll Island, GA

An empty St. Andrews Beach

Driftwood Beach, as the name implies, is littered with dramatic, snarled tree trunks.  The exposed root systems of upturned trees made the beach very picturesque.

Driftwood Beach, Jekyll Island

Driftwood Beach

Some other pics from around the island:

Jekyll Island

St. Simons Island is the largest barrier island in the Golden Isles.  It lies across the Marshes of Glynn, which were immortalized in a poem about the beautiful marshes that surround the area.  The poem was written by Sidney Lanier, who was from Georgia and after whom the beautiful bridge is named.

Sidney Lanier Bridge

Sidney Lanier Bridge over the golden marshes

Traversing the causeway over the estuaries and the salt grasses in the marshland,  we were led to moss-draped, stately oaks lining the winding streets of the island.  Just awesome!

St Simon Island, GA

Driving past those oaks gave us a different, haunting feeling as we meandered along.  Some live oaks are also draped with fall colors.  These ancient oaks form a perfect backdrop for the many inns, homes, resorts and restaurants.  There is also a shopping village and golf course on St. Simons.  Speaking of restaurants, I had THE BEST shrimp and grits (s&g) ever at Halyards, where the chef won first prize in the local s&g competition. Click here for picture. It was the perfect way to end my Georgia s&g orgy!

But one area really stood out – the Avenue of the Oaks – where a double row of magnificent live oaks planted in 1826 served as an entrance to what was then a prosperous cotton plantation called the Retreat Plantation. Today the avenue is now the grand entrance to the Sea Island Golf Club.

Avenue of the Oaks

Avenue of the Oaks – how about this as your front yard?

I was mesmerized by the dancing birds rolling with the waves and wind at East Beach.

East Beach, St Simon Island

East Beach, St. Simon Island

Downtown Brunswick is home to a significant live oak tree called Lovers Oak. This 900-year-old oak has served as a meeting place for lovers since indian times, when they would meet and kiss their true love under its branches.  It is thought to date from the 12th century.

Lovers Oak, Brunswick

Lovers Oak in downtown Brunswick

Our base camp was at Coastal GA RV Resort in Brunswick (Steve’s review is here).  It served as our mainland connection to the Golden Isles, which are separated by intracoastal waterways.  It was here that we tasted some out of this world beef brisket and other BBQ goodies.  Our one-week stay was filled with gastronomic feasts at Southern Soul Barbeque on St. Simons Island and Gary Lee’s Market right down the street from our park in Brunswick.  Now you can see why we had to walk in the rain – there were so many calories that needed to be burned!

Coastal GA RV PArk, GA

Coastal GA RV Resort

There is something for everyone at the Golden Isles, and we lucked out coming here during off-season to enjoy and explore the islands, minus the frenetic atmosphere.  But of course weather can dampen a well-planned stay.  As a winter storm approached, we hunkered down and listened to the howling cold winds and pouring rain.  And since it was too nasty to drive to the islands for sunset pictures, I made do with a sunrise shot right from the campground.

Coastal GA RV Park, GA

Sunrise at the campground

Next up:  Finally entering the sunshine state, Florida

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Back to nature while checking out Savannah, GA

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The Pirate House

We were so looking forward to the next destination, our home base near Savannah, GA. And we were not disappointed as we settled in at Fort McAllister State Historic Park, less than an hour’s drive from the city.  The weather forecast for the next few days said cloudy, a little rain and maybe some wind.  We hoped for better,  but didn’t mind too much since our site #11, (check out our header) was just what we were looking for, after being in too many crowded campgrounds lately.  This park was nestled among giant live oaks and beautiful salt marshes on Savage Island.  Since it’s off-season we had practically the whole place to ourselves, and the weather actually turned out much nicer than predicted.  Yeah!

Savage Island

Entrance to campground that sits on Savage Island

It was so quiet and tranquil that all we heard were branches swaying in the wind, the rustling of the leaves and the occasional acorn bouncing off Betsy’s roof.  And so many visits from chirping birds (oh yeah!).  I was in heaven!  And of course I must post some bird pictures…

We knew we were back to nature when our live entertainment consisted of squirrels noisily chattering and chasing each other, and the loud rapid pecking of Pileated Woodpeckers.  We were surprised at just how loud they were, and several of them pecking all around us brought a smile to our faces.

