Germany in Georgia?

Our last full day in Georgia was an all-out let’s-do-as-much-as-we-can sort of a day. Our hosts recommended that we take a drive to visit the town of Helen in northern Georgia. They told us it was a touristy, Bavarian-style town with a lot of interesting things to see and do. One of the things we like to do when we travel is to go on factory tours. One website had indicated that there were three different factory tours available in Helen (an old-time corn mill, a candy factory, and an artist’s glass-making studio). So, off we went!


Our hosts told us that it was a good thing we were doing this trip on a weekday, because they had heard stories of hours-long traffic tie-ups in Helen on weekends. We found no traffic problems, and very few other people in Helen on this Monday.


As they had told us, the entire village consisted of Bavarian-style architecture, with lots of little touristy shops, cafes, and restaurants. We saw Dutch wooden shoes, all sorts of hot pepper sauces, fudge and candy, glass-blowing, wooden toys, and tons of T-shirts and baseball hats. You get the picture.


I thought this German restaurant, the Old Heidelberg, was visually interesting.

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We did get to see people making candy, and we did visit the glass studio, but I wouldn’t exactly call them factory tours. We also went to the Nora Mills Granary, which is where the stone-grinding corn mill was, but the mill was not operating. They explained that it only operates on weekends.


When we left town we had some time to go to a nearby US Forest Service facility where there is a short hiking trail to a lovely waterfall: the Anna Ruby Falls. I was delighted to find that my Senior Parks Pass for National Parks allowed us free entry. We all enjoyed a beautiful ½ mile hike along a creek to get to the falls. I was impressed by the falls. I’ve hiked to a lot of waterfalls over the years, and I have to say that this one was one of the nicest.

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We had told our hosts that we had never tried boiled peanuts, which evidently is a “southern” thing. When we passed by Fred’s Famous Peanuts on the way up to the hike, they told us we could stop there on the way back to sample some boiled peanuts. This was a fun little stop. Neither of us liked the boiled peanuts, but we were offered a taste sample of some fried peanuts. Now those were worth having, so we bought us a couple of bags of them.


We decided that the best place for dinner would be one of the German restaurants in town, and the Old Heidelberg was the winner. Sausages, sauerkraut, red cabbage, German beer. Yum.


And our Georgia adventures came to a close after a 2.5-hour drive back to our hosts’ home in Rome.


Unexpected Discoveries in North Georgia

Two things emerged from our family discussions about what to do today: a “scenic drive” in the Georgia countryside and a visit to an eccentric artist’s “Paradise Garden.” I wasn’t listening very carefully when they were talking about visiting this artist’s garden, but I did manage to catch that he was “hard to describe,” and that “you have to see it to understand it.” I like some art, and I wasn’t averse to having a look, so I agreed to go along with this. For the scenic drive, I mapped out a route through the North Georgia mountains, with a place called John’s Mountain as the centerpiece. Everyone seemed glad to have a plan, and we set out to see what Fall in North Georgia looked like.

After about a half-hour’s drive M announced that we had arrived at Paradise Garden. From outside the chain-link fence I couldn’t see much, but what I could see wasn’t all that impressive. I wasn’t expecting much. However, a sign that stated that Howard Finster’s Paradise Garden was listed on the National Register of Historic Places got my attention. I also paid attention when M & A told us about a Swedish couple they had met here the last time they were here. This couple had traveled all the way from Sweden just to see this place. Hmm. OK. Let’s have a look.

