Thursday, September 22, 2022

Some People I have Known -- President Jimmy Carter

In the summer of 1971, I needed to complete an internship at a newspaper as a requirement for my journalism degree at Auburn University. I had no real connections at any newspapers, but I applied to The Atlanta Constitution and somehow got the job. What I had going for me was my election to serve as editor of the Auburn student newspaper for my upcoming senior year. This and some samples of articles I had written got me the job. My salary was $110 per week. I reported to Managing Editor Jim Minter, but pretty much anyone in the newsroom could give me assignments.

On my first day of work I was approached by Duane Riner, a political writer, who asked if I would go on a trip with the governor the next day. It involved riding on the inaugural flight of an Air South commuter flight which would provide twice-daily round-trip flights from Atlanta to Statesboro and Dublin. The airline used Beech 99 aircraft that carry 14 passengers. Governor Jimmy Carter and a few other dignitaries would be taking the first flight. 

Photo courtesy of The Carter Center
I called the governor's press secretary, Jody Powell, and was told to meet at the governor's office the following morning at 9:45. When I arrived, we left in a car with myself, Carter, and two state patrolmen. When we got to the airport, we were met by an airport police car that led us through a gate and out onto the field directly to the plane. I was seated on the flight next to Governor Carter. 

To say I was tongue-tied would be a vast understatement. I knew nothing of the governor or Georgia politics. But he proved to be an engaging conversationalist, and patiently explained the importance of the new service. He also expressed a polite interest in me as a would-be journalist. I had no idea that five years later he would be elected president, but I later learned that he was already thinking about it.

My first published story
in The Atlanta Constitution 
We flew to both towns where we were greeted by crowds excited about the new service and anxious to greet the governor. After a brief ceremony at each airport, we attended a luncheon in Statesboro and flew back to Atlanta. I wrote up a quick story about the new flights, and even though copy editors changed my lead, it was my first story published and my first byline in The Atlanta Constitution. A very big deal for me at the time. (I later spent a week on the copy desk, changing other people's sentences. Turnabout is fair play. Copy editors really just show the value of another set of eyes reviewing everyone's work.)

Duane Riner was one of the friendliest people in the newsroom. He always stopped by whichever desk I had borrowed that day to ask me how things were going. The political editor Bill Schipp was on vacation and Duane was a huge producer for the paper. He often submitted five to seven stories a day from the capital. As a result of his workload, he turned over several assignments to me, many of them interesting. At one point we co-wrote an article and shared a byline. And after work one day he introduced me to the bar where all of the reporters gathered for drinks after work, and where I spent many an evening thereafter. 

A few weeks after the plane trip, Duane asked me to begin covering a series of meetings in the governor's office. Carter was attempting to reorganize the state government to save money, and was personally meeting with group after group of representatives from various departments to discuss their budgets. These meetings lasted virtually all day several days a week.

Carter had nothing on his desk or credenza except a bowl of peanuts, which he offered to everyone who visited. There was not even a phone on his desk but he actually had two phones in different drawers of the credenza, a red phone and a black one. During the breaks between meetings, he never asked me to leave the office but instead would chat and relax or sometimes open a drawer to take a call until the next group came in. We had several good discussions, mostly about personal matters, and I ate a lot of peanuts. The only political comments I ever heard from him were expressing frustration with Lieutenant Governor Lester Maddox and mentioning that he was exploring pursuing higher office on a national level. I enjoyed Carter's company and I felt like I knew him that summer, but it was fleeting, and the time passed quickly.

Carter was obviously extremely intelligent and inquiring about every technical subject that arose. But his reputation for micro-management was on full display. The meetings were dreadfully boring and sometimes hours would be spent debating something like the elimination of a copy machine as a way to reduce costs. In the course of a full day of meetings it was usually difficult for me to discern anything newsworthy that had been discussed or decided. Can you imagine a headline like "Governor decides to eliminate capital third floor copy machine"?

After the first day spent at these meetings, I went back to the office and told Duane that I had nothing to write about. He nodded, and then I realized why the assignment was given to me. The Constitution political writer did not want the paper to miss any news that might develop, but he was not about to spend his days doing what an intern could do. I attended two or three of these meetings a week for a few weeks. There were only a few news stories, and they weren't terribly important. I did continue to develop a personal relationship with Governor Carter. Eventually I was asked to move on to other matters. Either the governor or the paper got tired of the whole process.

Life went on for me after that summer. Carter completed his term as governor in 1975 and was elected president in 1976. I had no contact with him until around 13 years later. In 1984, Dayle Powell, a friend from law school, contacted me where I was working in Birmingham. She asked if I would consider co-hosting a dinner in Birmingham for business leaders where former President Carter would speak. I was happy to help, both because of our friendship and because I was an admirer and acquaintance of President Carter. It was a fund-raising effort for The Carter Center, but I can't really recall details of the event itself.

President Carter told me that he remembered me well from my summer at The Constitution, but I don't know if he really did. He was likely just being a gentleman.

Whatever can be said about Jimmy Carter, his leadership style, or his tendency to manage things like a field commander rather than a president, he is a good and decent man who has worked hard to make a difference in the world. He is the only president I have ever met personally. I am honored to have known him.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Some People I Have Known -- Mrs. Florida Segrest

 As my wife and I have traveled together this summer, I have told her a few stories of people I have known, and she has always said: "You should write these stories down." And so I begin.

During my senior year at Auburn University I was editor of the student newspaper. Because it was a demanding job, requiring about 80 hours a week, I only took one course each quarter of the 1971-72 school year, and then completed college after two more quarters in December of 1972. Planning to go to law school, I needed a job for the nine-month gap until the following September. I was fortunate to be hired by Neil Davis, publisher of the Auburn Bulletin, to work at the small weekly paper he owned in nearby Tuskegee. When I interviewed Mr. Davis for the job I asked what my salary would be and was told I would earn $160 a week. More impressively, I learned that my title would be Managing Editor.

