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March 1 - April 2 - Moving Northward, at a moderate pace

March was the month we got back to tourist mode after spending three months lolling around Central Florida staying warm. There were lots of things we thought about doing this winter in Florida, but we didn't do most of them. But in March we got a little more active. Here are some highlights.

We started our month at the 1000 Trails Orlando Resort (1) where we'd spent most of the winter. It's a very nice place to spend time, and we like it there. Our primary project was to make plans for next winter - we knew we needed to make a flying trip to Oregon for doctor visits, and we'd decided to combine it with a family Thanksgiving. So we needed a place to leave the RV while we were gone. After checking out a few options, we elected to take advantage of some early-bird discounts and contracted for a 3-month stay at (big surprise) the 1000 Trails Orlando Resort. We like the park, we like the area, and it's just a mile or two from a Curves where Judy can exercise.

Al started assembling a home theater computer to make it more convenient to play our large collection of movies. That was a 2-day project that still wasn't completed by the end of the month.

A week after we got back to the resort in Clermont FL, the satellite techs returned to replace our rooftop satellite dish. A complete replacement dish had been shipped from the factory. When we opened the box, it was evident the dish had been damaged in transit. But turned out the only broken piece was the one piece from the original dish that was still bolted to our roof. So the guys mounted the dish, and despite our conviction that the thing had suffered from the shipping, it fired up and locked on first try. We congratulated each other, but reserved final judgment.

We got a call from the mobility scooter distributor in Tampa who said he couldn't figure out the scooter problem, and that the factory was of little guidance. Al was pretty sure he knew what the problem was, and asked that the distributor order a couple of replacement parts, which he did. Al figured it would become a do-it-yourself project once the parts got in. They hadn't arrived by the time we left Clermont and started northward.

Our bicycles take a lot of abuse hanging off the back of the car as we travel, and sitting out in the elements when we're parked, and Judy's was getting cantankerous. So we took her bike into a repair shop in Clermont and had it tuned up. Judy said it rode a lot better after servicing.

Other than that, our major accomplishment during these last two weeks in the Clermont area was to get all the punches on our "get one free" card from CiCi's Pizza, and got a free pizza buffet. And with it, two punches on our next card, which we can't use until next winter. One more thing to look forward to.

On March 14, we traveled the 46 miles to the 1000 Trails Three Flags Resort at Wildwood FL (4). We need to stay close until we could get our scooter back, and it was still pretty chilly further north. Wildwood is a reasonably unremarkable town, except for the Russell Stover Candy Outlet about a mile from the RV park and a most remarkable real estate development called "The Villages". We bought a bunch of num-nums at the candy store, which should last a few months. And we drove around The Villages a couple of times.

Starting as a mobile home village about 30 years ago, The Villages complex has been among the fastest growing residential areas in the country for the past 15 years. In the 2000 census, there were about 8,000 residents. In the 2010 census, over 50,000 - an increase of over 500%. Judging by the construction, that number is now much, much higher. It's an age-restricted community (55+) with 39 (!) golf courses. It's run by a pseudo-governmental homeowners association controlled by the developer. It has very strict housing codes. Golf carts are the dominant form of transportation, and in most areas there's a whole network of cart paths separate from the roads. They operate their own hospitals and fire departments. It's kind of like a Stepford community - everybody dresses the same (golf shirts and shorts), landscapes the same (no dividing fences) and drinks the same drinks (margaritas are very popular). And all the mobile homes are long gone. There are four "villages" where families with kids are allowed to own property, and in those areas the development operates their own schools. But, for the most part, it's lots of very active gray haired folks.

The parts for our scooter finally arrived, and two days before our scheduled departure northward we drove to Tampa and picked up the scooter and the new parts. We see how that works out.

Judy relies on Curves to maintain an exercise regimen, an essential element in the treatment of her Parkinson's. Her home Curves club in Sun City CA was closing the end of March, so while in Wildwood, she began the process of transferring her membership to the Curves near the RV park in Clermont. Which, we then learned, was also closing. After some scrambling, she was able to transfer to another Curves in Clermont, but about 12 miles from the RV park. With so many of the Curves closing, we're starting to think about developing some alternate exercise strategies. We'll have to have it figured out by the time we get back to the west coast, as there are no longer any Curves north of Coos Bay on the Oregon or Washington coasts, and that's where all of our 1000 Trails Parks are located.

