Thursday, August 21, 2014

In Case You Were Wondering…

We’re home.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014


President Jimmy Carter was born in Plains, GA, went to school in Plains, GA, met his wife in Plains, GA, built his first and only house in Plains, GA, and when he lost his bid for reelection, moved back to the same house where he and Rosalynn still live in Plains, GA.


Plains High School, where Jimmy and Rosalynn attended both grammar and high school, is now the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.



To be honest, the collection in the museum is not that interesting. It traces Jimmy’s life from a boy in Plains, to his work as a peanut farmer, his entry into politics and then the presidency.


There’s a replica of his White House Desk (that’s not the president sitting there) which is the same one used by JFK (the original, not the replica).  The Carter Library is in Atlanta. (Whenever I think about presidential libraries I can’t help but wonder if the shelves of the George W. Bush Presidential Library are empty.)

We were told that the president and Rosalynn stop by every once in a while, so when we turned a cornerDSC_0662 in the hall, we got excited.

But it was just a photograph. Billy’s gas station is just around the corner from the high school, but I didn’t get a picture of it because there was nowhere to park and the Plains police station is right next door. The Carter’s compound is a few blocks down the road, but, aside from the Secret Service guard house and a fence, there’s nothing there to be seen.


A couple of miles from the presidential residence is Jimmy Carter’s boyhood farm. James Earl Carter, Sr., and his family moved to this farm in 1928. President Carter said living here during the depression was like living a farm life 2000 years ago.




They initially had no running water and electricity wasn’t put in until 1938. The house is now part of the National Historic Site.





I’m sure it was quite a relief when indoor plumbing was added.




This was Jimmy’s bedroom. The original furniture is long-gone, but everything in the house is true to the period during which he lived there.





And yes, that’s a pair of muddy jeans standing next to the dresser. There was no explanation given.





The NPS caretaker at the farm told us that the Carters come by frequently to pick vegetables in the garden and get some eggs from the chickens on the farm. We didn’t see them while we were there, but the caretaker, with whom we had a very nice chat, gave us a half-dozen eggs laid that day. Sorry Jimmy.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


When travelling in the south we’ve visited many Civil War sites: battlefields, forts, headquarters buildings, cemeteries and the like.  A couple of years ago we even visited the Union prison camp on Delaware Island in the bay at the mouth of the Delaware River.  That visit did nothing to prepare us for Andersonville.

If you are familiar with the book and movie about Andersonville, you may have an idea about what a horrible place it was. But I’ll start the story of our visit at the beginning.

When arriving at the Andersonville National Historic Site inDSC_0626 Georgia we were surprised to learn that the National POW Museum is located here, in a very rural, out-of-the-way part of Georgia. The message of the museum is one that should be on display in Washington, DC, but it’s here where relatively few citizens, and probably even a smaller percentage of politicians, can see it.


The first thing I saw in the museum was this poster which lists the daily count of prisoners, and deaths that occurred on this date 150 years ago when the prison camp was in operation. In case you can’t read it, the poster says there were more than 32,000 Union prisoners there, 81 deaths, and more than 5500 burials since February. More on the prison camp later.


The bulk of the museum exhibits relate to the history of war and the taking of prisoners of war. The Geneva Convention regarding the treatment of POWs, and the controversies related to both the behaviors of the captured soldiers and those of the captors are discussed in detail.


This is a reproduction of the type of cage many US warriors were kept in by the North Vietnamese. There are also many multimedia exhibits utilizing letters written home by POWs read by actors. It is a terrific, powerful museum, and my only question is “why is it buried in the middle of rural Georgia when it should be seen by so many more people than will ever visit this small town.” The simple answer is the obvious one: Andersonville was the worst prisoner of war camp on American soil, so the location does make sense in that regard. But more people should see this museum.

The National Park Service provides a loaned CD at no cost to guide visitors on a driving tour of the Site.


When we first arrived at the site of the prison camp our first thought was “I guess the NPS decided not to reconstruct any of the buildings that were here.” The post in the foreground of this image depicts the location of the stockade boundary wall and the white post in the background shows the location of the “deadline”. If a prisoner crossed this line, he was shot.


Several sections of the boundary wall have been reconstructed. But again, where are the buildings? There were as many as 32,000 prisoners kept here – where did they live?


There were no buildings for the prisoners because they were moved here before the facility was completed. They lived in the open in makeshift huts called “shebangs” which were put together with blankets, scraps of wood and anything else the prisoners could find.


Food was scarce, and for most of the 14 months the camp operated the only water available was from this tiny stream known as the Stockade Branch. The stream quickly became polluted with waste from a bakery that was providing inadequate food as well as human waste. This was the only source of water for as many as 32,000 men crammed into a 16 acre stockade with virtually no shelter. The stockade was designed to hold 10,000 prisoners, and the horrible conditions, lack of clean water and very little food resulted in the death of  13,000 Union prisoners during the 14 months in 1863 and 1864 that the prison camp was in operation.

Which brings us to the next part of the Andersonville National Historic Site: Andersonville National Cemetery.


