Sunday, October 18, 2015

Suwanne, FL 10/15-18/2015

We were in Suwanne, FL for just three days.  Day one, we committed to washing and waxing our home.  It is a big job, was much needed, but we did get it done.  We took one afternoon to paddle kayaks 6 miles down the Suwanne River.  It was a beautiful day for a paddle and the RV park dropped us off with the kayaks at our beginning point.  

We were treated to an eagle that soared right by us and the tree roots along the banks are always incredible to see.  We had several 200 pound sturgeon fish jump out of the water around us.  We were just glad that none of them landed on our kayaks.  We also enjoyed getting to see the Drew Bridge, whose remains tower out of the middle of the river.  

The Drew Bridge was purchased by the Drew Lumber Company from Brazil in 1899 for $15,000.  This swing bridge was floated here from Brazil on a barge to its present location.  The bridge was moved into place when needed by the railroad by manually turning a crank that was located in the middle of the bridge.  The Florida Railroad Company continued to use this bridge until 1920.  Tomorrow we have a short drive as we make our way to Wildwood, FL.

Suwanne River
Suwanne River
Suwanne River
Drew Bridge
Suwanne River
Paddling under the Drew Bridge
Suwanne River

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Americus, GA 10/9-14/2015

We are continuing to to head south, working our way towards the Florida Keys for the winter.  We stopped for 6 days in Americus, GA.  We are staying at the Brickyard Plantation.  It is an RV golf resort and is run by the nicest people one can imagine.  Our first two days here was during their annual South Eastern Bluegrass Association Festival where we were treated to 2 days of Bluegrass tunes from various bands.  We can both attest, you have not really heard Amazing Grace until you have heard a Georgia Bluegrass band play it.

After a couple of days of listening to Bluegrass we were off to visit some of the sites that are close to here.  First up was Andersonville Prison, or Camp Sumter as it was called back in the Civil War days. Andersonville prison is known for being the largest prison on the Confederate side and operated for just 14 months, beginning in February 1864.  In that short time 13,000 of the 45,000 captured Union soldiers sent there died.  

When the 16 acre prison was originally constructed, the plan was that it would include wooden barracks.  But, that never happened and the prisoners housed there lived under open skies.  They were left to doing what they could to build their own shelter with clothes and blankets.  These shelters were known as shebangs    The water that trickled through the enclosed open air log fence structure eventually flowed little and what did flow for the most part eventually became a cesspool of disease and human waste.  The prison was built to hold 10,000 men and within three months there were over 30,000 men contained within its walls.  Food and water became scarce and what there was of these was often contaminated or spoiled.  A rouge group of prisoners known as the Raiders began to form within.  They would use brutal means to extract goods from their fellow inmates.  The group was lead by six men.  Within a few weeks another group from within known as the Regulators formed.  The Regulators hunted down these fellow inmates known as the Raiders from within,  and both put them on trial  and hung all six of them, right there within the prison walls. But the Raiders were far from the total problem for after their hanging, another 10,000 prisoners would still die within the prison walls from hunger, exposure or disease.

We drove around the prison grounds using a borrowed CD guide from the Parks service.  Along the fields we could see where the stockade walls were located as well as the dead line.  The dead line was a light fence erected 19 feet inside of the 15 foot high stockade walls.  If a prisoner stepped into this area they would be shot.  We also toured the cemetery where 13,000 Union prisoners are buried.  While we were at the Shriver house in Gettysburg we learned how George Shriver died within this prison camp.  Gettyburg visit   Wanting to feel that connection, we searched out George's gravestone and felt connected when we found him.  We learned how the soldier gravestones are  placed only inches apart because once the death rate reached 100 prisoners per day the prisoners were buried in trenches, shoulder to shoulder. They were numbered and some time later they were identified.  

To say this was a sober day is an understatement.  We had planned to go to Plains, GA too but it looks like that will keep until tomorrow.  We stopped in Americus at Gladys Gladys for a knock your socks off late lunch (or early dinner) of fried chicken,  greens, homemade creamed corn, corn bread johnny cakes and something called buttered rolls for desert.  Want to know what this is?  We found this recipe on the internet.  Trust us, butter roll desert is yummy.  Butter rolls

Plains Georgia, the home of Jimmy Carter was our next planned excursion.  We would have enjoyed getting to attend a Sunday School class of his, but while he is here most weekends, this weekend was not one of those.  We toured his school, the farm he grew up on and we were amazed at this simple town that an ex- president lives in now.  There are a couple of simple restaurants and a grocery store (not major) about 15 minutes away.  Everyone is friendly and the peanut butter ice cream in the local tourist store is to die for.  Almost every house in this small town has a Jimmy Carter for Cancer Survivor sign in their front yard.

