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Kenneth R. Wilson

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It’s a Zac Brown World

After years grinding out a living on Georgia’s music circuit, Cumming native Zac Brown has enjoyed seemingly overnight success. Since 2009’s chart-topping “Chicken Fried,” there have been two Grammys, two major-label albums, sold-out shows, and a number one duet with Jimmy Buffett. And like the sailor from Margaritaville, thirty-three-year-old Brown is parlaying the spoils into an empire: Southern Ground.

Photograph by C. Taylor Crothers

Headquartered in Westside, Southern Ground employs thirty people and houses Brown’s disparate interests and ventures: clothing and culinary line Lucy Justice Goods (named after his first two kids); spice rub and sauce line Baby Goo; indie label Southern Ground Artists; custom leather shop Southern Hide; and metal shop Southern Grind. Perhaps those early years of struggling motivated him to build this foundation for a lasting business, but “for me, Southern Ground represents a sampling of the things I love most—family, friends, food, and music,” says Brown.

One of those friends is Rusty Hamlin, a business partner at Smyrna’s Atkins Park and now Southern Ground’s executive chef. With Hamlin’s help, Brown—a longtime foodie—concocted his own spice rub and marinade and wrote the Southern Ground cookbook. The duo also transformed the traditional concert meet and greet into an “Eat and Greet,” a preconcert dinner prepared by Hamlin and three sous chefs for the band and 150 to 250 fan club members known as the Zamily. Hamlin creates an original menu at each stop and uses local ingredients when he can, but “Cookie,” the fifty-four-foot, two-story food truck, stays stocked with Southern staples like Duke’s Mayonnaise—a necessary element in Zac’s pocketknife coleslaw recipe.

>> RECIPE: Try this coleslaw from Brown’s cookbook

Brown is also obsessed with knives. It’s how he met metal artist Rodney Shelton fifteen years ago. Shelton cuts, grinds, and sharpens reclaimed carbon steel into sixteen-inch-plus Bowie knives at Southern Grind. Next door, leather artist Kyle Landas, a former bricklayer from Iowa, imprints intricate images and designs on cowhide to make items like cuffs and guitar straps. Band member Clay Cook introduced Landas and Brown after the latter designed a Zac Brown Band–inspired guitar strap. Serendipitously, Brown had purchased the soon-to-be Southern Hide leather shop just two days earlier. “He said, ‘You showed up on my bus for a reason,’” says Landas.

Brown’s generous spirit also brought Blackberry Smoke to Southern Ground Artists. Brown had already made good on a promise to support Georgia musicians by giving recording contracts to Sonia Leigh, Nic Cowan, and Levi Lowrey. When Blackberry Smoke’s former label crumbled, “He got wind of it and pretty much made an offer: If you guys need a home, you’ve got one,” says the Atlanta-based band’s lead singer and guitarist, Charlie Starr.

The universe building around Brown continues to expand. He and Hamlin are cooking up a special dumbwaiter system to deliver gourmet concert concessions. Brown’s Southern Reel produces Fear No Evil, a hunting reality show cohosted by Brown on the Outdoor Channel. And Camp Southern Ground, a retreat for kids with learning disabilities, is under construction in Fayette County.

