Callaway Gardens – Day 4

May 19, 2021 – Riding with the Breeze in our Hair

So we’ve done a lot of walking this trip. Today we are going to ride. We wanted to get in as much riding as we could so we were up and out the door before 8:00, in order to get to the Country Kitchen when they opened. Got as far as the elevator and had to turn back. We both forgot our masks. Usually, one of us remembers before we leave the room. Oh well, let’s try this again.

We still ended up as the first customers this morning. We both chose the French Toast breakfast. I added a side of bacon. Chuck didn’t. He may have thought I was going to share but I snarfed down all 3 pieces with no remorse. I love my husband, but I really, really like bacon.

We drove over to the Golf pro shop to pick up our golf cart. Once we signed all the paperwork, they brought us the 6-seater. Wait. We reserved a 4-seater. Those were all gone so they gave us a 6-seater for the same price. As we drove around, we looked for people walking to offer them a ride but we never came upon anyone needing a ride. Only time I would have considered picking up a hitchhiker.

First place we drove to was the Virginia Hand Callaway Discovery Center. Inside the Center were a number of displays – mostly stuffed birds and animals that can be found in the area. There was also a nature movie about beavers showing in the auditorium. Around the corner and down the hall, there were displays of rare and endangered Georgia wildflowers. Those flowers were actual sculptures created by Mississippi artist Trailer McQuilkin. They were so delicate and life-like.

Another room held bird paintings by artist Athos Menaboni, an Italian artist who immigrated to the US after WW I.

I would have liked to have taken photos of the artwork but no video or photographs were allowed.

It was nearing 11:00 and we wanted to see the Birds of Prey show, so we walked outside to go to the amphitheater section. Met people coming up the sidewalk who said the show had been moved indoors because of the wind. Went back in the building. The “show” inside consisted of a woman talking about the birds and showing samples of wings and claws. We didn’t stay. There was to be another show with the live birds at 5:00 that might be outside if the wind died down. We didn’t think we would be here for it.

We walked back outside and turned right to go along the boardwalk next to the Mountain Creek Lake, the largest of all the lakes on the property. We saw one person fishing but he didn’t seem to be catching anything.

We also saw the entrance to the Tree Top Adventures & Ziplining. According to the signage, “TreeTop Adventure spans more than 3,000 feet horizontally and soars up to 70 feet above the forest floor. The base Discovery Course features five zip lines and 20 more challenges including ladders, wires, logs, discs, netting, and other suspended surfaces. The add-on Lake Course option features five additional zip lines, including several over the lake itself, and four obstacles.”

Chuck and I were fortunate to have ziplined in Roatan, Honduras one year. We passed on this adventure, but I am sure they are very busy in the Summer.

Around the corner from the TreeTop Adventure was the bicycle rental place if you didn’t bring your own bikes. We saw a number of people riding bikes in the Gardens. I thought the cutest set-ups were the adults pedalling the bikes while pulling their toddlers in a cart. Chuck wanted to rent a bike and cart so I could pull him around. I ushered him back to our golf cart.

We rode various paths and revisited the Memorial Chapel. Still so serene. Basically, if we saw a path to drive on, we took it. I’m not sure how many times we rode by Bluebird Lake going in and around the Gardens. Once, we accidentally got on an actual golf course path. We had to wait for some golfers to finish and they let us go on. We got off as soon as we could find another road exit. I’m glad we didn’t get hit with an errant ball.

We decided to have a picnic lunch by Robin Lake. We drove back to the Lodge to get our lunch items. Our room had a refrigerator, so we had packed some food in anticipation of a picnic. If you search for “picnic by the lake ideas,” you will find pictures of blankets on the ground, a large straw-woven basket, lanterns strung from trees, wine, gourmet cheeses, serrano ham, Galician bread, and Tiramisu for dessert. I thought our picnic came pretty close to those photos – cloth bag, picnic table with paper towels to cover the eating area, pimento cheese, canned chicken, beanie wienies, saltines, Dove chocolate, and Diet Cokes. But, we didn’t have any lanterns to string up so I will have to remember those for our next one.

We drove back to the lodge to deposit our bag in our room. We noticed that the personnel were putting up signs indicating that fully vaccinated guests have the option to not wear a mask indoors. That was great news. No more turning back at the elevator.

We drove through the cottages area of the resort. They looked like typical cottages you see at state parks – wood with screened-in porches. There were many streets of them. The area had its own swimming pool and restaurant. We also saw a disc golf course.