As we explained in our Atlanta post  Carter Presidential Library Jimmy and his wife are loving, simple and caring individuals.  His home town tours felt the same.  So many audio recordings from him and his wife enveloped us in their caring spirits.  And everything, even though being a National Park site,  is no charge.  As we listened to his various audios, you get a feeling that none of them were prepared, yet just off the cuff and always very humble.

The video of their house  showed us that they are people of very simple needs.  They love each other and want to do good in this world.  There is nothing elaborate in their home. Simple as that.  Nothing fancy about their house or its furnishings.

At their high school are many museum story boards.  Here, Rosalyn very honestly tells of her unhappiness when Jimmy decided to leave his officer job in the navy to return back to Plains.  That first year they struggled with three boys and had to live in Government housing.  We can only imagine, that leaving a life of exciting international travel, after growing up in such a small town, must have seemed hard for her.  But she learned accounting and eventually became a huge asset to the farm that they began.  And today, Jimmy gives her a lot of credit too for their success.

At the farm, we could see how Jimmy grew up with little.  He had two sisters and a brother and they did not have running water or electricity in the house until Jimmy was 13.  Once they did the water to the shower was not heated, it ran into a bucket that had holes to create a make ship shower head.

On the farm they ran a general store and we heard accounts where there was almost never an evening meal where Jimmy was not required to leave the dinner table to attend to a small sale such as chewing tobacco.

Most of what we left Plains with, however, is that the locals so love the Carters. Like previously mentioned, almost every house had a Jimmy Carter for Cancer Survivor sign in their yard and it was not hard to get caught up in the love that this town has for the Carter family.  After visiting their library and their home town, if we were to sum it up in a few words, I think we would say, a life well lived.  They convey their love for people of many lands, and their undying love for God and humanity, any way that they can, and they are anxious to help those in need. So very uplifting.

Our last bit of touring this area was the Habitat for Humanity International Global Village in the city of Americus.  At this location are approximately 15 sample homes that Habitat for Humanity builds for families all over the Globe using local appropriate materials.  The tour begins with a walk through a typical slum area.  The signs we felt do a good job of explaining how people come to live in the conditions they are in (not normally from being lazy, but rather from leaving a rural area for the city in hopes of employment for their families).  The statistics are sad.  Lack of clean water and sanitation claim the lives of 1.8 million young children every year.  Even here in the US 48.5 million families live in poverty.  Throughout the village are stories regarding the accomplishments of their housing.  One that stood out for us was that in Malawi, children that live in Habitat for Humanity houses have 44 percent less sickness from Malaria and other gastrointestinal disease than children in other housing there.  We continued our tour through the various sample houses, all of which we could go inside of as well, though only a few actually have indoor plumbing.

Habitat for Humanity does not give away homes.  Rather homeowners must meet certain income guidelines which require them to be in need, yet also be capable of paying a mortgage. Additionally, approved home owners must put in a minimum of 500 hours of sweat equity into the construction of their own home.  The mortgages go to pay for the land and building materials, and most of the labor to construct is done so by volunteers.  At the village we also learned about numerous of their other programs that include, among many others, home maintenance for the needy as well as repairs.   This is an organization that we both really believe in and at present they are completing a construction or renovation project for a family every 10 minutes of the day.   I believe we were told that a US home (which includes much more than these international homes) is mortgaged to the new owner at somewhere around $70,000. 

Reconstructed Shebangs
 Andersonville Prison, GA
The Marking of the Deadline and Stockade lines
Andersonville Prison, GA
Mass numbers buried shoulder to shoulder
Andersonville Prison, GA
George's Grave (from Gettysburg)
Andersonville Prison, GA
Gettysburg blog entry
Go Buffaloes
Plains High School
Jimmy Carter's High School
Jimmy Carter's High School
The Farm
Jimmy Carter grew up here with his 2 sisters and brother
 Jimmy Carter's room
The Farm (Jimmy's boyhood)
 After age 13 the family had running water, though not heated.
The bathroom pipe would put water in the bucket, that had holes in it, and this
worked as their shower head.
The Farm (Jimmy's boyhood)
The formal family dining room for Sunday dinners
Carter Farm (Jimmy's boyhood)

