Saturday, April 05, 2008

The Long Way Home, Part 1

The first week of April, I made a trip from my "home" in Florida to my other "home" in North Carolina. My husband had already gone to NC, so I was driving alone with our smallest dog, a 6 pound poodle named Missy.

In my travels, I always try to stay off the interstates and drive along the back roads as much as possible. One of the reasons that I do this is because it reminds me of when I was a child traveling with my parents. But the most important reason is that the interstates are so homogenous and you never get a chance to see the real America, even when you think you know it.

I have made this trip several times, but decided to try a different route for a portion of the latter half so that I could avoid most of Interstate 85.

Since our home in Florida is only thirty miles south of the Georgia border and our other home in North Carolina is barely over the border from South Carolina, the majority of my travel is within the state of Georgia. Aside from the megalopolis of Atlanta and a few other large cities such as Savannah and Macon, much of Georgia is covered with very pretty, historic rural towns which makes driving the back roads worthwhile.

In addition,although its land area is less than 10% greater than Florida, Georgia has 159 counties compared to Florida's 67. What this means to me as I travel along the back roads of Georgia is that I will see many beautiful and historic county seats, most of which are located in the center of rural Georgia towns with the road circling around them. Most of these county courthouses have changed little in appearance for the last 100 years or more. Along with a healthy agricultural base, these small counties and their courthouses are the glue that holds these rural communities together.

Georgia ranks first among all states in the production of pecans and peanuts, and second in cotton. My route takes me through the heart of the parts of Georgia where these products are grown. As I leave Tallahassee, I drive approximately 35 miles north through plantation country to Thomasville, Georgia. The plantations are located within northern Leon County, Florida and southern Georgia. After the Civil War, many of these plantations were purchased by wealthy northern industrialists and were converted from cotton plantations to winter quail hunting retreats. Over the years, the heirs to many of these plantations have either divided them or converted them to cattle ranching or pine tree production. Still, some of them do exist in their original post Civil War state. One of those is Pebble Hill (pictured above) which is open to the public and gives a glimpse into the very private and low key lives of the plantation people. I have taken this tour of both the house and grounds and it is very interesting.

From Thomasvile, I head along 300 towards Albany, Ga. through the cotton and peanut country of Meigs, Pelham, and Camilla, Ga. All along the highway, you can see fluffs of white cotton that was blown onto the shoulders from the baled cotton. As I near Albany, I pass through miles of pecan trees. The pecans are harvested in the fall by a machine that shakes the trunk, causing the nuts to drop to tarps spread on the ground to catch them. after passing through Albany, I continue north on 300 to Cordele where I am forced to take Interstate 75 until I reach Forsythe which is north of Macon.

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