Pileated Woodpecker

Check out his beak and the branch he’s pecking on!

Pileated Woodpecker

Pileated Woodpecker, a very handsome fellow

There were two walking trails that lead us to palm trees, palmettos, a boat ramp and the edge of tidal Redbird Creek.  Our walking/hiking opportunities were lacking in the urban areas we visited during the past few weeks, and we were happy to catch up here.  Even though the trails weren’t really long, it was refreshing to get back on our “workout schedule”.

On our visit to Savannah we made the most of it by taking the “hop-on – hop off”  Old Savannah Trolley Tour, which gave us a thorough overview of the city and its history. Like its neighbor Charleston, which we had toured just a few days before,  Savannah has a well-preserved historic district.  But unlike Charleston, Savannah is all about “the squares”, which are scattered throughout the Historic District.

Oglethorpe Square

Oglethorpe Square

The squares are laid out in a unique grid of streets and “lanes” (or alleys) that follow a pattern established by General James Oglethorpe when he founded Savannah in 1733. There were originally 24 squares of which 20 remain.  They were designed around a system of wards and shady public squares, which were used for public services and as meeting places.  These days they are beautifully maintained parks that make walking around this area a pleasure.

Chippewa Square

Oglethorpe Monument at Chippewa Square

As we toured around the tidy and lushly green squares, we noticed that some displayed monuments while others had fountains.  But each of the squares is different, and together they make Savannah a unique and unforgettable city.  The building height restrictions help to give it a little more “quaintness” than some of the other southern cities we have visited.

Forsyth Park Fountain

Forsyth Park fountain, a cast iron piece erected in 1858

Along the city’s National Landmark Historic District are homes of a diverse architectural style, many of which have been restored, preserved and converted into museums or inns.

The park bench scene for the movie Forrest Gump was located at Chippewa Square, and scenes from Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil were filmed at the Mercer Williams House.  The Conspirator was also filmed in and near Savannah.  And, oh – Johnny Mercer – musical composer of many old time favorites (Moon River, Autumn Leaves etc .) – was from Savannah.

Something to talk About

A scene from the movie “Something to talk About” was filmed here

wpid19332-2013-11-18-GA-1200907.jpg

Best Shrimp and Grits so far

After the tour, Steve and I walked to the river front where old warehouses on River Street have been converted into pubs, restaurants and specialty shops.  They have really rebuilt and revitalized this area and it is very nice.  For lunch I had Shrimp and Grits for the third time since coming to the south (don’t tell anyone I love them!).  While in the south we just have to eat what they are known for – comfort food 🙂  With tummies satisfied we continued to wander around Factors Row, which is a unique collection of red brick buildings forming the center of commerce for Savannah’s cotton factors (or brokers).  These buildings are connected by Factors Walks, which connect the buildings to the bluff at the river’s edge.

Factors Walk

Factors Row along River Street, which is lined with cobblestones

We were surprised to learn that the Port of Savannah, nicknamed “America’s Retail Port,” is the fourth busiest port in the United States.  Because of its proximity to Atlanta and other major cities across the mid-South, WalMart, Lowe’s, IKEA and The Home Depot have built major import distribution centers in this area.

Port of Savannah, GA

Port of Savannah, GA

We fully enjoyed our day in Savannah – Georgia’s first city – rich in history, architecture and Southern charm.  The layout of the town makes it very easy to walk, and it is lined with old oak trees dripping with spanish moss.  After hearing on the tour that Leopold’s ice cream is known as one of the 10 best in the world, we walked all the way back through town just to try it.  Well, for sure it’s the best we’ve ever had, and a must-try for any ice cream aficionado coming to this area!

Back at camp, it was so serene in the park that we chose to just chill and unwind at our campground the rest of our stay here.  If interested, you can see Steve’s review here.

Fort McAllister Historic Sate Park

Wine and cheese spread at site #11 – we are happy campers again!

