If you followed our previous post, Searching for Spring Sun, you know we just left Grayton Beach State Park in Florida after a wonderful, sun-filled week that was a perfect escape from the incessant rain. No rain, all sun. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 virus and protective measures ramped up as we made our way south to camp along the Gulf coast. With no television, scant information on the radio and occasional news feeds on our phones, we were probably slow to learn about the fast-moving plans to limit social interactions.
By the time we packed up on Friday to leave the campground as planned, the campground itself was closing, beaches were shutting down, bars, restaurants and shops were closing – it almost felt like the last time we had to leave Florida in a hurry ahead of hurricane Michael. We expected a caravan of cars, motorhomes and trailers headed away from the coast, but were surprised to have little traffic until we reached Dothan and Eufaula, Alabama.
Not much further along, near Pine Mountain, Georgia, we found our destination for the next two nights: FDR State Park. The campground was completely full, although much of it is under renovation and maybe a third of sites are not available. Our reservation was for a site along the shoreline of Lake Delano and was a perfect spot, even though there was construction and erosion control fence around us. We set up, had dinner and sat out to enjoy a cool night by the lake. Just as we fell asleep, later, the sky opened up and we had major rain pelting down on the camper. Gosh, such a nice welcome back to Georgia!
It also seems that pollen season has just started — our site was awash in the yellow stuff and the chairs and outdoor rug were pretty well soaked from the rain. At least the sun came out to dry things out and we made sure to wipe and brush off as much pollen as we could. It probably means we have minutes before it hits us hard back home.
Since we had the car disconnected for the back-in site we figured we ought to explore the park, find the Little White House and check out Warm Springs. The museum at Roosevelt’s Little White House was actually a great history lesson. We had the place to ourselves, took time to watch a short film, look at the exhibits and wander the small house.
I couldn’t help but see the parallels with current events: President Roosevelt had to deal with the nation’s great depression, joblessness and people in need and later, at a time when he and many others were suffering from polio, a national health epidemic. It was in the mineral pool at Warm Springs that he was able to relax and relieve pain and was inspired to develop the area for others suffering from polio. He founded the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for the rehabilitation and relaxation of children and adults suffering the effects of polio.
It was here in the study of the Little White House that he suffered a fatal stroke and collapsed while having his portrait painted. Touring the home and viewing the unfinished painting I mentioned to a volunteer that it seemed so sad. She remarked that in fact it was a very happy place, since it was here that he was able to find so much peace and comfort. It was in rural Georgia that he was inspired to develop policies such as the Rural Electrification Administration, Civilian Conservation Corps and the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Just down the road is the town of Warm Springs, which grew as a result of his numerous visits and the Institute he created. It is from the railroad station in town that his casket began its journey back to Washington, DC and later to Hyde Park, NY.
The town has little happening today, not just because of the coronavirus closures, but sadly, there simply is nothing much there. I guess “potential” would be said of the brick storefronts and the clapboard buildings but the only activity was around a motorcycle shop. Even the famous warm mineral pool was difficult to find, closed and no longer contains water from the spring.
The welcome center/gift shop for the park is a classic CCC-built stone building that commands a great view of the valley below. Heading back along the ridge of the park you can’t help but be impressed with that view – you think that Georgia’s only mountains are in the north. Even though you are less than 2,000 feet elevation, you are high above the surrounding woodlands and farmland. We noticed several trailheads for the 23-mile Pine Mountain Trail – and boy were the cars packed into the lots. So much for self isolation.
The overlook at Dowdell’s Knob was equally busy, but such a wonderful view. This is a spot where FDR often had picnics, noted by the remains of a stone grill he used, plus a bronze sculpture of the president. It was also a big day for cyclists, as you can see.
We did a little hiking and picture-taking before relaxing by the lake. No rain overnight, so packing up and leaving camp was easy enough in the morning. Rangers said they were expecting to hear soon that the park would close, but for now it was still pretty much full. A couple of hours later we were parked in our driveway and hauling clothes and food out of the camper and back into the house. At least the traffic was light, even for a Sunday morning.
And so ends our sunshine adventure amid the coronavirus outbreak. We are hearing from friends and family that they are healthy, but plans have changed for an upcoming family wedding (postponed), a restaurant closing puts our son-in-law out of work, others are making the best of teaching from home and everyone, including us now, is sheltering in place.
And now it has started raining again!
The Adventure continues … (will we still be cruising in Alaska in June? Stay tuned)