It’s time…to…

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The first, annual Discover Small Town America Tour has been 3 years in the making. Bart and Rorie are really excited – FINALLY – to be able to launch this 8,000 mile, coast-to-coast event tomorrow, November 5. We want to thank our small town America “family” of followers for your interest and support. Now, let the adventure begin!

Game on…Rorie and Bart heading out in just a few weeks

Maps are spread out on the floor. Sticky pad notes galore. Lining up places on our 8,000 mile route that are the stuff of small town lore. Planning enough pit stops so our fannies don’t get sore.

Bart’s biggest challenge: making sure he doesn’t pick routes that get the duo lost, because you KNOW Rorie keeps score. Look forward to sharing our amazing Discover Small Town America Tour experiences along the way. Stay tuned…

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DSTA Tour launch planned for late Fall

Bart and Rorie had to postpone the inaugural Discover Small Town America Tour in 2014 because of some unexpected family challenges, but now they’re back. Follow the DSTA Tour 2016 (8,000 miles cross-country road trip in late Fall) and help shine a spotlight on extraordinary people doing amazing things in off-the-beaten-path places. Stay tuned…RorBar trip

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Due to climate and possible weather issues we’ll be plotting a southerly route from the Gulf Coast of Florida to Southern California. Your ideas for cool places to check out are welcomed!

We’re back…Here’s the latest from your DSTA tour guides

It’s been a while since your DSTA Tour “proprietors” (Rorie and Bart) have reported from the road. Well, we’re back. Our latest exciting excursion was inspired by Bruce Hunt, author of Visiting Small-Town Florida.

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Last week we set out to experience some unique small towns with important history, unusual charm and, of course, great food. Thanks to Bruce we found one such very special place – Amelia Island, FL.

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Located on the border of Georgia and Florida, 13 miles long and the most northern barrier island in FL, this spit of land has been invaded and fought over by eight countries and is known as the Isle of Eight Flags. Amelia Island was controlled by the French (1562-1565), the Spanish (1565-1763), the English (1763-1783), the Spanish again (1783-1821) with interruptions by the “Patriots” (1812), Green Cross of Florida (1817), Mexican Rebels (1817), United States (1821) and the Confederacy (1861)). Obviously these “conquerers” all knew Amelia Island was something really special.

The Island has something for everyone including high-end resorts and hotels, cozy inns and B&Bs, ocean front mansions and weathered old homes, miles of beach and acres of golf courses and friendly locals who love their island and are proud to tell you about all it has to offer.

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Our first stop was The Seaside Amelia Inn where we checked into our spacious and very comfortable room. Located on the northern end of the island at Main Beach, this gem of an Inn has much to commend it – friendly staff, an incredible location beachside and a great cooked-to-order southern breakfast (www.seasideameliainn.com).

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Heading out to explore the Island, we made our first stop  Ft. Clinch State Park. With over 1,400 acres, Ft. Clinch is a nature lovers, campers, hikers, and history buffs paradise. The fort is one of the most well-preserved 19th century forts in the country and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Once a month you can step back to the year 1864 and watch soldiers reenact life during the Civil War.

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Continuing our explorations, we discovered the historic town of Fernandina Beach (pop. 12,000). Rich in history, with its downtown historic district of 50-plus blocks on the National Register of Historic Places, there’s plenty to see here. It is chock-full of Southern hospitality, restaurants, boutiques and lovingly preserved Victorian architecture. Anchored on one end by a marina filled with fishing boats, and an active train depot, the main street is lined with magnificent homes, shops, restaurants and churches.

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Fernandina Beach is also home to the Palace Saloon, Florida’s oldest continuously operating drinking establishment. Zip in and belly up to the 40 foot bar designed with the help of Adolphus Bush, founder of Anheuser-Bush.

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Did you say you wanted to cleanse your palate with a sweet treat? Drag your belly from the bar at the Palace and head over across the street to Fantastic Fudge. Rorie was afraid to go in so she longingly pressed her nose to the glass as she drooled over the array of homemade confections inside.

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Having heard about a pizza shop that makes amazing combinations of pizza, including one with sausage and truffles, and sports the quirky name of Pi Infinite Combinations, we had to stop in for a late afternoon snack. Just entering the artsy courtyard leading to the front door, we knew we were in a place where anything goes and pizza dough is a blank canvass awaiting your infinite creativity!

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Husband and wife owners Billy and Eva put in 60 hours a week to make sure you get the pizza combination of your dreams.

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Biting into huge slices of white pizza with home made sausage bursting with fennel and earthy slivers of truffles, was a heavenly experience. And size matters here…we’re talking big slices. Opened in 2014, Pi is making a name for itself on Amelia Island and beyond.

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Rorie begged Eva for more Pi (kidding). Here she’s telling the owner how fantastic the pizza was. If you have a chance you must experience Pi. Go in, create any combination of pizza you can imagine, and sit back and wait for the magic to be delivered to your table. (www.piinfinitecombinations.com).

After heading back to the Inn and resting for a little while, we realized it had been over 2 hours since we’d eaten and, not surprisingly, we were hungry again! Right next to the Inn, smack dab on the beach where surfers were riding the storm waves, sat the casual Sandy Bottoms Beach Bar & Grill.

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What a find! Packed with locals, Sandy Bottoms is definitely the place to be for happy hour any night of the week. Bart and I hit the jackpot on “50 cent wing night” and who could resist that deal! 10 crispy flavorful wings, great seafood corn chowder and gumbo, salad for the illusion of healthy eating, and 2 strong drinks later, we were full and ready to crawl into bed for a good nights sleep. Inexpensive drinks, great food and an energetic vibe, Sandy Bottoms is the place to be for a warm welcome and a hot time. http://www.sandybottomsamelia.com

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We’ll be back to Amelia Island and the wonderful town of Fernandina Beach. If you’ve never been, you should make it a bucket list stop along the highway of your life.

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They’re Baaaack…

Bart and Rorie are taking the Tour back on the road to Discover Small Town America in the Southeast. Bart’s new gig as an advisor on the America’s Best Communities program (Country music star Vince Gill is ABC’s spokesman – http://nbcnews.to/1HiU2PU) has them stoked to visit some new and other better-known small towns.

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They’ll be departing from the Gulf Coast of Florida and traveling highways and byways on their way to Memphis, TN, where diets and tight pants will be put aside to make way for some great barbecue and other southern goodies.

While they know they’ll be checking out places like Plains, GA, home of that famous peanut farmer, and Oxford, MS, hometown of authors William Faulkner and John Grisham, and the campus of the University of Mississippi, Bart and Rorie will be getting an “insider’s” scoop on other hidden gems to add to their itinerary from good friends Clay (a native of Mississippi) and his wife Mary (who’s from Georgia).

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If any Tour “followers” have ideas about other people and places (and eateries) Bart and Rorie should check out during their upcoming travels, please post them here. Stay tuned…