I See Georgia: A Photo Retrospective

As we prepare to move into 2018, here are some of our favorite photos from our tour of Georgia so far. We’ll be back soon with more adventures exploring our great state. Happy New Year!

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I See Georgia: Ball Ground

 I’d never heard anything about Ball Ground until coming across an article on the website “Only in Your State,” which, by the way, is a wonderful resource for anyone looking to explore his or her locality. Judging by the responses from most of the people I mentioned it to, I wasn’t alone in my ignorance of this burg 50 miles North of Atlanta.

I researched the small town online, where I learned that the area had long been inhabited by the Cherokee. In fact, some records indicate that the town was originally named “Battleground,” in remembrance of a war between the Cherokee and the Creek. The name Ball Ground derives from the fact that Native Americans played a precursor to the modern game of lacrosse in the area.

On a frigid day in mid-December, we set out to explore this small town. While I don’t know much about lacrosse (notwithstanding our attendance at a Georgia Swarm championship series game earlier this year!), I do know a fair amount about the cities and towns in Georgia. Our trip to North-central Georgia could only serve to add to my knowledge of our great state.

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We made the 80-mile drive into the foothills of the North Georgia mountains, bypassing Jefferson before passing through Gainesville and Coal Mountain. We passed into Cherokee County, then entered the town of Ball Ground just after 1:00pm. We made our way up Highway 372, which becomes the main drag, until we reached the first stop on our tour (and truth be told, main reason for visiting!), The Ball Ground Burger Bus.

This unique restaurant had intrigued me since I read about it online. The bus from which the joint draws its name is a 1940’s era trolley bus which was rescued from a junkyard by the current owners. This repurposed relic from the Atlanta transit system is known statewide for its delicious and eclectic menu. Now here we were, parking on the street in front of it.

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We circled the bus and climbed a set of stairs leading to an attached building which contains the kitchen and a set of restrooms. A waitress met us and led us through a doorway and into the bus. The inside is exactly what you would expect, with the feeling of traveling back in time. The original seats are still in use as booths, though a row of stools has been added along one side. We were seated just behind the driver’s seat and began to peruse the menu.

And what a menu it is! Though only one page, it contains some remarkable choices. Selections like Dad’s on Death Row (an angus burger topped with cheese, fried egg, fried grits, bacon and maple syrup) and Cowboy Up (a deep fried hot dog with chili, cheese and onions on a pretzel bun) make it different from anything else you’ll find.

After a few minutes of internal debate, I ended up ordering the Fried Green Jacket: An angus burger with pimento cheese, fried green tomatoes and a special sauce. Dena settled on the 1386 burger, which features the eponymous sauce along with lettuce, tomato and prohibition pickles. We added a pair of sides, fries and tater tots, and sat back to enjoy the atmosphere.

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When the food arrived, it was well past lunch time and we dug in. I’ve had quite a few burgers on our travels around Georgia, so let me say up front that it is with absolutely zero hyperbole that I make this next statement: The Green Jacket is one of the best burgers I’ve ever tasted. Not just in the last few months, or just on our tour of the state. I mean ever. Ever, ever, ever!

The first bite was nothing short of a flavor explosion; so much so that I had to put the burger down and relish every chew. The juicy meat; the creamy cheese; the tart tomato: it was almost too much! Then there were the sides. The fries were beer battered and crunchy, and the tots were crispy and hot, served with a smoky mayo dipping sauce. Incredible!

By the time we’d polished off our meal, we needed a little exercise. We bundled up and headed up the Gilmer Ferry Road, which climbs a low hill. It had been quite cool in Athens, but was considerably colder in Ball Ground, hovering just below 40 degrees. Coupled with a gusty breeze, the temperature soon drove us to find a place to warm up. We found it at The V Market.

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We ducked inside, where we were welcomed by the staff. After shaking off the cold, we began to browse through the shop’s wares, which included everything from home décor to holiday items. From the V Market website:

The V Market is a unique store, designed as a Gallery/Showroom with mini-shops that offer a variety of new, vintage or handcrafted gifts, décor for any style home or garden and much more…

I couldn’t have said it better myself. Each wing of the market houses a different collection of items, both new and old. Along one wall, a glass case full of knives held court, while another area was chock full of vintage Christmas ornaments. We moved from room to room, checking it all out. The shop is a collector’s dream, with all kinds of oddities. You can even sell on consignment, if you’re looking to clear a little space at home.

