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Trip Report Plains, GA trip

Two friends and I had a wonderful trip to Plains, GA and President Carter’s church last weekend. We arrived in Plains about 1:00 Saturday and immediately had lunch downtown, in a little place called the Buffalo Café. Brick building was once a bank, café name comes from the school sports teams , the Buffalos. It was a very limited menu – hamburgers, chicken salad and pimento cheese sandwiches but my hamburger was excellent. An elderly couple, probably in their late 80s, at the adjacent table started talking to us (something that happened frequently in Plains). They lived in the retirement home right outside Plains and shared stories about knowing the Carters all their lives.
We checked into our room then. The Inn is a “home town project”, a nonprofit, that the Carters were involved in as part of the economic sustainability for Plains. http://www.plainsinn.net/
We had been fortunate to get a cancellation the week before. Inn rooms are upstairs, over a large antique store and include access to a small kitchen and room with large dining room table, sofa & chairs & TV, also an interesting area on the other side of the entrance with a huge old freight elevator. Seems the building was once the town funeral home and the elevator had been used to get caskets from one floor to the other. We opened the refrigerator & it was stocked with packaged pastries and sausage biscuits for breakfast, milk, cream and orange juice. Coffee, a variety of teas, breakfast cereals, little packets of oatmeal and grits, and popcorn were also provided for guests. The balcony overlooked downtown Plains & its little depot (the 1976 Jimmy Carter campaign headquarters) & had rocking chairs and ceiling fans, a pleasant place to sit and relax.
Each room was decorated in the style of one of the decades from Carter’s life – we were in the 1980s room. It was huge, too, with queen bed, sofa bed, chairs, desk, wardrobe, huge TV, books, very nice bathroom. And so nicely decorated. Each room had its own personality. The 1970s room was the largest, some rooms looked more suitable for a couple but ours was large enough for the 3 of us to be very comfortable. The 1920s room had an old fashioned bathtub. There was a hall grandfather clock right outside our door that softly struck each hour.
By the time we were finished admiring our lodging, it was 2:30 so we set out quickly for the Carter boyhood farm about 4 miles from downtown Plains where there were special activities going on until 3:00. They were unhitching the mules brought in for the day when we arrived.
There was a bluegrass band playing the whole time we were there, that was nice, too. Farm store, barns, blacksmith shop were all interesting. House was very plain, had a swept yard, all very common for the times.
We then went on to the Georgia welcome center near Plains, recommended by someone we talked to at the inn, but not very useful. Instead we could have spent longer in the Plains High School and visitor center – it was chock full of information.
We were inspired on learning about the special teacher in Jimmy and Rosalynn’s life, followed both of their timelines in pictures, watched a video, admired some of Jimmy’s paintings and woodworking, sat at the replica of his White House desk, etc. (Incidentally, no charge for any of the NPS places we visited in Plains)
Then we drove on to scope out the church & admired some of the old houses in Plains. It would be a fine town to just take an evening walk around.
Got back to town about 5:00 so had time to go shopping – first at the peanut store where the owner stuffed us with so many samples that we didn’t even want to buy a scoop of the peanut butter ice cream. I got some fried peanuts & the others bought peanut butter fudge & peanut brittle.
The welcome center had plied us with info on restaurants in Americus and I’m sure they were good spots but we were happy with walking to the Plains Cafeteria. The menu listed homemade gumbo for $6.99 & that’s what I had, it was a huge bowl & included rice & hushpuppies. Very good. We talked to a local couple sitting at a nearby table & were told that we should return for Sunday dinner (they attended the Methodist church, she said, which let them out in time to beat the Baptists to the restaurant).
We were planning to rock on the balcony when we got back but instead talked to the other Inn residents for the evening in the living room – a family from Columbia Tennessee making their fifth visit.
We set our alarms early & I was fixing my breakfast at 6 a.m. A very congenial breakfast, too, with a few other Inn residents, all repeat visitors.
Got to the church at 6:55 and we were number 45. We were told it was an especially busy Sunday, more visitors than usual. Church is on beautiful grounds, pecan trees and lots of green grass in the back. At 7:45, we were lining up, by number, for the security check.
We were waved to the next to the back row of the middle section of the church initially. I could see pretty well but my short friend couldn’t at all. Luckily we later were sent to the second row of the right section & we could all see very well.
We listened to an hour of instructions on how to behave and what to expect from a member of the church. The wooden cross in the back of the pulpit, the only ornamentation in the church, was made by President Carter, as were the collection plates.
President Carter came out, asked where we were from & we went through the recitation as practiced (Massachusetts, Maine and Washington most distant state), countries included Brazil, South Korea, China, and Ghana.
He told us why his arm was in a sling (he fell walking on “new ground”, farm land that had just been cleared). He told us what he would be doing in the coming week, spending it at the Carter Center.
And then he went on the lesson. He asked questions and engaged the audience. Church service was good and then picture taking was done very fast and efficiently, according to very strict rules.
Each row was called up for picture taking again arbitrarily and we were at the very end. But that was great, because we were so close, we got to watch – all were told emphatically not to touch the Carters and not to try to engage in conversation other to say a brief phrase. But, of course, people did.
We were able to return to the Inn to change clothes and pack up our suitcases . . . then had late lunch at the Cafeteria, good baked chicken and vegetables for me. Church members were there & very friendly – we left Plains with such a good feeling.

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