When prisoners died they were buried in this cemetery under numbered wooden grave markers. A union prisoner kept track of the names associated with each of the numbered graves, and after the war Clara Barton led an effort to provide permanent marble grave markers for each of the fallen soldiers.DSC_0652

It’s important to remember that these soldiers died, not as a result of battle, but as a result of the inhumane and inhuman conditions in the prison camp.

The cemetery has been in continuous use as a National Cemetery since the end of the Civil War and the graves of veterans of all US wars can be found there.


This sculpture is the Georgia Monument at one entrance to the cemetery. It is a moving depiction of prisoners of all wars and shows both the suffering and the dependence one prisoner has for his or her fellows in order to survive.

By the way, the Confederate officer in charge of the stockade at the time the war ended was tried for war crimes, convicted and was hanged in Washington. At his trial his defense was basically: “I was just following orders.”

Thursday, August 07, 2014


I don’t often write about the campgrounds we visit, but this one is special.


Penny and I are always trying to find campgrounds with sites along a river or lake. Here in northern Louisiana we found one. The campground is in Lincoln Parish Park, in Ruston, LA.

The park is deeply forested and the campground is built on one side of a small lake.


Our site overlooks the lake, so we can make good use of our rear picture window, which Penny is doing right now. Our next stop will be Meridian, Mississippi, and after that we’ll be visiting Andersonville Prison. That should be interesting.

Monday, August 04, 2014

The 6th Floor

On November 22, 1963 President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX.

DSC_0615 This is the view from the 7th floor window of the book depository, just above the 6th floor window in which Lee Harvey Oswald pulled the trigger.

Photography is not permitted on the 6th floor, which is now a museum. The trees in this shot were much smaller in 1963




The book depository is now a city administration building, with the museum on the top two floors. Other than the trees, Dealey Plaza is basically unchanged from the day of the assassination.


Another change is the painted X marking the spot where the fatal bullet hit the President.

For anyone who remembers the assassination, seeing Dealey Plaza and the museum is a moving experience. There are very view artifacts from the killing – Jack Ruby’s hat, the Zapruder camera, and a few other things.



What the museum has is a photographic, video, and audio history of the Kennedy presidency from the 1960 campaign through the assassination, the killing of Oswald  and the multiple investigations that followed.


The exhibits cover the various conspiracy theories, the two-shooter scenario, and the possible bullet trajectories, and reaches no firm conclusion on what actually happened.

Outside the museum someone placed a giant sign identifying the “grassy knoll” from which the theoretical second shooter fired his weapon. I thought the sign was a bit tacky, but this is Texas.

Saturday, August 02, 2014

Back on the Road

Trailer fixed. More nice, helpful people in rural America. We’re now in Arlington, TX, so I’ve got to see if I brought a NY Giants tee shirt with me. A visit to Dealy Square and the infamous book depository are on the agenda, so more to come on the Dallas area.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Yes, Again!

We’re spending the night in an interesting campground. Actually, we have the trailer parked in the back lot of a repair shop in Eastland, Texas. Yahooo!

It all started this morning when we left Abilene headed for Arlington, near Dallas. We were travelling on I-20 about 60 miles east of Abilene when we were passed by a pickup truck towing a horse trailer. The driver beeped his horn and waved his hand. Penny looked in her side view mirror and saw pieces of tire flying off  one of our wheels. I got onto the shoulder and we got out to inspect the damage.

The tire on the front axle on the right side of the trailer was in shreds and one of the propane lines was broken off and stuck through the tire. I turned off the gas tanks, set up my emergency triangles, which are getting a lot of use on this trip, and called my road service company.

Two and a half hours later, with traffic zooming by at 75 mph inches from our stuck trailer, the service truck still hadn’t arrived. Fortunately the temperature, unlike last time, was reasonable and there was a nice breeze blowing. Then three trucks from the Texas DOT pulled up behind us with lots of flashing lights. The DOT crew mounted our spare tire for us, wouldn’t accept a tip, and escorted us off the interstate. We then found a tire repair shop in a town a few miles away and arranged for them to replace the shredded tire.

When they removed the spare they found that the spring on that axle was broken, as was the shock absorber. The other tire on that side was also gouged, so I had them replace that one too. But that left us with a broken spring and shock absorber. (I could have used a shock absorber of my own at that point.)

As has been the case every time we’ve had a mechanical problem in rural America, the people we turned to for help did absolutely everything they could to assist. The tire guy, who wasn’t equipped to replace a spring, started making some calls and found a shop in the next town, Eastland, that could do the work.

We limped 10 miles to Eastland and Matt, another good guy, looked over the damage, said he could fix it and and the broken gas pipe and offered to let us plug in our power cord and hook up to the water at his shop until tomorrow when he’ll work on the repair.

With no propane, we had to go into town for dinner and found a really cute, local Tex-Mex place (Hey, I’m assuming any Mexican restaurant in Texas is Tex-Mex), and the food was great. The shop is behind a fence, so Matt gave us the combination to the lock on the gate, and we’re camped here until morning.

Hopefully, Matt will have the parts and we’ll be on our way again sometime Friday.

These experiences have helped restore my faith in my fellow man, but maybe not so much in RVing.