His welcome sign was certainly warm and inviting:

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The visit to the gardens started with a short video that told us all about the artist. To call him an artist requires a bit of explanation. He was a Baptist Preacher who turned to making art in his 60’s as a way of expressing his vision of the gospel. He had no art training or background. He had a vision one day and felt he had heard a calling from God to do art. For the rest of his life he worked tirelessly, and ended up producing some 40,000 works of “art.” A lot of his “art” was 3-D “sculpture” made from odds and ends (bicycles, hubcaps, bits of mirrors and tiles, basically anything he felt like using). The “Paradise Garden” was his outdoor collection of a lot of these things. It was in a pretty sorry state of disrepair, having seen much better days. (Howard passed away in 2001.) This picture of one of Howard’s “selfies” probably communicates more than my words can:

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Here’s a mural he made:

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One feature of most of his art was that he wrote scriptures and other messages in just about everything. It was clear that he was using his art to spread his interpretation of the gospel. Pretty cool.

It turns out that this fellow has quite a following! He is known among artists, and he represents that genre of art known as “Outsider Art” or self-taught art. He’s in the same category as Grandma Moses. We didn’t get to see many of his paintings, but apparently his paintings fetch fairly high prices (thousands of dollars).

I like his leopards. Here’s one:

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After we left Paradise Garden we headed out into the hills for our “scenic drive.” For a time, it was less than impressive. The fall colors were past their prime, and we are spoiled by the northeastern hardwood forests that predominate in upstate New York. At one point things started to get more interesting as we began to wind our way up and through some more mountainous terrain in the Chattahoochee National Forest. Then I saw it: a sign for a “Scenic Overlook.” I quickly expressed my opinion that we should have a look! M turned out, and we found ourselves on a gravel road. I think we all had expected a simple pull-off and a scenic view, but this was not to be. We wound our way up and around for a while until we got to a parking area. A parking area, but no scenic overlook. The gravel road seemed to go onward. M’s vehicle is not 4-wheel drive, but I urged him onward. His wife was not pleased as we found our way on a mountainous, gravel, switchbacky, one-lane road. At a couple of points we encountered opposing traffic, and M didn’t even stop. He pushed onward. I think everyone in the car was pretty nervous as we wound back and forth up the mountain. There was a bit of discussion about how we were going to turn around if we needed to. (We wouldn’t have been able to.) Oh, and we also were low on fuel.

Well, eventually we did get to a scenic overlook, and it was worth all the trouble. It turns out this was John’s Mountain. It was lovely.

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After that it was all downhill until we got to our dinner destination: Crawdaddy’s in Rome, GA, where we enjoyed some authentic Cajun fare.

To Atlanta We Go!

Having family in Rome, GA, we started a weeklong visit to the Peach State this afternoon. Our family members, M and A, picked us up at the airport, and we headed for the Holiday Inn Express on Cone Street in downtown Atlanta. Our hotel was a short walk from The World of Coca Cola, a museum presented by the Coke company to tell the story of all things Coke.

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World of Coca Cola Museum

To say that I was surprised that there was so much to show and tell about Coke would be an understatement. We experienced everything from a “live” Coke polar bear to the vault holding the secret Coke formula.

This Polar Bear had a person inside!

I have to say that the drama surrounding the so-called secret formula was a bit over the top, for me, but everything else was pretty enjoyable. The highlight was the tasting room where you could sample from about 100 different soft drink flavors from around the world. My personal favorite was from Peru, and it was something that Coke called the Inca Kola.

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Tasting Room – over 100 flavors to try!

After we left the Coke museum we enjoyed some bison burgers at Ted’s Montana Grill on Luckie Street. I don’t recall that I’ve had bison burgers before, but after this experience I will definitely have them again.

Bison at Ted’s

Back at the hotel we were hoping to be able to hang out and relax together for a bit before heading off to bed. Unfortunately, the rooms were very small, and there were not even any chairs in them. There were a couple of large upholstered chairs in the lobby, but there were four of us, and the lobby was very noisy. We ended up sitting around one of the tables in the breakfast area. The good thing is that when you’re with family, it really doesn’t matter if you’re in luxurious surroundings. We had a lot of talking to do, and it was pleasant just having an opportunity to be together. We’re looking forward to a fun and event-filled week!

The Last “Fling” of Fall?

