Recently, I made a solo travel journey to Georgia. I spent 24 hours in Plains with the priority of attending Sunday School with former President Jimmy Carter at Maranatha Baptist Church. Following is a timeline of my trip.
Stepping onto Main Street in Plains, Ga., is like stepping back in time. There’s a wholesome innocence and strong sense of patriotism. One of the shops, Plains Trading Post, is a cash-only political memorabilia shop.
Plains is the hometown of the 39th president of the United States. The locals refer to him either as “Jimmy” or “Mr. Jimmy” and casually drop his and Mrs. Carter’s names at least once in a conversation. It’s sweet and endearing how proud the residents are of the former peanut farmer.
It took me about 7 hours to drive from North Port, Fla., to Plains on a Saturday. And once there, I explored as much as I could.
3- 5 p.m.: I explored Main Street in Plains which included:
- Plain Peanuts (yummy peanut butter ice cream and just about every type of peanut products included fried peanuts in the shell! Yum!)
- Plains Trading Post (claims to hold the country’s largest collection of political memorabilia and Secret Service pin dealer; cash only – BTW, the business and building is for sale).
- Billy Carter’s service station, now a museum.
Various aspects of the Carters’ lives are highlighted through the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site.
- Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail.
- The Plains Depot (serviced by Seaboard Railroad) was converted into the Carter Presidential campaign headquarters, chosen because it had a restroom.
- The Plains High School Museum and Visitor Center is where Carter, and wife Rosalynn, attended grammar and high school. The facility showcases the couple’s pre- and post-presidency lives.
- See how the Carter family lived during the 1930s at the Boyhood Farm.
Other Sites to See in Plains
- Carter campaign supporters crafted a quirky site, a large peanut with very large lips. It was made with wooden hoops, chicken wire, aluminum foil and polyurethane. It was sent as a gift and sits in the Danfair Express parking lot next to Maranatha Baptist Church providing the perfect photo opportunity for visitors.
5 p.m. I headed to my napping location, the Quality Inn in Americus. The front desk staff were welcoming and friendly and the property was comfortable.
Note: they have exterior entryways, which are not ideal for solo travelers but I felt safe.
The Georgia heat and humidity whipped me. I did not want to drive to a restaurant for dinner so I walked to the nearby Waffle House. The cheeseburger hit the spot.
8 p.m. Bedtime! Sunday School Day with President Jimmy Carter Midnight Awake, showered, and packed up to head to Plains.
1 a.m.-ish Arrived at Maranatha Baptist Church
2 a.m.-ish Naptime in the car.
6:45 a.m. Rise and shine!
7:45 a.m. Gathered at the church’s side door for an overview of how to line up and what to expect that morning.
8 a.m. Church doors open.
10 a.m. Sunday School with Jimmy Carter begins.
10:45 a.m. Sunday School ends and half the sanctuary rushes to the one of two restrooms in the church.
10:55 a.m. President and Mrs. Carter enter the sanctuary and seated where Secret Service detail can keep a watchful eye on the congregation and protect the former First Family.
11 a.m. Church service.
Noon Church service ends and photos with the Carters begin.
1 p.m. About 400-some people had their photos taken with the couple, the sanctuary clears out and the Carter caravan departs.
2 p.m. I made a quick visit to the solar panel field leased by SolAmerica Energy on 10 acres of the Carter peanut farm.
Carter is nicknamed the Solar President. He contributed to launching the solar industry in the U.S. Carter installed solar panels on the White House, which Reagan later removed. In 1977, Carter established the Solar Energy Research Institute in Golden, Colorado. The solar panel field in Plains launched in 2017. With 3,852 panels, it is anticipated about half of Plains will be powered by the sun’s energy.
2:30 p.m. Homeward bound!
Things That Made Car Camping Easier
- Items that made car camping easier included:
- Travel pillow.
- Frisco Hammock Car Seat Cover for my dog. Radcliff stayed home but his hammock came in handy. I placed it on the driver’s side window and front windshield to keep the light out.
- Coleman battery-operated fan. To my surprise, it ran all night and kept me cool on the warm, summer Georgia evening.
- Faith by Jimmy Carter – I listened to the audiobook on the drive up which helped me understand more about the former president’s life and values.
What I Wish I Brought
- Dry shampoo. Ya know, to feel human.
- Damp Washcloth or facial wipes. Ditto from the above.
Plan Your Visit to Plains
Maranatha Baptist Church
148 Georgia Hwy. 45 North
Plains, Ga. 31780
Tel: (229) 824-7896
Former President Jimmy Carter teaches Sunday school twice a month. Find his teaching calendar on the church’s website.
The church does not accept reservations but RSVP so they have an idea on how many people to expect. Plus, they can send updates should things change.
Although the church’s website recommends arriving by 5:30 a.m. for a seat in the sanctuary, at publication time (July 13, 2019), arrive around midnight and prepare to car-camp.
Restroom facilities are two porta-potties outside the church. Danfair Express (a gas station) is within walking distance and opens at 6:30 a.m. Two restrooms are inside the church and doors open at 8 a.m. for the 10 a.m. Sunday school.
On the Sundays President Carter is not teaching and he is in town, he typically attends church and will pose for photos with anyone wanting one after the service.
Again, RSVP so they know you’re planning to visit but remember than an RSVP DOES NOT save you a seat.
Where to Eat, Where to Stay in Plains
Food service is limited in Plains. Locals recommend visiting Americus, about 15 minutes from Plains, for dining. Lodging options are limited in Plains. Include is the Plains Inn and private room and home rentals which can be found through sites like Airbnb.com.
Americus offers the closest lodging.
Consider grabbing a nap and hot shower in nearby accommodations before napping in your car.
City of Plains
Visit Americus & Sumter County
Jimmy Carter National Historic Site
300 North Bond St.
Plains, Ga. 31780
Tel: (229) 824-4104
Sites open to the public are Plains High School, Historic District of Plains, Plains Train Depot, Carter Boyhood Farm, and the Rosalynn Carter Butterfly Trail.
128 East Main St.
Plains, Ga. 31780
Tel: (229) 824-3462
Plains Trading Post
124 East Main Street
Plains, Ga. 31780
Tel: (229) 824-5207
Plains Inn & Antiques Mall
106 E Main St.
Tel: (229) 824-4517
SolAmerica Energy Field
Leaving Maranatha Baptist Church, turn left on Hwy. 45 then right on Paschal Street then right on Walters Street. Follow the road to the end. A prerecorded narration by President Carter tells the story of the fields and his commitment to solar energy.
Additional Photos on Flickr
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