It’s been an interesting week out here on the road. The weather has been clear and sunny, and very cool for Georgia. I started the week in Athens, made my way through Atlanta for Thanksgiving and then headed towards the southwest of the state. Columbus was a wonderful surprise, and I found some great places to take photos along the back roads as well. The holiday threw a loop into my work schedule, but it was nice to take a bit of a breather for a change as well. I’ve booked a flight home for Christmas from Orlando, so I’m on more of a schedule than I normally am, but I’m making good progress to and through Georgia and enjoying every mile of it.
After I left you last week, I went for a burger at Georgia’s iconic Varsity and then headed out in downtown Athens for a few drinks. Athens definitely has some cool bars to explore, and it’s been a while since I’ve had a chance to go out there. I really liked the dark, cool vibe of the Manhattan Cafe where I could sip on a bourbon and sit on the couch and just relax for a minute. They had a great selection of drinks with some special winter favorites like hot buttered rum, and a very chill atmosphere. I also liked the funky, arty, unorthodox Sister Louisa’s Church, which reminded me of some of my favorite weird bars at home and in New Orleans.
Thursday morning was Thanksgiving and I slept in a bit, as I hope everyone else did. I went out to see some things I had not yet gotten to check out in Athens. There was a unique double barrel cannon in front of the courthouse which was designed to shoot two balls at once connected by a chain. Apparently it didn’t work as planned, so now it just sits there and looks intimidating. It’s definitely an interesting piece though. Then I went to see the famous Tree That Owns Itself - a beautiful white oak which was granted its freedom when its former property owner died. Actually the original Tree That Owns Itself blew over years ago, but a seedling was planted in its place and is now doing really well. It’s at the corner of South Finley and Dearing Streets, up a very rough brick road, but worth a visit.
I left Athens in the early afternoon and headed towards Atlanta. I wanted to visit Stone Mountain, Georgia’s massive Confederate Mount Rushmore, on the way down, but changed my mind when they wanted to charge me $20 just to get in. Disappointed at this ridiculousness, I continued on down to Atlanta and went for Thanksgiving Dinner at the Metro Cafe Diner downtown. I have actually been in Atlanta for Thanksgiving before, and remembered getting a decent meal there without all the fuss of a fancy restaurant. I am not a big fan of turkey unless it’s on a sandwich, but I’ll eat it on Thanksgiving - you know, tradition and all - but this place made a really good turkey dinner for me. I bucked tradition and went with Oreo cheesecake for dessert though. I took a nice long nap after that, and then just took it easy for the rest of the day.
That evening, I went to see The Green Book, a movie I was really looking forward to checking out. The Green Book was a guidebook produced for African American travelers in the south during segregation, to give them information on where they could and couldn’t stay and eat. The story follows a black musician on a two month tour of the Deep South in the early sixties. This was a wonderful movie with excellent acting and beautiful sets. I question the historical accuracy of some of the scenes, but it was still well worth seeing.
Friday I started the day by visiting Atlanta’s beautiful Hindu Temple. While I just wanted to take some photos of it from the outside, the security guard made me go in and ask permission (which was quickly granted), and while I was there, they let me go and have a look around. They even gave me a wonderful brochure explaining all the different aspects of the temple which was really helpful. Everyone was very welcoming to me there, and I am really glad I went inside.
From there I went to Constitution Lakes Park to explore the creepy but fascinating Doll’s Head Trail. The Doll’s Head Trail started when a local resident went into the preserve to pick up trash and decided to re-purpose some of what he found as art. It really is a little creepy, I’m not going to lie, but it is a good idea and definitely unique and different. If you want to visit, go to Constitution Lakes, take the trail on the left from the parking lot and when you get to the boardwalk, go left at the fork. The whole thing takes less than an hour, and is a cool diversion.
At that point in the day I was hungry and really wanted to go to the Busy Bee, one of my favorite spots in Atlanta. Sadly, it was closed for the weekend, so I ended up at Daddy D’s Barbecue Joint on a recommendation. This was a cool spot and the barbecue was pretty good too. A little tough and a little salty for me, but still good. After lunch I went to visit the Margaret Mitchell House, the apartment building where she wrote her infamous novel Gone With The Wind. It was a cute, if somewhat overpriced little museum, but the fall colors in that part of town were really amazing. I’ve been wanting to get to this historic building for a while now, and I’m glad I finally made it in. Later that evening I stopped by the Clermont Lounge for a few beers and a few laughs, and then headed to the Northside Tavern for some great live music. Atlanta does have some really great spots in it, but you need a car and you need to know where to look. I’ve spent a lot of time in Atlanta over the years, so I was only there for the day this time around. I’m glad I got to see and do some new things while I was there.