We drove through the Longleaf Community of Callaway Gardens. The houses and the landscapes were lovely, but they were so close together, it was a little claustrophobic feeling. According to their website, “The Longleaf Community was started in 2003. The Post Office, Library and meeting area was originally the Callaway sales office. The lands on which the community sits was an experimental nursery for the gardens for over 26 years.  Many of the trees, within the community, date back to when this area was a used to determine how the environment and the weather would affect certain tree growth. Today, some of the most beautiful trees are a product of that era.” The website didn’t state if it was an adult-only community but I didn’t see any signs of children like basketball goals, toys, etc. I think if you have to ask the price of the houses/lots, you probably can’t afford it.

We stopped to feed the fish in the two ponds we had discovered on our previous walk of Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail. In a car, you couldn’t really see the ponds but with the golf cart, you could see them and see a spot to pull over to walk to them. They really enjoyed the pieces of stale biscuit we had left over from the Country Kitchen.

Our very last stop was the Butterfly Exhibit again. It was a much different environment in the heat of the afternoon. The butterflies were very active but we didn’t stay very long at all because of the heat and humidity. We did see a family whose children were wearing butterfly wings from the gift shop. They were very cute running around with their sparkly wings.

We rode back to the caddy area of the Golf Pro shop and returned the golf cart. We only saw 2 other couples driving golf carts around today. Chuck and one guy decided it would be fun to race each other. Their passengers didn’t think it would be a good idea. They listened to their passengers but they looked disappointed.

We drove the car back to the Lodge. We debated about going back to the Fox’s Den for one of their sandwiches or wings but neither of us were that hungry. We decided that if we got hungry later, we would just walk over to Cason’s again. We ended up just finishing up our gourmet picnic food out on the balcony.

Check-out is tomorrow. We will just check-out and drive until we are ready for breakfast and to fill-up with gas. We have had a wonderful time.

Travel Trivia

When Athos Menaboni moved to Atlanta, he became friends with Robert Woodruff, one of the founders of Coca-Cola. Woodruff was said to have commissioned Menaboni to create numerous birds paintings, many of which were used for the Woodruff family Christmas cards between 1941 and 1984. In addition, the Menabonis were friends with Cason and Virginia Callaway, and upon the death of the Menabonis, their estate was willed to Callaway Gardens.

Virginia Hollis Hand was born on February 21, 1900. She attended the Lucy Cobb School in Athens, GA, and Merrill School in Mamaroneck, NY. She married Cason and they had 3 children.

With a mind for philanthropy, Virginia was involved in many endeavors, most of them focused on financial aid for the education of children and families. She was active in the Red Cross and initiated Red Cross swimming classes for area children at her Blue Springs pool. She frequently sponsored children at summer camps.

Cason had purchased thousands of acres of land in the area, and Cason and Virginia eventually decided to build a garden of incessant beauty to share with the world. This was an opportunity for her interest in botany to bloom. She was an active partner with Cason in planning and guiding the development of the Gardens and put much of her efforts into the horticultural side of the Gardens. Under her direction, azaleas and other native plants from the nurseries at Blue Springs were used to enhance the lakeside drive through the Gardens.

Virginia and Cason opened the Gardens to the public on May 20, 1952, and they worked together on it until his death in 1961. Following his death, she succeeded him as Chairman of the Board of the Ida Cason Callaway Foundation. In 1971, she founded the Cason J. Callaway Memorial Forest, preserving 3,000 acres of woodlands on the Pine Mountain Ridge that continue to serve as a conservation education site.

Virginia Callaway was recognized with many awards during her lifetime. She lived at Blue Springs until her death on February 11, 1995. Today, Her statue in front of the Discovery Center features her with her dog Rex, also known as MuddyNose. In her left hand, she holds a Plumleaf Azalea, a native plant saved by the Callaways from extinction and is the floral emblem of the Gardens.

*trivia provided by Callaway Gardens documents

Callaway Gardens – Day 3 (part 2)

May 18, 2021 – Butterflies and History

One end of the Pine Mountain Trail and Hwy 190 (Pine Mountain Hwy) is right across the street from the Country Kitchen. There is a nice parking lot across the street for people who plan to walk the trail. We did not want to walk this trail as it is 23 miles. We were just looking for some shorter loop trails.

We knew Hwy 190 goes directly to the FDR State Park along the top of Pine Mountain ridge. There were many Pine Mountain hiking crosswalk signs along the route, but we never saw anyone crossing the highway. The temperatures were so cool that we rode with the windows open.

I kept looking for the park entrance like I am used to seeing at other state parks – a kiosk with someone taking money for a park pass or a sign directing people to a Visitor’s Center. The only sign we saw was one directing campers to the Registration Office. In retrospect, we should have gone to the Registration Office to at least ask questions.

