Wednesday, July 31, 2013

First Day - The Little White House

Look at a map and you'll see that Warm Springs, Georgia is not conveniently located close to an interstate or main artery.  If you go you slog through small towns, two-lanes black tops and enough scenery to last you for a decade or so.  It is worth it.  I'm glad I set this, Franklin Roosevelt's Little White House, as my first attraction in my trip.  At $10.80 the site is well worth the admission price for a guy who overcame personal health issues, helped win World War II, embraced us through the Depression, and instituted many programs which are still with us today.   The artifacts are the real things and bet you have seen many of them in newsreels, the History Channel, or textbook photographs.     

I really didn't want the 12-minute movie, but the site staff guy in the wheel chair (apropos, I thought for FDR's place) was so appreciative of my participation in the PGR (I was wearing my Patriot Guard Rider T-shirt) that I felt compelled.   The film was pretty standard stuff but had some nice scenes of FDR tooling around Warm Springs in his modified Ford and communing with the townsfolk.   Besides, I was the only one in the theater.  Not only that, but besides a couple, it was just me at the place.  It was like they had a private showing just for me.  

FDR began coming to Warm Springs for the mineral waters thought to be a possible cure for his polio.  It wasn't of course, but it made him feel better so he bought a parcel of land and built the unassuming 2 bedroom pine cottage which would become known as the Little White House.  Built in 1932, his first year in office, FDR would die in this place on April 12, 1945 of a cerebral hemorrhage.

This is a patio table and chairs that were used at the Little White House.

Some artifacts kept after his death.

Here is the Ford FDR modified to allow him to drive.  His polio sapped his ability to drive but he used gadgets attached to the steering wheel that he designed himself.

One of FDR's hats.

Wheelchair and braces.

He painted the lower areas of he braces black so it would blend better with his socks.

The cape FDR used often and seen in the Yalta picture below.

These are the two guest houses on the grounds.

Upstairs bedroom in the guest house.

Downstairs bedroom.

The Little White House

Surrounding wooded area.  This place was really tucked away in the Georgia pucker- brush. Not the grand overlook one might thing, but tucked in the Georgia forests, it is still a pretty dazzling spot.  

The small kitchen with its ordinary sink and work table.  Kind of wish I'd gotten a better picture of the oven, now that's pretty neat.  I also missed taking a picture of scratches on the doors made by Fala, his dog.  Look Fala up and you'll see an interesting story all on its own.

It's not your eyes, this is a blurry picture of all the cups, saucers, and plates in the pantry area.  Pilot error.  

Please Come Back Tomorrow For More.

Monday, July 29, 2013

And We're Off!

On June 27th I returned to St. Pete from a wild cross-country motorcycle trip up to Illinois.  I almost crashed three times.  Some idiot ran me off the road near Clarksville, Tennessee, I almost rear ended a car near Plains, Georgia, and I had a front tire blowout near Lake City, Florida.  All of these incidents occurred on my way back home.  The bike rests now in the little garage downstairs, tired and limping a bit from the use.  It's owner, tired and limping as well from the unrelenting abuse riders of motorcycles get from the elements, the endless mental calculations, and the brute physicality of riding an exposed and vulnerable metal machine.

But first we begin the trip... 

After a couple of rain out days, the bike was ready to pull out of St. Petersburg and head up North for a few days of R and R after a couple years of sitting with Norah.  Watching the Weather Channel for days led me to think that it would be difficult to thread this needle: surely in June there will be rain somewhere along the route.  And then, the forecasters say Tuesday will be kind of OK, but Wednesday even better.  I decided to make a go of it, and Tuesday morning, early, still dark to avoid rush hour, bike packed, I set off on an adventure.  

First days' destination was Warm Springs, Georgia and, time permitting, on up to Gadsden, Alabama.  The point of all this back-roads obscurity was to commune with rustic Americana and to avoid big city driving.   I had very much hoped to take pictures of entertaining or interesting things along the way and to meander, rather than dash back home.  Sadly, like many things, this was to be tested and twisted in the coming days.