And finally, I just can’t help but share a gorgeous sunset with you when the opportunity presents itself:

Fort McAllister Sunset

Fort McAllister Historic State Park Sunset

Next up:  The Golden Isles of Georgia

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What do you think they’re doing?

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Butterflies

When you’re hanging out close to nature and wildlife, you are bound to see amazing, amusing and fascinating things that wildlife do naturally.  For instance, we’re not sure what these Northern Mockingbirds were doing just before they flew away – maybe some kind of mating dance?  Steve tried hopping around in front of me, and I wanted to fly away too!  Watching them closely made us think they must be daring each other to cross the line or perhaps flirting or maybe just dancing to our delight.  What do you think?

On another day while we were deep into our stories while reading our books, we suddenly heard ruffling noises and when we looked  up the sparrows were at it!  I think this is what they mean by “taking a tumble in the hay”!

Butterflies do it as well, looks like a threesome going on here!

Butterflies

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Have you ever been locked out of your RV?

Comments 32 Standard

Have you?

We had exactly that unpleasant experience recently.  It was late in the afternoon on the day we were under a tornado watch, and the winds were already picking up.  We were busy stowing anything that might get blown away, and Steve had the barbecue going to get our chicken cooked (no storm will come between Steve and his trusty Weber!).

I took our trash to the dumpster up the road a ways, and when I came back Steve said, “We have a problem.” Uh-oh, what could that be?

On my way to the dumpster, the wind had slammed the door, and it had somehow locked.  We’re still not sure if one of us may have accidentally pushed the lock down previously while grabbing for the door – we didn’t even know the door could be locked and then closed from the outside, which seems like a bad thing.  Now what were we going to do?  Our cell phones, car keys, house keys and everything else were locked inside.  We could not get in through any windows, because we had very conscientiously closed them to prepare for the big storm.  And we had no spare key hidden on the rig.

While Steve rummaged through his toolbox (at least the compartments were unlocked) and felt his blood pressure rising, I went over to our neighbor’s site and asked if I could borrow a cell phone so I could call a locksmith.  She called from her Onstar and asked for the phone number of a local locksmith.  She then drove me to the front gate to see if the office staff might have a phone number also.  On the way there, I suddenly saw Steve driving ferociously fast after us.  I asked myself, how did he get the car keys?

Steve told us he had been able to “pick” the door lock with a tiny allen wrench and small screwdriver from his toolbox.  Whew! We both looked frazzled and stressed out as we related the story to the park host and the lady that helped us.  I should probably explain that Steve has decades of experience working on cars, and a basic understanding of how locks work. He got this done purely out of desperation because we were miles away from any help. He does not advocate picking locks, and admits he got lucky on this one.

Lesson learned: I dont know about you, but it never occured to us that we could get locked out of the rig this way.  A spare door key hidden under the RV or tucked away in the propane compartment will eliminate a panic attack if this ever happens to us again!

Holiday Campground # 111

The calm after the storm at Holiday Campground – Lagrange, GA

A Monadnock and an Olympic Host – More fun in Georgia!

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Pose at the top of Stone Mountain

We left LaGrange and continued our trek up north to Stone Mountain, GA.  This is actually a granite mountain in Georgia, not the city with the same name.  When we arrived we were surprised to see not just an ordinary mountain, but a huge dome-like mass of granite.  As soon as we settled in at the Stone Mountain Park Campground we began learning about activities we could check out there.

Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain viewed from the south

From the brochures we learned that the RV Campground is within Stone Mountain Park, one of Georgia’s popular attraction areas.  We immediately thought this place would be a madhouse.  But we were wrong, for the park is located on 3,200 acres of natural beauty surrounding Stone Mountain.  Even though we stayed at a 431-site RV park, it is still miles away from the park attractions.  Since we did not care much about their paid attractions, we learned about the history of a huge rock carving and the geology of the mountain itself.

On the north side of the mountain can be seen the largest high-relief sculpture in the world, the Confederate Memorial Carving.  It depicts three Confederate heroes of the Civil War, president Jefferson Davis, general Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.  The entire carved surface measures three-acres, larger than a football field and larger than Mount Rushmore.  The carving of the three men towers 400 feet above the ground, measures 90 by 190 feet, and is recessed 42 feet into the mountain.  The deepest point of the carving is at Lee’s elbow, which is 12 feet to the mountain’s surface.