Instead, we decided to take a left into the camping area hoping to see a Visitor Center. There were several large RV’s at the campsites around the lake. There was a sign directing people to the General Store. We parked there so we could ask some questions. Unfortunately, it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

I pulled up a park map on my phone and found a couple of marked trails. We looked around and saw the signs directing people to the trails. They weren’t loop trails so we decided to take the 0.9 Delano trail since we would be taking it up and back. We put our state park pass (checked out from our local library before our trip) on the dash in case a park ranger came by checking cars.

It was a disappointing trail. Very worn down and not much to see. We turned back before we reached the end. We did meet some people at a trail intersection who had hiked a different trail and they said their trail was nice. It was also 3.5 miles, so we decided it was too late in the day to start on it. I did take their picture for them so they could send it to their hiking club. The four of them were older than us so it gives me hope that Chuck and I can keep doing these hikes in the future.

When we got back in the car, Chuck suggested that we drive on to Warm Springs and see The Little White House, the Georgia home of FDR. Fine with me. It was only 13 miles away. Chuck remembered seeing it as a little boy. I had never been there. The clouds had dissipated, and it was turning out to be a pretty day.

The place was easy to find. Very few cars in the parking lot. As we walked up to it from the parking lot, I thought the house looked weird. It should have. It was the museum. A park ranger was at the entrance to sell us our tickets. She asked us where we were from. I started my spiel about where our town was located in relation to larger cities nearby. But she stopped me after I said the name of our town. She knew where it was because she was from there. What are the odds?

She said she still had a favorite cousin there. When she said who it was, we realized it was the aunt of one of our neighborhood friends. Kevin Bacon’s six degrees of separation in action.

The museum was crammed full of artifacts from FDR’s life – stamp collection, canes, dishes, cars, etc. There were a lot of interactive exhibits. In addition, we watched a 20-minute movie narrated by Walter Cronkite about FDR’s life in Warm Springs and how it influenced his Presidential policies on rural electricity, fight against polio, and the Civilian Conservation Corp.

They had 2 park rangers circulating throughout the museum who were ready to answer any questions. Chuck and one of them had a long conversation. One of the artifacts that I thought was especially unusual was his personal buggy – The Tally Ho. It was made in Barnesville, Georgia. Barnesville was once the Buggy Capital of the World and I always enjoyed going to the town’s Buggy Days Celebration.

I could relate to the information about polio regarding its indiscriminate attacks on the young and old and the fear it struck in the nation. One, it reminded me of the current COVID pandemic, and two, it brought back memories of my grandfather who suffered the effects of polio. I wish he could have had a car with hand controls like FDR had.

Once we left the museum, we followed a path to a building that we thought was another museum but turned out to be the administrative offices. However, the path was interesting because it was lined on each side with state flags. Along with each flag there was a plaque that told when the state entered the union and its state motto. However, the most interesting part was that each state also had a stone on a stand. Some of the stones were shaped like the state it represented. Others had inscriptions written on them. Each was unique. I really liked the Arizona one which was made of petrified wood.

Following a different path, we found the guest house and the servant’s quarters. Behind that building was The Little White House. It was definitely a house but it was a lot smaller than I thought it would be. The rooms were small. We saw the room where he had his stroke while he was having his portrait painted. Everything is exactly as it was that fateful day.

We saw his bedroom and Eleanor’s bedroom. They even had the original paper towels in the kitchen and toilet paper in the bathroom. Both were so brown and crumbly that a good breeze will eventually disintegrate them. They also had a statue of Fala, the President’s Scottish terrier next to one of the doors. FDR was fond of the sea and sailing so the motif of the house was very nautical, including an outside deck that resembled the aft of a ship.

Outside, the house was surrounded by Marine and Secret Service sentry posts. I bet the men guarding FDR didn’t like those hot, humid, and bug-filled Georgia summers while having to stand in those little buildings watching the woods for any attack.

Just like in the museum, there are park rangers in and around the house to answer your questions. They were friendly and enthusiastic about their subject.

The last building that we visited was a small museum that housed FDR’s “unfinished portrait” and other paintings. One wall was dedicated to some Norman Rockwell paintings that were created during FDR’s time. I recognized many of them.

Of course, before we left, I made my way to the gift shop to search for a Christmas ornament. I had hoped for a replica Little White House but all they had was a Rosie the Riveter ornament. I bought it because it did have the Little White House information on the back of it, and if you pulled the string, her arm moved in the iconic flexing motion. I do wish places stocked ornaments all year long instead of just at Christmas. I can’t be the only one who buys them as vacation souvenirs, can I?

