FDR’s Little White House

Ashburn, GA

Most of you already know this but for the few who forgot, yesterday was the anniversary of the death of Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1945.  So the date seems appropriate for a blog about a visit we made earlier this week to the room where he passed away.  The small town of Warm Springs, GA is about a two hour drive from our location in Ashburn.  We thought about moving the motorhome to nearby FDR State Park for a few days, but since we have been enjoying the RV park here in Ashburn, we decided to stay here and just drive up to Warm Springs for our visit.

The plaque above gives a nice synopsis of the “Little White House.”  At the entrance there is now a very nice little museum dedicated to FDR with a natural emphasis on his visits to Warm Springs.  Beyond the museum the walkway takes you over a hill to the cottage.  The picture below shows the entrance to the compound.  The Little White House cottage can be seen in the middle of the picture below the other two structures.  The building on the right is a servant’s quarters.  The one on the left is a guest house.

As you walk between the two small houses the president’s cottage comes into view down a short hillside.

The cottage is very small.  It consists of a small entrance room, kitchen, dining room, living room, three bedrooms, and one bathroom.  Below is the living room as it was on April 12, 1945.  FDR was sitting in the chair having his portrait painted when he complained of a severe headache and passed out with his head on the table.

Aides carried him to his adjacent small bedroom where he was pronounced dead.

Between the bedroom used by FDR and another used by family visitors and his wife, Eleanor (who rarely accompanied FDR to Warm Springs) is the bathroom.  One can only imagine the important decisions of WWII that were made by the president while on this throne!

The Presidential Throne

As mentioned, FDR was having his portrait painted when he suffered a massive stroke.   The portrait was never completed and is now known as the Unfinished Portrait.  Later, Painter Elizabeth Shoumatoff decided to finish the portrait in FDR’s memory. She painted a new painting based on memory.  One difference is that the tie that was red in the original is now blue in the finished painting.  All other aspects are completely identical.  Both portraits are on display in what is called the Legacy Display next to the museum.

The Unfinished Portrait

The Finished Portrait

In 1921 Roosevelt contracted what was thought at the time to be polio.  One of the few things that seemed to ease his pain was immersion and exercise in warm water.  His first time in Warm Springs, Georgia, was October 1924.  He was drawn to the town by a permanent 88-degree natural spring at a nearby resort.   Roosevelt bought the resort and the 1,700-acre farm surrounding it in 1927.  He founded the Institute for Rehabilitation after hearing about a boy who had regained the use of his legs, through a treatment known as hydrotherapy, which involves the use of water for soothing pains and treating diseases. The operations of the Institute were paid for by the Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, which later became the March of Dimes.  The Warm Springs Institute currently treats about 5,000 patients every year.

Model of the pool facility built by FDR

While the original historic pools are not generally open to the public, they open the waters once a year to the public on Labor day weekend.  They allow four groups of people in for a one and a half hour swim.  

The pool facility today

While not a destination location, if you visit south Georgia put a visit to Warm Springs on your agenda.

We have a few more days here in Ashburn, then it is off to Atlanta.

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Golf and Friends in Georgia

Ashburn, GA

After an overnight stay in Gainesville, we completed our two day trip from Cortez, FL to the small town of Ashburn, GA.  There is really nothing of any significance in Ashburn but just outside of town is a small RV park with a decent nine hole golf course.  We reserved two sites there, one for us and one for Dave and Sue (Beluga’s Excellent Adventure), right next to the first tee.

A Short Trip to the First Tee

We were all set up early in the afternoon and got in a quick nine holes before Dave and Sue arrived (they drove directly here from Cortez).   The next day we were up early and ready to play!  OK, so it wasn’t so early, but we did tee off before noon!

Heading Up the First Fairway

Check out that cute caddie!

What a frustrating game!

Dave and Sue stayed next to us for two days.  Each day after a round of golf we headed into town for a dinner at one of the local restaurants.  Now Ashburn is not exactly an epicurean mecca, so the choices are a bit limited.  A search in Yelp revealed a couple of local establishments, one Mexican and the other barbecue, that looked interesting.  So we tried the Mexican restaurant one night and the barbecue the other.  Everyone agreed that the food at the Mexican restaurant was very good, while the barbecue left a bit to be desired.