Back outside, we continued up the street, taking in the sights and sounds of Ball Ground. The town was recently the sight of filming for the Tom Cruise movie “American Made,” as a stand in for an Arkansas town. Given the picturesque scenery and the friendliness of the locals, I’d expect it won’t be the last film crew to visit.

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By the time we’d walked the length of Main Street and back again, the cold had found its way through our layers and driven us back inside the car. Soon we were back on the highway, heading Southeast toward home. Ball Ground is a unique place, due to both its history and its present. It’s worth a stop, should you find yourself passing through.

That just about does it for now. For more info on Ball Ground, visit the official website here. But before I sign off, I’d like to take a moment to thank all of you who’ve taken a few minutes out of your busy schedules to join us on our tour of Georgia. Having someone read his or her scribblings is the best gift a writer can receive, and I thank you all.

This will be my final post of 2017, so I’d like to wish all of you a happy and safe holiday season. I’ll be back next year with more stories from the roads and highways of our great state. I’ll say goodbye with the words of the mysterious butler, Stevens, from the Stephen King story “The Breathing Method:”

“Here, there are always more tales. Yes, always more tales.”

Until later…

 

I See Georgia: Greensboro

 Greensboro is an old town, even in a state littered with ancient municipalities. The county seat of Greene county, home to 3,300 souls, has seen its fair share of history. It was founded in 1786, just over 50 years after James Oglethorpe founded the Colony of Georgia, and two years before Georgia became a state.

I’m a sucker for old buildings; especially downtown areas. So, it was that, on a cold December day, we found ourselves dodging snow flurries as we headed Southeast on Highway 15. We crossed the Oconee National Forest, passing into Greene County at around noon. It didn’t take much longer to enter the city of Greensboro.

We parked on Main Street, taking a minute to bundle up before getting out of the car. The wind was whipping, but fortunately for us, our destination wasn’t far away. We walked across the street and through the front door of Yesterday Café, though we might as well have entered a different era.

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An old cash register stood near the front door, and we stood beside it, waiting to be seated. After a minute or two, a hostess appeared and guided us to a booth near the back of the restaurant. We took a seat and looked around, intrigued by the old-time ambiance. The walls were covered with photos from Greensboro’s history, and we spent some time gazing at them and reading the captions.

When the waitress came, we ordered from the blue plate special list, which features a meat and two sides. As we waited, I took the opportunity to try a local beer, selecting an Oconee Brewing Company IPA. I sat back and sipped it, enjoying the somewhat stouter than expected flavor.

Soon our food came, and we dug in. I’d chosen chopped steak with gravy and onions, along with potato casserole and green beans. Dena went with country fried steak with gravy, collard greens, and squash casserole. The food was delicious. I’ve spent my life eating country style cooking, and I might as well have been sitting at grandma’s table. On top of that, we finished with a slice of buttermilk pie. Words can’t describe…

Full and happy, we ventured outside, where the temperature lingered in the low forties. We bundled up and set out to explore Greensboro. We walked down Main Street, stopping to gaze at the Greene County Courthouse before turning onto Greene Street. We’d only gone half a block when we came to a place I’d made a point to visit: The old Greene County gaol.

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Commissioned in 1807, the rock gaol is the oldest standing masonry jail in Georgia, and is certainly among the creepiest buildings in the state. According to the sign posted nearby, the cells inside are like catacombs; void of light or ventilation. Prisoners sentenced to death were executed by hanging via a trapdoor on the upstairs level of the gaol. The prison was used until 1895, when a new jail was built next door. The old sheriff’s office is nearby, and it was there that we came across a sign promoting the accomplishments of Sheriff L.L. Wyatt.

Sheriff Wyatt is a legendary figure in Greene County history. According to the sign, he spent 37 years as sheriff, only giving up the office upon his death in 1977. While in service, he was shot at least five times in the line of duty, and by turn killed six men while protecting his community.