The museum park ranger told us that the museum that includes the warm spring pools had finally reopened after two years – one year for renovations, the other because of COVID. Of course, the pools were not filled but there was another area that you could feel the natural 88- degree water in a small basin. She said our ticket would get us entry into that museum too. It was only about a mile down the road. She also gave us directions back to Callaway that would not involve going back over Pine Mountain which we appreciated.

It was getting late in the afternoon, so we opted out of going to the other museum. We did enjoy riding through the town of Warm Springs and the ride back to Callaway was pleasant. We decided to stop at a pizza place near the Lodge recommended by our balcony neighbors – Fox’s Pizza Den. Glad we did. Bought a 10” pepperoni/mushroom pizza and 8 chicken wings and took them back to our room. We ate on the balcony. Very good meal.

Our balcony neighbors checked out this morning, but they left us a nice note and a Callaway Gardens shot glass as a surprise. They had mentioned that they like cruising so maybe we can all cruise together some time as we exchanged phone numbers.

So even though the hiking didn’t turn out as planned, we had a very good day. Looking forward to exploring in the Callaway Cruiser tomorrow.

Travel Trivia

When the Little White House was opened to the public in 1948, all the states currently part of the union (then, 48) were invited to contribute samples of native stones for a planned “Walk of the States,” in which visitors could walk down a long driveway and see each specimen.

Unfortunately, when some of the stones arrived, they were of varying degrees of texture and hardness, making it impractical to construct a walkway. Instead, the stones were placed on bench stands with educational information about each one. In 1961, the stones were moved to their present location on the walkway, and in 1964 state flags were added next to each stone.

There are 51- one for each state and DC. The most common stone is granite, followed closely by marble.

FDR was a state senator of New York from 1910 – 1913 and its governor from 1929 – 1933.

He won a record four presidential elections and became a central figure in world events during the first half of the 20th century. However, he only served 4 months into his fourth term before he died. The 22nd Amendment ratified in 1951 put a two-term limit on the Presidency going forward.

He used radio to speak directly to the American people, giving 30 “fireside chat” radio addresses during his presidency and became the first American president to be televised.

Major surviving programs and legislation implemented under Roosevelt include the Securities and Exchange Commission, the National Labor Relations Act, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Social Security, and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. He also presided over the end of Prohibition.

President Teddy Roosevelt was FDR’s fifth cousin.

He married Eleanor Roosevelt. She was his fifth cousin once removed, and Teddy’s niece. FDR’s mother did not want them to marry and disrupted the two-year engagement several times. They had six children with one dying in infancy.

It has been alleged that FDR had several affairs including a long one with Eleanor’s social secretary and a short one with the Crown Princess of Norway. There is a debate about whether or not Eleanor knew of the affairs; however, it is alleged that during FDR’s funeral procession there was not a dry eye to be seen – except for Eleanor’s.

In 1938, he founded the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis, leading to the development of polio vaccines. The Foundation is now known as the March of Dimes.

His beloved Scottish Terrier, Fala, was also extremely popular with the public. The dog could receive 5,000 fan letters in a day. He was also the model for the Monopoly playing piece. A statue of Fala receives a prominent position next to the statue of FDR, in the third room of the FDR Memorial on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The bronze statue of Murray the Outlaw of Falahill, (Fala’s full name), is the only presidential pet honored in such a way.

Lizzie McDuffie was FDR’s maid and the only staff member allowed to clean his room. She was a graduate of Morris Brown College in Atlanta, and she was married to FDR’s valet Irvin McDuffie. They were the only WH servant staff to travel to Warm Springs with him. She also served as a liaison between Eleanor Roosevelt and civil rights activists and campaigned for FDR’s re-election in 1936 and 1940. She also auditioned for the part of Mammy in Gone with the Wind, a part that ultimately went to Hattie McDaniel. McDaniel won an Academy Award for best supporting actress for that role making her the first African American to win an Oscar.

Roosevelt’s declining physical health had been kept secret from the general public so his death by stroke was met with shock and grief. After Germany surrendered the following month ending WWII, newly sworn-in President Truman dedicated Victory in Europe Day and its celebrations to Roosevelt’s memory.

The artist who was painting his portrait at the time of his stroke, Elizabeth Shoumatoff, is said to have rolled up the painting, vacated the premises, and never touched the painting again. It was donated to the Little White House in 1952 and is officially named “The Unfinished Portrait.”

As was his wish, Roosevelt was buried in the Rose Garden of his Springwood estate in Hyde Park, New York. He was joined by Fala in 1952 and Eleanor in 1962.