Confederate Memorial Carving

On the left is Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederate States of America, 1861-1865.  The central and most prominent figure is that of General Robert E. Lee, and behind him is General Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.

Confederate Memorial Carving

Long view of the carving

The carving, first envisioned in 1912, was not begun until 1923 and was finally completed in 1972.  Three sculptors worked on the creation, the first being Gutzon Borglum, who later carved the Mt. Rushmore Memorial in South Dakota.  Augustus Lukeman, the second sculptor, did the bulk of the work of carving the three central figures of the Confederacy on horseback.  Lack of funding and other problems caused work on the sculpture to remain idle for 36 years.  Then in 1958 the state of Georgia purchased the mountain and the surrounding land.  Walker Kirkland Hancock of Gloucester, Massachusetts was chosen to complete the carving and work resumed in 1964.  A new technique utilizing thermo-jet torches was used to carve away the granite.  Chief carver Roy Faulkner did much of the fine carving, completing the work of art with the detail of a fine painting and the final touches in 1972.

The mountain on which the carving resides is called a monadnock by geologists – a mountain of erosion-resisting rock rising above the surrounding countryside.  And that is how Stone Mountain came to be, as 8 to 10 miles of land above the granite rock wore away over a 285-million year period, leaving Stone Mountain standing almost 800 feet high.  Granite is called the Rock of Ages and is very resistant to erosion and other forms of rock destruction.  As the surrounding strata eroded the former molten blob was uncovered through the process of erosion.  We learned a lot about the geology and ecology of the mountain, and the history of the The Battle for Georgia at the Confederate Hall.

Stone Mountain

Stone Mountain viewed from the east

After feeding the brain, we exercised the body.  The park features miles of  hiking and walking trails, and we did all of them.  First Stone Mountain Park Hiking Trailswe hiked up to the top of the mountain, a 1 mile Walk-Up Trail which starts at the Confederate Hall.  While on top, 1,686 feet above sea level, we enjoyed amazing views of downtown Atlanta, the North Georgia mountains and the surrounding area.  The 5 mile Cherokee Trail  loop was an easy to moderate trail that traversed wooded areas around the base of the mountain, the lake shore, a cool covered bridge with another trail, and a grist mill.  This trail intersected a meadow with a great view of the Confederate Carving where I took these photos.  The Nature Trail was a 1 mile scenic loop through a mature oak-hickory forest.  Finally, the Songbird Habitat Meadow Trail was a 1 mile loop which featured a meadow where the songbirds provided music as we walked along, and the attached Songbird Habitat Woods Trail was a 1 mile loop through a forest where we caught a glimpse of some local wildlife.

Top of Stone Mountain

View of Betsy’s hiding place from the top of Stone Mountain

Neither Steve nor I had been to Atlanta, so we took a day off from doing nothing to play tourist in the city that hosted the 1996 Summer Olympics.  Like any other big metropolis there are a bunch of attractions and things to do, but we chose two that tickled our fancy – Inside CNN Studio tour and World of Coca Cola tour.  At the  CNN Center Tour I had my 5 minutes of fame as a newscaster when I volunteered to read from a teleprompter.  Steve and the group thought I did a great job 🙂  This demonstration illustrated how newscasters read from the teleprompter – what they actually see and what the folks at home see.

At the World of Coca Cola we learned that  Coca-Cola history began in 1886 when Atlanta pharmacist Dr. John S. Pemberton created a flavored syrup and took it to his neighborhood pharmacy.  It was mixed with carbonated water which allowed it to be sold at soda fountains, and the rest is history as Coke is one of the world’s best known brands.  The secret recipe is closely guarded, hidden away in a vault within the building.  Neither one of us are soda drinkers but we found the tour fairly interesting – kids really love it.

We walked around downtown a bit and  enjoyed the legacy of the 1996 Centennial Olympic Games.