Waycross, GA

I lean back in the lawn chair to soak up the early autumn sun still high in the sky and aimlessly swat at bugs, waiting for the next band to start. To my left, a local I’d been chatting with earlier offers me a Bud Light from his cooler. I reach over to accept it gratefully as the drummer onstage clicks his sticks together—one, two, three, four—and music cuts the muggy air again.
I went to Gram Parsons’s hometown of Waycross, Georgia, for the same reason Elvis Presley fans visit Tupelo, Mississippi. The town is most famous as a doorway to one of the world’s largest blackwater swamps, the Okefenokee. But every September, thousands of fans and dozens of bands gather for the Gram Parsons Guitar Pull, which pays homage to the Byrds legend and Flying Burrito Brothers cofounder, who died under the influence of drugs and alcohol at age twenty-six in 1973. Parsons created a revolutionary blend of country and rock, heavily influencing musicians such as Emmylou Harris, Keith Richards, and R.E.M.’s Peter Buck. Each year acts such as Levi Lowrey, a Dacula native on Zac Brown’s label, offer up heavy doses of folk, while bands like the Woodgrains from Athens bring soul and upbeat classic-rock grooves to the lineup.
Heading south from Alma along U.S. 1, I found blueberry farms giving way to old brick buildings and railroad tracks as I entered historic downtown Waycross. Spanish architectural influences hinted at its proximity to the Florida border, about forty miles away. Following the walking tour that begins at the Historic Railroad Depot, I stumbled upon the quaint Pond View Inn, a pleasant option for visitors squeamish about rustic accommodations in the parks near the swamp.
As I drove through town, the letters “BBQ” popped out like diamonds among the chain restaurant marquees. Hog-n-Bones and DK’s Bar-B-Q are local favorites, but nearer the festival, the newer Sloan’s BBQ Barn—a red building with a classic gambrel roof—beckoned me. I ordered a pulled pork sandwich at the window, and the cook rattled off sauce options: ketchup-based, mustard-based, or the rarest of barbecue condiments, mayonnaise-based. Sitting down at a picnic table out front, I settled on the tangy, aromatic yellow one and doused the perfectly smoked meat.
The road leading into Laura S. Walker State Park is braced by magnificent pine trees growing in perfect rows. The office attendant gave me a key to a one-room swamper cabin with a front porch, tin roof, and wood siding the color of the Spanish moss dangling from nearby cypress trees along the lake. The Georgia state park includes the Lakes, arguably one of the best public golf courses in the state. This is alligator country, so it’s imperative to keep your ball in the short grass or risk ending your golfing career like Chubbs Peterson.
Nearby is Okefenokee Swamp Park, a private, nonprofit park where boat tours glide visitors across the swamp’s mysterious waters. Warblers, alligators, and deer are common, but the constant sounds of water blooping, leaves rustling, and twigs snapping imply more creatures lurking in the shadows.
As evening approached, I drove back to the fairgrounds for the festival. Parsons’s voice moaned through the car speakers as he sang about a “land that was nearly forgotten.” Maybe he was thinking about Waycross.
Photograph courtesy of GDECD

Little Rock, AR

Little Rock sits at the crossroads of North, South, East, and West. In the bars, the blues riffs of Chicago meet the country twang of Tennessee. The Southeastern scent of slow-roasted pork fills the air one minute; the smell of seared Texas beef wafts in the next. Unlike other cities with distinctive identities, the Arkansas capital blends the traditions and cultures of its neighbors into a concoction that’s decidedly all-American.
The main drag, Markham Avenue, leads to the William J. Clinton Presidential Center. The mammoth, metal-clad center resembles a large-scale mobile home but makes the Carter Center look like an appliance box. Inside, the museum meticulously documents Clinton’s years as president with exhibits like a re-created Cabinet Room and a sample White House table setting. A Secret Service limousine sits on the ground floor, where visitors crane their necks to glimpse the James Bond gadgetry inside. This summer the center features two Elvis Presley exhibits. Elvis at 21 shows candid photos of a young, unguarded Presley. With help from Graceland, ELVIS displays memorabilia such as the red two-seater MG Elvis drove in Blue Hawaii.
Little Rock’s culinary scene centers on small chains such as Boscos Restaurant & Brewing Company. There’s also a strange obsession with “flying” food: The Flying Saucer, Flying Fish, and Flying Burrito all sit near the Clinton Center (perhaps a ripe location for a Flying Biscuit?). A local landmark, Doe’s Eat Place earned a national reputation as a political hangout in the early 1990s when Clinton campaign staffers overran the place. The eatery is famous for Flintstones-sized steaks in two- to six-pound portions ($16.50 per pound for the T-bone).
In the River Market District downtown, Ottenheimer Market Hall has more than a dozen vendors with offerings from hot dogs to Middle Eastern dishes. The Riverfest Amphitheater hugs the riverbank out back and features concerts and festivals throughout the summer, including Pops on the River, the state’s largest Fourth of July celebration.
Underrated and overlooked, Little Rock’s music scene is a melting pot of American music, and the historic White Water Tavern is the spoon that stirs it. Current owners have preserved the treasured dive-bar ambience, complete with cheap paneling, vinyl chairs, beer signs, and plenty of PBR. Claim a spot at one of the long communal tables packed with flannel-clad hipsters, aging bikers, and well-dressed professionals, and savor the live blues, folk music, and roots rock.
Like Atlanta, Little Rock has its own civil rights history. In 1957 the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne division escorted nine black students through the doors of Little Rock Central High School after Governor Orval Faubus dispatched the Arkansas National Guard to prevent the school’s desegregation. Today the National Parks Service operates a visitors center with a permanent exhibit preserving the legacy of the “Little Rock Nine.” (Visitors can’t go inside the school, which still functions.)
Two unique hotels stand out downtown. The Capital Hotel opened in 1870. Behind its cast-iron facade, ninety-four guest rooms—with fourteen-foot ceilings, fresh flowers, and designer linens—offer arguably the most luxurious lodging in Little Rock. Across the street, tourists crowd the Peabody’s atrium at 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. to watch the famous ducks march along the red carpet to and from the hotel fountain. From the upper floors, guests enjoy a spectacular view of the Arkansas River winding its way from the Ozarks to the Mississippi.
 
