“Don’t count the days. Make the days count.”(Mohammed Ali)
There seemed to be a definite vibe in the air of endless freedom again on the first day of our road trip. So I was not going to get stressed by the heavy traffic north on the Florida Turnpike and I-75 as we steadily made our way to South Georgia on the last weekend of February. With so many vehicles speeding by me at 90 mph+, I nevertheless remained determined to make good use of my cruise control operation to keep my speed in range of the legal 70 mph. Feeling more inclined to share the driving load with Ruth today, I also seemed more intensely curious than normal about my surroundings. Why then did I see so many leafless trees in the heart of winter when temperatures today rose to almost 90 degrees? What happened to the citrus groves that once grew everywhere in Central Florida? What else beside peaches and pecans was there to interest a tourist in South Georgia? Booking our first night room in Tipton, Georgia for locational reasons, we were on track to reach Atlanta earlier than expected by late afternoon tomorrow.
On the morning of day two, I looked forward to adventuring into the the interior of Southern Georgia for a short visit in Warm Springs, former home of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Winter White House. Passing through these rolling hills of seemingly unchanged towns and rural farming communities, I daydreamed some about our upcoming visit to Warm Springs. Why did this man of such inherited family wealth and high political stature choose to regularly visit this obscure Southern town? What curative magic did the town provide for him from an emotional standpoint? How strongly was the Democratic Party pulse from that 1930s-40s era still felt in this region?
Our Warm Springs visit thus took place with a manageable drive from Tifton on this foggy Sunday morning during the last day of February. Strong messaging about FDR’s life in Warm Springs soon became apparent at the Memorial Museum, as we browsed the multitude of displayed artifacts from the twenty one years period that FDR had visited there. For I first and foremost understood then why this polio stricken man loved Warm Springs as a place to deal with his debilitating paralysis condition. I would also conclude from our tour that FDR found an uncanny calling in Warm Springs on so many occasions to look beyond his own health problems to unselfishly serve this poor rural community and the polio inflicted masses who flocked there amid hard economic times.
Exiting the rear of the museum, a majestic, flag shrouded walkway led to the Little White House and adjoining buildings, where we conducted a self guided tour of FDR’s vacation home and surrounding environs. Amid this scenic hill setting overlooking a remote woods leading outside town, I imagined FDR admiring nature’s serenity from his living room windows. Touring the home interior, room by room, I also obtained a genuine “ feel” for FDR’s leisurely passions of non fiction reading, foreign stamp collecting and frequent informal chatting with friends. Yet I seemed most “moved” emotionally by the tragic circumstances of FDR’s untimely death on April 12, 1945 in this house. How sad that an unfinished self portrait of an ailing FDR remained my strongest memory of this extraordinary man as I exited the complex.