The Carter Living room (Jimmy's boyhood)
The Carter General Store (Jimmy's boyhood)
Jimmy Carter's Church-Maranatha Baptist Church
Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday School here on most Sundays
At full capacity the sanctuary seats 300 people.
 Young Jimmy Carter Childhood Picture
Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter Wedding Photo
One of the many water colors done by Jimmy Carter
'My Studio Self-Portrait' Jimmy Carter 2009 
So much support from the locals
This sign is in the yard of most Plains, GA homes
and also through out the entire town of Americus too.
Habitat for Humanity
Aerated Concrete Block
Metal Roof
Habitat for Humanity
Field Stone
Local Wood
Concrete Floor
 Corrugated Metal Roof
Habitat for Humanity
Metal Window Frames and Vents
Steel Reinforced Concrete Lintels
Habitat for Humanity
Homeowner Fired Clay Bricks
Pole Rafters

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Atlanta, Georgia, Day 2 10/7/15

We began our second day in Atlanta at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, the Martin Luther King Junior National Historic site and last we drove by the capitol as they were closed by the time we made it there.

The Jimmy Carter Presidential Museum had more to see than we had expected.  It is generally believed that Jimmy Carter lacked the experience needed to move our country forward, especially with the challenges he was given in regards to inflation and the energy crisis.  He was, however, somewhat successful in the foreign affairs arena where he re-established relations with China and also brokered a peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.  In the library, with its various videos, one could not help but be filled with the man's honesty and compassion and the work he has accomplished since leaving the presidency is surly to be admired.

The library begins with stories of his boyhood.  He was born in Plains Georgia, in a town of approximately 600 people.  His father was very pro-segregation, owned a local store and dabbled in farming while his mother was a nurse and tended to treat blacks equally .  The town he grew up in was mainly inhabited with impoverished blacks, and Jimmy's playmates growing up were mainly the surrounding black farmhand's children.  All of these things led to Jimmy, at a very young age, growing up to have anti-segregation views which were a contradiction to most from the southern states in that time period. He grew up in a home with no electricity or running water until his teenage years and he personally plowed the fields behind a mule.  We heard how his family emphasized education and that at an early age he established a goal to go into the US Naval Academy, where he would later graduate 60th out of a class of 820.  We learned of the promising career he had as a Navy submarine officer under the legendary Navy Admiral Hyman Rickover (the Father of the Nuclear Navy).  When Jimmy's father died, he resigned his Navy commission to head back to Plains to try and continue some of the political aspirations that his father had begun.  But the first year back was very lean, including the Carters with 3 boys resorting to living in public housing and the farm clearing a meager $200 at year end.  

Fast forwarding...ten years later, in 1963, Jimmy Carter is a state senator.  In 1966 he has a failed run for Georgia state governor and then wins the race the next time around in 1970, serving from 1971-75.  In 1976 he ran for president.  At the time with less than a 2 % name recognition, his campaign strategy was one of morality and honesty.  With voters having just been through the Vietnam war and Watergate, it was the perfect storm for election of personality over experience.   His securing the votes was a surprise to many.

His presidency successes and failures we think are fairly well known.  Successes included the Israel-Egypt Peace treaty, the Panama Canal Treaties, establishing full diplomatic relations with China, the Salt II Strategic Arms Limitation talks, development of the Department of Education and also the Department of Energy, and making advancements in environmental and energy conversation.  On the flip side of the coin, however, he over trusted the Soviets (after negotiating the arms control treaty they invaded Afghanistan) , unemployment and inflation sky rocketed during his term, and of course there was the Iranian Hostage Crisis.  While he developed good relations with some foreign countries, he was not normally thought well of by our NATO allies.

Concerning life in the White house, one thing we were not aware of prior to our visit was that seven Carters actually moved into the White house.  While everyone knows that little Amy their daughter was there with them, so were their sons Chip and Jeff along with their wives and eventually a grandchild too.

Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn are most respected for their work after leaving the White house when they established the Carter Center in 1982.  Their success here are many.  They have helped to advance peace, health, human rights and economic opportunities in more than 80 countries. They are well known for their fight against the Guinea Worm disease, reducing its numbers from 3.5 million people infected in 1986 to just 15 so far this year.  They have observed over 100 elections in 38 countries to assure fairness and have worked to resolve conflicts in many countries including Cuba, North Korea, Sudan and many more.  In 2002 Jimmy Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize "for his decades of untiring effort to find peaceful solutions to international conflicts, to advance democracy and human rights, and to promote economic and social development."   