Photograph courtesy of the Little Rock CVB

Nashville, TN

Next month, thousands of people will follow the neon lights of Nashville into the District, the downtown area that includes Riverfront Park, Lower Broadway, and Printer’s Alley. The Country Music Association Music Festival—held this year from June 10 to 13—is the city’s biggest shebang.

DO

Arrive a day early to get your bearings at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum. You can’t miss it; it’s the only building in town that resembles a four-story piano keyboard. Here you’ll learn to identify subgenres of country music such as Bakersfield, Lubbock, and Nashville sounds. Afterward, take your newfound knowledge and explore Lower Broadway, where you will find some of the gritty honky-tonks that made Nashville famous. Legends Corner, Tootsies Orchid Lounge, and the Stage on Broadway each has its own vibe, but they all provide top-notch live music. Make sure to bring plenty of cash; bartenders favor quick transactions when they’re slammed, and most venues do not charge a cover, which means the band is working for tips.

STAY
The city is brimming with upscale accommodations, but none is more refined than the Hermitage Hotel, with its Italian marble entrance and Russian-walnut-paneled walls. Opened in 1910, it is one of only fifty-four hotels to receive five stars from Forbes Travel Guide. Once the terminal for Nashville’s eight railways, the Union Station Hotel conveniently lies between the District and West End neighborhoods. The lobby’s soaring vaulted ceiling, stained glass, and gold leafing hearken back to a time when travel was nothing but luxurious. If a trip to the Grand Ole Opry is in the itinerary, stay at the Gaylord Opryland. The hotel’s 2,881 rooms and 250 suites—plus dozens of restaurants and shops—surround nine acres of lush indoor gardens and waterways.

EAT
People wake up early in Nashville. By 8 a.m. the line outside the Pancake Pantry winds around the building, but the sweet potato pancakes are worth it. For lunch, try Jack’s Bar-B-Que; avoid the Broadway crowd by visiting the Talbot’s Corner location. Sample all six sauces, then order a slice of chess pie for dessert. When you’re all finished honky-tonkin’, grab a late dinner at the Paradise Park Trailer Resort in the wee hours. Inside the trailer-park-themed walls is arguably the best burger in the city. For a more genteel experience, reserve a table at 1808 Grille, where chef Charles Phillips turns out elegantly prepared, hearty dishes such as bronzed quail breast and sweet potato gnocchi.