Rescue’s Smokehouse Grill on the left, La Hacienda on the right

After two great days of golf and conversation, it was time for Beluga to continue the journey north.  So mid-morning on Saturday we said good-bye to Dave and Sue and their two dogs as they headed out.  We’ll meet up again in May when we stop at their house in New York State as we head to visit Pam’s mother.

Good-Bye Beluga

After they left we played a quick nine holes of golf before heading in to town to look around.  This is a pretty depressing little community, but we did manage to find a Dairy Queen for a quick treat.  Being former teachers one of the things we like to check out is the local school facilities as we travel.  We found the local high school and let’s just say we were not impressed.  As we drove around the building we found the inspirational message pictured below mounted on a piece of plywood next to one of the entrances.

Not exactly Ralph Waldo Emerson!

The sign at the main entrance, again made from unfinished plywood, was equally inspiring.

Now we know all schools want to educate and everyone wants their students to graduate.  But what the heck to they mean by a goal of “vacate!”   Maybe the students are constipated and it is referring to the area just beyond the large intestines.

Our next stop is a visit to our son, Kevin, in Atlanta on the 16th of the month.  Since we have some extra time on our hands before then, we’ll just sit tight right here.  Despite the depressed town nearby, it is a nice little park and golf course and there are some tourist spots to visit in the general area so we will stay busy.

More on that later . . .

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Goodbye Florida!

Gainesville, FL

Our last week in Cortez, FL was a bit slow due to poor weather.  On Tuesday Pam joined some friends staying in the park on a visit to the Southeastern Guide Dog School to participate in their Hug a Puppy program.  The idea is to provide socialization experience to young puppies who are thought to be good candidates for guide dog training in their future.  While the group found the tour to be very interesting, it was clear that the puppy play was the highlight of the visit.

Karen gives the love to a cute little guy

Dave and Sue find a friend

Pam (there are four Pams in the park) scratches a pup

As the weather continued to be cool, rainy, and windy, we were forced to cancel a number of activities, including a golf outing!  You know it’s cold and windy when John and Dave turn the car around and return to the park without even getting to the course!

The weather finally improved over the week end so we spent our last day on a bike ride to the north end of the island for breakfast.  During our last stay at Holiday Cove two years ago, friends Pam (yes another one!) and Herschel had bicycled with us to Ginny and Jane E’s Cafe, Bakery, and Store, so we were determined to make a repeat visit before leaving Cortez.  The four of us were joined by Dave and Karen (Cody’s “parents”) as we headed on to Anna Maria Island, again by bicycle.

Ginny’s and Jane E’s Cafe, Bakery and Store

It is difficult to describe this place, so you’ll need to visit it yourself some day.  Located in an old IGA grocery store, it is a combination restaurant, furniture store, and knick knack shop.  You can get a very tasty breakfast or lunch and sit at a table that, if you like it, is yours for the purchase, as everything is for sale.

John, Pam (yes, another one), Herschel, Karen, and David

When we returned to the park, Karen went to free Cody from inside their fifth wheel.  Pam always has a small bag of treats for Cody whenever he stops by for a visit, so when they ask him if he wants to go visit Pam he almost passes out from excitement.  When Karen or David know we are sitting outside and the road between our sites is free of any cars, they will release Cody from his leash and he will “run like the wind” to our site.  Since we knew he was coming we watched, camera at the ready, as Cody began his mad dash.  Suddenly a Snowy Egret walked out of the bushes to the middle of the road, right in Cody’s path.  Usually Cody will chase birds, but with all his focus on the a potential treat, he just gave the intruder a quick bark (“Get out of my way!”) and continued his mad dash to our site and into Pam’s arms.

Get out of my way, you skinny bird!

This morning (Tuesday) was departure time so, after saying some goodbyes to good friends, we pulled out of Holiday Cove and began our trek north.

               Cody and David watch as we leave the park

Our next stop is 350 miles north to the little Georgian town of Ashburn where there is a small RV park with a nice nine hole golf course.  While 350 miles is very “doable” in one day, when you are driving your home why spend all day on the highway?  So we split the trip in half and have stopped for the night in a Wal-Mart in Gainesville, FL.  We have stopped here before and like it because of a small strip of stores across the street.

You can’t pass up a place like this!

After visiting three of the four “establishment,” we’re back in the WM RV Resort for the night.  Tomorrow it will be about 175 miles, so we should be on the course by early afternoon.  Sue and Dave are going to join us in the park later in the afternoon and John and Dave are looking forward to a few days on the links!