In summary, while in many ways he was a president lacking experience, we found him to be intelligent, full of compassion, energetic and truly driven to help mankind.

One more interesting thing we learned at the museum (a bit of trivia really), shown in the pictures below.  The Eagle on the Presidential Seal originally faced the arrows to show strength in war (as shown on the desk).  It was changed to look toward the olive branches in 1946 by President Truman and has remained that way ever since.

Before leaving the Presidential Library we visited the Photo Exhibit by Zeng Yi : The People's China - Village Life.  The expressions he is able to capture in his photography is fascinating.  We have included one of his photos below.

Today was fast-food for us as we still had so much ground we wanted to cover and we were behind our anticipated timeline.  Our next destination was the Martin Luther King Junior National Historic Site. We spent some time in the museum which was broad on information compared to the Civil Right museum we went to in Memphis  Memphis blog. The museum gave a good overview of how Martin Luther King Jr. developed his ideas on so many issues and explained what a great admirer of Gandhi he was.  Our main interest here, however, was seeing his birth home and the church that he grew up in.

The house is located about one block from the Ebenezer Baptist Church where both King's father and grandfather were pastors, and ML (as Martin Luther Junior was called) later became an associate pastor at age 19.  While the family does not allow pictures inside the home, a few can be found at this link: Inside King Home
We began our tour on the front steps of this 1895 built home.  Here it was pointed out to us the neighboring houses.  The King home was located at the dividing mark of the more affluent houses and the working class houses and because of this the children had friends from various economic realms.  The first room we saw was the parlor.  Being the home of a pastor, and used for many church member visits, this room was strictly off limits to the kids except during piano lessons, which all three of the King children were required to take.  Our guide told us stories of how ML was a typical boy and that he hated piano lessons.  One day M.L. and his brother A.D. unscrewed the piano stool to its greatest point and when their teacher arrived and sat down he fell to the floor.  But this did not stop the lessons.  We heard the story of how at the young age of 6 ML sat at the required family dinner table and was asked by his father what was wrong.  He had played daily with a good friend across the street and all of a sudden was told he was no longer allowed to play with him.  ML thought surely that he had done something wrong.  It is at this tender age that his father explained to him about racism.  ML would continue to dislike whites until sometime in his later teen years. We also heard how at each Sunday dinner the children were required to recite a 'favorite' Bible verse and that often ML would choose John 11:35.  It just so happens to be the shortest verse in the Bible :'Jesus wept.'  After dinner the children had chores and we heard how ML was great at escaping doing the dishes....hiding out in the bathroom.  Eventually we were told his father solved the problem by giving him the dirtiest job in the house, keeping the coal loaded up in the furnace in the basement.  Downstairs is where ML's grandparents and his sister lived with his parents, the boys, the aunt and the uncle all living upstairs.  The aunt was said to be very influential in ML's life and read to the children every night.  All of the children were actually born in this house.  During the hot summers, the King children would often sleep on the upstairs porch as the upstairs after baking in the sun all day was pretty intolerable.  

Our ranger tour guide was full of passion. He toured our group of 10 down the narrow hallways of the birth home and up and down the stairs.  His stories were full bodied, contained many impersonations and were told with a realism and character that we seldom get to experience.  He had our entire group laughing at times and after just a few minutes into the tour everyone completely forgot that this really amazing guide was totally blind.

From the house we first walked by the resting place of Dr. Martin Luther King Junior and his wife Coretta.  Their resting place is surrounded by a beautiful reflecting pool next to Freedom Hall.  From there we headed to the Ebenezer Baptist Church.  The church was founded in 1886.  The Rev. John Parker, who was born into slavery was the first pastor of the church.  In 1894 Adam William succeeded Parker as the pastor of the church. At this time the church was struggling with only 17 members on its roles.   Within a year the membership had grown to 65 members and there were plans to build a new church.  Services were first held in the building basement in 1914 and the sanctuary was completed in 1922. Williams urged his members to become home owners and to fight for equal accommodations for their race.  Adam William is the father of Martin Luther King Sr.'s wife. Both Martin Senior and Martin Junior were married in this church.  Their funerals were also held in this church.  Martin Senior was pastor of the church for 44 years.  At the age of 19, Martin Junior joined him as an associate pastor. While sitting in the church pews we listened to sermons of Dr. King.

Wow, our day was so more filled than we ever expected.  While we ran out of time to visit the inside of the Capitol, we took the opportunity to at least drive by the outside. The inside we will need to wait until another trip to Atlanta to see.