The Tuskegee News had a small office in Tuskegee with a part-time employee who had office hours to accept advertising and payments locally. "Managing Editor" meant I was the only full-time employee of the paper. There was no one to manage and nothing to edit. I had to write every story, sell some of the advertising, edit my own work, paste up the pages every Wednesday, watch the paper get printed in Auburn usually very late Wednesday night or in the wee hours of Thursday morning, and deliver the papers to machines and stores in Tuskegee early Thursday morning.

A young Mrs. Florida Segrest
One of my regular duties was to attend and report on every meeting of the Macon County Commission, which I believe met twice each month. It was there that I first encountered Mrs. Florida Segrest, chair of the County Commission. We got along famously. I believe she first took an interest in me because of my family name and because I worked for her friend Neil Davis, while I was curious about her given name and how she continued to be the only white elected official in a county with an 85% black population.

At the first meeting I covered, I sat right next to Mrs. Segrest as she presided and chain-smoked throughout the meeting. She had a peculiar habit of alternating between smoking one regular cigarette and one menthol cigarette all day long. She liked to keep her two packs even, so every time she put out one cigarette she would wait a minute or two and then count the cigarettes in each pack to determine what to smoke next. As it would work, if she counted 11 menthol cigarettes and ten regular, it was clear that she would smoke a menthol next. But every other time she counted, the two packs had an equal number left, leaving her baffled. When that happened, after counting them both she would set the two packs down and stare at them for a minute or two before just finally taking one or the other and lighting up. All of this went on while she was presiding over the meeting, and I understood right away that keeping up with her smoking was likely the most dramatic thing I would witness at each County Commission meeting. My meeting notes were always filled with notations of which kind of smoke she was having at what time, like "11:17 -- menthol". Her choice of what to smoke next was correct about half of the time. She could have turned to me at any time to ask "what's next?", but we never discussed her smoking habits.

The answer to my first question, about her name, came immediately after that first meeting, but the answer to the question about race only became clear over time. When I asked how she got the name "Florida", she said that she was born while her father was running for office in Florida and he chose to name her Florida as something of a campaign stunt. It turns out that her father was Napoleon Bonaparte Broward, as in "Broward County", governor of Florida from 1905 until 1909. Florida was born in 1904 during his successful campaign.

As I spent those nine months in Tuskegee, I got to know Mrs. Segrest

well. She and her husband had me to dinner one night at their rambling old home where they had installed a hospital bed in the living room for his use, as he could no longer climb the stairs. The house was dusty and drafty and the dinner was interesting, but the Segrests were great hosts and they went out of their way to make me welcome. Mrs. Segrest was a fountain of knowledge about the history of the Macon County area. Her stories lasted well into the evening. And she spent an equal amount of time inquiring about me, my family history, and my plans for the future. 

Tuskegee had been a center of the civil rights movement. After the first Civil Rights Act was enacted in 1957, progress was gradually being made to register more black voters in the city. Blacks outnumbered whites in the city by four to one and some whites were worried about losing control. So local white politicians lobbied the state legislature to change the boundaries of the city. (Without "local rule", such changes had to be made by special acts of the state legislature.) When the legislature acted, the new city limits had 28 sides, ran down alleys and between homes, and included every white voter while excluding nearly all black voters. The political effect of this maneuver was to join the forces of black residents with the interests of an elite group of well-educated black professors and staff at Tuskegee Institute and at a large veterans hospital there.

The result was a lawsuit named Gomillion vs. Lightfoot. With numerous parties on each side, the namimg of lawsuits is often pretty random, but Lightfoot was the mayor of Tuskegee while Dr. Gomillion was a Tuskegee Institute professor. I interviewed Dr. Gomillion while I was in Tuskegee and wrote a feature article in the paper about his life and the case. 

The case was dismissed by the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Alabama, and the decision was upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Fred Gray, a Tuskegee attorney, along with Robert L. Carter, lead counsel for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), argued the case before the United States Supreme Court. 

At the time of the Supreme Court hearing of the case, journalist Bernard Taper wrote:  “The state's redrawing of the city's boundaries had the unintended effect of uniting Tuskegee Institute's Black intellectuals with the less educated Blacks living outside the sphere of the school. Some members of the school's faculty realized that possessing advanced degrees ultimately provided them no different status among the city's white establishment."  

Gomillion v. Lightfoot, 364 U.S. 339 (1960), was the landmark decision that found an electoral district with boundaries created to disenfranchise Blacks violated the Fifteenth Amendment. When I got to know him, Fred Gray was quick to point out to me that Florida Segrest was the only white leader and her husband the only white attorney in the county to support the civil rights movement and the efforts to overturn the gerrymandering of the City limits.

Dr. Gomillion's hope for a bi-racial government in Tuskegee ultimately lost out to white flight. As a result, at the time I worked in Tuskegee, the mayor, every member of the City Council, the sheriff, and every member of the County Commission except Mrs. Segrest was black, and the number of white voters had shrunk significantly in both the city and the county. Mrs. Segrest was chair of the County Commission because her bold stand for civil rights in the late 1950's and 1960's gained her a permanent position of respect and leadership in the community for as long as she lived.

As for history, Florida Segrest is featured in a place of honor at the Tuskegee History Center, a museum established by Fred Gray. For a discussion of the huge role of Tuskegee in African-American history (including the birth of Lionel Richie and The Commodores) see this article, written by Mrs. Segrest's grandson. Her obituary can be seen here. Boxes of her historical documents were donated to the archives at both Auburn and Samford Universities. I am honored to have known her.

Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Home Again

We are delighted to be back at home in Richmond Hill, Georgia. We traveled 8,355 miles and consumed 404.92 gallons of gas at an average price of $5.00 per gallon (premium). Gas prices fell in July as we traveled but were much higher in mountain areas like Sun Valley where delivery prices are higher. The highest price we saw was $6.15 per gallon in Hailey, Idaho and the lowest was $4.00 per gallon as we got into Alabama on the trip home. We had one flat tire that needed to be replaced at a cost of some $400 and we have two cracks in the windshield that will require replacing it. Insurance is TBD. Everything else was minor wear and tear on the car, our dogs, and ourselves.