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Spring (Training) is in the Air

Cortez, FL

Our former home south of York, PA is located in the vicinity of both Philadelphia and Baltimore, so many people have sports alliances in one or both of these cities.  Two of John’s former teaching colleagues, Deb and Joe Dominick, are strong baseball fans.  Deb has always loved the Orioles, while Joe is a strong Phillies phan.  They contacted us a few months ago to tell us they were coming to Bradenton in March to take in a couple of pre-season games and invited us to attend the games with them.  Bradenton is home to the Pittsburgh Pirates training facility,  and Deb was getting tickets to one game the Pirates were playing against the Orioles and one game with the Phillies.  Nobody in their right mind would be a fan of a Pittsburgh team, but, since John follows both the Phillies and the Orioles, we jumped at the chance to attend both games.

Bradenton’s McKechnie Field

The first contest was a Thursday night game between the Orioles and the home team.  While most of the stars of the Orioles were not in the line-up, it was very enjoyable watching a baseball game in great weather in a beautiful small ball park.  Oh, and the Orioles won the game!

There was no game on Friday so the four of us jumped into the Jeep and headed south to Myakka State Park, east of Sarasota.  The park has miles of walking/biking paths and two great tours, one by airboat and another by tram.  Joe and Deb had taken the airboat tour before so we opted for the tram tour

A view from the tram

The tram weaved it’s way through the park while the driver gave a great description of all the wildlife and plants along the trail.   At one point we passed an alligator who looked like she had a rough night, as her back was covered with what looked like broken up moss.  A closer look revealed a baby gator riding on her back.

Can you see the baby alligator on the mother’s back?

After the tram tour we walked back to where the alligator with the baby was spotted and found she had turned around.  We could spot several babies in the water and on the land around the mother.  Below is a zoom of a baby nose to nose with the mother.

If you love birds, this is a great place to see many types.  Our group knew a great deal about American History (three history teachers) but was a bit short on knowledge about birds.

Roseate Spoonbill

Near the parking area along the Myakka River we spotted a number of large alligators.  As we stood on the shore the one below swam in our direction.

When it spotted Joe, it turned and headed in his direction.

Joe must not have looked that tasty, as the gator stopped and just sat there eyeing what could have been a very satisfying meal!

After touring the park we headed south on I-75 for a few minutes to have a bite to eat at a classic “Old Florida” restaurant.  Snook Haven is located in a heavily wooded area east of Venice right on the Myakka River.  Our friends Sue and Dave (Beluga’s Adventures) took us there a few weeks ago and we knew Deb and Joe would find it interesting.

Snook Haven has three seating options.  You can sit inside or outside on a deck along the river and have traditional waiter service.  Or you can sit outside away from the river and have counter service.  We took a table away from the river because it is near a stage where a duo was playing some great southern rock tunes.

The food at Snook Haven is very good, but the atmosphere is what sells the place.  This is definitely a “kick back and relax” place!

The next day it was back to McKecknie Field for an afternoon game between the Phillies and that same team from western PA.  We were pleased when the starting line-ups were announced as most of the Phillies starters were going to play.  The second batter was long-time Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins.

Before we could settle into our seats Jimmy was rounding third base right in front of us in a nice easy jog headed for home!

Two batters later star first baseman Ryan Howard took the same jog around the bases!  Phillies 2, the other team 0.

After the early fireworks the game settled into a bit of a pitching duel.  Later in the game the home team fans began to moan and groan, so the Phillies removed their stars.  This allowed the other team (can’t remember their name!) to finally get a few runs.  While the other team had a few more runs than the Phillies at the end, it was clear the Phillies won the game (at least in our minds).

Our day ended with an early dinner at Anna Maria Oyster House followed by a trip to the Tyler’s ice cream shop across the street from our park.  Joe and Deb then headed back to their hotel to prepare for a return to PA the following afternoon.   Both are retiring at the end of the school year so we enjoyed sharing a bit of what retirement looks like.  Hopefully the snowstorm in the weather forecast for Tuesday will miss them!

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Muscle Car City

Cortez, FL

Our friend Dave (Beluga’s Excellent Adventures) is an old a former Corvette owner and motor head.  He has a friend in Sarasota who one day took him to Punta Gorda, about an hour south of us, to visit Rick Treworgy’s Muscle Car City.  John is also interested in 60s muscle cars, so when Dave described the facility we just had to make a visit.  With the weather report discouraging outdoor activities one day last week, we picked up Dave and Sue and headed south to check out Muscle Car City.