Georgia International Plaza

Georgia International Plaza

Centennial Olympic Park

Fountain of Rings at the Centennial Olympic Plaza

Centennial Olympic Plaza

Centennial Olympic Plaza

Back at our home base, the initial entry into the campground was NOT a “walk in the park”.  The access road to the sites was atrocious, the worst we have seen with potholes and tree root incursions aplenty.  Our site was not level, but most others were far worse and some were completely unusable for most RV’s.  However, our initial negative comments were overridden by the beauty and serenity of this campground.  It seems that it is not high season yet, as there were only a handful of campers which made the area quiet and peaceful.  The nice weather and chirping of the birds helped, too.  Since the RV park was huge we explored the area and noted how bad the upkeep is there.  At least there were some premium sites that were fairly level with lake views, and they had wooden decks and gas barbecue grills.  Click here for Steve’s detailed review.

And we met some locals at the park.

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Gardens and estates – how it all began in LaGrange, GA

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After lingering in the life and times of FDR, we shifted our attention to estates, glorious gardens and butterflies.  Two famous attractions in Georgia are the Hills & Dales Estates and Callaway Gardens, which have strong ties to LaGrange, GA.  In 1911, textile magnate Fuller E. Callaway Sr., who was born in LaGrange, bought the Ferrel Gardens, built his home and renamed it the Hills and Dales Estate.  He had two sons, Fuller Jr. and Carson J. Callaway.  When he and his wife died, Fuller Jr. took over the care of the estate and continued to preserve the historic house and gardens.  Carson Callaway moved to Pine Mountain, GA and started what would become Callaway Gardens. Below are just a few of the many pictures I took of the lush garden.

Hills and Dales Estates

Hills and Dales Estates

The 35-acre Hills & Dales Estates sits on the crest of gently rolling hills.  The centerpiece is the beautiful Italian villa which was completed in 1916, and as I strolled across the lush grounds it looked like a walk through a European garden with closeted green places to sit and just enjoy the view.  The 150 year old garden predates the house and Visitor Center, where the story of the Callaway family traces the development of the textile industry in Georgia.

Callaway Gardens is a man-made landscape in a unique natural setting nestled in the southern foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.  Created by Carson J. Callaway and his wife Virginia Hand, this place is huge at 14,000 acres.  In addition to the gardens, it offers golfing, boating, cycling, and other leisure activities.  There are several attractions to enjoy, and we wished we had brought our bikes to enjoy the 10-mile Discovery Bicycle Trail.  Instead we followed a few of the nine walking trails where we enjoyed the gardens and saw the Azaleas in full bloom.  With or without bikes, you need a full day to really enjoy this place, especially since the entry fee is $22 per person – ouch!

Overlook Azalea Garden

Overlooking the Azalea garden

Mr Cason's Vegetable Garden

Mr. Cason’s vegetable garden – that’s Steve in the chair, not Mr. Cason

At the Day Butterfly Center we were met by hundreds of beautiful exotic butterflies fluttering freely in a glass-enclosed tropical butterfly conservation.  We really enjoyed this attraction.

Day Butterfly Center

Day Butterfly Center

While at LaGrange we enjoyed some good old-fashioned southern home-style cooking (read “fried”).  We had a great meal at a restaurant called A Taste of Lemon that used to be a church.  But Steve would not be satisfied until he got some fried chicken, which we took care of aplenty at Fried Tomatoes Buffet.  The food was delicious and very reasonably priced at both places.  Steve isn’t sure why they call it “comfort food” though, since he wasn’t very comfortable for a while after stuffing himself.  That will take care of our fried food craving for a very long time!

Our home base while here at LaGrange was another US Army COE campground called Holiday Campground.  It is one of several campgrounds on the shoreline of West Point Lake, which is one of the largest man-made lakes anywhere at 26,000 acres.  It is obviously a favorite spot for fishing, with several boat ramps in the park.  Unlike Gunter Hill COE, this park did not have a sewer hookup but the location was secluded and sites were decently spaced apart.  We stayed in #111, which was fairly level with a lakefront view.  The over 100 sites are spread out into enclaves in groups of about 10, and the distance between our site and the entrance is almost 2 miles.  There were a couple of walking trails that we explored, but we mostly used the roads for our walking and biking.  Click here for Steve’s detailed review, if you’re interested.