After Oklahoma City we were on a roll toward home. We spent single nights in Russellville, Arkansas and Memphis, and a couple of nights in Birmingham to see family and a few friends. Today we sprinted from Birmingham back to home, and we are glad to be finished with packing and unpacking for one-night-stands in hotels.

Our dogs were troopers throughout, and good sports over miles in the back of the car. They were easiest in our rental home in Idaho for four weeks and somewhat more of an effort traveling, but we couldn't have asked more of them and they came through every time. We have certainly bonded and they are as confused as we are to suddenly be back in our home.

The highlights of the trip were all in the west where the scenery and climate were incredible. A few things are worth mentioning. Once we got to St. Louis and everywhere west of there virtually every hotel was pet-friendly. We found that not to be the case as we returned to the south where finding a room that we liked and that accepted our dogs was not so easy. Speed limits were higher the further west we went and we found ourselves on interstates where the limit was 80 mph and on deserted two-lane roads with speed limits of 75 mph. These speed limits were somewhat incompatible with very bad roads in areas that experience freezing weather. It is not fun to hit huge potholes and expansion seams at 80 mph. People were uniformly nice every place we went, but the problems of finding good employees in the service industries were very evident. Many roadside hotels showed a clear lack of maintenance as a result. While we loved the dry climate, sun exposure at higher altitudes can be wicked. I read that going up 5,000 feet increases your UV exposure by 50%. Hats and sunscreen are imperative. While many say they go west to avoid bad allergies, I found the opposite to be true. I went through many boxes of tissues in the Sun Valley area. There are no Chick Filet locations out west and we had our first chicken sandwich today on I-20 near Atlanta. Roads out west go through areas of no civilization at all for hundreds of miles. After getting a lucky "temporary" repair of our tire we had to drive 500 miles before we could get it replaced in Albuquerque. The pending effects of climate change are clear in the western rivers. The ability to supply water and electricity are going away, and it does not appear that anyone has a plan to deal with it.

So all we can say is Wow! This is not a trip we will likely repeat but we are so glad we got to see the sights and experience the west. And we are also happy to be back home. And after all of this my wife and I are still on speaking terms. 

Thursday, August 25, 2022

Back Down to Earth


Preserved Conoco Gas Station along Route 66

We arrived last Saturday in Santa Fe, New Mexico, where we spent four nights. Sunday the annual Indian Art Market was going on in the plaza. We wandered about with our dogs to check out the scene. It was crowded but lively, and both the dogs and we enjoyed it. Neither of us had ever been to Santa Fe before. It has more art galleries than anywhere we have been and provides great food, great strolling, and great people watching. Monday I drove down to Albuquerque and finally got our punctured tire replaced after driving more than 500 miles concerned that the repairs would fail in the middle of nowhere. Laura Lee visited the Georgia O'Keefe museum that afternoon while I watched the dogs.

Tuesday we drove up to Taos, another spot we had not seen. I had always wanted to ski there but the ski area was an additional 20 miles up the mountains so we did not make it there. We had a pleasant lunch and I took the dogs to a park while LL visited The Fechin House and museum. Later she went through the Maybel Dodge Luhan house and hotel. The highlight of the day was stopping at the Tesuque Village Market to share a house Margarita with chips and salsa. Perfect ending to a great day.

After nearly two months of fantastic scenery and being at elevations from 5,000 to 8,000 feet, we left Santa Fe yesterday morning and descended to Amarillo, Texas, at around 3,200 feet above sea level. I must say the re-entry was jarring. The spectacular scenery and cool mountain air have been replaced by flat grasslands and hotter temperatures.

The Cadillac Ranch

 The most interesting scenery yesterday was the Cadillac Ranch, shown above, and miles and miles of giant windmills generating electricity.

Tonight we are in Oklahoma City, and the transition back to earth is complete. We are expecting to be in Arkansas tomorrow night, Memphis Saturday night, and home perhaps Monday or Tuesday.

Saturday, August 20, 2022

Taking it Easy

We have just left Winslow, Arizona and have completed the obligatory pilgrimage to the corner in town turned into a tourist attraction after Winslow was mentioned in the song "Take it Easy". This particular corner is not necessarily the one referred to in the song, but Winslow has certainly capitalized on the brief mention. While there are myths and speculation, it seems that Jackson Browne started the song and was having trouble getting it finished. The line about Winslow came from Browne needing a car repair and spending a long day there. Glenn Frey of The Eagles helped him out, and supposedly wrote the line "It's a girl my lord in a flat bed Ford slowing down to take a look at me", so perhaps that part of the story happened somewhere else, or not at all. There is a statue of Jackson Browne at the corner, and another statue was added later that resembles Frey. There is also a flatbed Ford truck permanently parked there and a mural painted on the building facade. The song is officially listed as written by Browne and Frey. It was recorded by The Eagles 50 years ago, was their first single, and was the opening track on their first album. It is listed as one of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's "500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll". It doesn't really matter what happened on which corner, but it really is a great song. It's good to visit here where a part of the song came from.

We stayed at La Posada Hotel in Winslow, a railroad hotel that first opened in 1930. It has a long history and numerous celebrities have stayed here. You can read about it here.

When I last wrote here we were leaving La Verkin, Utah for Kanab, Utah. Along the way we got a signal from the Volvo to check tire pressure. Sure enough, the right rear tire was very low. Fortunately, on a road in the middle of nowhere, there was a tire shop two miles away. The tire had been punctured by a part of a screwdriver still lodged in it. The shop applied a patch to the inside of the tire, but it continued to have a small leak. So they inserted a plug into the gash from the outside and told us we needed to replace the tire. 

