- Where We Started: Atlanta, Ga.
- Where We Ended: Montgomery, Ala.
- Miles Driven: 338 (1,829 total)
- New States: Alabama
- Total States: 5 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHTS
We had so much to see on Saturday that, for the first time on the trip, I decided to put together a detailed schedule for the day. This always strikes fear in Joan's heart, as it usually guarantees a day of my being very anal about, oh, everything. Suddenly, things like eating, stopping for gas and walking the dogs becomes not merely a routine part of the trip, but rather things that gets us further behind schedule. For those who don't know me well, I can get a weeeee bit impatient at times.
And the day didn't start well either, as we woke up and saw rainy, cold weather. Unlike the 2003 trip -- where it rained every day for the first two weeks -- we hadn't seen any rain on this trip. Because of the rain, we -- and I mean all four of us -- were forced to don rain gear and brave some strong winds.
We got started late -- shocking, I know -- and left the hotel at 9:45am instead of the hoped-for 9am in order to hit the Jimmy Carter Library & Museum in Atlanta. I'm a big fan of presidential libraries, though this one wasn't great. It's dated, and poorly laid out. I ended up going through it Benjamin Button-style, starting from the end of Carter's presidency and ending at his birth. Guess I went in the wrong way, but never did see any signs directing me to the proper path. As I was leaving, I saw a note that the library is closing from April 27 until October 1, at which time they will re-open an updated and overhauled museum. That's a good move, it needs refurbishing.
I also prefer presidential libraries that are honest about the man they're honoring. This one fell pretty short, lacking any critical evaluation of what is largely considered a failed presidency. Of course, nothing tops the Nixon Library, which, when I visited in 2003, accused Woodward and Bernstein of breaking the law and asserted that Nixon hadn't really done anything wrong. Then again, at least the museum reflects the paranoia that afflicted the man. The most honest presidential libraries I've been to: Eisenhower and Truman. Both acknowledged the failures and weaknesses of the men.
On the way to the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Site, Joan got this great shot of downtown Atlanta.
The MLK site was excellent. The small civil rights museum in the visitors center conveys a ton of information in a small space, and you can easily walk to MLK's birth home, grave site and the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where he was co-pastor with his father from 1960 until his death in 1968.
After Carter and King, we bid farewell to Atlanta and continued our drive into the past to see Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Little White House in Warm Springs, Ga., where he went to seek relief for his polio and where he died in April 1945. The room where he collapsed, and the bedroom where he died are both preserved faithfully.
The museum in the visitors' center is also very strong. The house itself was quite small, surprisingly, and the servants' quarters weren't a whole lot smaller than those of the Roosevelt family. Definitely worth a visit, though oddly, this isn't a national historic site, but a Georgia state park.
By now, we were only 15 minutes behind schedule, and we made the rest of the time up with a speedier-than-expected drive to the Andersonville National Historic Site, where the infamous Civil War prison was located. The prison itself is gone, but there's a terrific National Prisoner of War Museum and a cemetery for many of the near 13,000 Union prisoners who died at Andersonville. We also stumbled upon Andersonville as they were setting up for a special candlelight tour of the prison and cemetery, which featured Civil War reenactors.
My favorite reenactor was the Union prisoner with the Blackberry. Joan preferred the Confederate solider with the iPhone. Seriously, though, it was a stop I'm glad we made. Even without the prison itself, the aforementioned highlights -- plus the many memorial monuments on site -- made this an impactful stop.
After that, we headed west toward Plains, Ga. It's the home of.... oh, who was that again. Can't quite remember the name...
Yes, that's the Billy Carter Service Station Museum. Wow. I really have no joke here, yet I'm relatively sure I don't need one.
We cruised past the hospital where Carter was born -- now, fittingly, the Lillian G. Carter Nursing Center, and then past Plains High School and his boyhood farm. Located on the edge of town is the current residence of the Carters, which is obviously inaccessible and protected by the Secret Service.
By the time we made it to Montgomery for dinner, we were actually 30 minutes ahead of schedule. All in all, a wonderful performance by the entire FHMA team. Joan was even pleasantly surprised how mellow I was all day long. This not working thing can do wonders for the soul.
- Et tu, Washington Post, et tu? Many of you have passed on the link to the story that ran in The Post about someone traveling across the country for the second time (like us) with a beagle (like us, only one less). I must have been too hard to find: I'm only blogging the trip, have three e-mail addresses, two mobile phones, a Facebook account, a Twitter account and am broadcasting my exact location via Google Latitude. I guess they just couldn't locate me.
- As we were walking through the Little White House, the talkative park ranger was asking where everyone was from. She didn't seem much interested in Virginia, but when the couple behind us said they were from Chicago, the following conversation ensued:
- Ranger: "Ah, the Windy City. How's that Donahoo fellow doing?"
- Husband: "Uh, who?"
- Ranger: "You know, Donahoo. He used to be on TV all the time."
- Husband: "Oh, you mean, Phil Dona-HUE."
- Ranger: "Yeah, he's the best."
- Husband: "Gee, I don't know what he's up to."
- Ranger: "You know he's married to Marlo Thomas."
- Husband: "Uh, yes, I did."
- <awkward silence>
The couple then fled Warm Springs before the ranger sought some Jack Paar updates. Note: "The Phil Donahue Show" went off the air in 1996, according to IMDB.com.