We walked on, shivering despite the layers we’d worn in anticipation of the cold. We made our way up Broad Street, ducking into several shops including Butterfly Treasures and Dreamcatchers. At the latter, we discovered a garden area filled with plants and outdoor products, though it was too cold to spend much time there.

We moved on, eventually coming to the Greensboro Antique Mall. This two-story structure is a treasure trove for shoppers and collectors, featuring everything from home décor to clothing to sports memorabilia. We spent the better part of an hour browsing, checking out everything the mall had to offer. We ended up purchasing a bear figurine. What else would you expect from The Bear Team?

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By the time we exited the antique mall, it was time to leave. We walked back to the car, where we took a quick lap around Greensboro before heading North. Soon we were once again immersed in the Oconee National Forest. It had been a good time, and we’d thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Greensboro. But before we wrapped up our visit, there was one more thing we had to see.

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About halfway between Greensboro and Athens lie the ruins of Scull Shoals. This once booming mill town, which featured a grist mill, sawmill, and cotton gin, was abandoned in the late 1800’s following a devastating flood. Today only ruins remain, and it was the prospect of taking a step back in time that prompted us to turn off Highway 15 and head East into the forest.

After a few miles, a sign directed us onto an unpaved road. We followed its winding path, sending a plume of dust into the air along the way. I’d assumed that the drive along the dirt road would be short, but after two miles we were still bumping along, listening to the loose gravel pinging against the undercarriage of our car. It seemed we’d never get there, as if we’d been arrested and convicted of some unknown crime and sentenced to ride along a forgotten road forever.

Just when I began to contemplate turning around, another sign appeared, instructing us to turn left. A few minutes later we entered a clearing in the woods. We drove onto a gravel parking area and pulled to a stop. We got out of the car and walked over to an information board which recounted the history of Scull Shoals, and gave hints to the long-ago location of various structures.

By the time we’d finished reading, the sun had begun its slow descent behind the trees. We didn’t have much time before the sky began to darken, so we set out to see what was left of the erstwhile town. We walked across a grassy expanse and immediately came upon the closest thing left to a building: the remnants of the old warehouse and store.

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Only portions of the walls remain, and we walked around, looking at the crumbling brick from all sides. Not far from the store, we came upon a small stone bridge spanning a low-lying area which once took workers to the mills. We walked across the bridge, but the only thing on the other side was more woods. We crossed again and walked around the area, coming upon a few stone pillars which once supported the town’s power plant, and a pile of rubble which is all that remains of the superintendent’s house.

Moving on, we soon came upon the Oconee River. We stood on its bank and looked upstream, where the ruins of a toll bridge jutted into the water. I turned back toward the town, now almost completely reclaimed by nature. I could almost picture it the way it once was: residents working fields, going in and out of the store, crossing the bridge to and from the mills. Ghosts of long ago.

Soon, shadows began to grow long, and it was time to go. We took one last walk across the clearing and set a course for the car. Minutes later we were back on the highway, heading North toward home. Another Saturday, another destination crossed off the list.

That does it for now. As always, thanks for reading. We certainly appreciate it. For more on Greensboro, visit the official website here. To learn more about Scull Shoals, check out the Friends of Scull Shoals website.

Until later…

Next time: We’ll head to North-Central Georgia to visit a small town with a funny name. It’s the tiny hamlet of Ball Ground!

I See Georgia: Senoia

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

Until later…

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!

 

 

 

 

 

I See Georgia: BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir

I’ll be the first to tell you: I don’t know much about Hinduism. Growing up as a Baptist, I knew the names of other religions, but not much else. Later, I would learn more about the beliefs of various groups, and would come to admire many of the tenets of some of the major religions of the world.

Still, Hinduism remained a mystery to me. Though I’ve read quite a bit on the philosophy of this religion which is practiced by nearly a billion people, it remains something of an exotic idea to me. I know that it originated in India, but beyond that, I don’t know very much.

Despite my ignorance when it comes to the beliefs of the people who practice the religion, when I found out that there was a massive Hindu temple in our state, I jumped at the chance to visit. On a cold, windy morning, we left Athens and set a course for the Atlanta suburb of Lilburn to check out this spiritual and architectural wonder.