*trivia provided by Little White House documents

Callaway Gardens – Day 3 (part 1)

May 18, 2021 – Butterflies and History

Don’t know why I had such a restless night last night. The bed and pillows are comfortable, but I tossed and turned a lot of the night. I just got on up at 5:30 and got the coffee started. The day was cooler than yesterday, and the sky was cloudier too.

We had planned to rent a golf cart, go to the Cecil B. Day Butterfly Center, and ride around the park. The cost of the 4-passenger golf cart (Callaway Cruiser) is a little pricey for one full day – $135 + tax. They don’t rent them for ½ day (4 hours) in the morning because of all the golfers they have on their two 18-hole courses. You can rent for ½ day if you want to get it at 2:00. They will rent a 6-passenger one for ½ day for $75 but we didn’t need one that large. The price per day goes down the longer you rent it, with 7 days being the max.

Knowing I was going to spend a lot of time watching butterflies, Chuck suggested we just go to the Butterfly Center and then ride over to the Franklin D Roosevelt State Park to hike. We would rent the golf cart for tomorrow and spend the whole day riding. Fine with me. We called the Golf Pro shop and reserved a 4-seater for tomorrow.

Went back to the Country Kitchen for breakfast. I had the two egg and bacon breakfast. Chuck had the ultimate omelet breakfast. It was colder in the restaurant than yesterday. I wish I had worn my blue jean shirt that I use as a light jacket.

Came back outside to find the wind was still up and the temperature hadn’t risen much. I said I needed my shirt so back to the Lodge we went. I have 3 blue jean shirts. I should just always keep one in the car.

We got to the Center at 10:15. It had only been open for 15 minutes but there were a few people already inside the center. We entered and looked at the displays and watched the video in the area right outside the conservatory doors. We even saw a couple of butterflies that were emerging from their cocoons. They will stay in that display area until their wings completely dry out, and then they will be placed into the live conservatory. We didn’t wait to see if they made it completely out because it can take up to three hours depending on the size of the butterfly.

Once we entered the conservatory, we got blasted with a strong wind from a large fan. They are designed to keep the butterflies away from the doors. It was still cool outside, so the butterflies were staying still on the plants inside the conservatory. Excellent for photographs because I am not a good enough photographer to capture sharply focused in-flight butterflies. I wish I had used some of that time to practice my action shots. Also made it nicer to walk around as I know these places are usually very hot and steamy during full sunlight.

There were so many different types of butterflies. My favorite is always the Blue Morpho. I first saw one at the Key West Butterfly Center. I was fortunate enough to see one in the wild on our tour in Costa Rica during our Panama Canal cruise. I could only get a video of it as it never landed long enough for me to get a picture. You just see flashes of blue among the green plants.

We stayed in the conservatory for an hour. In addition to the butterflies and beautiful plants, they also had turtles and green tree frogs. After checking that we didn’t have a butterfly hitch-hiking on our clothes, we exited the conservatory. We got blasted by the fans again. I wanted to go to the gift shop and buy a Christmas ornament. It was advertised to open at 11:00 but it wasn’t. The volunteer at the main door said she didn’t know why the person hadn’t arrived yet. Maybe she was on her way.

Hoping the gift shop would open shortly, we decided to look at the topiaries that surrounded the outside of the building and walk the 0.6 Rhododendron Trail that was near the Center. I especially liked the topiary of Hairy Dawg. They also had topiaries of other college mascots, but they were not picture-worthy.

Just like the azaleas, there were not many rhododendrons blooming but the ones that were blooming were very pretty. We also heard a very loud bird singing his heart out. I finally located the source. His song was bigger than he was. Normally, birds are too quick for my photography skills but this one was so intent on his song, I was able to snap a couple of pictures.

On the trail, I also discovered that my Fitbit watch would not track my exercise. On each trail yesterday, I would select Exercise, hike, and the Fitbit would record the hike length and heart rate. Today, when I chose Exercise, the Fitbit would just flash and go back to the home screen. So annoying. I would have to wait until I got back to the room to research the problem.

Once we got back from the trail, the gift shop was open, and I was able to purchase my Callaway Gardens butterfly ornament. Chuck was thrilled for me. 😊 Time to go to the FDR State Park.

Travel Trivia

Cecil B. Day was founder and chairman of the Board of Days Inn of America, Inc. and the Center was funded in his memory by his wife Deen.

The conservatory is 7300 square feet and over 40 feet high at its highest and completely enclosed by 1084 panes of glass. It opened to the public on September 25, 1988.

The conservatory is a USDA regulated containment facility where removal of butterflies is prohibited.  There is a penalty of $25,000 or up to 9 years in prison for removing butterflies from the center.

The butterflies come from farmers in Costa Rica, El Salvador, Ecuador, Kenya, the Philippines, and Malaysia.  They represent all the major tropical regions of the world: Central/South America, Central Africa, and Southeast Asia/Australia.