It turns out that the particular tire we need is back-ordered and couldn't be obtained by anyone in the area. A call to Volvo revealed that many Volvo dealers stock these tires and we found one at the nearest dealer in Albuquerque. We have had to drive hundreds of miles watching the tire pressure carefully. It's been a little nerve-wracking but so far the patch has held. Monday, during our stay in Santa Fe, I will drive down to Albuquerque to get the new tire.

We spent two nights in Kanab and visited the northern rim of the Grand Canyon Thursday. The drive up and the views of the canyon are truly beyond belief. In fact, the scenery is spectacular everywhere in this part of the country. Kanab bills itself as "Little Hollywood" because of the vast number of westerns filmed there. There are plaques all over town about movie stars like Clint Eastwood, John Wayne, and others spending time filming in Kanab. The landscape reminded us not only of westerns, but also of Roadrunner cartoons.

Kanab was also interesting because we stayed at "Best Friends Roadhouse and Mercantile". This is a motel designed for people and their pets, and owned by Best Friends Animal Society. It is right up the road from the motel and is the largest non-kill shelter in the United States. On any given night, Best Friends has up to 1,600 rescue animals in its care. For more information on this amazing organization, check out its history here.

Yesterday we travelled to Winslow among more astonishing scenery. We stopped along the way to see the dam at Lake Powell. Water levels there are at about 167 feet below full and by content at around 24% of capacity. The ability to generate power and provide water are all at risk because of extended draught conditions. A recent explanation from the LA Times can be found here. It's a sad situation.

Tuesday, August 16, 2022


We are in La Verkin, Utah, where climate and altitude are dramatically different than during our stay in Sun Valley. Days here are about the same 90's temperatures as in Sun Valley but lows at night are around 70 compared to 50 degrees or cooler many mornings in Idaho. Humidity is higher here and the sun is less fierce. While our house near Hailey was at 6,000 feet above sea level, here we are close to 3,000 feet. 

We are staying at The Dwellings, a series of small cabins that overlook the Virgin River. We are close to the town of Virgin, Zion National Park, and the town of Hurricane. Just to save the curious time Googling, here's the history of the names: Virgin is named for the Virgin River which was called Rio de la Virgen or something like that by the Spanish, after the Virgin Mary, and the town of Hurricane was supposedly named by Mormon leader Erastus Snow who had the top blown off his carriage one day here and said "That was a hurricane. Let's call this Hurricane Hill."

There's only one way to get out of Virgin Jail

 We drove from Hailey to Salt Lake City Saturday and on to La Verkin Sunday, about four hours each day plus dog and people stops. We chose this area to visit Zion National Park, which we toured by E-bike yesterday. It was rainy, but we got in a ride through part of the park, and had lunch at the Zion Lodge. The only way visitors can see the park is by shuttle buses, bikes, or walking, so the E-bikes were ideal.

We sheltered under this rock for a while during the rain

Today we drove over to visit the Quail Creek and Snow Canyon State Parks where we walked dogs and let them have a swim. The scenery in this area is just spectacular. Tomorrow we move just a short distance to Kanab, Utah to position us to visit the Northern Rim of the Grand Canyon Thursday. Friday we plan to move on to Winslow Arizona.

While we are glad to be on the move and seeing new sights, I must say it was bittersweet to leave Saturday. Our month in Sun Valley was just perfect. The rental house was great and Hailey, just 10 miles south of Ketchum, is a quiet and uncrowded place to stay. We enjoyed three evenings at Sun Valley Music Festival concerts with our good friends Harry and Vanita Morgan. Laura Lee went fly fishing with guides (and Harry) four or five times and learned a lot. We got to have dinner with the Morgans and our Seattle friends the Kecks during our final week. And the visit by my son Daniel, his wife Jackie, and their three children could not have been better.

After the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, we will head for Santa Fe and Taos, New Mexico, and then we shall take the southern route home. We plan to be back home by the end of the month.

The latest pictures will be added to the photos section of the blog by tomorrow.

Friday, August 5, 2022

On The Rocks

The Samford family on the rocks. Daniel nearly went overboard but managed to hang on.

 We have had a great time this week with my son Daniel, his wife Jackie, and three of our grandchildren visiting for a few days. They arrived Monday. Tuesday was a free day to explore and get to know the area. Wednesday, our entire clan took a raft trip on the Salmon River. It was beautiful and great fun getting tossed around on the river. 

Thursday morning, the gang had a flyfishing lesson and we topped that off by going up the Baldy gondola lift for lunch at the Round House. 

It's been a great visit. We hate seeing this crowd depart today, but school starts next week for the grandkids in the fourth, seventh, and eighth grades. We'll miss these guys. Click "Photos" above to see some of the action.

Saturday, July 30, 2022


View from our rental house at sunset

We have been in our Sun Valley rental house now for two weeks. It is a spectacular place high in the hills on 120 acres. We can see the lights from only one house here that is owned by the parents of our VRBO hostess. I have posted most of my photos to the blog and you can see them by clicking "Photos" above. I will add those taken by Laura Lee to the collection over the next couple of days.

We originally had possibly three couples joining us here at different times, but all had to cancel, so we have had the four bedroom house to ourselves. Our good friends from home Harry and Vanita Morgan are at their condo here and we have had some great times with them. Sadly our friends from Seattle, the Keck's, have not been in town yet, but we may see them before we depart. Monday, my son Daniel with his new bride Jackie and their three children will join us for most of next week. 

Yesterday Laura Lee and I took the gondola lift up the Baldy ski area and had lunch at the Round House high on the mountain. Some nearby lightening shut down the lift so we were treated to a ride down the mountain in a dusty pickup truck. We have done several long walks with dogs, and one serious hike up a nearby gulch. We also completed a roughly 20-mile bike ride from Hailey to Ketchum and back. I used an e-bike while Laura Lee was completely self-propelled.

We have a chicken coop in the back yard which is a new experience for me. There are about eight hens that lay eggs daily. It has become my routine to cook fresh eggs from the yard for breakfast almost every day.