- Joan had another great hotel reservation conversation with a guy at the Holiday Inn in Montgomery on Saturday. Joan the Tigress continued to ask about every rate she could, i.e. AAA, American Express, manager's special, two-nights-for-one, the NAMBLA rate, etc. After she asked about the AAA rate, the booker said, "That rate will be $124. Would you like me to book that?" Joan said no, then asked about another rate, and he replied, "We can do that for $109. Would you like me to book that?" Joan continued to say no, and ask about yet another rate. This standoff went on for some time, until Joan finally realized the Holiday Inn probably would not pay us to stay there. And after all that, Joan finally says, "Oh, by the way, we have dogs." Out came the $50 pet fee, and the conversation ended. Two people and a combined 20 minutes they'll never get back.
- A small piece of trivia for FHMA followers. Our stay in Montgomery marks the first time we've stayed in a city on this trip that we stayed in on the 2003 journey. On the Fred Takes America tour, it took us about 20 hours to cover the entire distance we've covered since we left home nine days ago, as we made a marathon drive home from the Florida Panhandle to end the trip. We do plan on hitting a lot of places for a second time, but we're also trying to make sure we see as many new things as possible.
- Another first: We drove our first dirt road today, in Plains, Ga. We drove past the boyhood farm of Jimmy Carter, and as we worked our way back to the main road, the pavement gave way to dirt. We learned on our first trip that, just because a road is marked as a county or state highway, it doesn't mean it's paved.
- So Joan, me and Joan's friend Dave were walking back to our car after lunch in Lawrenceville, Ga. on Friday, and we saw a guy dressed in a pink bunny suit lying prone in a doorway, and surrounded by a film crew. I told Joan this seemed like something we should take a photo of. Joan took her camera, went back and got some shots, and soon returned to the car. I remarked to her that we should just run the photo of the guy in the bunny suit without comment on the blog, and turn it into a caption contest. And her response: "Oh, you wanted a picture of the guy in the bunny suit?" Incredulously, I looked at her, and then at Dave, and said, "Uh... Yeah! What the hell did you think I wanted?" She said, "The film crew." Joan, Joan, Joan...
- Among the towns we drove through yesterday was Ideal, Ga. It struck me that this is a great town name because it makes everything in town sounds great, and sure enough, we soon drove past the Ideal Volunteer Fire Department and the Ideal Police Department. The town itself, however, doesn't seem to match the name.
- Signs of the Day:
- "Deli & Antique Mall," in Butler, Ga. "Can I help you?" "Yes, can I get a ham on rye with cheese and sauerkraut and ... well, hell, why don't you throw in an armoire."
- "Big Chic," in Talbotton, Ga. Sounds like the name of a porn magazine featuring large women, but in turned out to be a fried chicken restaurant.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "Sisyphus Part Four," by Pink Floyd. Off one of the most inscrutable Floyd albums, I can't count this song or album as one as my favorites. But Pink Floyd is one of my favorite bands, and -- even though no one asked -- I will say that "The Wall," "Animals" and "Dark Side of the Moon" probably rate in my top 10 albums of all time, and "Wish You Were Here" isn't far off. "Comfortably Numb" is in my top five songs of all time, and I personally rate David Gilmour's closing guitar solo as the greatest in rock history. Other favorite Floyd tunes: "Dogs," "Wish You Were Here," " One of These Days," "Money," "Mother" and "On the Turning Away."
- Most-played albums: We closed out out time in Georgia by playing some more Ray Charles and B-52s, and went shuffle play in Alabama. But we'll get some car time today, and will explore some Alabama tunes. For the first time on the trip, I was dragging pretty badly when we arrived in Montgomery, and needed something to fire me up to finish off the drive, and the shuffle play obliged: "Achilles Last Stand," an underrated 10-minute Led Zeppelin epic off a mediocre album, "Presence." It features some of Bonham's best drumming, IMHO.
- Totally unrelated music You Tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_RgL2MKfWTo
- Lunch: Hardee's, Newnan, Ga: For lunch, we decided to say "Helllo, Newnan." This area right off I-85 didn't have a ton of options -- and we were on a tight sked, as previously noted -- so we chose Hardee's, whereupon Joan informed me she'd never been to a Hardee's. Shocked, I told her she shouldn't expect too much, but we were pleasantly surprised. My burger was excellent, as was Joan's fish sandwich, which is saying something, since I have a personal rule about ever getting fish at a fast food restaurant. Let's just say it hasn't always worked out for me in the past. Jim Nutrition Rating: 1 star (out of 5). Burger and fries. I'm weak. Weigh-in is tomorrow, and I'm worried. Restaurant Rating: 4 stars (out of 5, on the fast-food scale). Fries were great too.
- Dinner: Vicki Lawrenson's house, Pike Road, Ala.: We had our second home-cooked meal of the trip, at the home of Joan's friend from her AOL days. We had yummy pot roast, a side salad, some delicious bread, a pasta side and veggies. Jim Nutrition Rating: 3 (out of 5). The pot roast alone was fine, but I ate too much bread and did sample some of the chocolates for dessert.
- Quality Inn Montgomery, Montgomery, Ala.: We were pretty down on Quality Inns after our Savannah experience, but were pleasantly surprised by this room. Pretty big, pretty clean, pretty surprising. The door opens to the outside, which is great for getting all our bags into a room, but bad because the dogs are constantly on alert because of people and cars going past. Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5).
- MovieLocations.com: Cool site if you're interesting in finding out or visiting the shooting locations of movies. It's still missing a lot of stuff, but fun to look through.
COMMENT OF THE DAY
From Mark Potts:
UPCOMING PLAN (subject to change)
- Today: Alabama, specifically Montgomery and Mobile.
- Tomorrow: The Gulf Coast, probably Mobile and Pensacola, Fla.
- The Next Day: New Orleans.
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTO
No these are not beagle superheroes, these are beagles being protected from the rain by the canine raincoats that Joan -- again, that would be Joan -- bought for the pups. Did I mention Joan purchased these? They even have hoods.