The flora inside the conservatory consists of over 100 species of tropical plants mimicking a rain forest.

Surrounding the Day Butterfly Center are gardens containing plants especially chosen for their benefits to native butterflies. These gardens provide an example to guests wanting to create their own butterfly gardens and they provide an opportunity for guests to see butterfly eggs and larvae.

Butterflies have compound eyes, smell with their antennae, taste with their feet, feed with their tubular tongue, and weigh less than most flowers. Many are capable of flying thousands of miles.

*trivia provided by Callaway Gardens documents

Callaway Gardens – Day 2

May 17, 2021 – Hiking the Trails

Sunlight sneaking in around the black-out curtains made me ready to get up and have some coffee on the balcony. It was cooler than I expected but so nice to see the sun rise over the lake.

We were ready to leave the Lodge about 8:00. We decided to try the Country Kitchen for breakfast. It is a restaurant outside the grounds about 3 miles from the Lodge. It is owned by Callaway Gardens. According to its description, the Kitchen is one of the original buildings of Callaway Gardens and was converted to a restaurant and gift shop during one of the expansions. We could have had breakfast at the Piedmont, but they serve a buffet and we were not interested in that much food.

We made a good choice. The view from the restaurant was lovely and the food was very good. I had a vegetable omelet, hashbrowns, and rye toast. Chuck had the two-egg country ham breakfast. He quizzed the waitress on whether or not the grits could be eaten with a fork. She assured him they could. They couldn’t. We both like the Muscadine preserves that were served with the toast and biscuits. We were able to charge the meal to the room. Convenient.

After eating, we drove back about a mile to the main Garden entrance. You can, of course, visit the Gardens without staying at the Resort. The cost is $25.00 per person. The Lodge resort fee covers the admission each day of stay and the day of checkout. We also discovered that you can enter the Gardens from behind the Lodge near the Golf Course as long as you have your room keycard.

We drove around the perimeter first with the windows down enjoying the breeze and listening to the birds. We realized that the majority of the lakes in the property are named for birds (11 of the 14 lakes).

Our first stop was the Overlook Azalea Gardens Trail. We were the only car in the lot and the only people on the trail which I found unusual. Most of the azaleas had already bloomed but we still saw some nice ones. The trail was an easy 1.5 miles. It connected to the Whippoorwill Lake Trail so we took it back to the parking lot which was another .25 miles.

Our next stop was the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl. Again, we were the only car in the lot. We went through the entrance and I smelled my favorite flower – the gardenia. Huge bushes of them. The entrance was beautifully landscaped with numerous benches all around the flower beds. We walked the 1.2 mile azalea trail. Along this trail, we saw many chipmunks, birds, squirrels, turtles, and geese. We also heard rustling in the tall grasses that I convinced myself was just more chipmunks. We then took a spur trail to the Ida Cason Callaway Memorial Chapel which sits on the edge of the Lower Falls Creek Lake.

It was stunning in its simplicity – all wood, metal, and stone. The stained glass was designed to represent nature and the different seasons. We were the only ones in the chapel, so we were able to take our time and give thanks for all of our blessings. We knew we would definitely make a visit back here before our trip was over. It was just that peaceful.

When we got back to the Bowl entrance / parking lot, there were several people milling about. They asked about the trails and how far. They decided it was too far to walk and seemed disappointed that they were going to miss the chapel. We told them that they could drive to the chapel if they turned left out of this lot and went back about 1/2 mile. There was a small parking lot near the building. I was glad we are still in good shape to walk the trails. I hope they got to go.

Our last stop was the Pioneer Log Cabin. It was built in the 1830’s and moved from Troup County in 1959. It housed a 15-member family. The whole cabin didn’t look bigger than our hotel room. We hiked the 0.6 mile Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Trail. It is a sister trail to the one in Texas. Has only native plants. There were several small ponds with fish and turtles along the trail.

Once we got back to the parking lot, it was close to 2:00. We decided to call it a day and go back to the Lodge. It was warm so we went to the pool. There was only one other couple there. We got in the hot tub for a while. Chuck got in the pool but I thought it was too chilly. We enjoyed relaxing and listening to the music playing over the speakers. I thought “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” was an appropriate song for our day.

Afterwards, we spent happy hour on the balcony chatting with the neighbors again. We walked back to Cason’s. Neither of us were that hungry so we each ordered a glass of wine and an appetizer – a charcuterie board and chicken wings. We should have only ordered one appetizer to split. They were both large appetizers.