Photograph courtesy of Tennessee Tourism Department

Louisville, KY

Every spring, a handful of small people in silk shirts risk life and limb on the backs of giant beasts while 200,000 onlookers roar with excitement. After 136 years, the home of “the most exciting two minutes in sports” knows how to host kings and commoners alike.

DO

The Kentucky Derby is held the first Saturday in May at Churchill Downs beneath the track’s iconic twin spires. Newly renovated and scheduled to reopen April 18, the Kentucky Derby Museum is located at the main entrance to Churchill Downs and outlines the history of America’s longest-running sporting event. For non-horse-related entertainment, visit Museum Row on Main Street in downtown Louisville, home to nine museums, including the Louisville Slugger Museum & Factory; arrive any day except Sunday to tour the factory while bats are in production. Across the street is the Frazier International History Museum, where exhibits span 1,000 years of world history and showcase artifacts such as Geronimo’s bow and a pair of General Custer’s ivory- handled pistols.

STAY
Also located on Museum Row is the 21c Museum Hotel. Housed within reclaimed tobacco and bourbon warehouses, the ninety-room boutique hotel doubles as a public art museum—the country’s first museum dedicated to twenty-first-century art. Look out for voyeuristic eyes embedded in bathroom mirrors, light installations in the elevator, and red plastic penguins that “move” around the hotel at night. If you prefer more traditional accommodations, stay at the DuPont Mansion. Built circa 1879 by children of the industrialist family of the same name, this bed and breakfast is an ideal place to relax. Enjoy a glass of wine by the fireside as the player piano’s ivories tinkle in the background. Each of the two suites and five guest rooms is decorated with period furniture and offers a fireplace for chilly nights.

EAT
Located a short walk from DuPont Mansion in Old Louisville is Amici Cafe; end Derby Day on its outdoor patio with a plate of seared pork medallions and Anjou pears. Nightlife and restaurants thrive in Louisville’s Highlands neighborhood, at the meeting of Baxter Avenue and Bardstown Road. Try Wick’s Pizza, famous for a ten-pound monster known as “Big Wick,” or take a break from bourbon at the Tequila Factory Bar and Grill (502-459-9191), which stocks more than sixty tequila brands and puts a south-of-the-border spin on classic pub grub such as hot wings and potato skins. Also in this area is refined bistro Lilly’s, whose James Beard–nominated chef, Kathy Cary, pioneered locally sourced ingredients in Louisville and has maintained her edge even as that concept has become commonplace. Be sure to try the caramel cake.

Photograph by Dan Dry

Amped!

Richard Goodsell darts about his English Avenue–area workshop, past the piles of speakers and vacuum tubes he uses to create his boutique guitar amps. (Vince Gill and Big Boi are just a few of his fans.) He grabs a guitar: “Do you want to strap on the other Telecaster?” asks the fifty-two-year-old. “That way we’re both holding an instrument and relating on that level. I’m all about that kind of thing.”

Goodsell’s amplifiers are not run-of-the-mill circuit board amps. He wires and solders each by hand, tweaking capacitors and resistors, searching for the right tone—a clean sound that doesn’t distort at high volumes. It’s a sound that comes at a price: between $999 and $2,600, depending on the model.

The Goodsell Electric Instruments Co., of which Goodsell is the sole employee, first picked up steam seventeen years ago. In 1994, Goodsell had quit his job as an ad salesman and was running sound at a club when he got a call from R.E.M. The band was recording Monster and had heard that Goodsell stockpiled vintage keyboards such as Wurlitzers, Clavinets, and Minimoogs; they wanted to buy everything. When R.E.M. went to Los Angeles to finish the record, they requested a duplicate set of instruments for their West Coast studio. Goodsell left Atlanta in a half-empty pickup truck with a U-Haul. Along the way he scoured pawnshops and used-instrument stores. By L.A., the order was filled.