We drove West along Highway 316 for an hour until we reached Lilburn. We exited the highway and turned onto Rockbridge Road. After a few minutes, we could see the gold-topped spires of the temple in the distance. We turned into the driveway, gave our names at the security gate, and pulled into the parking lot in the early afternoon.

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A Mandir is a Hindu place of worship, and the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan is the largest such structure outside of India. Its more than 34,000 limestone, marble and sandstone pieces were hand-carved in India before being shipped to Atlanta and assembled in Lilburn.

We parked the car and approached the Mandir, immediately in awe of the place. As we drew closer, we were able to make out the intricacies of each column and pillar. I’d read online that over two million hours of labor went into building the Mandir, and with all attention to detail, it was easy to see why.

We circled around to the front, where a large reflecting pool stretched before the building. We stood at the foot of the pool, where golden elephants watched over a mini stair step waterfall. The sky was deep blue and cloudless, and the bright white stone of the Mandir stood out in sharp contrast in the midday sun. I’ve never seen the Taj Mahal in person, but I can’t imagine a scene much more beautiful.

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We admired the view for a while, until the cool breeze off the water drove us to seek a more sheltered area. We headed for the main entrance, climbing several flights of stairs. When we reached the final landing leading to the last few steps, I noticed a sign instructing visitors that no photography or video was permitted beyond that point. I snapped a few pictures from just beyond the prohibited area, and then we made our final approach.

Large peacock statues flanked the final set of stairs, and we passed between them, again marveling at the detail of the carvings. We climbed the last stairs and stood at the entrance, pausing for a few seconds to look back at the pool and people below before continuing our journey.

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We stepped inside and found ourselves in a large room, where we left our shoes and proceeded on in our socks. We walked past a manned desk and up a set of stairs, where we entered a room straight out of a fantasy land.

Had I really thought the stone work on the outside of the Mandir was intricate? In here, the detail was nothing short of jaw dropping. Everywhere we looked, another incredibly meticulous carving. We wandered around, taking time to appreciate it all. Photography is not allowed inside the Mandir, so I’ll do my best to describe it, though I have a feeling words will fail me.

In addition to the carvings, there were also the Murtis. In Hinduism, a Murti is an embodiment of the divine. Also carved from stone, these statues stood, backlit against the soft light of the temple. Before many of these idols, Hindu people knelt in prayer. We toured the room, visiting each statue while taking care not the disturb the worshipers.

Eventually we made our way to the center of the room, where the high ceiling featured the most complex carving of them all. It resembled a chandelier, and protruded from the roof as ever-changing colored lights flooded the area. A tour group was learning about the significance of the carving, and we joined them for a minute or two.

As I mentioned earlier, I don’t know much about Hinduism. Heck, I don’t know all that much about any religion. Even Christianity, which I’ve been immersed in since birth, remains something of a mystery to me in many respects. But one thing I do know: when you are in a holy place, you pause for a moment of quiet reflection.

We found an open space and sat on the floor beneath the changing lights. The atmosphere in the Mandir is soothing, calming and inspiring all at once. As the minutes ticked by, I felt a distance open up between myself and the troubles of the outside world. I was free, as least for a little while.

Before we knew it, the time had come to depart. We retraced our steps to the front of the Mandir, where we claimed our shoes and headed for the door. Soon we were back outside, shivering in the cool breeze. We hurried to the car and got in, but not before taking one last look back at the Mandir; such an unexpected wonder in a surprising place.

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That does it for now. As always, thanks for reading. We certainly appreciate it. For more on the BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir, visit the official website here.

Until later…

Next time: We’ll head Southwest to visit the small town that draws visitors from all over the world. It’s ground central for “The Walking Dead,” Senoia!

 

I See Georgia: Bostwick Cotton Gin Festival

I didn’t fully realize how important the annual Cotton Gin festival was to the people of Bostwick until I saw the lineup for the parade.

They stretched out of sight; tractors and combines and classic cars. Standing beside the road, we could see everything from old trucks to people in full confederate soldier uniforms on horseback. The kickoff for the parade was moments away, and the crowd was ready.

Bostwick is small, even by rural Georgia standards. According to the 2010 census, the town has just 322 residents, most of which live on farms or similarly agrarian parcels. The downtown area consists of a single strip of old, brick buildings, many of which are no longer in use, intermixed with a few more modern structures.