Laura Lee feeding leftovers to the chickens. They eat nearly everything except citrus,
and of course chicken.

One of the highlights of the trip has been attending one of the open-air concerts of the Sun Valley Music Festival. We went last Tuesday with our friends the Morgans who know the tricks of finding a good place to set up chairs on the lawn. We will be going again Sunday night with them to the annual fundraising Gala, the only event where there is a charge for sitting on the grass area. It will be a performance of Carmina Burana and should be spectacular.

We have begun plotting our trip home that starts in two weeks. We will be taking a southern route and visiting parts of Utah and Santa Fe. We've also discovered today that our route will take us through Winslow, Arizona. That should be a fine sight to see. I'll post again soon.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Sun Valley

 We have made it to our rental house near Hailey, Idaho and just down the road from Ketchum and Sun Valley. We have driven 3,196.6 miles and used 155.8 gallons of gas (20.5 mpg...I need a hybrid). Our mileage is generally around 21.5 in flat areas but the average gets dragged down on mountain roads. Gas prices have generally been dropping during our trip except in more remote places where delivery costs are high. The highest we paid the entire trip was today in Hailey where supreme is $6.15 per gallon.

The house is lovely and very remote. We should have spectacular views of the stars on clear nights, but it doesn't get dark until around 10 pm here and last night we crashed pretty early after the trip. The weather is hot with a high today of 90 and a low tonight of 59. We do not have air conditioning but it is mostly tolerable except for late afternoon. That appears to be the time to find some shade and sit outside with a glass of wine.

We loved visiting Jackson Hole. We had three great dinners at places recommended by friends. It was also nice to spend a few days without lengthy drives. The highlight was renting ebikes for a 22-mile ride from our hotel up to Teton Village ski area for lunch. I had never ridden an ebike before and I found it to be a great invention, both to have help on hills and just to cruise very fast.

We had another beautiful drive yesterday from Jackson, up and over Teton Pass, and then through grasslands along more two-lane straight roads with 70 mph speed limits. Our weirdest encounter of the trip was a brief visit to the Craters of the Moon National Monument see video here. According to the National Park Service: "Volcanic activity occurred on the Snake River Plain for many millions of years. But Craters of the Moon was formed by eruptions that started only 15,000 years ago and represents the last period of active volcanism in this area. The most recent activity occurred 2,100 years ago...The Craters of the Moon volcanic field will erupt again, probably within the next few centuries if the recurrence interval of about 2,000 years is sustained. It is likely that the eruption will last several years or decades and possibly several centuries."

Lava Rock Piles at Craters of the Moon

We will be here in the Sun Valley area for four weeks. I will not be posting daily but on occasion if there is something to write about. Thanks for following our journey.

Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Jackson Hole


Yesterday we had a beautiful drive from Casper, Wyoming to Jackson Hole. Most of the day was across rolling hill grasslands with occasional outcroppings similar to what we saw in The Badlands. In the afternoon we began to see the magnificent Tetons in the distance. Properly, we are in the town of Jackson but the entire area is referred to Jackson Hole because it is situated in a valley among the Tetons. Most of the valley of Jackson Hole is in the Grand Teton National Park or National Forest. Just FYI, these mountains were named by French-Canadian trappers, and the term Grand Teton means "big breast" in french. 

As in South Dakota, the speed limit on the two-laned road yesterday was 70, and it was 80 on the short stretch of Interstate we covered. There was little traffic and only a few small towns along the route. We cannot  remember when we last saw any sign of law enforcement on the highways. Our thought is that no one cares how fast you drive out here and they don't want to spend money to enforce limits that are high enough for most drivers.

We have seen some interesting animal life in the west. There were buffalos in the Custer State Park and grazing along the highway yesterday. There are huge numbers of "Pronghorns" that wander around with no fear of traffic or people. I didn't know the meaning of Pronghorn but they are also known as American Antelopes, even though they are not technically antelopes. We are out where "the deer and the antelope play."

With plenty of time before our Saturday check-in, we decided to spend four nights here in Jackson and drive Saturday to Sun Valley to check into our rental house. It is beautiful here and we are enjoying not having to load and unload the car daily. 

We are in a retro spot called The Virginian Lodge. According to the Lodge's website:

In the 1960s, Founder Glenn Napierskie saw many visitors to Jackson Hole sleeping in their cars. He built The Virginian Lodge as a place for these families to stay, have fun, and build memories. Today, the same holds true. We want the travelers, drifters, locals, and adventure seekers who pull into our lodge to feel well taken care of and welcome to enjoy all that the area has to offer.

We are taking it easy today and have a bike ride planned for tomorrow. We are told that we need e-bikes because it is so hilly here. I've never ridden one but I know I will need all the help I can get. 

UPDATE: Anonymous comments.

I appreciate all of the kind comments below, but nine of the 12 are shown as coming from "Anonymous". I don't mind if someone really wants to be anonymous, but most of these sound like they are from friends. You can enter your name or sign in with Google before making a comment, or just do what a couple of people did and write your name at the end. To the two people who suggested the same restaurant, we are going there tonight. Thanks!

Sunday, July 10, 2022

Custer, South Dakota

We are in Custer, South Dakota for our second night. Including a good bit of sightseeing yesterday and today, we have covered 2,290 miles since home.

Yesterday we drove north from Nebraska up to the Badlands National Park in South Dakota. Much of the drive was through what is called the Sandhills of Nebraska, a vast area of grazing land with long mostly-straight two-lane highways. As we approached Interstate 90 in South Dakota, we suddenly came upon the dramatic landscape of the Badlands, with towering spires created over millions of years by erosion caused by water and wind. There was little to no traffic (or even towns) for much of the drive. We made good time -- speed limits are high in Nebraska and even higher in South Dakota. They were 65 or 70 on the two-lane roads and 75 on the interstates in Nebraska. Once we hit I-90 in South Dakota the speed limit was 80. 

