I wake up, get ready and load the Electra Glide for the day, then head to the lobby of the BEST WESTERN Columbus for breakfast. I decide to make myself a waffle this morning. I probably haven’t had a waffle in 10 years, and I can’t figure out why. Delicious and filling. I’m ready to ride.
I check out of the hotel, and head down to explore Columbus’ historic district. Columbus’ Broadway is a shopping street with buildings dating from the early 20th century, filled with modern businesses, shops and galleries. The wide median is dotted with public art, sculptures by local artists and places to sit and relax. It’s a beautiful, inviting boulevard. Continuing south on Broadway, the neighborhood turns residential, with a mix of Victorian, Craftsman and other style homes lining the street, separated by the park-like median. Broadway ends at a park, RiverWalk, which runs along the Chattahoochee River for miles. Bike paths, walking paths and wide meadows invite meandering and leisure. A 5,000-seat baseball stadium, Golden Park, sits ready for a minor league team.
One block west of Broadway, the riverfront is being renovated for luxury living. Old warehouses and factory buildings are being transformed into swanky lofts and office spaces. The Coca-Cola Space Science Center stands over the river, and the Columbus Museum is just up the street. The Civil War Naval Museum is a mile up the road, just beyond the 10,000-seat Columbus Civic Center. This place is loaded with culture and potential. I have to come back to Columbus in five years and see what has happened. I’ll bet that it will be an even more fantastic place.
But now I have to leave Columbus behind. My next stop is very exciting.
I’m a big fan of our Presidents. Not just our current President, but our ex-Presidents, too. I’ve been to at least eight presidential libraries (Carter, Nixon, Kennedy, Reagan, Eisenhower, Truman, Bush, Johnson), and a few presidential birthplaces. So I can’t just drive past Plains, Georgia – birthplace and boyhood home of James Earl Carter, Jr., our 39th President.
Jimmy Carter was born in 1924, and served as President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. He never forgot his roots in rural Plains – in fact, Mr. Carter and his wife Rosalynn still live in Plains today. At 86, he is very active in humanitarian causes worldwide, but still finds time to teach a Sunday School class at Marantha Baptist Church in Plains three weekends per month.
The National Park Service owns and operates the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site. The site includes Plains High School, where Mr. and Mrs. Carter attended both grammar and high school; the Carter Boyhood Farm and Home in Archery; and Plains Depot, which has been restored to its 1976 appearance as Mr. Carter’s campaign headquarters.
Plains High School is part time capsule, part museum. Several rooms of the school are presented as they would have been during the Carters’ youth, with old-fashioned desks, books and teaching aides. Other rooms are set up as political and social history of Mr. Carter’s time in and out of office.
The Carter Boyhood Farm and Home is a quick drive away from Plains. The family home and several outbuildings can be toured, with Mr. Carter’s recorded voice providing guidance and reminiscence. The Carter house is surprisingly cozy and warm, and there are some surprises. The Carters had a small general store next door to their house, and Mr. Carter’s story about tending to the store during every mealtime is charming and sweet.
Plains Depot really is a step back in time, back to 1976 this time. You can feel the grassroots enthusiasm in the cramped building, with vibrant 70s colors and design lending a bouncy feel to the place. Mr. Carter’s status as a true Washington outsider is never more apparent than in his former campaign headquarters.
I drive by the other museum in town, Billy Carter’s Filling Station, without stopping. It’s cool to know that it’s there, but I don’t want to spend the time in yet another gas station.
I don’t know if the Carters are at home while I explore Plains, but the Secret Service is definitely on duty outside their Woodland Drive home. Even though it is winter and off-season for the town, I saw at least two film crews roaming the streets. A local shopkeeper tells me that the townspeople are used to the cameras, and hardly notice them anymore.
The road out of Plains takes me to Albany, where I pick up US 19, the Georgia-Florida Highway. This portion of the ride is truly beautiful, with black ribbons of asphalt slicing through rolling farmland and woodland. Rows of pecan trees cast long shadows across the roadway. I float through the landscape aboard the Electra Glide, soaking it all in. The Georgia-Florida border passes by in a flash, and I’m into my fifth state on this road trip.
I come to the hamlet of Monticello, an artsy little village. At the center of town is the Jefferson County Courthouse, a Federal-style building fashioned after Thomas Jefferson’s estate in Virginia. Of course, ornery Floridians have made Monticello their own, insisting on pronouncing it “mont-i-SEL-o,” not “mont-i-CHEL-o.” I pick up US 90 in Monticello, and head west again toward my evening’s rest.
US 90 passes right through Tallahassee, Florida’s capital city. For those of you keeping track, that’s my third state capital on this ride (after Jackson, Mississippi and Montgomery, Alabama). Tallahassee is also a college town, home to Florida State University, the Seminoles. Traffic is heavy through town, with several accidents complicating passage. I avoid the temptation to stop at the Tallahassee Automobile Museum — I must really be tired today.
Traffic thins as I leave Tallahassee. Just 10 miles up the road, I come to Midway, Florida and the BEST WESTERN Panhandle Capital Inn & Suites. Tremaine at the front desk welcomes me as I check in. Ross, the other front desk clerk, points out the guest laundry. He assumes that I must not have much luggage with me on the Electra Glide. He’s amazed when I show him how much carrying capacity the bike has – I won’t be needing that laundry today, thank you.
Fine dining is in short supply in Midway. In fact, there isn’t any. That’s okay by me. I’m perfectly happy to sample the Lindy’s Chicken across the parking lot from the hotel, which I take back to my room to eat while I watch coverage of the Westminster Dog Show on television.
Now that’s living.
Tomorrow, I’ll be riding along the Gulf of Mexico. No more chicken for me, unless that chicken is a fish.
Miles ridden: 273
Next: Midway, Florida to Fort Walton Beach, Florida