Word in the music community spread, and musicians such as Sheryl Crow and Sean Lennon began to drop into his Atlanta workshop to buy instruments. As his client list grew, he decided to focus solely on buying, repairing, and selling Hammond organs. One day seven years ago, Goodsell wired a jack into a Hammond and plugged in a guitar. The first A chord played through the rigged amp was crude but “magical.” He built 150 more amplifiers with leftover Hammond chassis and transformers, and after running out of vintage parts, he found a company that would make components to his specifications. In the beginning it took him three weeks to perfect the amps; now he averages three a week and will soon hit number 1,000.

Goodsell prefers his own generation’s music—Eric Clapton’s “Layla” is his ringtone—but his amps’ influence on modern sound has also reached the likes of André 3000, Justin Bieber guitarist Tomi Martin, ZZ Top’s Billy Gibbons, and megaproducer Brendan O’Brien, who’s working on Aerosmith’s newest album. R.E.M.’s Peter Buck just ordered five more; the band’s new album, Collapse into Now, debuts March 8.

Photograph by Christopher T. Martin

Bow Hunting in the Suburbs

Willie Johnson’s dirty Toyota pickup rolls to a stop in a Walmart parking lot near I-285. Overhead, a jumbo jet howls. Johnson has to shout to be heard above the roar. “It’s not far,” he yells. “I’m thinking that we can cut through the parking lot instead of going out the main road.”

We’re near Hartsfield-Jackson airport, but Johnson doesn’t want to say exactly where. His reluctance is not unusual. Hunters everywhere closely guard their favorite spots, but hunters in metro Atlanta are especially cagey. They fear resistance from residents who know little about hunting and from poachers who kill deer illegally. While state law prohibits hunting with a gun in Clayton, Cobb, and DeKalb, as well as in Fulton County north of Georgia Highway 92, there’s nothing illegal about going out with a bow. For the urban hunter, the tricky part is finding land.

Leading the way in his truck, Johnson drives through the parking lot of a strip mall and a Waffle House. Past a sporting goods store, a divided two-lane road leads to a subdivision without houses, another casualty of the economic collapse. The pavement eventually turns into a one-lane gravel road, winds past three established homes, and dead-ends at Johnson’s hunting spot, a wooded parcel of about ten acres.

Johnson gets permission to hunt tracts of land by knocking on doors and asking, scouting out new locations year-round. In metro Atlanta, the state does not manage any public hunting; all of the huntable land is privately owned, meaning that by law hunters must get permission from the landowner to hunt the property. Johnson says, “There’s a lot of places to hunt if people would just ask.”

White-tailed deer were few and far between in Georgia until the 1950s, when the species was reintroduced to the state. By the early nineties, the population peaked at 1.4 million. At this level, deer competed for habitat and were more likely to play Frogger across expressways. Loosening restrictions on hunters (the season has been extended until January 31 in metro-area counties) brought the deer population down to around 900,000. That’s a half million fewer cervids hurling themselves at minivans and Miatas statewide. However, growing suburbs have encroached on deer populations, crowding out their natural predators. The result? Deer around Atlanta are living longer and growing bigger.

In recent years, deer hunters have flocked to metro Atlanta hoping to kill a trophy buck. “DeKalb and Fulton counties are known for big deer,” says Johnson. In 2006, Robert Coombs, a Roswell resident, bagged the largest deer ever killed with a crossbow in Georgia. He was hunting in the Roswell city limits just off a four-lane highway. In November, residents of Roswell’s Martins Landing subdivision criticized Coombs for hunting an adjacent and relatively large 20-acre tract, citing safety concerns.

In truth, the only person realistically in danger of getting hurt by a bow hunter is the bow hunter himself. In 2009, there were four bow-hunting accidents reported in Georgia, and they were all falls from tree stands, according to executive director Wayne East at the International Hunter Education Association. No children were maimed by broadheads, no stray arrows flew through open windows, and no bow hunters mistook Fido for Bambi.

