It was when traffic slowed to a crawl for the third time in the last thirty minutes that I began to wonder if the trip had been a good idea. A drive that, according to Google Maps, was supposed to take two hours was well into hour number three, with still no end in sight. My hands were clamped on the steering wheel in a death grip, as if I could make the car in front of me move by sheer force of will. Still, we continued to inch along.
We were on our way to Senoia, the latest destination on the “I See Georgia” tour, and our stomachs were beginning to grumble. It was well past lunch time, and our arrival would be quite a bit later than we’d anticipated. The 100-mile drive had begun innocently enough, as we cruised through small towns like Bostwick and Rutledge with only cotton fields and blue skies to keep us company.
We were making good time until we picked up I-20 near Covington. It was on this major East-West route that traffic began to thicken. From that point on, it was one slow down after another. When we merged onto I-285, it was more of the same. Even after exiting onto I-85, things didn’t get much better. I began to wonder if we would ever get there, when finally, I saw daylight up ahead.
Freed from the gridlock, we headed South, passing through Peachtree City, then a string of retail establishments until, at last, the Senoia city limits sign appeared just ahead. We made our way through a residential area, topped a hill, and found ourselves right in the middle of downtown. We pulled into a parking spot on Main Street and stepped out of the car.
I was immediately struck by the beauty of the town. In an earlier post, I said that Covington, Ga is ideal small-town America. Well, there is more than one locale worthy of such a title. Senoia takes small town ambiance to another level.
We headed down the street, passing shops and restaurants and pausing every few feet to take it all in. Main Street begins on level ground before sloping down a hill in an ever-increasing decline. We stopped and looked in the window of a classic car museum, which featured vehicles from the early 1900’s, then continued down the hill until we reached our first stop in Senoia: Nic and Norman’s restaurant.
I’ve mentioned our affinity for The Walking Dead in the past. Now here we were, at the center of the show’s universe. Senoia is ground zero for The Walking Dead, as the show continues to film in the area. Remember season three, when “The Governor” ruled the settlement of Woodbury? Well, Senoia is Woodbury! All the scenes in the fictional town were filmed there.
Nic and Norman’s adds to everything TWD about Senoia. The restaurant is co-owned by Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon on the show) and Greg Nicotero, the special effects and makeup wizard behind so many of the show’s namesakes. We walked in just as the lunch rush was ending and were seated at table near the door.
The interior of Nic and Norman’s is dimly lit and elegant. A bar stretches along one side, and the brick walls are adorned with artwork. The one-page menu is heavy on burgers, and we ordered from the eclectic list. Soon, our waitress appeared with our food, and we sat back to enjoy our well-earned lunch.
We’ve had quite a few burgers on our tour of Georgia cities and towns, and the last thing I want to be known for is hyperbole. But it only took a few bites to elevate Nic and Norman’s into the upper echelon of deliciousness. My “Greg’s Pick” and Dena’s Mexican Burger were some of the best we’ve had.
Both burgers featured a blend of ground chuck, short rib, and brisket, and both were seasoned to perfection. Mine featured blue cheese, lettuce, tomato and the house made N&N sauce. Dena’s included jalapeno, cilantro-lime mayo, queso, and guacamole. Famished after waiting in traffic, we tore into the burgers, supplementing the beef with side salads. We polished off every scrap, then headed out to see what else the town had to offer.
We walked along Main street, passing numerous Walking Dead themed shops and stores, until we reached the intersection of Main and Travis Streets. As we stood on the corner, we could almost see the barricaded entrance to Woodbury stretching across the street.
Beyond the intersection, a set of railroad tracks pass through town. But it was what we saw beyond the tracks that immediately grabbed our attention. There, standing less the 100 yards from where we stood, lay Alexandria.
For the unfortunate among you who don’t watch The Walking Dead, The Alexandria Safe Zone is a settlement surrounded by a high, metal wall. Much of the action in recent seasons takes place in or around Alexandria, and many a character has died within its walls.
Now, here it was in all its glory. We approached, star struck by the appearance in real life of a place we’d only seen on television. There were signs everywhere informing visitors that no trespassing was allowed. People actually live in the subdivision, undeterred by the walls that cut it off from the rest of society. We walked along, admiring Alexandria from a distance as we marveled at the intrusion of fiction into reality.
After walking around the perimeter of Alexandria for a while, we headed back toward downtown. As we crossed the tracks, I was struck by the realization that Woodbury and Alexandria, bases of two groups that were at war in the series, were practically across the street from each other. The magic of television!
We walked up Main Street, stopping at the official Walking Dead store. The shop features everything Walking Dead, including a museum in the basement with memorabilia from the show. We checked out the museum before moving on to The Georgia Mercantile Company. We went inside and browsed, checking out the various food and household offerings. The store is housed in an old building, and brings echoes of another era.
Soon the sky began to darken. It was almost time to say goodbye. But before we left, there was one more place we had to visit. We walked back down the hill until we reached Senoia Coffee and Café. We stepped inside and found ourselves in a small-town coffee shop that doubled as a Hollywood hangout.
The inside of the shop is bright and open. We ordered coffees, then spent a few minutes checking out the autographed memorabilia on the walls. It was clear that members of The Walking Dead cast frequent the place on a regular basis during filming. We sat and enjoyed the coffee, rich and dark, as we looked back on all we’d seen.
Soon we were back on the interstate, headed home. As we navigated the post-Thanksgiving traffic, I found myself reflecting on our visit. Senoia is a a place full of contradictions; one-part idyllic small town and one-part Hollywood glitz. I enjoyed myself, and look forward to touring it again, even if The Walking Dead has moved on to other locales by then.
Before I sign off, I need to give props to my Georgia Bulldogs, who recently dominated Auburn to win the SEC Championship. The win also put UGA in a four-team playoff for the National Championship. Here’s hoping that we can keep it up and bring home the ultimate prize.
That does it for now. As always, thanks for reading. We certainly appreciate it. For more on Senoia, visit the official website here. To learn more about The Walking Dead, achieve enlightenment by clicking here.
Next time: We’ll make the short drive to Greene County to visit a town steeped in history. It’s a trip back in time to Greensboro!