Before I begin let me say that I was extremely well prepared.  I had acquired a backrest, new battery and rear rack for the bike that would provide comfort and space for stuffed leather luggage used in my trips out West in '04.  I also had driving gloves, my modular helmet, my heavy riding boots, protective padded jacket and sunglasses.  I had a small 30 ounce bottle of gas if I ran out somewhere and felt as ready as possible to climb this personal Everest.  What I didn't have, and would regret it later was sunscreen.  More on this later. It was a nice morning and I shoved off at 4:00 am after a light breakfast at IHOP.   

I should also admit a bit of personal feeling also while I'm at it.  I'm no idiot (he said bravely and optimistically).  I know how the world works.  I know that bikers are as likely as any out on the road to tumble and, ahem, succumb.  Like most trips I take, I also have a sense of foreboding.  Call it "Travel Awareness" but since I can remember I get a certain sadness when about to hit the road.  Will I make it?  So off I go with a sadness, an exhilaration and hope for a fun and successful trip.  And since it has been nine years since my last long cross-country trip I wanted also to prove I could still do it.  Just a personal thing, I guess.

Traffic through Tampa was light and no problem whatsoever.  I've done it before on the bike so I was familiar with the Dark City.  It wasn't long till the bike and I were humming as one, as it were.  Except for gas stops which occurred all too frequently (my bike is a gas guzzler) the road was straight, the sun coming up and I was left to the steady thrum of the bike and my thoughts, which were wide-ranging.  I left the interstate at Cordele, Georgia and wound around through nice roads and fairly light traffic till I reached Warm Springs.

For those who are not familiar, Warm Springs is the place Franklin Roosevelt went to exercise his polio-stricken legs.  He made 44 trips here through the years and it became known as FDR's Little White House.  Camp David had not been invented yet, so presidents relied on their own resources to escape Washington and relax.  For FDR it was a secluded little town in the Georgia rolling hill country.  The area was known for its mineral springs and became a haven for polio victims young and old.
But before we get to Warm Springs we have about 170 miles to cover.  And in the best tradition of bloggers everywhere, I stopped a couple of places to take snapshots of local scenes.

Small town America has been dying for awhile, but this town looks like it was well into its death throes long before the trend.  In something pretty appropriate and not in this picture, to the right was more dying town and parked on a cement slab was an old '40's car for sale.  It looked a lot like the buildings and I can only imagine how long it had been there, waiting for a buyer who probably won't ever show up.  This is Cobb, Georgia.  If not for the road I was on there wouldn't have been any traffic at all.  It is home, however, to the largest pecan orchard in the world.  A sad, depressing place.  

Like all adventures, things don't always go as planned.  I was driving along and noticed this small outcropping of tombstones with a Confederate flag perched in the middle.  I decided to stop the bike and swing it around and record this scene which almost ended in disaster.  The bike is heavy, around 760 lbs without the extra weight of the luggage and gas.  I pulled the bike over, looked for traffic then swung around and back to the cemetery.  Picture taken, I get back on the bike but the driveway is small and the red Georgia clay is pretty soft, so I make too narrow a turn and I lost control and the bike went down.  Luckily the engine guards did what they were supposed to and minimized any damage.  The engine was unaffected so with superhuman strength and an unwillingness to let anyone see my embarrassment and panic, I raised that sucker like a mother raising a car to save her child.  I decided at that point that too many stops for pictures was possibly injurious to my health so it would have to be an extraordinary item to warrant any further stops.   The calculation became:  1.  Is it worth it to slow and stop bike to the right? 2.  Is it worth it to look both ways, swing heavy bike back in opposite lane and travel back a mile? 3. Then find place to slow and stop bike on the right, dismount, and take picture? 4.  Then repeat steps 1 and 2 to resume trip? There were not too extraordinary items.  

Bike righted, ego soothed, I trekked across Georgia in search of Warm Springs and the Little White House.   Luckily there were no more incidents and the countryside was pretty, the roads good, and the morale excellent.  Throughout the trip the countryside would remain pretty.  The roads would be good.  The morale as well as the glutteous maximus would suffer along the way.  