Totally unwilling to let fall slip away without one more “camping” trip, we decided to do a quick, one-night stay at a Finger-Lakes-area Harvest Host location. We had made arrangements to spend the night at the Pleasant Valley/Great Western winery outside Hammondsport, NY. Now, normally, it’s only about an hour’s drive from our home to where this winery is located. But we didn’t want to just drive directly there. We really just wanted an excuse to get out and drive around in the hills and look for foliage and fall things. So we headed west, even though our final destination was south of us.



The foliage this year is not as brightly colored as it normally is. Even at their most colorful, the hillsides are less than spectacular. Nice; but not spectacular.


We started by visiting the Hemlock Lake Park at the north end of Hemlock Lake. The sun was shining, and the temperature was climbing out of the 40’s, so we had hopes of sitting by the lake, maybe taking a walk or a bike ride, and/or maybe dropping a fishing line. As soon as we got out of the truck we discovered that the strong south wind would put an end to all those hopes. Even the south-bound Canada geese were having a tough time of it in their migratory efforts.

Since the wind made it unpleasant to stay, we headed over to the south end of Canadice Lake to see if a hike in the woods there would be more agreeable. We found a place to pull the trailer off by the side of the road and headed out on the trail that skirts the south and west sides of the lake. This was much better. We were shielded from the wind, and the colors of the leaves were better at ground level than when looking at the hills from a distance. We found some really bright orange berries to cheer the day.



After a super-enjoyable hike, we had to find a way to get turned around and continue on our way. (We had parked heading north, on this really narrow country road, and we had to go south to get to Hammondsport. I had learned my lesson on another trip about not trying to do a 3-point turn-around, with a trailer, on a narrow road.) We headed north, went all the way to the north end of Canadice Lake, drove across the north end of the lake, and then turned to go south. It was a bit of a long way around, but we didn’t seem to have much choice. As we drove, the sky got sunnier, and the sun brought out more luminescence in the leaves. Some of the yellows seemed to be electrified. (Sorry – no pics – was driving.)

By about 2:45 we arrived at Pleasant Valley/Great Western. Tammy welcomed us and told us about the place. We were to “set up” at the edge of the parking lot. I had asked yesterday about their tour of the facility and was told that the last one would be at 3:00. We had worked out our travels to coincide with this so that we could be here for that tour. Tammy told us that they were a bit short-handed, and that the tour would be a bit delayed. It might be 3:20 or 3:30 before they were able to do it. We were OK with this, as we had no more plans for the day. But then, when 3:30 rolled around, Cory, the tour guide came by and told us that it was too late to take a tour today. Hmm. Not OK. After a bit of back-and-forth with him about who had told us what and when, he went and spoke with Tammy about it. Then he returned and apologized and offered us a complementary tour. (Normally a tour is $5 per person.) I’m really glad this worked out, because the tour was excellent. It was a history lesson and an opportunity to see and touch the tools and implements of the wine industry the way it was practiced years and years ago. Fascinating to say the least.



After the tour we settled in to a quiet evening in our home away from home.


Fall Color on a Cloudy Day

Today was to be the final day of our ADK adventure. We wanted a taste of the “wild” part of this “forever wild” park, so we looked for an unpaved logging road to head out on. Almost as soon as we turned onto this one-lane road we encountered a fully-loaded logging truck heading in the opposite direction. We had to back up and eventually get completely off the road in order to give him enough room to get by. That was exciting! I’m glad this happened at the beginning so that I knew to approach blind curves very slowly. About 5 miles out into the wilderness we came to a quarter-mile hike to Barker Pond. This was a beautiful, well-hidden pond, and the trail lead to a small clearing with a campsite.

