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Deep South Road Trip Extravaganza, Day 13: Blairsville, GA

Mountain views, Christmas tree farms, and the final stretch home, as we continue to seek truth in our day to day.

sunrise over mountains

I knew this was going to happen.

If there was one thing we learned on the road, it’s that life will wait. If there’s one thing we learned upon returning, it’s that you have to actively make it wait. Otherwise it comes at you like a train in the dark: bright lights, horns blowing, watch out ’cause I’m coming for you. You either run to keep up,or stand still and get run over. But there’s another option: step aside. Let that train blow on by, and take your time.

I wanted to wait a day after returning to write my last post, because I wanted to see how life changed upon our return, or rather, at least my perspective on life. I’m two days late, if that tells you anything about the train, or my ability to step out of the way of it.

We had originally planned to drive from Cullman, AL to Blairsville, GA via Ellijay, GA to go see The Martyn’s coffee shop.  We stayed at their glamping tents for our anniversary a few years ago, and wanted to check out their new ventures. Turns out the call of the cult deli was too strong, and we ended up in Chatanooga to have lunch at the Yellow Deli. 

yellow deli storefront

Never mind the crime scene tape. No cult members were harmed in the writing of this post; they just had a little construction going on. That little newspaper stand holds a bunch of the Twelve Tribes free publications, which I of course picked up for some light reading.

When I went inside to order, the woman behind the counter said, “Can I help you?” “Yes, I’d like to place a to-go order.” “Ok, well, you’re just going to have to wait, because there are people in front of you.”

Hrm. Ok. Fair enough. But a little confused on why you asked if you could help me, if you couldn’t actually help me. Another employee (volunteer?) came over shortly after and took my order. With the exception of the lady who was initially too busy to take my order, everyone else seemed friendly, welcoming, and genuinely happy working in their jobs, which is not something you get a lot these days. Maybe these guys are onto something. (Or maybe that’s how they hook you in. Could be either one.) They also had lots of homemade soaps and candles for purchase. When I Google cult, here’s what I find:

“A relatively small group of people having religious beliefs or practices regarded by others as strange or sinister.”

So really, as long as someone thinks your practices are strange, then you’re a cult by definition, which seems kinda whack. It was interesting reading both their viewpoint and outside views looking in on them. Anyway, regardless of their beliefs, they seemed like happy people, with nice soaps and candles and delicious soups and salads, which really was all I was interested in. No surprise there.

Folly and I waited outside on the patio while they prepped our soup and salads. This girl is the best road trip dog in the universe.

dog in park

After leaving Chattanooga, we headed for the Southern Tree Plantation in Blairsville, GA to get a Christmas tree. Folly had a great time running around the farm, and Brandan had a great time cutting down our tree.

christmas tree farm
dog with sun coming through trees
man laying on ground cutting down christmas tree
man cutting down christmas tree at tree farm

Folly also met her first goat! They had a nice time until the goat started headbutting the fence between them, which was when we decided to get some space. Spellcheck is trying to tell me that headbutting is not a word, and that it is two words, head, then butting. I argue that head butting is not the same thing as headbutting, as I have been headbutting people for years, because it’s hilarious and they look at you like you’re nuts, so I’m leaving it. Plus Wikipedia has a page for it, so it must be a real thing.

goat and dog sniffing through fence

We found our Airbnb up a mountain, in the dark, which was a little sketch. But we got there. Marlon and Ray were home and were friendly and welcoming. Marlon seemed to be the one handling the Airbnb rental and hosting, and the best way I can describe him is “cordial.”

He was polite, but seemed somewhat formal, not willing to let his guard down or get to know us in any real sense. Most of our previous hosts have been interested to hear about our trip and our travels, and are intrigued when we start talking about what we’re doing and what we’ve learned. (Oscar, from the Cullman, AL speakeasy, wrote in his review: “Smart couple seeking out some truth.” I feel like that guy knows us!)

Anyway, Marlon and Ray were friendly but not in the sense that they wanted to hang. We invited them to join us at the fire pit, but they said they were “watching a show.” (Translation: We aren’t interested in hanging out.”) Fair enough, it was chilly.  Even so, they missed out on a great Boy Scout built fire.

man standing over fire pit fire
fire pit with fire burning in the dark

I took a Live photo of the fire on my iPhone, which is cool to look at, but we can’t figure out what you’re supposed to use that for, because you can only see the live when you swipe into the photo – it doesn’t upload when you use the photo somewhere else. Technology is weird.