We’d heard about the festival from someone who grew up in Bostwick, and put it on our calendar during the summer. Now, on an unseasonably warm Saturday morning in early November, we made the drive to the tiny hamlet to check it out.

We’d passed through Bostwick before; most recently on an August trip to Covington.  But the scene we encountered on this day was 180 degrees from what we’d seen before. People were everywhere! Both sides of Route 83 were lined with people, both standing and sitting in folding chairs. There were food vendors, a craft market, and various other tents and booths.

After parking in a field, we walked along the main street, taking in the sights and sounds. We passed one display which featured a milk cow and explained the process of extracting the milk. We ventured deeper into the crowd, eventually coming upon the Susie Agnes Hotel, an early 20th century structure that remains the centerpiece of the town.

You’ve seen the Susie Agnes before, though you might not know it. The hotel was featured in the 1992 film “My Cousin Vinny.” Remember the scene where Joe Pesci and Marisa Tomei check into a motel, only to find that there is a slaughterhouse located next door? That was the Agnes! The festival began as a fundraiser for the preservation of the building. Today, it serves as a town hall and multi-use space for the community.

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Our next stop was the festival’s namesake, Bostwick’s Cotton Gin. One of the few working Lummus Gins in Georgia, the gin remains an integral part of life in Bostwick. We approached from a backstreet, and were able to walk right up to the control panel. A group of men who looked like they’d been working there for at least forever stood around, laughing and talking.

The mechanics of the gin spun and whirred, separating cotton from seeds. Cobwebs hung from the rafters, and the entire area was coated in a thick layer of dust. The cotton gin is old. I almost expected to see Eli Whitney himself on a ladder, making adjustments and poking at mechanisms.

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We walked around to the front and got in line for the opportunity to walk through. After a few minutes, we entered the building. While we were inside, workers shut down the gin in preparation for the parade, but we were still able to squeeze through tight spaces and exit by way of the back door.

Now here we were, standing beside a road in a tiny town, waiting for the cavalcade of vehicles to begin a slow crawl down the street. Somewhere in the distance, the sound of someone singing “Dixie” drifted on the still air. Then, engines gunned, and they were off.

We stood and watches as classic cars from decades past cruised by. Then came a line of tractors and combines which rumbled along. Many of these vehicles had children at the wheel, with their parents or grandparents assisting. Some pulled trailers full of smiling, waving kids and adults.

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We watched the parade for a while, then left our vantage point and began working our way through the crowd. Wonderful smells drifted from food trucks as people bought hamburgers and hot dogs and barbeque. The day was becoming warmer and the crowd thicker, so we made our way back toward our car.

As we left Bostwick, we marveled at the long, long line of cars waiting to get in. They stretched from the outskirts of town into the countryside. We passed them and soon found ourselves surrounded by fields of cotton. The sun danced across the white expanse, creating an almost surreal scene.

Lunchtime was fast approaching, so we headed for a joint we’d been hearing about for quite some time. We pulled into the parking lot of the Traveling Hobo Café in downtown Watkinsville at just after noon and immediately walked into another era.

The café would have been at home in the early to mid-1900s. The walls are decorated with train memorabilia and black and white photos from a time when drifters regularly rode the rails from town to town, looking for work. We ordered at the counter and took a seat at a corner table beneath a flashing traffic light.

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As we waited for our food, I checked out some of the décor. On the wall near our table, I found a legend of Hobo signs; symbols that travelers would leave for the next person who came along. I was fascinated by the signs, and what they meant. For instance, 3 backslashes meant “unsafe area,” while a circle containing a squiggly line meant “courthouse or police station.”

Our food arrived, and we dug in. I’d opted for the Blazing Hobo Burger, which was topped with chili, jalapenos, and cheddar cheese. Dena chose the hamburger steak, which came covered in brown gravy. Both came with a side of Boxcar Fries, with Dena’s fires served “dirty,” smothered in gravy.

