Fall in the NC mountains is a place I always chose to be. As much as I love to travel – I make it a point to be here in mid-October.
I love it when you make a turn-off on a shaded mountain road and it’s like you’ve flipped a light switch. The sun spotlights the changing leaves revealing a burst of fall colors. And when the leaves are brown and near their end watching the wind whip them into high swirls always makes me smile.
During this very unusual summer, I did not have time for many long drives down unknown roads. Family issues kept me a bit more occupied. But on our last weekend, we headed out, away from the leaf-peepers crowding the Blue Ridge Parkway. Heading into the Pisgah National Forest, we went into the Wilson Creek Wilderness area, stopped in the small town of Edgemont, and visited the folks at Coffey’s General Store.
Dating from 1895, the store is a veritable museum of old-timey mountain goods and memorabilia. Of course, you can still snag a Cheerwine and a Moon Pie.
Proprietor Teresa and her friend and helper, Linda, welcomed us and filled us in on area history.
If you get a chance, stop by and say hello. You won’t be sorry.
The train was an important part of Edgemont’s economy, but catastrophic floods changed the course of the future. The General Store served as an important gathering point for neighbors, also serving as a post office. Sadly, only a few families still live year-round in the area. The charming church is still in use and, this time of year added fall decor along the approaching bridge and road signs.
Want to break up a driving trip in the SE United States? A stop in Madison, Georgia is a refreshing break and a nice alternative to nearby Atlanta.
Dating from 1809, Madison is one of Georgia’s largest and oldest historic districts and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Frequently described as one of the South’s “prettiest” towns, and has a lost-in-time, slow vibe that can indeed transport you to the past.
It secured a place in history by being on the stagecoach route between Charleston and New Orleans and spared burning by Union General Sherman during the Civil War. Although a town filled with homes of wealthy plantation owners would’ve seemed ripe for destruction, Mayor Joshua Hill was a strong supporter of the Union. Serving in the House of Representatives, he had ties to Sherman’s brother and during the War, he made a gentleman’s agreement with Sherman’s detachment to spare the town. Hill later served in the US Senate. Of note, despite Hill’s Unionist leanings, much of the community, and even members of his own family, were committed Confederates.
Close to 100 antebellum homes have been restored and are easy to see with self-guided driving or walking tours. Like its nearby neighbor Covington, the town has served as backdrop for many productions (American Made, Goosebumps, I’ll Fly Away) and has a cute downtown with restaurants, local shops, and antique stores (which sadly, I didn’t have time to visit).
Explore Georgia has a great 28-stop self-guided tour, packed with info, that’s easy to use through a smartphone or tablet. One warning, it would be a loooong walk. Since we visited during the dog days of summer – we drove.
A fun fact – Oliver Hardy, of Laurel and Hardy fame, lived here most of the first eight years of his life, while his mother ran a boarding house.
Many of the private homes are surrounded by lush trees and shrubs making it difficult to get great pics, so you can check out the links above for some older shots with less landscaping and wonderful historic prints. Here are a few highlights from our tour:
We stayed at the James Madison Inn. A new building combining residences with hotel rooms. It was nice, comfortable, and very conveniently located; with breakfast included.
Special Note: I was pleasantly surprised to be notified my blog was selected as one of the Top 100 Luxury Travel Blogs on the web. Thank you to feedspot for the honor and for all the readers who follow me!
A short drive outside frenetic Washington DC you’ll find pastoral Loudoun County, Virginia. The area is a destination for two notable things: the DC Wine Country (with 40+ wineries) and a notable equestrian tradition.
Known as “Hunt Country,” two-lane, hilly rural roads transport you between wineries, expansive private estates, and horse farms interspersed with historic towns and sites. There is even a museum dedicated to the art, literature, and culture of horse and field sports – The National Sporting Library and Museum in Middleburg. It’s an area Jackie Kennedy Onassis, an avid horse fan, frequented.
The family of a good friend moved to the area a few years ago, and their two teenage boys have taken up the challenging game of polo. It was from them, that we learned about Twilight Polo.