Over the past 40 years Punta Gorda resident Rick Treworgy has assembled one of the largest private collections of cars in the country.  After running out of space at various warehouses the cars were scattered across, he decided to purchase an abandoned Walmart and bring his collection into the public eye and Muscle Car City was born.

The collection includes at least one Corvette from 1954-1975.  These aren’t run of the mill Vettes either, most are equipped with 427s, manual transmissions and other rare options. The collection isn’t limited to just Corvettes, there are plenty of other 60-70s GM products, assorted hot rods, modern muscle, and even some retro rods sporting modern creature comforts while maintaining a vintage look.

Both John and Dave enjoyed checking out some models that they owned in their previous lives.  John spotted a nice red 64 Impala the same color as the one he owned.

He also spotted a 65 Chevelle from his past, except his was not white but (you guessed it) red.

The museum even has a vintage motorhome!  Check out the bicycle next to it.  Most of the parts of this bike are made of wood, even the wheel rims.

The museum also has a gift shop and a cool 50s style diner on site with a nice menu of sandwiches from that era.  Before checking out the cars we enjoyed a quick lunch that will break any diet restrictions.  No Quinoa or kale here!

An American Classic – the hot dog

If you’re in southwest Florida and enjoy muscle cars from the 50s, 60s, and 70s put this place on your agenda.

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Meeting Friends and Riding Bikes

Cortez, FL

February has continued to be very busy for us here in Cortez, FL (near Bradenton).  One afternoon we joined Dave and Sue (Beluga’s Excellent Adventure) and drove about an hour south to Venice.  Friends Steve and MonaLiza (Lowes RV Adventures) were staying about an hour’s drive south of there so  Sharky’s on the Pier sounded like a good place to meet for lunch.

John, Steve (behind John), MonaLiza, Sue (hiding) and Dave on the pier at Sharky’s in Venice

Enjoying lunch

Later we drove to a rustic bar/restaurant along the Myakka River called Snook Haven.  We snagged a nice table right along the river and enjoyed a cold adult beverage.  We didn’t get any pictures as Pam spent most of the time on the phone with Delta Airlines.  If you read our last blog you may remember that Pam’s mother, Fran, was scheduled to fly down from her home in Clayton, NY.  We tried to have her visit us last month in Ft Myers but her flight was cancelled three times due to poor weather.  So guess what?  Now her flight was cancelled again!  Sorry Fran, we guess your visit to the warmer region of western Florida this winter was just not meant to be!

Each Monday, our friend David (Cody the dog’s dad) plans a bike trip somewhere in the area for anyone staying in Holiday Cove RV Resort.  The trip is not a strenuous ride, as its main purpose is more social than physical.  Last week the group loaded bikes on to vehicles and drove across the Sunshine Skyway Bridge to the north side of Tampa Bay for a visit to  Fort De Soto Park south of St. Pete’s Beach.

The Holiday Cove bike group in Fort De Soto Park

The park, operated by Pinellas County, is made up of five offshore keys, or islands. Today all are connected by either bridge or causeway to each other. The island group is accessible by toll road from the mainland.

The park contains the remains of an old army facility with an interesting history.  In 1849, Robert E. Lee (the famous American Civil War commander) and three other US Army Engineers surveyed the area and recommended two of the keys become fortified. Both keys could only be reached by boat, since they were islands off the mainland.  Union troops were stationed on the two keys during the Civil War (1861–1865) to aid in the Union blockade of Tampa Bay. The keys were again abandoned by the military until 1882 when military reservations were officially created on the two keys. However, it would be several years before actual permanent construction would commence as a result of defense considerations linked to the Spanish-American War.  The post was active from 1898 to 1910, when most of the troops were moved to a fort in Alabama.

Today the park is known for nice biking and walking paths, great beaches, and a nice fishing pear.

Ft. De Soto Park fishing pier

An osprey outside a nest

After the group ride we loaded the bikes back in the jeep and headed a few miles  northeast to the city of St. Petersburg.  We visited the city the previous week for an evening dinner with John’s sister and brother-in-law and wanted to see the city’s waterfront in the daylight.  We first road out on to “The Pier,” a city landmark with a five story building in the shape of an inverted pyramid at the end.  The pier is closed to all vehicles and the city has applied to the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers for a permit to demolish it due to unsafe supports.