The whole time I was in Athens and Atlanta I was listening to WYAY-FM, Atlanta’s 106.7 talk radio. I am a big supporter of our freedom of speech in this country, but I’m sorry that stations like this are allowed to pedal their garbage to the general public. Every show on the air was an angry man shouting about how angry he was. Under a weak facade of humor, these shock-jocks were just plain mean and a lot of what they were saying was blatantly racist. All of their arguments were so full of holes that even a child could point them out, but every time a caller tried, they just got louder and angrier. Sadly, the number of people calling in with their own ignorant and/or racist comments was even more shocking. This atmosphere which has grown and continues to grow in this country of being mean and demeaning people you disagree with by attacking their weight or their color or the clothes they wear has got to stop. It’s literally tearing us apart at the seams. I know people in this country feel underrepresented, but I promise that everyone feels that way. As soon as we realize that we all feel that way and that the people in power pit us against each other so they can win elections and we can continue to feel that way, we might be able to start to fix things. We would be way stronger together than we are apart. I hope this radio station is forced to change their format not because people don’t have the right to their opinion, but because people simply stop listening to these terrible, angry shows. Rant over, on with the adventure:
Saturday morning I was off and running. I didn’t have much I wanted to accomplish with my Saturday, just a relaxed drive through some smaller towns to see what Christmas decorations were up and wander around with the Saturday shoppers. I stopped in Newnan, Alan Jackson’s hometown, for a little look around. The main central courthouse square there is really nice, and I took some nice photos around town. I got to see Santa making his rounds, and popped into a few cute little shops before pushing on. I stopped briefly in Franklin to take some photos of their Historic Society building, set up like an old Gulf station, before heading on to La Grange.
La Grange is named after the property of the Marquis de Lafayette, who passed through the area on one of his grand tours around the country. It has a wonderful fountain in the middle of town and a pleasant and walkable downtown area. I went for dinner at the Fried Tomato just outside of downtown, a Southern buffet-style restaurant with a small but excellent selection of Southern favorites like fried chicken, okra, collard greens and fried green tomatoes. It was just under $10 which is a pretty great price for this quality and variety of food. From there, I headed back downtown to the Wild Leap Brew Co. for a couple of beers and took some time to work on my next podcast.
Sunday I was up and off to beautiful Warm Springs, Georgia. On the drive out there, I was listening to a wonderful preacher giving his Sunday sermon on the radio. His message was about how it’s so easy to focus on what we want or what we don’t have, when we should really think about how thankful we are for what we do have. He even recommended sitting down and making a list of what we should be thankful for. I really enjoyed this sermon and wish I had written down what church it was coming from so I could pay it a visit. When I got into town I headed straight for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Little White House, now a State Historical Park. FDR started visiting Warm Springs in the twenties, hoping to find healing power for his polio in the warm mineral springs there. He built a small house just outside of town and went there often to relax and take the waters. While in Warm Springs, he often drove out to visit with the local people and find out what their lives were really like and what might help them out of the Great Depression, and it was there that he got many ideas for his New Deal. The locals considered him a friend and always looked forward to his visits, and by the smile on his face in photos of him there, I think he looked forward to them as well. I like to think he had some happy times between leading the country through the Depression and World War II and his personal pain. It was also there in Warm Springs that he passed away in 1945, just months before World War II ended. This site was well worth a visit, and I love how humble a house it was - really just a simple country cabin in the woods.
The town of Warm Springs is also really cute, and I enjoyed popping into some of the little stores downtown. I had a great lunch at the wonderful Bulloch House before heading on to Columbus. On the way, I popped over the border into Alabama where gas was less than $2/gallon, a deal too good to pass up.
Columbus was so much prettier than I anticipated from descriptions of it as an old industrial center. The downtown is very pleasant and many of the industrial buildings have been re-purposed into lofts and other businesses. There are some beautiful old homes around, and the city seemed like it was doing really well. I took a few photos downtown and then headed out to catch up on some work for a while.
