Savannah has always held a special place in Georgia lore. It is unlike any other place in the state, combining historic homes, ancient buildings, a busy shipping port, a river, and beachfront communities, as well as all the restaurants, nightlife, and other attractions we enjoy about the stops on our tour.
Once, while in New York for a friend’s wedding, we found ourselves talking to a relative of the bride who lived on Long Island. We spoke about how we knew the groom, who is from Georgia. Then the talk turned to our home state. At some point, the guy mentioned a city he’d visited in Georgia; a city on a river with historic buildings and cobblestone streets.
“Savannah!” we both said in unison.
“Savannah,” the man said, with longing in this voice. “I left a piece of my heart there.”
Not that his reaction was a surprise. Many people we’ve encountered who’ve visited the city have felt the same way. Something about the vibe, the history, and the beauty of Savannah has led more than a few people to visit again and again. Now, in the midst of our “I See Georgia” tour, the time had come for the Bear Team to experience all that the oldest city in the state had to offer.
Our visit would be more than another stop on the tour; it would double as our yearly anniversary vacation. Unlike the other cities we’d visited so far, we would spend several days in Savannah, both checking out the city and taking time to celebrate 14 years of marriage.
Savannah lies in Southeastern Georgia, approximately 220 miles from our home in Athens. We cruised along Highway 15, passing through Greensboro, Sandersville, and Wrightsville (home of the legendary Herschel Walker!) as “Ganstabilly” by the Drive By Truckers blared from the stereo speakers. We merged onto I-16 just South of Stillmore and headed East.
We drove for half an hour until, in need of a pit stop, we took an exit ramp near Metter. We pulled into a gas station and got out of the car to go inside, but then our attention was drawn to a sign which read “Mosley’s World Famous Animal Exit Farm.”
Intrigued, we paid $1 apiece and entered through the gate. Inside we found a smorgasbord of animals, including goats, emus, ducks, and exotic birds. We spent a few minutes petting goats that reared up on their hind legs to get to us before heading to an indoor facility containing parrots which responded to our calls of “hello” and a baby calf that, while shy, eventually approached and ate grass out of our hands.
Back on the interstate, we hurtled through intermittent rain toward our destination as the Piedmont region gave way to the coastal plain. The rain fell harder as we crossed into Chatham County. By the time we pulled into the Baymont Inn and Suites just outside downtown Savannah, it had become a downpour.
We checked into the hotel while pondering our options for the night. Once we had all our bags in the room, we headed for the city. We parked and walked around, looking for a restaurant from beneath an old umbrella. Eventually, we ended up at Ruan Thai on Broughton Street.
We ducked in out of the rain and were seated at a booth. The first thing we noticed about Ruan was the interior, which was dim, but still warm and inviting. There was a statue guarding the doorway and the walls were a soft red. The second thing we noticed was the menu, which combined Thai favorites and sushi.
Here at the Bear Team, we love sushi. During our time living in San Diego, we subsisted primarily on a variety of sushi rolls, along with an assortment of Mexican food. We went with a California roll and a tempura shrimp roll along with Thai coconut soup. We also ordered Sweetwater 420 beers, which we sipped while waiting for our food.
The soup arrived, and was even better than we’d hoped; every bit as good as what we’d once loved at the long-gone Thai of Athens. We polished off the soup and dug into our sushi. We’d been looking forward to some fresh seafood, and we got it, though in a bit of a non-traditional way. Everything was delicious, and a fine meal for our 14th anniversary!
Full and happy, we stepped back out into the intermittent rain, in a quandary over what to do next. It was too wet to do any sightseeing, but we didn’t really want to go back to the hotel. So we decided to drink a little!
We ducked out of the rain and into a place called “Totally Awesome Bar.” We walked down the stairs and immediately realized the name wasn’t accurate; it was freaking perfect! The walls were covered with posters of bands like Foo Fighters and. There were pinball machines and 1980’s era video games. Best of all, there were pool tables.
We put $5 in the slot and were rewarded with six games of pool. After the first game, we went in search of beverages. We approached the bar, which became infinitely cooler when we saw that the entire surface was covered with cassette tapes! We always try to sample local brew, so we ordered a Service Compass Rose IPA (Savannah) and a Jeckyll Brewing Company Big Creek (Jeckyll Island). Both were very good, though the Big Creek was definitely the highlight.
We shot pool while 80’s and 90’s music drifted from overhead speakers. At 9pm, open mic comedy night began. Dena signed up for a slot, and killed with story about the “Viking funeral” her dad once gave an old sofa on the beach at Lake Hartwell. As the night wore on, more than a few Big Creeks (which come with a slice of lemon on the rim of the glass) were ordered and consumed. It was a good night.
Eventually we left the bar, dodging raindrops until we made it back to the car. As we headed back to the hotel, we reflected on life, love, and beer. What else could you possibly need?
That does it for now. We’ll be back soon with more of our Savannah trip. What adventures waited in store for day two of our visit? Stay tuned to find out!
Until next time…
By Keith and Dena Maxwell