More Wednesday.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Flashback Friday - Rader Range

Today is a special Flashback for me.  This picture is the farm I worked on from high school through college, grad school and weekends when I started at the Mary Davis Home.  I suppose my job didn't really end until 1989 when my Uncle died.  We are talking roughly 15 summers,  then scattered weekends when I would drive over if he needed me or I just needed to do farm-type work to clear my head.  Uncle Ed was born on this farm, raised in this house and died in it.  It was a small farm as farms went back then, only around 320 acres.  Half of that was leased out to Dekalb seed corn in Monmouth so our work in that section was minimal.  We could see all the kids bussed in to detassle the corn from the house, that sat on a knoll overlooking the lower acreage. Always kind of felt sorry for them having to come out in the blistering hot days and run up and down the rows cutting the tassles.

The picture itself was a recent acquisition thanks to my cousin, Eddie who lives in Madison.  

  1. The far corn crib was finished being built on Armistice Day, 1918. 
  2. Pine trees lined the drive heading up to the house from the main gravel road.    Those trees are still there and you can see them from route 94 and from miles around.  There are pine trees on Ed's gravestone.
  3. This is a shed Ed and I built with some help from various folks who did things we couldn't.  But the siding and roof was something Ed and I did basically by ourselves.  He would keep his tractors and combine in here.   If you look close enough you can see my car parked next to the shed on the left side.     
  4. This out building was used one summer for sheep.  In the grossest thing that I recall there was a sheep virus epidemic that wiped them all out.  Ed had to use his tractor scoop to extract the carcases for burial down the ravine to the right. 
  5. This was the headquarters of the farm.  This shed housed most of the tools, a workbench and this was also where he parked his car and truck.  The third item he kept in this area was the Massey Ferguson mini-tractor that served as the mower.  To the right of this shed was a horse trough and spigot.  This was where we got water during breaks.
The grand barn which mysteriously burned down a few months after Ed died.  This was where we would take a couple of plastic 5 gallon buckets and sit in the North doorway (always a great cool breeze) and take breaks.  This was where we would chat about anything and everything.  We painted this sucker twice, too.  He would hoist me up into the bucket of his tractor and I'd slap the paint on.   He eventually hired pros to do it, and I wasn't sorry to lose that job.  Best guess is that the fellow who took over the farming after Ed died was smoking and a bird picked up the lit butt and took into the mow.   The barn was never rebuilt, but instead a Butler building sits here now.  Just not the same.  

Those two little white out-building to the right of the house are gone now, too.  One was a storage building and the other was a pump house for the wind vane that was there in my time.  That area has been replaced by a large deck and swimming pool.  Painting that white fence around the house was one of my perennial summer jobs.  

So this is where I spent my summers.  Ed had a corn sheller and hay baler and he would help other farmers so I did my fair share of baling hay (I always stayed on the wagon so Ed could send me into Aledo for parts if it broke down).  And I did my fair share of helping shell corn.  Both are obsolete jobs now.  Farmers use the big bales today and cribbing and corn shelling just isn't done anymore.  I don't know this for a fact, but I am guessing that the whole routine of shoving augurs into a crib and then running the ears through a sheller is a distant memory.  The circle of farmers that Ed worked with are all gone now except one.  Jim Orth died several years ago, and Bub Greer went about 5 or 6 years ago I suppose.  Howard Shike is long gone but Wendell Dillavou is still around.  I ran into him on one of my trips back up North and we had a couple laughs about the old days.  We never really had any breaks in the summer.  If we weren't busy taking care of our own fields, fences and what-not, we were traveling to various other farms baling and shelling. 

The place where the big old neat barn was.  Now a Butler shed sits in its place.

Long days, sometimes chillingly monotonous.  You haven't been bored until you drive 6 miles an hour over endless rows cultivating corn.  Deviate mere inches and you wipe out four rows of new corn.  I asked for a radio once for the tractor but Uncle Ed said he didn't think I could listen and drive at the same time.