On March 25, we climbed onto I-75 and headed north into Georgia for a 6-night stay at the Southern Trails RV Park in Unadilla GA (5). Unadilla is a tiny town half-way between Perry and Cordele on I-75. But it was close by three places we wanted to visit.

If you've heard anything about the Civil War, you've surely heard about Andersonville Prison. The Confederates built it to house prisoners of war. It operated for only 14 months, during which about 42,000 Union prisoners were held there. 13,000 of those died in captivity. While there were other Civil War POW prisons with higher death rates (several in the north), Andersonville had the highest body count. Basically, the prison was a huge stockade within which the prisoners were pretty much left to fend for themselves. There were no buildings, very little food, and except when it rained, almost no drinkable water. The National Park includes the national POW Museum, a very depressing exposure to the conditions and lives of US POWs in all wars from the US Revolution to the present. It also includes the Andersonville National Cemetery, built around the burial ground for those 13,000 Union soldiers. Military burials continue at the cemetery - there were four fresh graves the day we visited. Not a particularly fun place to visit, but well worth it.

If it weren't for Jimmy Carter, probably none of us would have ever heard of Plains GA, a small farming town of about 700 people. But Plains is probably the town Georgia is most proud of, and Jimmy Carter remains its favorite native son. The Carter Historical Center is in the town's former school, where Jimmy and his future bride Rosalynn both went through all 11 grades offered. Carter had long set his sights on a career in the US Navy, and won appointment to Annapolis. He and Rosalynn both wanted to get out of Plains, seeing little future for them there.

Carter was on a good career track in the Navy when his father died, and at the funeral he heard from a lot of people about all the things his dad had done for them - things he'd never known about. He got to thinking that all the things his dad had done were a lot more important than anything he could ever hope to accomplish in the Navy, and over Rosalynn's protests (she says she pouted and cried for a year), resigned his commission in 1953 and moved the family back to Plains. No job, no prospects. They moved into a newly-built public housing project, and Carter opened  "Carter's Warehouse", selling supplies to the area farmers. Their first year's income was under $300.

Things improved, obviously, and the Carters eventually were able to build a new home in 1960, where they still live today. They're in Plains about 3/4 of the time, and when he's home on weekends, Carter still teaches a Sunday school class at the Maranatha Baptist Church, to which the public is invited. In March, he was there three Sundays, according to the schedule posted at the visitor center.

Anyhow, we toured the very nice museum in the old school building and wandered around the Carter family farm, where Jimmy grew up. There was more we could have seen, but we got tired. And we still have to visit the Carter Presidential Library and Museum in Atlanta.

Warm Springs GA is home to Franklin Roosevelt's Little White House, now a Georgia State Park. Warm Springs was where FDR first came in 1924 seeking some relief from the paralysis that plagued him. He kept coming back, investing in the area, establishing the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for polio therapy, buying farm land and experimenting with sustainable agriculture, and eventually, he died there in April of 1945. The Little White House complex includes a very nice museum focusing on FDR's life in the Warm Springs area, the very modest house (6 rooms) he called home while he was there, as well as the compound's grounds and outbuildings. The home, guest house and servants' quarters cost a whopping $8,738 (including landscaping) when it was built in 1925. When he became President, there were a few security features added, but it was really a very simple life to which he escaped often. He found the heated spring waters very relaxing.

While in Unadilla, we celebrated our 23rd wedding anniversary, driving the 15 miles to Perry GA and a Longhorn Steak House for dinner. Hard to believe it's really been that long, and also hard to believe it's only been that long.

When visiting Andersonville, Al backed the car into a stone wall and bent the bike rack just enough to make it unusable. Fortunately, there was a little one-man body shop just up the road from the RV park, and Larry, the proprietor, was able to straighten it out in about 15 minutes for just $20. Sometimes you just gotta love small towns.

After our 6 nights in Unadilla, we started our serious trek northward. First night, we stopped at the 1000 Trails Oaks RV park in Yemassee SC (6), then a long drive (350+ miles) to "The Club" at Lake Gaston (7), just north of the NC-VA state line. We had dinner that night in the clubhouse, which served a pretty good prime rib. Judy had the "rib-eye" (but should have had the prime rib).  The next morning, April 2, we drove the remaining 2 hours to the 1000 Trails Outdoor World Resort in Williamsburg VA (8), where we'll be for almost three weeks. But that's for our next report.

Judy took a few pictures during our adventures, and we've put about 61 of them into our slideshow. Check them out here if you choose.

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