The restaurant cat was back. Found out from our waitress tonight that he was a she and her name is Callie. She came over to see what we were eating. We gave her some chicken and a little bit of cheese. She turned her nose up at both and decided a nap was in order instead. I hope she had better luck with later diners.

Tomorrow we are thinking we may rent one of the golf carts called the Callaway Cruisers to see more of the park that we can’t get to in the car and it is too far by foot.

Travel Trivia

What do azaleas, blueberries, cranberries, and mountain laurel have in common? They are all members of the Ericaceae or Heath family.

Azaleas are technically rhododendrons.

The Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl feature both exotic Asian evergreen azaleas and North American deciduous azaleas.

Inspired by 16th century Gothic chapels, Cason Callaway designed the chapel in honor of his mother.

Today, the chapel is used for small weddings as well as a non-denominational service each Sunday at 9am throughout the Summer and during the Christmas season.  Organ concerts, featuring the chapel’s custom-built Möller pipe organ, are held each weekend – Saturday and Sunday afternoon, 2pm until 4 pm  – as well as during some holidays and special events.

*trivia provided by Callaway Gardens documents

Callaway Gardens – Day One

May 16, 2021

I was up as usual at 6:00 am. I’m always nervous on the first day of the trip. Did I get everything important packed? Will Pumpkin cooperate and be inside when we are ready to leave?

Today, everything went well. We got the car packed while Pumpkin was outside. He came in about 10:00 and knew something was up when we would not let him back outside when he went to the door. He got frustrated with us and went to take a nap. We were able to leave at 11:00 with no angst. I knew our cat sitter would come by at dinner time.

We drove down US 27S and stopped at Bremen for lunch at Wendy’s around 1:00. I was taken aback at the line of people waiting to order. There was also a number of cars in the drive-thru line. Just another example of more people on the move. We were two of the very few wearing masks inside.

As we got near to Pine Mountain, I activated the GPS. She tried to route us into the Cottages entrance and not the main Lodge entrance. I kept going. The main lodge entrance was obscured by large trees on the left and the only sign on the right said “Wildlife viewing” so I overshot the entrance and had to turn around. Need to trim the trees or install better signage on both sides of the road.

We got there at 3:00. We parked in the circle outside of the Lodge. Check-in was 4:00 but fortunately our room was ready. Couldn’t find a luggage cart so the kind desk attendant helped us take our luggage to the room. COVID restrictions were in place. There was no valet service, but we could park in the valet slots. There would be no daily housekeeping, but we could call and get anything we needed. Masks were required indoors in public areas.

The room was nice but not luxurious. King bed, two bedside tables, chair, lamp, and small table in the corner, desk and office chair, and dresser with a small refrigerator, a place for the coffee maker, drawers, and a 50” TV on top. The bathroom was nice. Had a large shower separate from the tub. Only one sink but it was okay. The best part about the room was the balcony. The maid was working on another room so we asked for more coffee as we knew we would need more packages of it.

Once unpacked, we fixed ourselves a cocktail and sat outside to listen to the fountain bubbling and look at Robin Lake. Shady and a nice breeze. Perfect. Wasn’t long before the people who had the room next door came out on their balcony. They were from Americus, Georgia, and come to Callaway Gardens quite often. We enjoyed chatting with them.

Eventually, we wandered down to look at the pool. The pool area had two hot tubs in addition to the 5-foot-deep pool. The area was open every day until dusk but there was no bar/food service at the small pavilion. I assume it will open after Memorial Day. They did have beach towels for use at the pool. Couldn’t get into the pool area without your room key.

We kept walking to the lake area. Very nice white sand beach. Lots of people enjoying the water and playing on the beach. I wasn’t surprised at seeing geese near the beach, but I was very surprised at seeing buzzards on the beach.

We didn’t walk far. Decided that it was time for dinner. We had the choice of Piedmont Dining Room or Cason’s Tap Room on the property. Didn’t realize until we got over there that the menu was the same for each. If you wanted to eat inside, you were in the Piedmont. If you wanted to sit outside or at the bar, you were in Cason’s. We chose to sit outside as it was shady and a pleasant temperature.

I ordered the Winter Strawberry Salad with grilled shrimp and a glass of water. Chuck ordered the fish and chips and a glass of wine. I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner. He was not impressed with the fish or the wine.

We noticed a large grey cat sitting on the wall giving himself a bath. He wasn’t bothering anyone. The people at the table below him finally looked up and noticed him. They gave him some of their food and he snapped it up. I asked the waitress and she said that she thought it belonged to one of the houses in the area. However, Callaway’s policies were not to trap or bother any animal on the property, so he was there most every day. Said that she witnessed customers who actually bought a restaurant meal specifically for the cat. He definitely didn’t look like he had missed any meal. No chasing squirrels for him.

