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First things first: Can you save money by driving five hours to shop for furniture in North Carolina? Yes, although an industrious shopper in Atlanta could perhaps find similar savings by following sales, asking for discounts, and trolling Craigslist. The advantage to shopping in the Furniture Capital of the World is that so many discounted brands and floor samples are together under one roof.
Move over, Chattooga River. At least for the moment, the Chattahoochee is Georgia’s hot spot for whitewater rafting—along a new course that travels right through the heart of downtown Columbus. And there’s more to this adventure than the novelty of floating past historic city mills.
When my wife, Linda, and I were very young and very poor, we lived in a tin-roofed cabin in Mountain City, Georgia. Sometimes, to love well what we could love for free, we would drive around the lakes of Rabun County and all the green, wrinkled land in that far northeastern part of our state.
Like just about every other sizable body of water in Georgia, Carters Lake is not a lake but a reservoir. It was created thirty-six years ago, when the Coosawattee River—which had been diverted to permit construction of the largest earthen dam east of the Mississippi—slammed into the dam’s embankment.
It’s easy to get lost on Lake Chatuge, but that’s sort of the point. When the Tennessee Valley Authority dammed the Hiawassee River in 1942, it splattered water everywhere into the nooks and crannies of the Blue Ridge Mountains that straddle the border between Georgia and North Carolina.
On Lake Sinclair, there are no resorts or even hotels, no spas or golf courses—but several karaoke joints. Instead of gated subdivisions, you’ll find a $700,000 home next to a singlewide. But it’s fed by the same waters and framed by the same rolling, farm-dappled forest as its tony sister to the north. It’s fair to say Sinclair is Oconee with its shirt untucked.
The classic order at the Skylight Inn in Ayden, North Carolina—about ninety miles from Raleigh—is a tray, rather than a sandwich, that includes a small red-and-white-checkered tub mounded with frilly, pink-beige pork; a thin, rectangular slab of unsweetened cornbread glossed with hog fat; and a boat of milky, minced coleslaw.
At Louie Mueller Barbecue in taylor, texas—about thirty-five miles northeast of downtown Austin—I pick up my butcher paper–lined tray from the counter, walk past neon beer signs and a collage of business cards pinned to a singed-looking wall, and plant myself at a communal table with one other fellow.