Riding the rack hay-baling was hot dirty work that required the dexterity of a sailer on the deck of a rocking ship, and the keen awareness of knowing a snake could be dangling from any bale you stabbed.  Shelling corn had its own problems, too.  Rats.  They would swarm as the pile of corn got smaller.  If one run up your pants leg (and it did a couple times) you had to grab it, crush it and then extract it without it gnawing at you flesh or other tasty bits.

The bridge Ed and I were working on and I accidentally knocked him over into the creek on the right side.

When not working we chummed around.  We'd go into the restaurant in Seaton at noon to eat if Gladys wasn't home and invariably some other farmer would say he had someone following him, and like a good actor, he'd always whip around, look at me and say, "Well, I 'll be damned, there sure is."   If things got too boring if we were going somewhere in the truck he'd yank it over and drive in the ditch a ways.  He liked seeing my reaction.  This isn't the first time I've devoted space to Ed and won't be the last.  And why not?  He was a father figure, educator, sounding board, confidante and one of the wittiest guys I've ever been around.

I could not have scripted a better place to work, to have fun, to learn the virtues and ethics of labor all the while doing it within a small community of like-minded farmers.  And Uncle Ed?  He was and still is my teacher, friend, and that quiet voice of a time, long gone now, who whispers still with warmth to my soul.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

I'm Shocked, Shocked To FInd Gambling In This Establishment

This video set up this year's Superbowl bet.  I think Tim actually was pleased with the team he drew,  and at the time I gave him a slight advantage.

Mr. Tim Stage and I have a mini tradition going on for the Superbowl.  We bet on who will win and somehow we got off on a tangent in payment.  It started when I won the first year and he paid off in quarters, dimes, nickels and pennies.  He also left a pithy remark, something like, "Fuckin Packers!"  Regardless of the sentiment, the money was good.

The next year I lost and paid Tim in dollar coins.   I was rather pleased with myself after having gone to a couple of banks in town to find them.  I put them in a pill container with some instructions to use when needed.

Here is a picture of Mr. Stage spending his winnings at old Cotton's/Crappie's, new Gimp's on Route 150 earlier this year.

But I must say, after losing this year, Tim certainly upped the ante and came up with a doozy way to pay.  I received this in the mail a few weeks ago.

In the note he explains that this is a Canadian $20 dollar bill and is one of the new anti-counterfeit bills that they are using.  He goes on to explain that if I start seeing these on my trip up North I have gone too far.   Those Canadians are really something.  While we are down here wringing our hands about how lousy Congress is, about whether the US is #1 or not, or which heinous crime trial we'll become addicted to next; damned if those Canadians aren't out there simply doing everything right.  Yeah, and too polite to gloat.   Hell, they even have half of Niagara Falls. 

The bills are used with a plastic see-through insert.  Really strange looking, but it will spend just fine across the border.  You see, he inadvertently did me a favor.  Michael's birthday is coming up in August.  I'm sending the bill to him as a present.  No evil deed goes unpunished.

And what Mr. Stage also doesn't realize is that I already have an idea on how to pay him off in the unlikely event of me losing this/next year.   Evil never sleeps, sucka.   

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Beach Day

Family Day at the beach.  I needed some beach time so I told everyone where camp was and to join in on the fun.  The whole family made it but it was Norah, of course, who loved the day more than anyone else.  She wouldn't stay in the tent, so we'd slather her up with sunscreen and head back into the water with her.  Joining us in the day were Mackenzie,  Drew, Brendan, his GF Monique and Brendan's roomie, Robert.  Great day, lots of white sand, green Gulf, and blue skies.    
We had coolers full of liquid refreshment, lots of food and snacks.  Gee, it was almost perfect.  Why wasn't it perfect?  Hmmm.  Guess it was.  

Perfect beach day.  

Norah and Daddy.

Norah was like those little sea turtles that rush out to the sea right after birth.  She didn't want any tent time.

Me joining Drew and Norah for a little splash.

People next to us burying their friend.

This guy walked by with a line to his mouth.  Is this some sort of camel-back drinking system?

Have I already mentioned it was a perfect day?

Brendan and Mo

Had me a cigar today, too.  A Dutch Masters President.