Our next and final destination was Great Camp Sagamore, where they offer daily tours at 1:30 each afternoon this time of year. I had heard of Adirondack “Great Camps” before, but this 2-hour tour gave me a much deeper understanding of what these facilities were all about. This one was originally the retreat of William Durant, the wealthy son of one of the “robber barons” of the Gilded Age (mid to late 1800’s). For most of the 20th century this camp was owned by the Vanderbilt family and used as a place to entertain the rich and powerful. Since the late 1970’s it has been in the hands of a preservationist, nonprofit organization who uses it to provide educational programming.

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We were able to enjoy seeing the buildings (inside and out) on this cloudy fall afternoon. One of the more interesting buildings houses a 2-lane bowling alley. I was privileged to be selected as one of two who were allowed to actually take one swipe at the pins. I scored an 8!

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After this it was just driving home. The foliage in the Adirondacks was stunning, but almost as soon as we were out of the park area we were back in mostly green leaves.


No Clock

While it was necessary to check out of our cabin by 11:00 AM, The Hedges was kind enough to invite us to spend the rest of the day on the property, enjoying the facilities. Have you ever had a hotel or other form of lodging do that?? We stayed for a while, enjoying the sun, but braced against the wind. In the afternoon we headed to Tupper Lake in order to visit The Wild Center.


The fall leaves were not very impressive when we arrived in this area on Tuesday, but today they were beginning to “pop.” It is amazing the difference that two days can make this time of year. The reds were particularly awesome. Elaine kept saying that she has never seen such brilliant reds. Since red is her favorite fall leaf color, she was in pure joy.


One of The Wild Center’s key attractions is a live river otter. We arrived just in time for her afternoon “show.” For about a half hour we enjoyed watching her swimming and playing and eating a special fish-kabob. These are absolutely wonderful animals! Another feature of the The Wild Center is their outdoor, treetop walking trail. It was a lot of fun to be walking up high on a walkway and enjoying the fall colors and the views of the surrounding mountains. After the treetop walk I took a short hike to a riverside. It was a terrific afternoon, and I can recommend this facility.

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Along with the gift certificate for The Hedges was a $100 gift certificate for the Adirondack Hotel. We used this for one overnight stay. Now some have described this place as more of a “hostel” than a “hotel,” and I can see why. It is well over 100 years old, and it is showing its age. There is no apparent deferred maintenance, but a building this old can’t help but show its age. The rooms are very small, and only a few of them have their own private bath. There are no TV’s in the rooms, no microwaves, no small refrigerators. The whole experience was quite a bit like time travel. I felt as if I had stepped back in time about 50 years. A lot of things in the Adriondacks are that way. Time seems to stand still up here.

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Not-So-High Peaks

So many possibilities of how to spend the day! There are canoes and kayaks, there is fishing, there is hiking, there is chilling out to read a book in the sun or in the comfort of an Adirondack lodge. What to do? During breakfast I peppered our wait staff with questions about hiking in the local area. I was tempted to hike up Blue Mountain, but the prospect of a 2-mile straight up climb intimidated me. The compromise was a 1-mile climb up to Castle Rock, which is said to have a 360-degree view (at half the labor cost of the climb up Blue Mountain). The bonus was that one of Charles’ poems last night was about his climb up to Castle Rock. Based on the weather, which promised to be warm in the afternoon, I decided on a hike for the morning followed by an afternoon on the water.


The hike was excellent. The difficulty of the climb was just about right for my present level of physical conditioning. The last couple hundred feet were pretty much a straight-up rock climb, but it was short enough that it presented no real difficulties.

The Final Steep Ascent
Panorama Shot from Castle Rock


After the hike, the weather wasn’t as good as I had hoped for, concerning spending time on the water. The wind was blowing quite strongly, and the water was pretty choppy. Not the best conditions for kayaking or canoeing. I did try a little fishing from shore, but the main activity for the afternoon was sitting in the sun and reading. Still not a bad way to spend a fall afternoon!


We spent some time in the late afternoon on our cabin’s porch before the rain came. It rained all evening and most of the night, which made our cozy cabin even more cozy. A sunset, however, was not to be seen.