Eventually, he caught our eye and trotted over to see what we had. We gave him some shrimp and fish. He seemed to enjoy it. I noticed that that he strolled from table to table but never jumped on any of them. Some people fed him. Some ignored him. Very polite cat. If it had been our Smoke, he would have jumped on every table and snatched whatever food he wanted. He had bad manners.

Came back to the room and sat on the balcony until nearly dark. Looking forward to hiking around the Gardens tomorrow.

Travel Trivia

Callaway Gardens was founded in 1952 by Cason J. and Virginia Hand Callaway to promote and protect native azalea species. Their dream began in 1930 when Cason discovered a rare azalea growing in the area. As the large farm area began to take shape as a Garden, they decided they wanted to share it with the public. Today Callaway Gardens is a non-profit organization that covers 2500 acres and offers numerous outdoor activities.

Callaway Gardens

May 15, 2021 – (pre-trip)

I am a trip planner. Even with the shutdown of COVID, I was looking to the future – re-booking cancelled trips and scheduling or thinking about new trips. Microsoft Notes, Microsoft One Calendar, Microsoft Excel, Google Maps, Google Flights, Accuweather, and TripAdvisor are my go-to assistants.

With cruising on hold until very end of 2021 or sometime in 2022, we’ve been reviewing our road trip list. We have had the Outer Banks on our travel list for quite a while. However, we have only been interested in going in April or May. We wanted to avoid the summer crowds and have been leery of the Fall hurricanes. We decided that this was the year. So, in January 2021, I booked a hotel for Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina – the middle of the Outer Banks.

We thought mid-May would be the perfect time for this year. Vaccines were beginning to become available, and we hoped to get one before May. Schools would still be in session so maybe the crowds would be low. Prices were still reasonable before Memorial Day. Restaurants were still available even if only for pick-up. Our hotel room had a full kitchen so we could bring back food with no issue. All our planned activities involved the outdoors so social distancing could be observed. The weather was predicted to be very pleasant.

Fast forward to May. Both vaccinated. Mask-wearing rules and social distancing relaxed. Weather predictions excellent. Restaurants allowing in-person dining. Bags packed. Looking good.

Then…Russian hackers? Pipeline shutdown in the Southeast? Gas hoarding? Brawls at the gas stations? Hummers, filled with extra gas tanks, blowing up and catching fire? What is happening?

Called the hotel front desk person to ask about the gas situation there – “We’ve got no gas around here.” Trip cancelled.

I’m a planner. Let’s review our travel list for places we want to see. What can we do that, worse case scenario, we can get home and back on one tank of gas? Callaway Gardens / Pine Mountain, rose to the top of the list. Added bonus – we can even avoid Atlanta by traveling there via US 27 – known in Georgia as the Martha Berry Highway and designated as a Scenic Hometown Highway.

According to their website, Callaway has over 2,500 acres of gardens and trails. There are walking trails and biking trails. There is a lake for fishing, swimming, and canoeing. There is a butterfly center. Ziplining is there for the adventurous. If you want more outdoor activities, the FDR state park is 4 miles away and the Animal Safari park is 8 miles away. We’ve booked a room with a balcony that overlooks the lake. Hope it is as nice as its picture. Doesn’t have a full kitchen but it does have a small refrigerator. There are several restaurants on property that are available. Bags already packed. Gas tank is full. Weather forecast looks decent. Leaving tomorrow. Hoping for the best.

Travel Trivia –

U.S. Route 27 (US 27) is a north–south United States Highway in the southern and midwestern United States. The southern terminus is at US 1 in Miami, Florida. The northern terminus is at Interstate 69 (I-69) in Fort Wayne, Indiana. From Miami it goes up the center of Florida, then west to Tallahassee, Florida, and north through such cities and towns as Columbus, Georgia; Rome, Georgia; Chattanooga, Tennessee; Lexington, Kentucky; Cincinnati, Ohio; Oxford, Ohio; Richmond, Indiana; and Fort Wayne, Indiana. It once extended north through Lansing, Michigan, to Cheboygan, Mackinaw City, and for about three years as far as St. Ignace. US 27 was first signed in 1926, replacing what had been the western route of the Dixie Highway in many states.

Martha Berry (1865 – 1942) was the founder of the Berry Schools for academically able but economically poor children of the rural South—those who usually could not afford to go to other schools. These schools of the early 1900s grew within three decades into Berry College, a comprehensive liberal arts college in Rome Georgia. As a result of her work of forty years with the schools and college, Berry is among Georgia’s most prominent women of the first half of the twentieth century.

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