Deer hunters play a critical role in managing deer populations, which reduces auto accidents involving the animals. Since 2000, accidents involving deer have remained relatively steady. But when the figures are compared to the influx of people, accidents are down. “Deer are going to be killed,” says John Bowers with the state’s Department of Natural Resources. “They’re either going to be killed by hunters or your car.”

The morning after Johnson gave a tour of his hunting spot, he bagged his seventh deer of the season, on a tract of land in DeKalb County. He lobbed the first arrow from his Hoyt TurboHawk bow into the buck’s chest at thirty-five yards and another when it came within five yards of his tree stand. A few hundred yards away, Johnson found the animal lying in a creek. He pulled it from the water, field-dressed it, and, after a short drive home, began prepping it for the freezer.

Photograph by Jason Maris

More Under $500

Amicalola Falls State Park: Dawsonville

Amicalola is Cherokee for “tumbling waters,” and this 729-foot cascade is the highest waterfall (or, more accurately, series of waterfalls) east of the Mississippi. Trails descend from the top and ascend from the bottom, and some are quite challenging, involving hundreds of steps. But the best view, from a bridge spanning the falls, can be reached easily from the West Ridge Trail, a one-third-mile paved path leading from a handicap-accessible parking lot. This state park is also the access point for the 8.5-mile approach trail leading to Springer Mountain, the Southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.

The park offers a comfortable full-service lodge, simple cottages with stone fireplaces, and campsites. The lodge’s glass walls and verandas afford spectacular views, and its Southern-style buffets keep guests fueled for hiking. A unique alternative is the adjacent Len Foote Hike Inn, a quiet, state-owned retreat accessible only via a five-mile trail.

Complete your fall fix by picking pumpkins at nearby Burt’s Farm (burtsfarm.com). And on the way home, stop by the Ellijay Georgia Apple Festival (georgiaapplefestival.org). (from $105 per night for lodge, 800-573-9656, georgiastateparks.org/amicalolafalls)

Alabama Shakespeare Festival: Montgomery, Alabama

The play’s the thing. Really. Montgomery isn’t a foodie destination (for dining, go to Birmingham), and the hotels are mostly chains. But the ASF (asf.net) is the sixth-largest Shakespeare festival in the world, drawing more than 300,000 visitors annually to its sprawling campus—which NPR described as a “theater junkie’s nirvana.” The twenty-fifth season kicks off with a world premiere coproduced by Atlanta’s Alliance Theatre (through 10/3 before moving to Atlanta 10/20–11/14). Pearl Cleage’s The Nacirema Society Requests the Honor of Your Presence at a Celebration of Their First One Hundred Years stars Atlantan Jasmine Guy. The current ten-show season will reprise three bestselling shows and stage two Shakespeare productions.

Aside from the ASF, Montgomery boasts an unlikely array of museums, including the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (mmfa.org) and shrines to Hank Williams, Rosa Parks, and F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald. Nearby Capitol Hill is a stop on the state’s vaunted Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (rtjgolf.com).

Pisgah Inn: Blue Ridge Parkway, Between Mile Markers 408 and 409, North Carolina

This year marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Blue Ridge Parkway, a 469-mile scenic byway started during FDR’s New Deal era. The most visited unit of all National Parks, the parkway doesn’t have a grand lodge like the Grand Canyon’s El Tovar or Yellowstone’s Old Faithful Inn. But it does have a nostalgic motel called the Pisgah Inn, located at a dramatic elevation of 5,000 feet, with breathtaking views from the private balconies and porches attached to every room. Its clientele are so loyal that the inn addresses daily dispatches to “Pisgahteers.”