 Visiting Badlands National Park was very special, and we tip our hat to our good friend Bill Thompson who directed us that way. The views are hard to capture with a cellphone camera, but trust me, it is worth seeing. 

This morning we headed over to Mt. Rushmore, again recommended by Bill, and then had lunch and a short one-mile hike with the dogs around a lake in the Custer State Park. I know everyone has seen pictures of Mt. Rushmore, but we had to prove we were there to check it off our list. 

And so all is going well. Tomorrow we plan to travel into Wyoming likely spending the night somewhere near Casper. After that, we plan four nights in Jackson Hole before heading to our rental house near Sun Valley next Saturday the 16th.

Friday, July 8, 2022

A Long Time Ago

We are in North Platte, Nebraska and we have covered 1,745 miles since home, including a couple of side trips. 

I was pleased that our trip brought us to this place for a brief stop. In the summer of 1975, I was looking forward to my last year of law school, but I was also acutely aware I would have no more free summers for a long, long time. So I leased a well-used "Sportscoach" motor home from a dealer in Atlanta (who couldn't sell it and wanted to make a little money rather than have it sit on his lot). I paid him something per mile and handled all the maintenance and fuel for about two months. I talked my good friend Alan Matthews into joining me and my dog Auburn for a trip out west. I wrote about that trip and Alan's untimely death on an earlier blog, and you can read the entry by clicking here.

As noted in that post, one of our stops was in North Platte. We came here intentionally to see my friend "Smooth" and his first wife Tish. I'm not sure where Smooth's nickname came from but the first time I met him he said: "My name's Rusty Wallace but my friends call me Smooth." And so I did.

At the time, Smooth worked in a dangerous job as what was called a "connector". As steel beams were being put in place in a building, he would walk out on a horizontal beam, grab a new beam lifted by a crane, and temporarily connect it wherever it went. Others would come along later and connect it more permanently. The dangerous part was walking out on a beam with no safety strap (and no net) while a crane was swinging a heavy steel beam over to him. Smooth described his job as "hanging iron". He was in North Platte helping build a power plant that became known as Gerald Gentleman Station. We saw it from a distance this evening.

Gerald Gentleman Station

During our visit, Smooth took us to Ole's Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge, where we enjoyed some Rocky Mountain Oysters and beer. Laura Lee and I dined there tonight and shared that dish as an appetizer. Google it if you have never heard of Rocky Mountain Oysters. 

Smooth was a dashing and infectious young man, with always a hint of danger about him. I found him fascinating. He told great stories, wrote great songs, and played them on the guitar. We became good friends and I was best man when he married Tish, but we have sadly not stayed in touch in recent years. Silly, because he lives only two hours away from me in Charleston.

It was good to visit the North Platte area 47 years later, to see the power plant still standing with steel beams well-connected, and to eat one more time at Ole's. I have good memories here of people who were dear to me. Tomorrow, we head north to the Badlands in South Dakota.

Thursday, July 7, 2022



We are in Lincoln, Nebraska staying right next to the 15,500-seat  University of Nebraska Pinnacle Bank Arena and close to the 85,000-seat Memorial Stadium. The University area seems quieter now than I'm sure it is during the regular school year, but we are in an area of many bars and restaurants. We drove up today from Kansas City through Missouri, a corner of Iowa, and finally into Nebraska. We have covered 1,450 miles since leaving home and are well into our fifth tank of gas.

We travelled Tuesday from St. Louis to Kansas City, home of our dear friends Bruce and Liz Pendleton. We went straight to their lovely home where our dogs Rhett and Belle could play with their dog Winston while we visited. The weather was hot, but not the 101 degrees of the day before. We walked the dogs around the neighborhood and had a great dinner with the Pendletons. After getting a taste of Kansas City, we wished we had planned a longer stay. It is full of interesting spots and great museums. We shall have to plan more time there next trip. Thanks Bruce and Liz for your incredible hospitality.

Tomorrow we will be crossing the southern part of Nebraska, with a planned stop somewhere near North Platte. I have a history there during a 1975 motor home trip which I will cover in more detail after seeing the area again.

The weather has cooled significantly and the highest temperatures we saw today were around 85 degrees. The severe heat warnings are now in the Topeka, Kansas area down into Texas and across to Alabama. Let's hope we remain north of it all.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

St. Genevieve

We arrived yesterday in St. Louis and we have stepped up a few notches from the Hampton Inn to spend two nights in a dog-friendly Four Seasons Hotel. We have a 17th floor room looking out at the St. Louis Gateway Arch and also giving us a spectacular view of last night's fireworks display. We walked the dogs late afternoon in the Gateway Arch National Park, had a peaceful dinner in the hotel, and came back to the room in time for the show.

Today, we took a planned side trip south along the western shore of the Mississippi River to St. Genevieve, Missouri. This lovely small town contains well-preserved examples of French Colonial architecture. These houses were built by "Acadians" who migrated south along the river, eventually all the way to Louisiana. Acadians were descendants of French settlers in Acadia, the French colony on the Atlantic coast of North America in what is now the Maritime Provinces of Canada. As Acadians eventually ended up in Louisiana, the word Acadian came to be pronounced as "Cajun".

We visited St. Genevieve not only because of my wife's interest in architectural history, but because the architecture of our house in Georgia was inspired by a specific preserved house museum in St. Genevieve, built in 1792 by Louis Bolduc. We had never seen it in person until today. Those who know our house will recognize the resemblance, especially the roofline.

Louis Bolduc House

The Samford House

Our trip is going well. Including our side trip today, we have travelled 974 miles over four days and just started on our fourth tank of gas this afternoon. Our dogs have settled into a routine, and we have discovered they are fine if we leave them alone in a room for a while so that we can have a relaxing dinner. We had worried they would bark and howl and disturb other hotel guests, but they have been downright angelic. We think they would rather travel with us than be left behind boarding somewhere. Tomorrow we move on to Kansas City where we will have a brief visit with our friends Bruce and Liz Pendleton. Then it will be on to Nebraska Thursday.