We came down the mountain the next morning and were able to see the incredible views that we hadn’t gotten the night before. We also made it a point to drive through Helen, GA, which is built to look like a German village. It was decorated for Christmas, which was fun, but it mostly felt like we were at Disneyland. It was priced like it too: a cup of coffee was $3, and they wanted $5 to park anywhere in town, even though at 8am on a Thursday morning there was nothing open. I think I can cross “see Helen, GA” off my bucket list now.

mountain sunrise
Helen GA storefronts
Helen GA storefronts
Helen GA storefronts
Giant christmas tree outdoors

We almost got on the highway to get home, but decided to stay true to our trip to the end. We kept to backroads, and passed through Hartwell, then down to Abbeville, SC, which was a surprisingly cute town that seemed to be doing well.

My only previous knowledge of Abbeville was back from my law enforcement days, when I used to teach a class to the officers on Sovereign Citizens and the incident that happened there. It truly is a fascinating thing to read about, and will make your head spin, which is exactly what they want to happen. Anyway, Abbeville was cute, and we traveled the rest of the way home on back roads, until we almost ran out of gas near Dorchester Road, so we hopped on I-26 for the last 10 miles or so.

For as long as I can remember, two things have always been true: 1.) At the end of a two week vacation, I’m always 100% ready to return home, and 2.) every time I return to Charleston after being away, I am happy to the core as we pull into town – I have a smile on my face that only the place that is “home” can give you.

Neither of these happened this time. I was ready to not be living out of the car anymore, for sure. And I was happy to return “home,” but this trip changed so much for me. So much of my perspective on life, on what I want out of it – for myself, for Brandan, and for us together.

It was a journey we went on to find other towns, other people, ways of life other than our own. But I think what we really found was a bit more of ourselves, and some knowledge about what we want to work towards for our future. Each of the people we met taught me something, whether they knew it or not.

Everyone we encountered was kind, friendly, and genuinely interested in the adventure we were on. Most of them will probably never know the impact they had on us, and that’s ok. Because they’re out there, living their truth, following their dreams, and at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.

When we got home Thursday night, I went into what Brandan calls “The Zone.” It’s where I start working on something and I buzz around like a bee until it’s done. The only problem is that it’s never done. There’s always more. One more bag to unpack, one more dish to do, one more load of laundry. One more meal to make, one more errand to run, one more blog post to write.

I had to stop myself. I had been home mere minutes, and I had already gone right back to my hectic, non-stop way of living. This is not what I learned. I learned to slow down. To take in life as it comes, instead of plowing into it head first. To be kind, and do things out of the goodness of your heart. To be genuine, and real. To take the back roads, to visit the small towns, to take the time to talk to the man or woman behind the counter. They’re people just like you, and they have a story to tell, if only you’ll listen.

So I cleaned up the kitchen, and then I stopped. Instead we put up our tree, and decorated it. We went and got my mom and dad next door and invited them over to hang some of their ornaments from the 70’s on the tree. Then we sat on the couch and watched Elf, because it is the best Christmas movie ever, and because unpacking will wait. And sometimes after two weeks on the road, snuggling your husband and pup on the couch is exactly what’s needed.

Life must go on, though. Friday was spent grocery shopping, which included meeting one of our farmers behind a restaurant downtown to pick up eggs and a turkey. We attended the CrossFit Discovery holiday party on Friday night, where Brandan met a guy named Flounder who is taking him deer hunting this week.

Saturday I coached, checked on our garden (the onions and garlic are sprouting, and the kale is getting big!) and then spent the rest of the day in the kitchen, prepping and packaging meals in individual servings for the freezer for our upcoming Whole30 in January. I cooked for 5 hours (no joke!) but in the end I came out with Paleo Shrimp Fried Rice (I used this recipe, but subbed shrimp for pork and used a red onion) and three meals from Well Fed Weeknights (Greens with Potatoes and Sausage, Green Chile Sauté, and Picadillo with Plantains.)

I also made a batch of the Cumin-Lime Sauce (because it rocks my world) and homemade eggnog (because bourbon and Christmas.) Brandan spent the day cleaning out and reorganizing the shed. Were we busy? Yes. Were we crazy? No.

We worked on our home, our lives. We worked on making things easier for ourselves moving forward; we took steps that would help us slow down a bit, and move us towards the life we’re envisioning – growing, hunting or otherwise procuring our own food, and relying on local farmers for the things we can’t.

Life Lesson: It’s a journey, and an ever-evolving one at that. 

Life changes. Your wants change, your needs change, the things you envision for yourself change. Never stop learning, and never tell yourself that something you want to do is nothing more than a pipe dream.

Any dream is a real dream, as long as you take the action to make it real. Take time to slow down, enjoy the time you have, and reflect on where you’re headed. Where you’re headed might change, and that’s ok. Adjust your sails and carry on.

Just a minute ago, I was laying in the hammock on the upstairs porch when I was writing this post. Brandan sneezed somewhere below me on the first floor. I said bless you, then asked what he was doing. His answer?

“Sitting.”

I think he’s onto something.

old buildings on side of the road
Deep South Road Trip Extravaganza, Day 12: Cullman, AL
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