Scott asked me last night what I wanted for breakfast as he was the morning chef. I asked for biscuits and gravy, something southern that I had grown fond of during my time in the Reserves. It might have been subliminal as I can’t count the number of fast food places we passed advertising biscuits and gravy. Aneeda took care of the B&G while Scott threw a bunch of eggs in the pan and added bacon to the menu. I think I hold the distinction of the first person in their home that doesn’t have an affinity for bacon. Breakfast was consumed quickly, Aneeda’s Dad, who lives with them, joining us for eggs. We talked more about genealogy and I learned there is a connection to the whaling industry; I must check out Ancestry.com. Sheri and I did the spit in a tube DNA testing, the results coming just before I left so I didn’t look at them as closely as I would have liked.
Scott has a guy, Pete’s Tires, who can plug my tire, I found a screw last night, buried in the tread. The shop was a small garage and it was nice to have Scott doing the introductions as it never hurts to have a local connection. The car was jacked, tire repaired, and all tires aired up in about 15 minutes. I was happy to pay a professional for the fix, giving me more peace of mind than if I had done it. I carry a tire plug kit, but it would have taken me over an hour to do the fix. We head back to the house where I pick up Mabel who has loved the freedom their yard provides. She burnt off a lot of energy this morning.
Heading West on HWY 378 we see things that at times cause surprise and other times puzzlement. There was a sign that stated, “No Passing When Solid Line Is On Your Side Of The Road.” Shouldn’t you know that before you start driving? As I said before, signs are put up for a reason, an action convinced someone in charge, of the sign’s need. Near McCormick I see a sign for Hard Labor Creek and wonder how it earned its name. Did someone just like the sound of it or did hard labor occur here? I no longer see signs for rivers, in the South it’s all about Creeks.
HWY 378 is one lane and straight. It alternates between black and white asphalt, as if parts have been bleached to bone by a hot Southern sun. The short grass growing alongside attempting to reclaim the shoulder, higher grass just behind, reserve troops waiting for battle. It is everything I expect from a Southern Highway.
We cross over the Savanah River into Georgia around 11:00 and stop at a small boat launch so Mabel can stretch. The Savanah’s coppery sand assuring me we are no longer in Minnesota. The water seems different than what I saw up North, which is crazy as I think their molecular components are the same. The camper draws attention at a local gas station. The man next to me smirking as he asked if I sleep in it. He was amazed when I showed him the kitchen and air conditioning. “Well, I’ll be John Brown!” was all he could muster. Another gentleman came over, older and hard to understand but not because of an accent. He told me he just sold his “Plantation” and is thinking of moving to Texas. He liked the camper, and I didn’t discourage his enthusiasm even though I knew there was no way he could crawl through Arabella’s little door. Seeing the station was busy, I politely dismissed myself and we were back on our way.
We stopped in Lexington to get some local flavor. From the road, it looked like a nice little antiques town but we soon found out the block of stores were closed. Nothing was happening in Lexington today. We instead walked a block off Main Street and were surprised to find some wonderful old homes. I waved to a woman in front of an arts & craft style and yelled a compliment about the house. She seemed friendly so I invited us past the fence, the walk covered with fresh grass clippings. She liked Mabel, and explained she was a transplanted Yankee while her husband was a true Southerner. “Somehow,” she said “we make it work” finishing with a laugh. They have been in the house since the 1980’s and over that time it has gained acceptance, no longer the “crazy arts and crafts house.” We head back to Main Street, looking at the historic jail, and then continue our travels.
Being a REM fan, I always wanted to visit Athens, Georgia where they and other notable bands like the B-52’s had got their start. So, I intentionally planned the route through this part of Georgia. When you look at Travels with Charley, Steinbeck did not mention Georgia only referencing Abingdon, Virginia after Montgomery, Alabama. This allowed me to freelance and see what I wanted on this leg of the trip. In my mind Athens was a smaller city while in fact it is large, and home to the University of Georgia. I found the welcome center where a young woman with a nose piercing gave me a map and sightseeing advice. I mentioned REM and she told me that the railroad bridge on the back cover of their 1980’s album Murmur is still standing. We toured the city, definitely a college town full of bars and restaurants. I would have liked to sample the night life, it looked to offer a diverse experience. We continue to wander the sidewalks, Mabel getting tired and hot. Two girls stop us to pet Mabel, one from New Jersey and the other Wisconsin, they like our story and say they will check out the blog.
After more searching than expected, we found the bridge at a small park just outside the city. It was nestled in the back of the park, off a small but well-travelled path. If I couldn’t see any members of REM, I at least saw the railroad bridge pictured on one of their albums. I had a REM moment in Athens. It was hot and I was tired of the city. Pulling the camper, although small, adds a level of complexity to navigating city streets.
We headed North on HWY 441 to Toccoa, Georgia, home of the camp that trained WWII Paratroopers. The book and HBO series Band of Brothers was based on one companies’ experiences at the camp and in Europe. I am a fan, with Sgt. Lipton framing my decision to become a First Sergeant. I never officially became a First Sergeant, but as a fill-in held the office’s responsibilities for a total of almost three years. The road to Toccoa was through beautiful mountainous country and we turned off for town at a convenience/gas station. The town is small and well kept, aware of its part in history but not dwelling on it. No Band of Brother’s mini golf or Screaming Eagles Ice Cream shops. Some townsfolk were setting up for an eclipse viewing party, the street blocked with a stage and speakers; a banner proclaiming the Monday event. We found the museum but it was closed and won’t open until after we leave tomorrow. A bummer. There was a sign in the window about the camp and the effort involved with reconstruction. I found the location on Google maps and after driving up a winding, hilly, and pine lined street, found the front gate. Very neat to think of the history these grounds were involved in. What the men who passed through this gate accomplished. How the times have changed since men in their dress uniforms, excited over a pass, invaded the town of Toccoa. Across the street is a monument to the para troopers that trained at Camp Toccoa at Currahee. Knowing the history, it was sad to think so many never made it home.
We didn’t have a plan for camping but found on Google the Currahee Campgrounds which was close to town. We pulled down the drive, the office vacant, but I could see an open spot past the large expanse of cut grass. A call to the phone number taped to the door quickly confirmed the open spot was ours. We took it, as our chances for another site were slim considering it was late on a Saturday night of the weekend before the eclipse. The site turned out to be nice, a hike to the bathroom but it helps with getting my steps in, and the $15 price the best so far, on the trip.
Nestled between two larger pull behinds, I can step out front of my site and see Curahee Mountain. It is silhouetted as the sun drops. As night becomes dark, the cell phone tower's lights become blinking beacons. I think how different the view is today than when the men of Easy Company looked at it from camp.
Thankful today that men in the past had the courage to shape our future.