Yep.  I think it was perfect after all.  Oh, maybe the sunburn we all got even with sunscreen and the cut I got from a sharp shell.  It never hurt but it was bloody so that almost gave me the vapors.  I'm ready for another beach day.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Tuesday Tidbits

Tuesday Tidbits

1.  Monday we will start our posts on the Great Trip Up North 2013 on the bike.  It was a great and wild time.  

2.  I have cancelled the cruise scheduled for September.  The itinerary was moved from Tampa to Miami and the transportation hassle of getting from here to there just became too great.  I instructed Carnival to keep my deposit and perhaps I can get a cruise in at some point in the future.  They have some pretty good sounding cruises out of Tampa so I'll keep checking.  I'm rather bummed as this would have been a great time with great people.   


Monday, July 22, 2013

Meet Miss Frump

There are unseen things in this world that direct us in ways that leave us helpless to resist.  Like salmon returning to their spawning spot the poor things have no say in the matter.  Migratory animals who seasonally, and blindly, follow an instinct.  Mothers who defend their guilty terrorist children.   

(Not my picture)

Like some unknowing salmon I bought a 1939 Dodge in high school with great hopes of restoring her.  My buddy Ed and I picked her up and brought her to Seaton and stored her in my grandparents garage.  Needless to say, no restoration took place and Ed bought her from me and took back to Peoria.  From there she went to St. Louis to a fellow who used the same model for taxi service.  It became a donor car for his business, I think.  It was a cool car with suicide doors, but the work needed was beyond my means.

My second Old Car, a 1947 Plymouth.  

I bought a Plymouth from some guy in Aledo while in college.  It was a great running old car with the mohair seats.  I had Stan Brown paint it for me and it was a neat car. They made them with all kinds of room back in those days and I sold it to loyal Existing In BFE reader Russ Foust, college friend from Iowa.  

From then it was a long dry period before I got another.  I had a career to establish, a family to make and life to be lived.  Eventually I would purchase Baby*, a 1962 Plymouth sedan and my old car stable would grow at one point to four.  

I gave it all up to move to Florida but the instinct to have one would never leave.  A guy can have just so many holes in their soul until a higher power, or instinct kicks in.  

Meet Miss Frump.  Miss Frump needed a home and I decided to adopt her.  The name comes from someone in the family who, upon seeing her, said something about her being a little frumpy.  Miss Frump travelled from Fort Wayne, Indiana to spend the rest of her life with me.  Or perhaps I should say, for me to spend the rest of my life with her.  I am aging, but Miss Frump remains as pretty as the day she left the assembly line.  

When I told a friend what car I had bought they kind of "harrumphed" and said that was an old man's car.  They didn't know that that was exactly what I wanted.  Go to a car show these days and you will be besieged by Mustangs, Camaro's, 'Vettes and every kind of Muscle car you can imagine.  What you will NOT see is a 1963 Dodge Custom 880.  In fact, perhaps never in your life have you ever seen one and your only chance now is to find mine.  Otherwise, enjoy your rat rods, trailer queen GTO's and after-market chromed up headers.  My kind of car is what got the kids to school, the Dad to work and the family to the lake on Saturday.  They got things done. 

MSRP (1963).................2964.00
WHEELBASE.................122 INCHES
TOTAL LENGTH............214.8 INCHES
ENGINE.........................361 CI

For you gear heads, this is a 361 2-barrel.  It is a big-block which for some is kind of neat.  Richard told me the rear end is good, too.    But then I already knew that.

A slight indentation in the roof line, for some reason.

Dodge had several varieties of 880.  The base 880 and the Custom 880.  The only difference between the two were their trim packages.  The Custom 880 has more chrome and is a bit fancier inside.  You can tell the difference between a 880 and Custom by the rear end belt chrome piece.  The 880 is straight, but the Custom has a piece that juts down. 

Spinner hubcaps.

She is a 1963 Dodge Custom 880.  A bit rare, only 9,000 were made, because Dodge and Plymouth were scammed in 1962.  The story goes that during a golf outing between some upper management types, one who worked for Chrysler and the other for General Motors, it was stated that Chevy was downsizing.  