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Oval Office Display
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Oval Office Display
That is George Washington on the wall without his wig
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Oval Office Ceiling Eagle Facing Olive Branches
Eagle Facing Arrows from Oval Office Desk
(same Desk that President Obama sits at) Oval Office desk
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Portrait of Jimmy Carter by Octavio Ocampo 1979
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Beijing Olympics Coke Bottles
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Kitten Playing with Mantis (a gift to the Carters)
Embroidery from the Suzhou Embroidery Research Institute in China
The background was like a window.  Incredible and Beautiful.
Do not miss the silk embroidery from this research institute if
you ever have the chance to see.
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Our Classroom Shandong:Zeng Yi 1982
Jimmy Carter Presidential Library
Martin Luther King Jr. Birth home
Resting place of Dr. King Jr. and his wife
Resting place of Dr. King Jr. and his wife
Ebenezer Baptist Church
Ebenezer Baptist Church
Georgia State Capital-Completed in 1889
Reflection in an office building of the Georgia State Capital

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Atlanta, Georgia, Day 1 10/6/15

We are working our way south for the Winter and are spending a couple of days in the Atlanta, GA area.  This morning it was a bit overcast so we decided it would be a great day to head off to the aquarium, especially because we had heard it was ranked #1 for aquariums in the US, and It did not disappoint. The Georgia Aquarium is an incredible aquarium and the only other aquarium we have visited thus far that comes close is the aquarium at Atlantis in the Bahamas.  

The Georgia aquarium is the only aquarium in the US housing whale sharks, the largest known fish on the planet.  Their home here is a 6.3 million gallon tank, and the acrylic walls that encompass their home are 24 inches thick.  Getting the whale sharks here is an impressive story in itself.  The whale sharks came from the fishing quota in Taiwan, so they would have been eaten had the aquarium not bought them.  We believe that Taiwan is no longer fishing whale sharks, but sadly some Asian countries still are.  Their import to the US via air, truck and boat had never been tried before.  Unlike transporting whales which are mammals, the whale sharks  are fish and must continuously have oxygenated water along their journey.  We so enjoyed watching these creatures, especially after seeing them water topside, snorkeling near La Paz Mexico. Cabo and La Paz

Little is known about the whale sharks regarding reproduction.  They have never been witnessed mating or birthing and it is thought that both of these things happen in very deep areas of the ocean (20,000 feet was mentioned).  What is believed, however, is that the whale shark may mate once, hold the sperm in her system and fertilize the her eggs over some period of time. A female washed up that was, amazingly, carrying 304 pups in her uterus, and the pups within her were all at different stages of development.   She had from 16 inch embryos in egg cases to 2 foot in length near term pups swimming freely in her womb (and everything in-between).

Another favorite at the aquarium for us was seeing both the Beluga Whales and the Albino Alligator. Such beautiful creatures.  And there was so much more to enjoy.  We felt that this aquarium concentrated on quality rather than quantity and their tanks are incredibly clear too.   Also we were impressed by the numerous knowledgeable docents scattered about that they had to answer questions.  

The dolphin show for Teri is always with mixed emotions.  She so loves watching the personal interactions with the dolphins including their incredible intelligence, yet always questions what we are subjecting these amazingly intelligent creatures to. The show was well done and the dolphins were all on cue.  But between knowing what the Japanese do to support this industry, and the incredible intelligence off these creatures, it is with incredible mixed emotion to watch a dolphin show.   There is plenty of information out there regarding these concerns, including the movie 'The Cove' for those interested.

 We sat and we watched all the wonders around us at this aquarium and before we knew it, we had spent an entire day here.  For those traveling to Atlanta, our vote is that this aquarium is a Must See.

On returning home (we camped at Stone Mountain), we walked up to where we could see the largest bas-relief carving in the world.  Bas-relief carving?  For more on what this is read: Bas-Relief Carving  The Stone Mountain carving is of Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. Notice, in our pictures, on the right, there are workers that we can only assume were cleaning the carving.  

Last, our campsite at Stone Mountain is quite beautiful.  It is both lakefront and very peaceful and probably more enjoyable now that the summer crowds are gone.

Georgia Aquarium
Georgia Aquarium
Georgia Aquarium
Georgia Aquarium
Georgia Aquarium
Georgia Aquarium
Georgia Aquarium
Georgia Aquarium
Georgia Aquarium
Georgia Aquarium
Stone Mountain Carving
Stone Mountain, Georgia
Our Campsite at Stone Mountain, Georgia