Simple, clean facilities and a full-service restaurant make this an ideal home base for exploring the parkway by car, bicycle, or motorcycle. Well-maintained trails lead in all directions. If you hit a warm fall day, take the kids to the sixty-foot natural waterslide at Sliding Rock. Asheville, Brevard, Waynesville, Cherokee, and Flat Rock are all feasible day trips. The latter is home to Connemara, Carl Sandburg’s long-time residence and a National Historic Site (nps.gov/carl). Though written about Chicago, the poet’s words are an apt description of the Blue Ridge, where the fog also seems to come “on little cat feet.” (from $144 per night in October, 828-235-8228, pisgahinn.com)

Photo courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Under $500: F.D. Roosevelt State Park

A winding two-lane highway snakes beneath a canopy of longleaf pines and old-growth hardwoods. Beneath the towering evergreens, smaller sourwood, sumac, and rare Georgia oak trees dazzle with their rich red and orange foliage. The leaves along this Meriwether County road are some of the last in the country to reach their peak color.

Ask any Atlantan, “How do I get to the mountains?” and most will send you north via I-575, 400, or I-985 to familiar towns such as Blue Ridge, Ellijay, and Clayton. However, a less-crowded stretch of Appalachian foothills lies south of the metro area at the southern edge of the Piedmont plateau—just a few miles north of the gnat line.

Everyone and every place along Georgia Highway 190 between Warm Springs and Pine Mountain has a story to tell about the man whose legacy left a lasting impression on this area: President Franklin Delanor Roosevelt. The local buildings and structures, which now make up F.D. Roosevelt State Park and the Little White House Historic Site, stand as narrative and testament to the leadership and hard work that delivered the nation from the burden of the Great Depression.

Roosevelt first visited Warm Springs in 1924, and he returned many times before dying here in 1945. Seeking relief from polio in the naturally warm mineral springs, he built his home away from home, which eventually became known as the Little White House.

As part of his New Deal, Roosevelt founded the Civilian Conservation Corps and dispatched workers to the area in 1935. The CCC established Camp Kimbrough in Chipley, known today as Pine Mountain. With only shovels, pickaxes, and brute strength, CCC workers built what is now Georgia’s largest state park. By hand, they dug two lakes and a swimming pool shaped like the Liberty Bell. They also constructed a fish hatchery, an inn, and a boathouse.

The log or stone cabins where they resided remain and provide today’s guests with an intimate connection to the region and the Yankee president who loved it. My wife and I recently spent a weekend in one of the original Depression-era CCC cabins. The cabins have fireplaces, kitchens, bathrooms, and air-conditioning. The ranger on duty could not recall when the modern conveniences were added, but judging from the furnishings and the explosion of names and dates carved into the walls, the improvements date back to at least the sixties.

The park’s main attraction is the challenging twenty-three-mile Pine Mountain Trail. It extends from property in Warm Springs once owned by Roosevelt to the intersection of Georgia Highway 190 and U.S. Highway 27 in Pine Mountain, with short loops through every section. The Roosevelt Stables also provide guided tours on twenty-eight miles of horse trails.

We decided to hike a two-mile trail from the cabin to the Liberty Bell pool. The 572,000-gallon, spring-fed pool is closed after Labor Day, but it is worth the hike to see the handmade flagstone pool.

In the morning, we visited Roosevelt’s Little White House and the Historic Pools Museum in Warm Springs. The Little White House Museum displays artifacts from throughout the president’s life, including his 1938 Ford. During stops in the area, he would remove the car’s backseat and sit on it while chatting with neighbors. The blinding-white therapy pools are available for tours, but they are filled and opened to the public only twice each year.

After touring the Little White House, we stopped by local roadside favorite Mac’s Barbeque—known for delicious standards such as pulled pork, Brunswick stew, and coleslaw—for lunch, then perused the Art in Motion Museum, a quirky but intriguing collection of vintage motorcycles (the area is popular with bikers), Tiffany lamps, jukeboxes, and other ephemera that feels like a carnival sideshow. (Another popular Warm Springs eatery, the Bulloch House, is famous for fried chicken and fried green tomatoes.)

The following day, we explored Pine Mountain, with its quaint antique stores and restaurants. We visited Rose Cottage (rosecottagega.com), where the line between teahouse and antique store is indistinguishable. Nearby Sages Soda Fountain is a throwback to days gone by with its menu of deli sandwiches and frozen desserts.