Update on our Tornado watch: we hunkered down and retracted our leak-prown slide as torential rains, high winds, thunder and lightning gave us a spectacular show on Thursday night.  Fortunately, we awoke safe and sound to a beautiful sunny day.

Lastly, a gorgeous Georgia sunset the day after the storm.

Sunset at West Point Lake

Our upcoming stops – tell us about any “must do” tours, excursions,
restaurants, etc. you’ve enjoyed at these places:

Greensville and Blacksburg, SC

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The Little White House – Warm Springs, GA

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On this day 68 years ago in 1945, 32nd president Franklin D Roosevelt suffered a massive stroke and died just 83 days after taking office for his 4th term.  It happened while he was posing for a portrait being painted by artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff, at his cottage home known as Little White House located at Warm Springs, GA.  The unfinished portrait can be seen exactly as it was abandoned in mid-brush stroke, as shown below.

FDRs Unfinished portrait

The “Unfinished Portrait” sketched by artist Elizabeth Shoumatoff

We seem to be keen on history lately, and were excited to spend a day at nearby Warm Springs to learn about the longest-serving president of the USA, Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  We began our tour at the FDR Memorial Museum by watching an introductory film that includes some historical footage of his life and achievements during those tumultuous years.  The museum has a great collection of Roosevelt mementos and a storyboard of the many accomplishments befitting a great world leader.  On the wall was a family tree and we learned that FDR and the 26th president Theodore Roosevelt were fifth cousins.  Eleanor Roosevelt, who was of course the first lady, was Theodore’s niece.

During FDR’s time, only a few people knew he was unable to walk for he had contracted partial paralysis from polio in 1921 at age 39 and was paralyzed from the waist down.  With the help of his car’s hand controls, which he helped to design, he often drove while visiting Warm Springs.  The president’s 1938 Ford convertible is on display inside the museum.

1938 Ford Convertible

Roosevelts 1938 Ford Convertible

Inside the car – hand controlled

Completed in 1932, the Little White House is a modest six room one-story cottage.  Also on the grounds are a guest house, servant’s quarters and four Secret Service sentry posts standing much as they did in 1945.

Roosevelts Little White House

The Little White House

As a tribute to President Roosevelt, the 50 states (updated in 1959 to include Alaska and Hawaii) contributed a specimen of their state’s native stones for a memorial.

State Stones along walk

State stones along walk

We continued our tour at the Historic Pools Museum, where FDR searched for relief from polio when he came to Warm Springs in 1924 to swim in the naturally-heated water.  The pools are now drained to avoid damage to the historic structure, but we were able to touch the warm water bubbling from a basin.

Even before FDR knew about the warm springs, local legends tell of a time when the springs at the base of Pine Mountain were the site of a safe haven for warring tribes of Native Americans.  They took advantage of the 88 degree water (900 gallons per minute) and were supposedly all afforded safe passage.  The warm springs are no longer available to the general public to swim in, but to this day the springs feed the modern therapeutic pools at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute , a rehabilitation center founded by President Franklin D Roosevelt.

Although he was never again able to use his legs fully, by 1928 Roosevelt regained enough physical and emotional strength to return to politics and build the simple vacation cottage.  With the resort becoming popular and attracting other polio survivors, he purchased the resort and turned it into what became a world-famous polio treatment center – the Georgia Warm Springs Foundation.  During his presidency FDR returned to use the therapeutic waters at Warm Springs every year (except 1942) until his death in 1945.

This was really an excellent tour, and we recommend it to anyone while in the area.  Although we are not ardent history buffs, seeing so many artifacts from another time and learning so much is always inspirational.

On another front, people have to eat.  Steve somehow got the hankering for a Cobb salad and gave it a try.  He didn’t do too bad! As you may have noticed by now Steve is the chef in this house.

Cobb Salad

Steve’s Cobb Salad, yum yum

As I write this blog we are on a Tornado watch until 11PM.  As we are from the West, this would be our first tornado experience as we journey on to the east coast.  More to come on how we and Betsy make out!