Monday, July 4, 2022

Road Trip

Having sold the boat this blog is named for, I am too lazy to go to the trouble of renaming it and starting over. And so, I am using it to record the road trip that is underway right now. We are spending about two weeks driving with our two large dogs to Sun Valley, Idaho, where we have rented a house for a month beginning July 16. We are packed tightly into my Volvo, and staying nightly in hotels with two dogs is proving to be challenging. The dogs are taking it in stride but young Belle decided to begin whining at 4 am this morning. Laura Lee took her outside briefly but she did not want to stay in her kennel. Eventually I got up with her at around 5 am and here she and I sit in the dark trying to let LL and the other dog Rhett get some more sleep.

We first drove Saturday from home to Chattanooga, TN and had a pleasant evening at a dog-friendly hotel downtown. Dinner was on a patio with each of us holding a leash as we tried to enjoy a flatbread and a little wine. Yesterday we had a reservation at the Kentucky Dam State Park Resort near Paducah, KY. It appeared on the website we would have a cute cabin near the lake, but it turned out to be a serious dump amidst a beautiful area. So we abandoned the idea and drove about 30 miles further. We are ensconced in a Hampton Inn along the Interstate outside of Paducah. We have travelled 650 miles of our roughly 2,600-mile trip west.

Today we plan to depart the Interstate system and head over to Cairo, Illinois where we will begin driving north on a section of the River Road which follows the entire Mississippi River from Louisiana to Minnesota. We will take it up to St. Louis today and come part way back down the other side of the river tomorrow to visit St. Genevieve, Missouri. It is there we plan to see the collection of preserved French colonial houses including the one that our present home is modeled after. I have written before about the Civil War history of some of this area in a previous boat blog that still lingers online here.

As we get into scenic areas today and tomorrow, I'll start posting some pictures. Thanks for checking in.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Division Belle has new owners

When we first purchased Division Belle on October 11, 2018, we said to ourselves that we would enjoy the boat for two or three years. It has now been almost exactly three years, and she has been sold to a lovely couple from Canada. 

It is a pretty good time to sell a boat. Demand has been high and supply low. But the main reason for the sale is that we have been unable to use the boat as much as I had anticipated. People use boats in different ways. Some live aboard. Some go out for the day. Some make great ocean passages around the world. But for us a boat has always been like a moveable second home. We have taken boats to The Bahamas, the Florida Keys, the Chesapeake Bay, Maine, and many other spots closer to home. We would leave our boat somewhere for months, traveling back and forth to spend time on it. 

Being on a boat is ideal during the Covid pandemic, but the logistics of getting to and from it have been challenging. We moved Division Belle south and got to the Bahamas in March of 2020, planning on flying back and forth to enjoy the islands. Alas, the borders were closed due to Covid and the boat sat in Bimini for four months before we were allowed back to bring her home in July. Even in the U.S., we often relied on airlines or one-way car rentals to travel to and from the boat, but we all know how difficult that has become. 

So it just makes sense to sell her, but it nevertheless breaks my heart. I have loved this boat and I had high hopes for more adventures and good times than we were able to enjoy. It has been fun and a great privilege to own her. I tinkered on her almost daily when she was docked near home and I travelled on her more than 3,600 nautical miles putting about 585 hours on the engine. I enjoyed every minute of it.

We completed the surveys and sea trials a couple of weeks ago and the purchasers accepted the boat. I moved her up to Thunderbolt Wednesday and drove her into South Carolina waters today where Division Belle was formally delivered to her new owners.

All good things come to an end. So, many thanks to those who have shown an interest and followed this blog. It's been fun. We shall see what new adventures lie ahead. 

Photo courtesy of Sarah Ingram

Friday, September 10, 2021

And Now a Beautiful Day

 I am underway heading out the Beaufort River. In a few minutes I will turn right and head up Port Royal Sound, follow the Intracoastal Waterway behind Hilton Head and Daufuskie Island, and then cross the Savannah River to Thunderbolt.

I had almost no wind from Tropical Storm Mindy yesterday, but I drove through rain and at times low visibility all morning. By around 11:30 am the rain had mostly stopped and by noon I was seeing glimpses of blue sky among the lingering clouds. 

I had planned to spend last night at Safe Harbor Beaufort Marina but the marina was full from boats that had elected to lay over an extra day due to Mindy. So I went just a couple of miles further to what has always been the Port Royal Landing Marina, but is now called Safe Harbor Port Royal. Safe Harbor is a company that has been buying up marinas everywhere. It was sold to a real estate investment trust called Sun Communities for $2.1 billion a year ago. Given what I have spent on marinas through the years, I'm guessing they are a good investment. The Port Royal property was very nice and had a decent restaurant with outdoor dining right on the property.

This morning the weather is just spectacular. It is 73 degrees now with a high today expected to be 82 and a low tonight of 70. This is considered downright chilly in coastal South Carolina and Georgia. Seas are still kicked up from the storms and are at 4-5 feet. Winds are at around 15 knots from the northeast. The ride in the Waterway is a little bumpy but comfortable as I make the turn into Port Royal Sound. I am exposed to the open ocean for a short time and I can tell I should stay in the Waterway today. 

The incoming tide in the sound is boosting my speed to nearly 10 knots. Practically flying.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Suddenly It's Mindy

It is a stormy evening here on John's Island near Charleston. I drove up yesterday in a rental car to retrieve Division Belle from Ross Marine, with plans to depart early tomorrow to catch the high tide near noon crossing the shallowest areas of the Intracoastal Waterway between here and Beaufort, SC. 

I've been watching the radar and following the low pressure area in the Gulf of Mexico, which developed very quickly this afternoon into tropical storm Mindy. Right now at 6:20 pm Wednesday, I'm glad to be securely tied to the dock. But this is a very fast-moving storm and should be out in the Atlantic by tomorrow afternoon. 



