Georgia on our minds…along with a tree house and castles

Was that the Chattanooga Choo Choo we heard in Georgia? Not sure the 40s era Glenn Miller Band was thinking of the Peach State when it penned the song , but the Inn where we stayed outside Macon could have served as a backdrop for this iconic tune. Why? Because it had a track running behind it and we were up almost ever hour on the hour listening to the deafening sound of train whistles blowing in our ears. Ugh. Live and learn.

Bleary-eyed the next morning, your Tour leaders continued on through Georgia toward our ultimate destination of the day – Tennessee. We ascended the ear-popping Appalachian Mountains and motored by the scenic Tennessee River, which featured an impressive river boat meandering along its shores.

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Our first stop of the day was Calhoun (pop approx. 15,650) to see and experience some of the quirkiest local attractions we’ve seen yet on the Tour. Named after U.S. Senator John Calhoun in 1850, and known as the “Land of the Cherokee”, Calhoun is where the Trail of Tears (http://bit.ly/1hUMN3f) officially began and the Civil War was fought.

First on our itinerary was a hidden, magical Folk Art Garden tucked away behind a church and lovingly built by volunteers. With an acre of gorgeous flowers and greenery to enjoy, the real show-stopper here is the more than 50 miniature buildings crafted from tiny stones, pebbles, shells, glass, china, tile, wire and cement. Winding paths leading to castles, cathedrals, moats and monasteries are nestled in the foliage just waiting to be discovered by the child in all of us. And we’re virtually certain we spotted a faerie or 2 hiding in the village!

This church was patterned after the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and is just under 4′ tall.

Bart was on the lookout for Robin Hood and his merry men.

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It takes a village to build a village.

Just around the corner from this magical garden lives a mysterious, renaissance man named Sam Edwards. Former aide to President Carter and Senator John Glenn, successful author, and tree house builder extraordinaire, Sam lives in a multi-level tree house tucked behind a Mexican restaurant. But this is no ordinary tree house (http://samstreehouse.com/house.html). One bedroom is the fuselage of an airplane and another is a ski boat, there’s a room in the submarine prop from a 1960’s Elvis movie, and of course, no home is complete without a compartment made from a helicopter. HGTV’s Tiny Homes have nothing on this guy!

Rorie said “what the ****?”

The final stop on our way to The Volunteer State was the historic and picturesque town of Roswell, GA. Developed into a cotton mill town in the mid 1830’s by Roswell King, his mill soon became the largest cotton processor in north Georgia. Hiking along the Old Mill Trail next to Victory Creek, you can see the ruins of the original company mills.

In the center of town is the beautiful Roswell Town Square (featuring a very large Christmas Tree!), dedicated to the founding fathers of Roswell and a monument to the mill’s workers (mostly women and children) who were charged with treason during the Civil War by General Sherman and forced to go to the North. After strolling through the lively town, we wandered into the 640 acre historic district full of gracious old homes where the mill towns rich and famous residents lived .

Barrington Hall ~ Circa 1839

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Music City…here we come. But first we’ll need to gas up. Look at these bargain prices!

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The Tour Heads North…

“Old Florida” Really is Old

On a tip from one of Bart’s favorite coffee house baristas in Lido Key, FL (population 12,525), Rorie and Bart headed North to New England to and through the “Old Florida” town of Micanopy (population about 600). Its town center is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is home to a number of antique stores, a large used book store and several restaurants.

According to Wikipedia, “Micanopy is believed to be the state’s oldest inland town and is named for Chief Micanopy of the Seminole Nation”.

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The sign’s arrow points south along Cholokka Boulevard and is located a few yards from the start of the Micanopy Historic District.

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Brunswick, Georgia

Continuing our journey, we decided to take it easy the first day (travelled a mere 340 miles) and motored on to Brunswick, GA, (pop. 15,583). It was an uneventful 6 hours in the car, where we spent our time rocking out to music from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s and tried to best each other in a spirited and loud game of “name that tune”. Sadly, the game ended in a tie so nobody could be declared the one true winner – not that we’re particularly competitive by nature (hah).

Special Shout-Out

Though we didn’t go there this trip, historic Brunswick is home to a fabulous restaurant called Indigo Coastal Shanty (http://www.indigocoastalshanty.com). Great food, cool atmosphere. Owner/chef Kate Buchanan is warm and very friendly. If you’re ever passing through the area be sure to stop in and enjoy this nearly 5 star (Yelp) eatery – http://www.yelp.com/biz/indigo-coastal-shanty-brunswick.

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After checking into our hotel we hopped back in the car and headed to nearby St. Simons Island (pop. approximately13,000). Crossing over the bridge leading to the island, we were treated to a view of beautiful low-country marshlands with curving, vivid blue waterways as far as you could see. Rorie is not a huge fan of bridges (OK, she hates them) but the scenery on both sides of this one was a good distraction.

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Part of Georgia’s famous Golden Isles and the largest of these barrier islands, St. Simons is a beautiful small community. Everywhere you look there are majestic oak trees dripping with Spanish moss, and an amazing array of architecturally diverse homes (and of course mansions!). This is where some of the 1%-ers live.

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The island’s village center is chock full of shops, restaurants, boutiques, candy and ice cream stores (no we didn’t imbibe) locals and tourists. After a brisk power walk through the neighborhoods, we strolled past the village to the pier. This is quite the gathering place with lots of people fishing, sitting on benches eating lunch, or like us, just out for a little exercise.

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Next to the large, t-shaped pier is a park, children’s play area, miniature golf course, public swimming pool and walking paths. It’s a great place to relax, fish, and “people watch” – one of our favorite past times!

St. Simons is steeped in history. The Fort Frederica National Monument, built in 1736, protected the island from the Spanish. The Fort’s remains have been preserved and it is designated a national historic site. And those beautiful, massive oak trees that are all over the island? Well 2,000 of them were used to build warships including the USS Constitution, knicknamed “Old Ironsides” because cannon balls bounced off of its oak planks.

The St. Simons Island Lighthouse, located near the village and pier, guards the Sound with a beacon that flashes every 60 seconds. It is a grand old structure, open to the public and definitely worth a visit, especially if you want to brag about how you climbed the 129 steps to the top! The original structure was built in 1811, destroyed in 1861 during the Civil War and rebuilt in 1872. The light keeper’s home, a Victorian brick structure, is now a museum.

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There are many historic sites here, so if you visit allow plenty of time to explore. Whether you’re a Civil War buff or into Maritime history, St. Simons Island has something for everyone.

http://www.explorestsimonsisland.com/St_Simons_History.html

Next up? Who knows. We’ll let the road tell us. Stayed tuned for some more Discover Small Town America Tour surprises…