Spectators enjoy a casual, country-fair atmosphere complete with food trucks. For $30 a car (or $25 in advance online) we were treated to three arena polo matches featuring amateur, former collegiate players, and professionals.
As the last event before Labor Day, the crowd was encouraged to wear white for the last time of the season. Between matches, kids were invited on the field for tug-of-war and to race the perimeter. The weather cooperated perfectly with crisp, cool temps, setting the stage for the featured match, with a barbershop quartet singing the national anthem while a rider circled the field carrying a large American flag. After play is complete (9ish) a DJ plays music for dancing, but with little ones in tow, we didn’t stay.
It was a real treat to watch and such a nice, relaxing juxtaposition to our toddler-inspired (fun but exhausting) activities of visiting DC’s National Zoo Pandas and National Children’s Museum. BTW, our friend’s grandson was a real star, the youngest player on the polo field the entire night, and in the featured match!
Even though I’ve always lived in the South – there is something special about the air when you are away from the coast during the summer’s heat. I know this year is supposed to be the hottest ever, but a Southern summer day seems the same as always to me. Air so thick with humidity you feel like you could spread it on a biscuit, clothes glued to your body, and a sweaty scalp giving a new “lift” to your hair. And let’s not forget the no-see-ums prickling the back of your neck.
In spite of the inhospitable weather, sounds of crickets in trees, scents from fragrant flowers, glorious colors of crepe myrtle trees in full bloom, and the shiny dark leaves of massive magnolia trees somehow convey a sense of comfort to me.
Add in some history, and I’m a happy traveler.
This week, we have landed in the “Hollywood of the South” – Covington, Georgia. A picturesque slice of Americana just outside Atlanta.
To help us get in the mood, we checked into an 1836 antebellum mansion, repurposed as an elegant B&B. Covington has rare pre-Civil War homes because it was one of three towns spared burning during Sherman’s march through Georgia.
In 1939, Margaret Mitchell saw an article in the Atlanta Journal & Constitution featuring the renovated home. She dictated it be used in the movie adaptation of her novel Gone with the Wind as Ashley’s home “Twelve Oaks.” A team working on the movie visited the home, noting every detail, which was painted on glass panels used during filming to depict the manse. In 2018, as a nod to the home’s supporting role in Gone with the Wind, the name was changed from “Whitehall” to “Twelve Oaks.”
There have been dozens of TV series, movies, commercials, and videos filmed here, going back to 1954. They are probably most famous for the 8-season run of The Vampire Diaries, but we go back another generation to the 7-year run of the series In the Heat of the Night, starring the iconic Carroll O’Connor. The series ran from 1988-1995 and is readily found among today’s cable offerings. Both series had some notable scenes filmed at “Twelve Oaks.”
Although set in the fictional Mississippi town of Sparta, a couple of years ago we had researched where the series was filmed while watching a re-run. That’s when we discovered Covington. While visiting, it was fun to spot so many familiar sights, most looking pretty much the same as on TV. We took a 2-hour tour with Main Street Trolleys that moved us around town efficiently and also introduced us to a lot of insights about all the vampires who roamed the region from 2009-2017.
A few other well-known projects filmed in town included Footloose, Halloween II, Sweet Home Alabama, Dukes of Hazzard, Remember the Titans, Hallmark’s Christmas Everlasting, Sweet Magnolias, and another favorite of ours – My Cousin Vinny. Starring Joe Pesci, Marisa Tomei, and Fred Gwynne, this 1992 comedy-drama is a must-see.
Scenes for Vinny were mostly around the Covington Town Square, but about 25 minutes away we found the spot for one of the movie’s most significant scenes – at the Sac-O-Suds (a real place). This was the site of the robbery and murder the entire movie plot revolved around. Apparently, the store was closed for a few years but is now open. We went in to get a soda (machine broken) and were greeted by a large black guard dog (he was behind a gate) and a pistol-packing cashier. Somehow, we came out of there with lottery tickets, something I think we’ve only ever bought once before.
We’ll look for Covington locations on Apple TV’s new show The Big Door Prize produced by David West Read of Schitt’s Creek fame. We heard they filmed some in Covington, although most was filmed in nearby Loganville.
Stay tuned . . .