Somewhere in the Deep South

Tallulah IMG_0177Last fall I embarked on a 10 day road trip. The impetus of this trip was to pick up a few bronze statues from my sister in Pennsylvania. She was letting go of an impressive Buddha collection and asked if I was interested. I was. But shipping them to Florida would rival the cost of flying to the far east so I said, “I’ll just swing by and pick them up.” From Florida.

I shared the first couple of days of my trip back in October, then evidently was abducted by aliens or, at the very least, distracted by something shiny. I thought it might be nice to complete the trip with you. If you’d like to catch up with my antics in alachua and Apalachicola, Florida, the Alabama/Florida line, the adorable southern town of Eufala or a hidden grand canyon in Georgia, take a few moments to check out those links. I’ll wait.

We left our little road trip hanging at the grand canyon of the south, a beautiful chasm in the middle of the Georgia mountains that was ablaze with sunset beauty. And that was just Day Two.

Our plan was to drive no more than 4 hours each day, stopping whenever we felt like it so that we could see unexpected treasures like that. And mostly that’s what we did. We sought out tiny little towns, ate at diners, supporting the local economy wherever we found ourselves and chatted up those who had lived in these special places.

On Day Three we awoke in Newnan, Georgia. Simply because it was late and dark the night before and there was a Marriott.

Each morning we awake to the promise of another adventure. What will see or find today? On our itinerary is nothing but making it to Asheville, NC sometime later in the afternoon. We have chosen the back roads we wish to start with and we will see what we can see.

We’re on the western side of Georgia pointed north through the mountains of North Carolina. I consult my map while we meander through rolling hills and side streets that tempt us. I look up just in time to see a billboard for Talullah Falls Gorge.

“It’s a gorge!” I exclaim.

“Ok.”

“We have to go, turn around! Please.”

We do. We follow a sign that says ‘scenic view’ and points us down a hilly narrow road. We travel about a mile but see nothing. We turn around again – this has become our way – to see if we missed something on the sign. It doesn’t look like it. But just beneath the sign we spot a thrift store hidden in a huge church. It’s just too much for Larry to resist. I concede, I will be getting my gorge, he can have his junk shopping.

We leave the store empty-handed but armed with information about the gorge. We did not go quite far enough.

Down the narrow road again we go. But wait. ‘Trading Post.’ We’ll just swing in here for a moment. Or an hour. If you happen to need moccasins, comic books, bear jelly, chainsaw cut eagles, taxedermied critters, tom toms or dragons, this is your place. The proprietors of this fine establishment were watching an old western on a small TV nestled between the cash register and a rack of gummy treats. They were large, well-fed, comfortable men whose knowledge of all things was vast. I had no need for knowledge at this point so while Larry got lost in this cavern of commerce I wandered outside where I found a goat, a bunch of chickens and a giant bunny to entertain myself. There was one fancy chicken in particular that I had my eye on. She had quite the Sunday bonnet, but each time I tried to capture her image she would demure just enough to hide her crown. I was patient. Larry was lost to me for a good long time so I would just wait until she was ready.

As I was sweet talking the barnyard animals I was joined by a gentleman who seemed to know them all by name. He opened the gate so Charlie, the goat, could nuzzle me. He warned me about “the rooster,” handing me the top to a large plastic bin to use as a shield should the angry bird advance. I was instructed to swat if attacked. Use of the shield was not necessary as I kept my distance from Mr. Cranky Cock.

40 minutes later or so Larry emerges from the Trading Post with nothing but his cell phone in his hands. He joins me at the pen.

“We have an antique store back here that we’re just putting together if y’all wanna take a look. Please excuse the mess, we’re still working on it,” says my barnyard human.

At this rate we may never see the gorge.

A thorough exploration of the house yields nothing. Still no purchases. We thank the gentleman with the table saw and head further down the road finally to Tallulah Falls Gorge.

There is a touristy looking shop ahead and we suspect this is our ‘scenic overlook.’

I hop out of the car and run to the railing to find a bunch of trees. Yes there’s a drop off, but I was expecting, I don’t know, something like our little canyon yesterday. Disappointed I look back to Larry who has disappeared into the store. He returns to let me know the real view is from the deck inside. I’m excited anew, however it’s not that much different. It’s less obstructed, but still a bunch of trees and a really deep crevasse. But then I rally. Of course it’s beautiful. It’s a 900 foot drop down into what appears to be a tiny little creek but is in fact a river with rapids and falls. I spend some time in apology gazing at the majesty of nature, counting trees as penance. It truly is a wonder. A hike would be nice, but there’s no time for that.

We must keep moving, no time for contemplation. It’s beautiful, take a picture, move on.

Tallulah Gorge IMG_0191

Out in the parking lot a giant SUV pulls up. Out hops a 20 something female wearing tight “Pink” lounge pants and a hooded jacket that doesn’t quite meet the top of the pants, baring a chemically tanned midriff. Her hair is various shades of brown and blond. She holds a pout and a pocket sized dog. Her friend, cut from the same mold exits the passenger side, smart phone in hand. They peek over the railing take a couple of selfies, then leave.

Proof that they had the most amazing time at the gorge, their posts will surely attest.

As we press on, it occurs to me that we should stop for lunch in Franklin, NC. It’s just over the Georgia border and I have been here before. There’s a quaint restaurant I’d like to go back to but I can’t recall the name and I don’t know exactly where it is.

I describe it in detail to Larry: “You had to drive down into the parking lot. All the tables were outside under giant green umbrellas tiered on a wooden deck that was three or four levels, built to snug up against the banks of a creek. The creek babbled below the bottom deck and there were beautiful big trees that served as canopy and occasionally added to your food. There were no indoor tables and I think there was a big gazebo out in front where most of the tables were…”

“Is it the Gazebo Creekside?” he asked.

“What? Maybe. How did you know that?”

“Billboard,” he says pointing.

Now that my mind can stop searching for the name and location of the restaurant it is free to take in my surroundings.  There is something so grounding about these mountains. They’re easy. They roll and dip and wind but never really feel precarious or dangerous. Even when they drop nearly 1,000 feet I still felt like there are plenty of trees to catch me.

As we pass through each little town on our way to our new destination I take in their individual personalities. It’s hard not to stop and wander through them. We skirt Dillard – we have landed here before, wandered it’s lovely downtown area, shopped and appreciated it’s charm. We pass through Clayton and note promising lunch spots should our destination be closed. In Dillsboro it seems almost everything is painted white, giving it a fresh, but settled feel. I want to stop, instead we put a pin in that one for next time.

We finally find Franklin. A short drive through the center of town takes us directly to our destination – The Gazebo Creekside – our lunch destination. We find a table on the deck closest to the creek and settle in. Exhaling together, we have already done so much. As we eat our delicious meal we contemplate Asheville, our next stop. I, for one, am very excited. Being artsy and craftsy ourselves we feel experiencing Asheville is necessary to our creative souls. We are left to our own imaginings as we finish our lunch in companionable silence.

Franklin IMG_3826

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