What wasn't clearly understood however, was that Chevy was not downsizing, but simply introducing a downsized car.  The Chrysler employee rushed back to headquarters and told them what he overheard, and Chrysler, not wanting to be left behind downsized their cars  for 1962.  My old Belvedere was a result of the downsizing and was a sales disaster, although they made 31,000 sedans.  Dodge downsized in 1962 also because of the rumor, and not wanting to be in the sales hole like Plymouth, they decided to build a larger car.  Dealerships and loyal Dodge owners wanted a large car,  so they quickly produced a mid-year 62 version and this is the continuation of that model in 1963.  They would make another Custom 880 for 1964 and then give up this marque and introduce the Monaco.

It is a rather unique car.  A mutt of sorts.  They didn't have much money or time to get these built (some makes take 3 years to engineer, the '62 Dodge mid-year model took 3 months) so they cobbled together various parts that were already there.  They used the the '62 Newport chassis and tacked on the Newport rear end.  The interior was all Chrysler.  The Dodge designers didn't want a Newport front end, preferring to make it distinctively Dodge in some respect so they made a new front end.  The rear taillight was something the designers made just for this car.  It is actually a Chrysler from the front of the doors to the rear.  

What eventually happened was that Chrysler owners were pissed off because they went out and bought new Chryslers, when they could have bought this Dodge, which was a de facto Newport, for less money than they paid for their Newports.  

This particular car was along the side of the road near Fort Wayne as a sales rep from a local old car dealership drove by.  He spotted it and bought it from the original owner.  That's right, I'm the 2nd owner.  Nowadays to find an old car that you are the 2nd owner is something of a rarity in itself.   It also has the original spare in the trunk.  

There is no rust, or corrosion, or previous work.  It is pristine and car show ready.  I've never had a car that good.  I've always had to either paint or re-do the upholstery, or something.  Miss Frump is ready for showing as is.  

The interior is immaculate and except for a couple curious holes in the headliner, it is really just like it rolled off the assembly line.  

We went over to Clearwater to check out a similar year car but blue.  It was a piece of junk, really, that would have required extensive work: new paint, new interior, rust in trunk, etc.  They wanted way too much for theirs but it was a chance to see a model and get an idea of its appearance.   Discussing price around a lady is rude, but I was pleased.  He came down a lot, I went up very little.  

Seat belts were optional in 1963 and Miss Frump does not a have them so I'll have to find them somewhere.  Interior is in excellent shape.

Here is Richard Barton checking out the engine, with Janine in the background on the phone telling her friends to come over and look at a really cool old car.  OK, so I lied about that last part.

She will be stored in Burgess until I figure out where I'm living.  Storage costs are very expensive in St. Pete.  I need a garage. 

So why a 1963 Dodge?

  • relative rarity - only 9,000 made and many are gone now.  To put it in perspective, they made 561,000 Chevy Impala sedans in 1963.
  • I have always been drawn to the unloved, overlooked cars.  These are forgotten. And most certainly unloved.
  • Show-ready cars are expensive.  This one was cheap.
  • Only one owner in 50 years is unusual.
  • Original spare is in trunk. 
  • It's big and I rather like big old cars.
  • It is under the Chrysler umbrella and that is my favorite marque.
She needs a carb rebuild.   That is an easy fix so while a bit disappointed in that, she is still a great car and in very fine condition.  I'm planning on taking her to the Railroad Days car show when I travel North in June,

It is wonderful to have an old car again.  And I'm glad to have found Miss Frump.  It's great to be in love again.

Advertising video from Dealership.

Turn the sound off, Rich is doing his selling routine and is a bit redundant.   Why it is not running is because he probably couldn't get it started, which he failed to tell me in the negotiations.  Either way I'm great with it and feel my instinctual DNA has been restored.  Think of me as an old salmon having successfully returned to my spawning.  

*Baby was actually purchased for me by the current Mrs. Blythe.  Sure, she used my credit card but the sentiment was the same.  One of the all-time best stories ever for a wife who wanted to shut her husband up once and for all.