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On the (back) road, again
May 10, 2006

A couple of weeks ago I left off sipping a cup of coffee at Mom's Café, home of "Good Ole Home Style Cooking" in Preston, Georgia taking a leisurely backroads route from Bainbridge to Atlanta.

Some weeks before I'd had enough of the Interstate approaches to our state capital. The idea of a drive home on either I-75 or I-85 with a quivering black Lab, my granddog Mannie, in my lap, had driven me to seek out another route.

Once I discovered this backroad delight, I made several trips before sharing my story, but apparently, not enough. Turns out, there are lots of routes to Preston. No sooner did the Post-Searchlight share my travels, than the phone started ringing. Miriam Saul called to say that when the Saul family journeys to Atlanta to visit their granddog—and their daughter, they take US 27 to Colquitt then go through Damascus, on to Arlington where they pick up GA 45 and head to Morgan, they skip the Leary part.

At opening night of Fiddler on the Roof, at the Bainbridge Little Theatre, I got stopped. First by Bill and Sue Jones who stopped me in the aisle to tell me I had it almost right. "Go out West River Road, bear left at the old Steadham store, but when you get to the dead end, turn left and go through Patmos." They should know. Sue hails from Shellman.

Only problem was I'd never heard of Patmos. Right after the play, I got stopped again. This time by Oline Reynolds. She told me not go through Leary.

"Patmos?" I asked her. Patmos.

When we made another Atlanta trip a couple of weekends ago we gave it a try, turning left at the dead end. Patmos is just down the road. Problem is—the road's not marked, so we made our way to Arlington and took the Saul route. It worked. Coming back, undaunted, we tried again. In Morgan, we took the road that goes straight south—it's on the east side of the Court House and is marked Williamsburg Road. Sometime after the county line between Calhoun and Baker Counties, the road divides. There is a sign indicating "Burning Bush." Don't, I repeat, don't follow that sign, rather bear to the left and you'll be in Patmos. (If you are doing this from Bainbridge, the road is just east of the Freewill Baptist Church in Patmos.) We figured it cuts four or five miles off the Leary route.

Again, my serious warning—only do this in the daytime!

Now—back to that cup of coffee in Preston.

Back on the road
We gave a last look around Preston, and hopped back in the car. There's a fascinating old Presbyterian cemetery not far to the north that's worth a stop on a leisurely trip. There are, in fact, many, many interesting cemeteries along the way. Maybe some slow day, I'll stop and do them all.

Maybe it's better to press on for the next stop is Buena Vista. And it's well worth stopping even if you are still full of lunch from Mom's. Or maybe you'll want to hold off for Buena Vista. There are two great places. Decisions! Decisions!

Aunt Mary's Kitchen right across from the west side of the courthouse offers a hearty "meat and sides" meal almost every day. (They are closed some Sundays for the owners' church services.) We didn't go to breakfast but the number of pickups parked in front one early morning, tell me it would be a good choice. The other great restaurant is Las Aztecas, a Mexican restaurant also on the square. The menu is large and authentic. I recommend the shrimp quesadillas.

It's appropriate that Buena Vista have a Mexican restaurant. The only incorporated municipality in Marion County was originally named Pea Ridge, but was renamed Buena Vista to honor the American victory over Santa Ana at Buena Vista during the Mexican-American War.

Straight across the Square from Las Aztecas we found two intriguing shops. The Dime Store is every thing its name promises. It was like checking back into my childhood. Aisles and aisles of goodies tempt a sentimental shopper to spend hours. The friendly clerk, I didn't get her name, told me told me that the owner, Dawn Welch opened the store about twenty years ago. Everyone in Marion County (visitors too) can find just about whatever they want at the Dime Store. I picked up a brochure of a folk artist and asked my new friend if the store had any of Rocky Wade's work.

They didn't, but she directed me right next door to Wade's Antiques where I could find not only the wood sculptures but the artist himself. He greeted us warmly and gave us a tour of the shop. Rocky describes his painted carvings as having "a whimsical and sometimes a sensitive tone." He specializes in Noah's Ark and Santa Claus carvings. Everything I saw was a delight. So is Rocky.

It was hard to leave Buena Vista. So hard that the next time through, we stopped at The Sign of the Dove Bed and Breakfast to spend the night with Walker and Caroline Williams. In January, Walker retired from a career in Washington, D.C. (His second, he is also a retired military officer.) He wanted to come home to Buena Vista. They bought the gorgeous old inn that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. They've been busy since then remodeling, restoring, and renovating. We stayed in the carriage house. The stopover makes the Bainbridge-Atlanta trip a treat and a retreat. We'll be back. But not on the weekend of May 19—Walker and Caroline are helping host and celebrate his high school class's 50th reunion.

It's easy to have adventures in Buena Vista. On our first trip, we read about the original courthouse that is not in Buena Vista but up a side road in almost abandoned Tazewell. We went—naturally. It is great example of what careful historic preservation can do. On the way back to the main road we saw lots of examples of old homes and building withering and weathering away—begging for preservation. We'll save them in our memories.

Back on Georgia 41 we whisked through Talbotton and Manchester, both fascinating places with lovely courthouses—but that's for another time. In Manchester it's decision time. The Sauls and the Reynolds head for Warm Springs and then take Alternate US 27 into Newnan where they pick up I-85. Our Katy hangs out in the East Atlanta-Grant Park neighborhoods, so we choose to go up Georgia 85 north from Manchester to Fayetteville. (Warning, Atlanta traffic begins just south of Fayetteville in Senoia.) Again, we stop to admire a courthouse—Georgia's earliest, built in 1825. In Fayetteville it's another decision.

Continuing on Georgia 85 will take you right into I-75 near the airport. The treat here is passing a large Hindu Temple. Certainly worth a stop and some exploration. I have it on my list. Or, you can turn right at the Courthouse on Georgia 54, Jonesboro Road, and get a quick tour of Scarlett O'Hara country, before hitting the perimeter road, I-285.

Many roads lead to Atlanta—and they all beat the Interstates!


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