“The Pier” in St. Petersburg

Guards keep an eye on things at the end of the pier

We continued our ride along the waterfront checking out some of the sights.

The Salvador Dali Museum

Bike/walking trail along Tampa Bay

White Pelicans in Tampa Bay

A beautiful day ended with a great meal at Bella Brava Italian Restaurant with John’s sister and brother-in-law, Patty and Bob.  As you can tell, we continue to work hard at this thing called “retirement.”

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Busy Days in Cortez

Cortez, Fl

The weather here in Cortez (just west of Bradenton) has finally become more Florida-like, with sunshine and warm temperatures.  Each morning we try to fit in a walk across the bridge to Anna Maria Island, up the beach a bit, then back for three and half miles.  One morning last week there was a bit of wind out of the west, creating a few waves.  We spied one lone sole taking advantage of the waves to get in a bit of surfing.  It looked like way too much work as the waves were small and his “ride” only lasted about a half minute.  It looks a bit different from what we saw last winter in Huntington Beach, CA!

On the bay side of our walk, people were taking advantage of the calmer waters for a bit of surf paddling.

Last Saturday we took a ride up to the Tampa Airport to watch the planes land and take off.  As we drove by the terminal who did we see but our daughter, Jessica!  What a coincidence . . .

She spotted us before we could get away so we stopped and invited her to come back to Cortez with us for a couple of days.  Since she had no other plans, she quickly agreed.  Soon mother and daughter were enjoying some quality time at the beach.

We later enjoyed a good meal at the Swordfish Grille, a nice restaurant along Sarasota Bay within walking distance of our park.

If you have followed this blog much, you know that Jessica has gone through a physical transformation during the past two years, losing a considerable amount of weight and becoming an exercise “fanatic” (well, maybe not a fanatic, but she works out often).  Before she came to Florida she checked out the local yoga classes and found she could participate in “yoga on the beach” early on Monday morning.  So just after dawn she and her mother jumped on the bicycles and headed to Manatee Beach, about four miles from our park.  Pam walked and took pictures as Jessica bent, twisted, reached, and stretched while enjoying a great view of the Gulf of Mexico.



Who knows ? ? ?

Jessica’s real passion now is running.  While in Cortez she mapped out a ten mile run that circles the Palma Sola Bay.  Her road crew waited for her at the five mile mark so she could replenish her water bottles.

Then she was off again for the second half of the run.

We sat on the bridge leading out to Holmes Beach as she passed us by.

Then she posed for a quick picture as she entered Anna Maria Island.  We missed the best photo op when she tripped and ran into the sign.  A request for a re-enactment was refused.

On Tuesday afternoon we returned Jessica to the Tampa Airport so she could return to the frozen tundra of Pennsylvania.  On the way back to Cortez, we stopped for a visit with John’s sister and brother-in-law, Patty and Bob, who have a beautiful condo in South Pasadena near St. Pete’s Beach.  After a brief visit, the four of us headed east to St. Petersburg looking for a nice restaurant for dinner.  We parked by the Museum of Fine Arts and cut through North Straub Park to Beach Drive.  After checking out a few of the many great restaurants in the area, we settled on 400 Beach Seafood and Tap House.

North Straub Park in St. Petersburg

John, Bob, and Patty

After a great meal and conversation we returned to the condo, jumped back in the Jeep, and headed back across Tampa Bay to Cortez.

The next morning we received an early call from our son, Kevin, who lives in Atlanta.  Kevin spent a number of years as an attorney for two firms in the Atlanta area, but quit to pursue his lifelong dream of being an airline pilot.  After spending a couple of years as a flight instructor to accumulate the many hours required by FAA regulations, he recently became a pilot for ExpressJet, flying routes for Delta Express.  He had a few days off and could catch a flight to Sarasota and join us for lunch.  We picked him up two hours later and enjoyed lunch and a stop at Starbucks before he returned to Atlanta on an afternoon flight.

Tomorrow evening (Friday) we will pick up Pam’s mother, Fran, at the airport as she joins us for a few days.  We had booked her for a flight to Ft. Myers to visit us last month but her flight out of Watertown, NY was cancelled three days in a row due to weather so we cancelled it.  We are sure Fran is looking forward to some warmer weather after the long, frigid winter she has experienced in Clayton, NY along the St. Lawrence River.

Busy, busy, busy . . .    This retirement life sure is work ! ! !

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