Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Visit with our soldier

Scout, Dot and I left Savannah early on Sunday morning. Our destination was F D Roosevelt State Park which is about 25 miles north of Columbus. We drove the secondary roads to enjoy the beautiful spring weather and the accompanying fragrance of the Wisteria that seemed to be everywhere. All along the road, the vines climbed high onto the Long Leaf Pines. In addition, the peach trees were just beginning to blossom. The route took us through the town of Vidalia, renown for its onions. Huge fields were filled with the young sprouts and the air was filled with the pungent aroma of these sweetest of onions.
Turtle in the front yard

I arrived early in the afternoon at FDR State Park and booked us in for four nights. The price is very reasonable at the Georgia State Parks, only $23/night. And, if you stay seven nights in any of the parks, you earn a free night. Selection of campsites is first come/first served, so I couldn't believe my luck when I found what I consider to be the best site in the park. There is a shaded site right on the shore of the small lake, site #205. I could watch the ducks,  geese and turtles from my 'front yard'. This was waterfront property at its finest. The park is very quiet and the people, as always, are very friendly. The only drawback was that the topography presented a real challenge to my resolve to run at least every other day. The only direction to run was uphill for at least one mile from the campground. Nevertheless, I dutifully kept my promise to myself and then some, circumnavigating the campground for a distance of 3.9 miles with an elevation gain of over 450 feet in thirty seven minutes. Not bad for an old man.

On Thursday I moved the trailer to Lake Pines Campground in Middleton, GA. The campground is just 10 minutes from the hotel where John, Becca, Audrey and Nancy were to stay. Sarah arrived with the other ladies on the flight from Boston to Atlanta about 8:30PM. We tried to find a Thai restaurant for dinner, but they were all closed so we ended up at The Outback Steakhouse.

On Friday morning we drove onto the fort and found John's battalion area where a short ceremony was performed whereby they earned the right to wear the Infantry Barrett. After the ceremony they were released for a pass to leave the fort until Sunday evening at 6:15PM or 1815 in Army lingo. The soldiers were required to remain in dress uniform whenever they were in public, could not use tobacco products, drive a car or drink any alcoholic  beverages.
Waiting in the Bravo Company Battalion area

John with buddy, Alejandro Rios

John had very specific goals for his time on pass. The first item on his agenda was to get a new smartphone after which, he wanted to go to TGI Fridays for his favorite steak. That evening we all went to see "The Hunger Games", a very predictable but enjoyable movie. After the movie we went to O'Charley's Restaurant for a late dinner.

Becca and John enjoyed some time alone at breakfast on Saturday. We met them at IHOP and we all drove to Callaway Gardens that is very near to FDR State Park where I stayed earlier in the week. We spent most of the day strolling the grounds and enjoying the exciting raptor demonstration that featured hawks, owls and vultures in free flight just inches above our heads. We were hoping to include a trip to FDR's Little White House in Warm Springs, but we ran out of time. We were all famished by early in the afternoon. A late lunch at Subway fulfilled another must for John and Becca. After a little down time, we gathered later in the evening for some fine Thai food at Chili Thai. We gave Becca the key to the truck so she and John could have Saturday night and Sunday morning to themselves.

 The time was flying and Sunday was here before we knew it. Sarah and I made a pork roast dinner, one of John's favorites. Nancy and Audrey arrived about 11 AM and helped prepare potatoes and carrots. Becca and John arrived about noon. The weather was perfect for dinner on the picnic table. It was nice to see that the guests of honor fell asleep before me for a change. Becca returned John to the fort well before his witching hour. No doubt their separation was difficult.

It was great seeing how enthusiastic John is about what he is doing. The pride displayed in the results of his hard work and determination made us all happy for him. He acknowledges that the next four weeks will be even more difficult, both physically and mentally, but he now knows that he can endure it. Besides, he has become a little narcissistic about his physical condition. That can be a powerful motivating force for a young man, as evidenced by his FB photo. Ah well, he earned it.

Ah, a little postprandial  alkaline tide?

On Monday, Sarah and I took the Mary Joan II back to FDR State Park. To our surprise, we once again were able to get campsite 205. That afternoon we hiked 4 miles round trip to Dowdell's Knob, a favorite picnic spot for FDR. From there we went to Warm Springs and toured the Little White House. It was easy to see why he loved this place so much and visited it 41 times while president. The simple cottage he built here must have been a place of great comfort and serenity compared to Washington, DC. It was here that he learned of the hardships faced by rural Americans in the depths of the Great Depression that allowed him, a wealthy aristocrat, to take up the cause of the common citizen. For Sarah and I, our visit here completed our tour of his history having visited Campobello, Hyde Park and finally Warm Springs.

We leave in the morning for Northern Georgia, stay tuned.

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