To really understand what Roosevelt loved about Georgia’s southern mountains, we drove out Highway 190 and turned at the Dowdell’s Knob sign to visit the president’s favorite picnic area. As we reached the park’s highest peak, a bronze figure came into view beneath the autumn leaves. It’s the president, looking south toward the coastal plain in the Pine Mountain Valley. He’s still there, not far from his grill, sitting on the removed backseat from his ’38 Ford with a little room to spare.

Travelers Notebook

LODGING AND DINING
F.D. Roosevelt State Park
gastateparks.org
(CCC cottages from $110 nightly in October)
 
DINING
Mac’s Barbeque
1 Main Street
Warm Springs
706-655-2472
 
Bulloch House Restaurant
47 Bulloch Street
Warm Springs
706-655-9068
 
Sages Soda Fountain
153 North Main Avenue
Pine Mountain
706-633-7734
 
ACTIVITIES
Roosevelt Stables
706-628-7463
rooseveltstables.com
 
Little White House Historic Site
706-655-5870
gastateparks.org/littlewhite
 
Photo courtesy of Georgia Department of Natural Resources

Expert Advice: Freewheeling and Dealing

Antique auctions attract unique characters. Eccentrics, hoarders, and quirky dealers have turned reality shows such as Pawn Stars and American Pickers into hits. So when Discovery Channel launched its own auction series, Bidder Rivals, casting took top priority. The channel found its Ty Pennington in Paul Brown, owner of Gallery 63 in Sandy Springs—who has the same rugged good looks and enthusiasm for his trade.
 
Brown’s parents own the famously outlandish Red Baron Antiques, another Sandy Springs auction house known for regularly selling extravagant lots such as a flying car, the Babe Ruth contract rumored to have started the “Curse of the Bambino,” a mechanical E.T. from the movie, and entire interiors of European churches and pubs. Brown himself garnered national headlines in 2007 when he nearly auctioned off a small collection of Martin Luther King Jr.’s personal papers, offered by an old MLK associate at WAOK radio. King’s heirs halted the sale at the last moment.
 
Television suits Brown’s personality. He is charismatic, handsome, and talkative—if a bit spastic as he leaps through the gallery, oblivious to its fragile inventory. “I operate on volume,” he explains in a single breath. “I’m not gonna make much on any individual piece, but I am gonna sell a lot of individual pieces.” Eyes darting around the room, he points to a punch bowl and adds, “I don’t have to wait until someone pays me $500 for that. I’ll sell it for $50, make $25, and get on to the next item.”
 
The show, scheduled to debut this month, highlights unique items—such as episode one’s nineteenth-century vampire-slaying kit—and the intriguing sellers, buyers, and experts who surround them.
 
Before a monthly sale, every inch of gallery space is covered with paintings, jewelry, crystal, porcelain, relics, mirrors, and rugs. Chandeliers and fixtures hang from a lighting truss suitable for a Rolling Stones world tour—which is appropriate considering one of the band’s own snooker tables sits underneath, the iconic tongue and lip logo in Vegas-style neon on the wall above.
 
Like a Vegas casino, Gallery 63 lacks windows but keeps ample supplies of food and booze on hand, gratis for buyers. Appropriately, the environment is equally as stimulating and terrifying to a newbie.
 
Instinct says to flee the chaos before blowing the 401(k) by accident, but no worries. Although the room is loud and customers signal significant investments with the slightest of twitches, the auctioneer recognizes an intentional bid. The fear of inadvertently buying a African chieftain’s priceless throne eventually subsides, and that’s when the magic starts. The auctioneer’s rhythmic cadence changes to a hum and fades into background noise for intelligible conversation. After obtaining a bidder number from the front desk, the rube goes from terror to exhilaration with the first wave of the placard. The only challenge is deciding when to stop bidding on that row of Olympic stadium seats from Turner Field. Gallery 63, 4577 Roswell Road, 404-252-2555, gallery63.net

This article originally appeared in our September 2010 issue.

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