LOCATION...29.2N 86.1W





It looks like the worst will pass overnight to the south of me so I am hoping for not too bad a weather day tomorrow. I will be in the Intracoastal Waterway, but thunderstorms and high wind are still no fun. I'll be keeping an eye on the weather overnight.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

Church Creek

 It has been a long time since I have posted here, and unfortunately we have made little use of the boat. We did have a gathering on the boat out in the river near our home for the local Fourth of July fireworks display. It was a great evening with some good friends, and because of tides, I spent the night out at anchor to bring the boat back in at high tide in the morning. Since then, we have had all of our grandchildren at Ford for a week of kids' camp and taken a trip to stay with friends for a few days in Sun Valley, Idaho. Next week, we go to Highlands, NC for a two-week escape from the hot humid weather at home.

For now, I am simply repositioning the boat for maintenance, primarily for new bottom paint. I am headed to Ross Marine on Johns Island near Charleston. I left home near noon Monday and anchored that night in the Herb River, near Thunderbolt and close to the Savannah Yacht Club. After some nearby rain, it cooled a little to 86 degrees. I enjoyed the back deck for a while until I was chased inside by bugs. I turned off all the lights and hid in the dark.

Tuesday night I stayed at the Beaufort Town Docks, now called the Beaufort Safe Harbor Marina. It was nice to get off the boat and walk around the town a bit, but it was very hot and humid. Today I made my way up to the Church Creek anchorage, just short of my destination tomorrow. I have used this anchorage about four times now and it is always delightful. It is open enough for some breeze and protected from wakes on the Intracoastal Waterway. I captured the image above of a gigantic storm about 50 miles to the west near sunset. As the sky darkened, I was treated to an impressive lightning display as the storm moved south toward Statesboro, GA. Tomorrow I will be at the boatyard getting the work organized, and I have a rental car reserved to drive home Friday.

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Email service going away

 UPDATE: With some tech support from Karolina at, I think anyone following this blog by email will be added to the new email feed. You should receive an email from asking you to verify that you want to receive these emails. We hope you will stick with us.

There are 48 friends who follow this blog by email, but the service is about to be discontinued. I have received the following notice from Blogger (Google): 

"FollowByEmail widget (Feedburner) is going away. You are receiving this information because your blog uses the FollowByEmail widget (Feedburner). Recently, the Feedburner team released a system update announcement that the email subscription service will be discontinued in July 2021." 

So, what to do? You can always read the blog directly at Additionally, I am also trying out a new link on the upper right side of the blog homepage now called "Follow By Email". I'm not sure how well it will work or how to keep up with who subscribes, but you are welcome to try it. I might just will enter the email addresses of current subscribers and you can accept the new service or not when it requests verification.

Honestly, there has been little to read here for awhile because we haven't been able to use the boat as much as I would like. I'm hoping that will change, and I appreciate each of you who follow our exploits.

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Prince of Tides

Yesterday I moved the boat from Ford to Thunderbolt, the area where the Intracoastal Waterway passes closest to Savannah. It takes approximately 40 minutes to drive my car from home to Thunderbolt, but in my boat it is a winding 33 nautical mile passage that takes nearly five hours. I go part way down the Ogeechee River to a spot where it connects to the Grove River. The Grove then merges into the Little Ogeechee River which empties out into Ossabaw Sound where I join the Intracoastal Waterway north to Thunderbolt.

I am normally required by my draft to depart our marina at Ford close to high tide and I benefit from the tidal current rushing out that adds to my usual 7.5-knot pace. This week, because of the full moon close to the earth, our tides have been extreme. The range between high and low tide measured at Fort McAllister is normally between six and seven feet. But today for example, there is a low tide this afternoon of negative one foot followed by a high tide tonight of 8.7 feet -- a range of 9.7 feet. (Tides are expressed relative to "Mean Lower Low Water", which is the average height of the lowest tide recorded at a tide station each day during a standardized 19-year recording period.) All of this water dropping nearly 10 feet over about six hours creates very strong currents, and at one point yesterday I was cruising at nearly 11 knots downstream. It was a fun ride and shaved roughly 30 minutes off of my trip. 

The reason for this trip is a story about problems in the "supply chain" for many items right now. Last week, when taking my boat to Thunderbolt for some minor electronics issues, the depth finder started acting up. It would rapidly jump around showing random depths that had nothing to do with reality. After some diagnosis by Mike King of Coastal Marine Electronics and a discussion with Garmin, it was determined that the transducer that fits through the hull of the boat was faulty. This is a fancy and rather expensive forward-looking sonar that shows the depth out in front of the boat to help avoid running aground. Mike called to tell me the good news was that that the transducer is under warranty and the bad news was that Garmin had none in stock and didn't know when they would be available. In fact, there was some indication it might be next year before I could get it replaced. 

I needed an alternative. It is pretty treacherous to operate in waters in this area without any indication of water depth. So Mike came up with a solution. I have an additional transducer that is a simple paddlewheel to show speed through the water. We could replace it with a not-too-expensive "tri-mode" transducer that would show depth, speed, and water temperature. The replacement was supposed to fit into the existing sleeve through the hull, but of course it didn't. So we scheduled to have the boat hauled out this week to replace the sleeve and install the back-up transducer.

Meanwhile, after all of this messing about, the replacement Garmin transducer that could have taken a year actually arrived at my house last Friday. So I brought the boat back to Thunderbolt yesterday to have it hauled out to both replace the Garmin and go ahead and put in the other we ordered as a back-up.

The haul out was scheduled for today, but when I arrived at Thunderbolt yesterday I learned that the lift used to haul boats had a flat tire. These are serious tires for a lift that picks up boats weighing up to 150,000 pounds. The tire is being repaired today but I didn't want the boat hauled out Friday only to sit in the hot sun without air conditioning until Tuesday after the holiday weekend. So the schedule now is to haul it Tuesday and put it back in the water Wednesday. I should be bringing it back home next Thursday. Sigh...

Long story, but this is often how things work with boats. We will eventually have everything in order.