When Thomas Wheatley told me that the theme of this year’s Urban Explorer issue was OTP, I was so excited! “I have just the places for you!” I cried. But then I found out that it was only the nearby metro Atlanta suburbs, not just anywhere in the continental United States that happens to be outside of I-285. Well, fiddlesticks. So all my recommendations fell on deaf ears because they were “too far to drive.” That doesn’t mean I can’t share them with you, Pecanne Log readers. You are more intellectually curious that the average Creative Loafing reader, as our expert marketing team has discovered. You are more likely to take risks and engage in your surroundings. That is why we present you now with:
PECANNE LOG’S RURAL EXPLORER
I am geographically biased about Georgia – while I do love a good mountain getaway, south of Atlanta is where I really get excited about going. One of THE GREATEST THINGS about attending the University of Georgia, if you are from the metro area, is making friends from rural south Georgia. They are a treasure! Getting to go home with one and meeting their aunts and cousins and neighbors and general store loiterers and pet pigs and obese beagles and daddy’s pecan grove is a solid gold experience. For many of you reading this blog, it is too late to try to meet someone from Sylvester. You missed the boat. Now you can only meet people from wherever people are from who go to Emory. Blah. (Unless you work at the Capitol or know Clint Zeagler.)
That is no reason not to explore rural Georgia on your own. It is so, so fun. Bring a friend!
This episode of PECANNE LOG’s RURAL EXPLORER will be devoted to middle/southwest Georgia. You could probably do this entire trip over a weekend.
1) Leslie (Sumter County) – Georgia Rural Telephone Museum. The reason this is your first stop is because this museum is only open from 9-3:30 on weekdays, and I am assuming you are making a weekend trip of southwest Georgia. (But maybe you are unemployed! How tacky of me to assume.) I have never been to this museum because of its schoolchildren-only hours, but I want to so badly because of their liberal use of mannequins in demonstrating the history of telephones in rural Georgia!!
2) Americus (Sumter County) - There are a lot of things to do in Americus, like Habitat for Humanity’s Global Village and Cafe Campesino fair-trade coffee house (which, otherwise, you can purchase at the Sweet Auburn Curb Market). Wait, what is this, Atlanta?
- If you want the authentic Americus experience, then you should stay at the Windsor Hotel. That is all anyone wants to know about if you say you went to Americus. “Did you stay at the Windsor?” Don’t let them down.
a) It is supposedly haunted; b) it is definitely the destination point of a lot of drunk driving that occurs in Sumter County and its environs. It is right downtown, and while the Windsor’s bar clientele is your typical Georgia Southwestern State University fraternity crowd who just want to talk loudly over live acoustic cover songs, the bars around the hotel are seedy places. You should get tucked away fairly early to avoid last call, and don’t expect when you call the front desk of the Windsor at 2:30 A.M. because there is domestic violence and possibly a murder occurring right in their parking lot for the concierge to be all that alarmed. “Oh, this happens every night when the bars let out, ma’am.”
- Also, Americus native Gabe Vodicka recommends Monroe’s Hotdogs and Billiards. We never made it there but Gabe said, “It seems sketchy but the dawgs are bright red and the chili is delicious.”
3) Andersonville (Sumter County) – Andersonville National Historic Site. This isn’t just for Civil War nerds (of which I am not) and it’s sooooooooo worthwhile. The POW museum is really good and you will spend way more time there than you intended.
4) Montezuma (Macon County) - Yoder’s Deitsch Haus. Did you know there is an active Mennonite community right in middle Georgia? And that they make awesome southern food, all from scratch? I don’t even flip out over southern food the way some people do, but knowing that none of this was frozen Stouffer’s made me get way ahead of myself when loading up my plate. Their desserts are to D-I-E for, and you can get a boatload of their baked goods to take back with you. Cinnamon bread, chess pie, pound cake, chocolate chip cookies…
Unlike a lot of places in Georgia that have foreign-like names, Montezuma is actually pronounced the way you might think. As opposed to Buena Vista*, Cairo, Vienna, etc.
(Side note: if you want to go on a southern food tour, this website is an incredible resource!)
5) Buena Vista (Marion County) – Pasasquan. I have already talked so much about Pasaquan (twice). It is open the first Saturday of every month through November. However, if you are dying to go and none of those dates work for you, if you get a good group together (10+ people) they will probably open it for you on another Saturday.
My Pasaquan experience: The people in the Pasasquan Preservation Society all seem to have known Eddie Owens Martin and just sort of hung out reminiscing about him to visitors. It was amazing. There was other stuff too, like a theater troupe from Statesboro, but I don’t want to talk about it all right now.
After Pasaquan, we went to an antique shop in downtown Buena Vista (*BYOON-ah VIH-stah) and found all these hats from the ’50s and ’60s from the estate sale of a deceased well-to-do Macon couple. We got so many hats (4 hats each, for $15 total!) that we haven’t even had opportunities to wear them all yet.
There were also sooooooo many flavors of snuff in the grocery store.
And finally, the place that shouldn’t even be on the map, but somehow is….
6) Plains (Sumter County) – Maranatha Baptist Church. This is the church Jimmy Carter attends and where he teaches Sunday school. Seriously, there are not many opportunities in this country to see a former U.S. president teach Sunday school, and Jimmy Carter (while healthy as a horse) is 85 years old, so you should take advantage of this soon if you ever intend to. The Sunday school schedule posted on the church website refers to when President Carter teaches (otherwise, it doesn’t happen). Plan to have your car sniffed by dogs and to have your bags searched by Secret Service.
- Mom’s Kitchen. You have to go here after church with the Carters! This is where they have post-worship dinner (a.k.a. “lunch,” if you are under 50 years old/a Yankee), and it is literally the only restaurant open on Sunday in Plains.
- Jimmy Carter National Historic Site. There are a bunch of exhibits and other stuff around Plains, including the campaign headquarters for his 1976 presidential run with some super dated but thoroughly entertaining videos about that campaign. National Parks Service sites are all open until 5 p.m., even on Sundays!
- Plains Inn. Rosalynn Carter and a friend decorated this newly-renovated inn. Each room is decorated with furniture from a different decade, starting with the 1920s through 1980. It is also outrageously affordable and everyone there is so nice. If you don’t stay in the inn, you can probably still tour it on Sunday afternoon after the guests have checked out. There is an antiques store downstairs that has some pleasant surprises, like a giant case full of dog-themed antiques (primarily terriers).
- Be sure while you are in Plains you buy some peanut brittle or peanut ice cream!
This is all I can think of for now.There are so many other places in southwest Georgia I have been and loved – Blakely, Fort Gaines, Camilla, Tifton – but the areas above aren’t terribly far and I have stayed there and entertained myself without accompaniment from a native so I know it can be done. And cheaply – Atlanta money goes really far outside of any metropolitan statistical area.
I will do a north Georgia rural explorer post later for those of you who want to know where you can eat Dippin’ Dots and shop for Wiccan pamphlets while standing in two states at once.