Monday I headed down to the Columbus Visitor’s Center first thing to try and get some ideas of where to take photos around town. The center was top-notch and had some incredible resources in it. The people working there were super friendly and helpful and I spent all day walking and driving around town and taking photos. You will definitely be seeing more from me on Columbus soon as I really fell for the place while I was there.
I stopped for lunch at the Dinglewood Pharmacy, a true Columbus institution which just celebrated its hundredth anniversary. I got a “scrambled dog”, a bowl of hot dog chunks, chili, cheese, coleslaw, onions and pickles. It was amazingly good and something I would definitely go back again for. For dinner, I went for a sliced barbecue sandwich at Country Barbecue on Broadway. Situated in the old Greyhound Bus terminal, with a bus still attached and re-purposed as a dining room, this place was really cute. It was also the best barbecue sandwich I’ve had in a very long time. Tuesday I ate salad and fruit, but Monday I ate very well.
Up and off early on Tuesday, I stopped into the National Infantry Museum at Fort Benning right when it opened. My paternal grandfather was in the infantry, so I wanted to pay a visit to this museum while I was in the area. It was a big place with lots to see and do and some pretty life-like dioramas. I could have probably spent half the day or longer there, but needed to be moving on. I’m glad I got to at least take a cursory glance. The museum is free if you’re ever in the area, and well worth a stop.
Heading south, I drove on to Providence Canyon State Outdoor Recreation Area. Called by Georgians the “Little Grand Canyon”, I didn’t think quite as highly of it. When people first settled the area, they clear cut the native trees which destabilized the underlying clay and sandstone. When it rained, depressions turned into gullies which eventually turned into a canyon. The layers exposed made for some pretty photos, but I was significantly less impressed than I was by Georgia’s other canyons.
Somewhat disappointed, I headed on to Plains, Georgia, hometown of Jimmy Carter, the 39th President of the United States. I drove through a lot of cotton fields on the way, and even a Christmas tree farm, to get to this tiny town of 800 people. As part of Jimmy Carter National Historic Site, a National Park Service site, I got to tour his incredibly humble boyhood home (no running water) and the little store his father ran. I went to his High School and heard the story of how he convinced his classmates to skip school one day and how the resulting punishment caused him to finish second in his class. His wife Rosalynn was also from Plains, and she had finished first in her graduating class from the same school. I also visited the government housing unit he lived in when he left the navy and his one-time campaign headquarters at the old train depot - the only available building with an indoor bathroom at the time. I got to see his Nobel Peace Prize as well. The Carters still live in Plains, and the former president teaches Sunday school twice a month at the Baptist Church, something I wish I had known last Sunday!
After a thorough exploration of Plains, I headed on to Americus for the night. Americus is a cute little town with a nice downtown area and a wonderful public library. I got some work done and then had a drink at the stunning Windsor Hotel. This morning I went to visit Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village here in town. This is a fascinating outdoor museum which shows the different styles of houses the charity has helped build around the world. You also get to visit a shanty-town, which is incredibly recreated and really gives you a feel for how so many people in the world live. I’ve spent a lot of time in some of these countries, and I really wish everyone would - it would give them a different appreciation for what they have.
And now I’m just finishing off this week in review post and then I’m off and running again. Sadly, there is something wrong with the shutter on my camera, so getting that fixed is now a top priority. I’m headed down to Albany this afternoon to check some things out there, and then tomorrow I’m going to get up to Macon to have someone take a look at it. I definitely need to get my camera fixed! From there, I may dip back through Atlanta for a day or two and then I am headed west to Augusta and then south towards the coast. I’ve got a podcast to get done, and plenty of things to keep me busy this week. It was below freezing last night here in South Georgia, so it looks like it’s going to be cold for a while. I tested my van’s heater last night though, and it is working just fine so don’t worry about me. I’m looking forward to finishing November strong and then enjoying the Christmas season on my way across the state. A month from now people will be talking about New Year’s resolutions, but it’s not too late to make changes this year. Let’s all get started early and do something new and different this month so we can all close off 2018 with a bang. That’s all from me this week - have a good week out there y’all and we’ll see you right here next week.