The food was, in a word, delicious. We’ve had quite a few burgers during our travels, including delectable selections from The Rookery in Macon, The Half Moon Pub in Rome and Clocked! In Athens. I’d put the Traveling Hobo Café right up there with the best of them. The burgers were thick and juicy, and the fries were hot a crispy. The chili and jalapenos gave mine just the right amount of heat, while the gravy made Dena’s even more savory.

By the time we left the restaurant, we were happy and stuffed. We headed home, where I would settle in to watch Georgia continue its magical season by taking down South Carolina. As I watched the game, I felt like a part of me was still in Bostwick, surrounded by those rolling fields of cotton. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday!

That does it for now. As always, thanks for reading. We certainly appreciate it. For more info on Bostwick and the Cotton Gin Festival, visit the official website here.

Until later…

Next time: We’ll visit the largest Hindu temple of its kind outside of India. And its right here in Georgia! It’s the Baps Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Lilburn.

I See Georgia: Anna Ruby Falls

 We’ve spent a fair amount of time in North Georgia, visiting towns like Rome and Dahlonega, as well as natural wonders like Tallulah Gorge. Still there is much left to see: Mountains, valleys, forests and more. On a late October morning, we once again headed to this fertile playground to check out one of the area’s most famous features: Anna Ruby Falls.

Northeast Georgia is known for its waterfalls. There is even an “Ultimate Georgia Waterfalls Road Trip” for those with a long weekend and a thirst for adventure. For us, schedules dictate that we visit one at a time, which is how we found ourselves cruising North along Highway 441 on a Friday.

Leaving Athens, we passed through Nicholson before arriving in our old hometown of Commerce. A large portion of my childhood was spent in the town, and Dena and I were both living there when we met in 2002. As long as we were there, we decided to visit one of our favorite Commerce haunts: La Hacienda.

“La Ha,” as the locals sometimes call it, boasts some of the best Mexican food in the area. Many was the afternoon I spent with coworkers, drinking after-work Dos Equis beer and eating chips and salsa. We slid into a booth and ordered from the lunch menu.

When the food arrived, we tore into the taco salad and burrito deluxe. It was as good as I remembered, and we quickly polished it off. Between the salad and a healthy helping of chips and salsa, I was stuffed by the time we paid for the meal and resumed our journey.

We bypassed Homer and headed into the mountains. By the time we made it to Helen, it was early afternoon. We worked our way through the alpine village and headed into the Chattahoochee National Forest. We turned at a sign informing us that the falls were ahead and headed along the driveway leading to the trail head.

We crept down the long driveway, taking hairpin turns and easing around sharp curves. Eventually we came to a guard shack, where we paid $3 each for admittance. We parked in the visitor’s center lot and walked out onto a deck which provided a view of Smith Creek, which flows below the falls.

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We began our hike, moving slowly in order to take in everything. All around us, trees soared toward the sky as the water cascaded over rocks and logs to our right. There were quite a few people there, but it wasn’t as crowded as it likely gets on weekends. The trail is short, at just under half a mile. In no time at all, we were there.

We stood, gazing up at the falls, which are actually formed by two separate creeks which come together at the base. Both begin on Georgia’s sixth highest peak, Tray Mountain. The bigger of the two, Curtis Creek, drops 153 feet down the side of the mountain. The other, York Creek, drops 50 feet.

The falls are beautiful, cascading along the rock face of the mountain through lush, green foliage. We made our way to one of the two viewing platforms and took a few minutes to take it all in. Legend has it that a local Confederate soldier, Colonel John Nichols, found the falls while horseback riding and named them after his daughter. After spending some time there, I can see why a man would want his daughter’s name associated with all that beauty.

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Eventually we reversed course and headed back to the parking lot, pausing to pet some of the dogs that were out for a stroll along the way. Before we knew it, we were back in the parking lot. We checked out the gift shop, which features the usual collection of T-shirts, hats and books about the area, then headed for the car.

As we made our way back along the winding access road, I was already planning another trip to North Georgia. There are still so many waterfalls, trails and mountains to explore, and with fall foliage beginning to show, it will only get more beautiful.

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That does it for now. As always, thanks for reading. We certainly appreciate it. For more on Anna Ruby Falls click here.

Until later…

Next time: We’ll visit the tiny town with a unique fall event. It’s the Bostwick Cotton Gin Festival!