(From Debra- Sometimes people come unexpectedly into your life. Andria did. She’s an avid reader and a “grabber of life.” I got a travel email from her one day and laughed my way through her trip. Now I’m in the list of people to whom she sends travel emails. And I urged her to dip her toe into the blogging world by visiting us. Today’s blog reminds me that I don’t do enough looking up and grabbing the world right in my own back yard. Writers MUST travel and research and grab life. Period.)
Welcome Andria !
If your budget has been as crimped as ours has, you might consider traveling close to home. This spring in an effort to get us out of the house without breaking the bank, we have been making weekend excursions to places nearby. One of my favorite resources is the State Parks website for my state and the ones surrounding us. I particularly like the parks that have cabins for rent; even though most all of them are painted in some type of “government issue state park brown” color, I prefer them to tent camping these days.
I like to pay close attention to all the things we drive by on the way to our destination. For instance, pretend that you are traveling far away or even to a foreign country and that this is the first time you have been to the region. Stop and ask for directions just to see what people will tell you, or strike up a conversation at the gas station or grocery store. For instance, if I had not struck up a conversation with a lady at the gas station last weekend in north Georgia, I would not have known that cooking bear meat in the crock pot with barbeque sauce was a great and popular menu item for Christmas dinner at her house this past year. Also, asking for dining recommendations never fails to amuse me, especially when I ask, “What’s your favorite item on the menu?”
Another thing that never fails to amuse me is the names of local business’ along the way. Like the “Salon and Spa” sign posted in front of a mobile home, or the “Curl up and Dye” hair salon on the main street of town, or the “Sew and Sew Alterations”. See what the local church has posted on the marquee road sign that will either make you laugh like hell or scare the hell out of you.
Road names can be quirky and amusing as well. Possibly even irritating if they are like the streets in Georgia, where one minute you are on Elm Street and without turning left or right you are suddenly on a road named Main Street or Long Branch becomes Hightower at a stop sign.
My family recently traveled to the Okefenokee Swamp (which I highly recommend) in south Georgia and the following account is about a place near the Suwannee River where we stopped for some lunch and the local culture that we observed… or perhaps, they observed us…
The last town before the Stephen C Foster State Park is Fargo, GA. Fargo has one (as in ONLY one) restaurant known as the Suwannee Café, or you can get something to eat at the Gas N Go like fried chickin’ and tater lawgs. We decided to try the café, not because we were super hungry, but because we wanted to experience this little slice of Americana. When we first drove past it there was a man out front in jeans and a t-shirt with long messy grey hair, kind of waving his arms and talking to himself; clearly a “must do” experience. I pulled into the gravel parking lot amongst several large pickup trucks, and a couple of commercial pine tree grower company trucks (I should disclose that we own 3 pickup trucks) and a few tired sedans. My son, Nick and I were the first to step up onto the porch, and a mom and her little girl were sitting out front while dad had a smoke in the parking lot. The little girl had the most beautiful red hair and when I spoke to her she looked at me like, “You ain’t from aroun’ heah arrya”.
Once inside there was that moment of hesitation where you look around and try to get the lay of the land to figure out where you should sit; you know, when you try not to stand out too much. Directly in front of us was a support pole covered in little wooden hand painted signs with southern sayings on it like, “If you want home cookin’, eat at home” and to the right was a wall full of arrowheads, deer heads, snake skins, and pictures of Jesus; below all of that was one lone booth in the corner and that was where Nick headed. It was mauve and teal in color and the décor screamed 1980’s and it was enticingly right next to a big picture window facing the main thoroughfare.
When we sat down the backs of the booth kind of tipped backwards, so that your feet almost left the floor and you had to grab for the table; OOOOFFF!!! The top pivoted and whooshed into my stomach. We kind of blew the chance to not stand out.
My husband Rusty came in, took one look at us and headed for a table with chairs, Nick and I sorted ourselves out and kind of launched from the booth. I was careful not to bump anything that might fall from the walls and hurt or stab me. Once we were seated again, I could really survey all of the artifacts and whatnot on the walls. WOW, I have actually never seen that many arrowheads, tomahawks, and spears in one place. The Seminole Indians had left behind a lot of stuff near the Suwannee River and the owner had collected a surprising amount of it.
The waitress asked us what we wanted to drink, water, or sweet tea? Nothing else…oh, and we could “help ourselves to the buffet”. Mmmm, mmmmmh. The selections were, fried chicken, butterbeans, canned corn, white rice, collard greens, sweet potato nuggets (battered and deep fried pieces of sweet potato) gravy, corn muffin, and a big sticky batch of Hamburger Helper Cheesy Macaroni. I had some beans and rice with 3 chicken wings.
To our left was a large table of eight men talking about hunting and spraying the berries. (What berries?) This reminded me a little of Ireland in that I know they were speaking English, but I could not really understand but every third word. Plus, Rusty hates it when I listen to other people’s conversations, so I have to pretend like I’m listening to him and Nick and hear what the patrons are saying too. It’s tougher than you might think, but I don’t want to miss anything! On the way to the car we passed several men enjoying an after lunch “dip” as in snuff, not swimming, and just visiting in the parking lot.
I adore traveling and like Mark Twain said, “nothing so liberalizes a man and expands the kindly instincts that nature put in him as travel and contact with many kinds of people.” Amen to that, sister!