Southern Fried Road Trip Day 9: Aiigh! Zombies!!

I really didn’t want to leave Savannah this morning.  I was very cranky about the whole idea of it.  But I have decided that I will, at some point, make this place (at least part-time) home and so that goal firmly entrenched, I was able to point the car west.  But first, one last stop to pat a turtle…

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When you read my book, you will understand the significance of that…

The theme for my last full day of vacation was back roads and zombies.  Instead of taking the interstate to Macon, I took a series of two-lane highways through towns like Statesboro, Portal, Twin City, Swainsboro, Wrightsville, and Toomsboro.  None of them are terribly exciting, but they were much more colorful and interesting to cruise through than a constant blur of trees rushing by at 80mph.

I did see a notice of interesting roadside oddities including Randy’s Pickin’ Parlor in Bloomingdale, Georgia – a guitar shop and live music venue that looks like run down shack set back from the highway.  I kind of wished there was a show going on so I’d have an excuse to stop.

The other was in tiny Portal, Georgia, where they have a big sign advertising the upcoming Turpentine Festival.  Yes, turpentine.  And it’s the 34th annual, I have just found out with Google’s help.  It’s something about going back to yesteryear and learning the art of turpentining.  Did you know there was an art to turpentining?  I certainly didn’t.  And I absolutely didn’t know that it was festival worth.  October 3, 2015 – parade, fair, food, entertainment, and a street dance.  Mark your calendars.

Then it was the day’s main attraction – a tour of iconic places that were used as settings for The Walking Dead.  Last year, I got a picture of Terminus…

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And this year, I got the highway where the survivors are stuck at the beginning of Season 2 (where Sophia went missing)…

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I tried to get a picture of the prison but it’s a working studio where they film TWD and other shows so you can’t get anywhere near it.  Ditto Father Gabriel’s church, which is on the studio grounds and Hershel’s farm, which is a private residence guarded by very tall fences and sternly worded signs.

So it was on to Woodbury!!

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The town’s real name is Senoia, Georgia, about 45 south of Atlanta.  The main street, where they shot the bulk of the scenes that took place in the Governor’s little corner of the world, is thriving with antique stores, restaurants, candy shops, and more, with dozens of people wandering around, taking pictures, and buying stuff.

The town is the main headquarters for TWD exterior filming.  The prison/studios are about a mile away and the Alexandria Safe Zone is about two blocks off of the Woodbury main street.  Another one you can’t get close to but you can see the metal fence in this shot…

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They also have an official TWD store, which must have 30 people in it when I was there (the picture doesn’t do the crowd justice)…

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I asked one of the locals, “Was TWD the best thing that ever happened to this town?”  She sort of shrugged and said, “It’s divided.  Some people love it because the town was kind dying before all this happened, but others are a little tired of the tourists and the traffic and the filming disrupting their lives.”  Understandable.

So of course I had to buy some TWD swag.  Mark Rehn… the mouse pad is for you…

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Then it was on to Atlanta, where I am safely ensconced in a terribly boring Hampton Inn that was only thing I could find that was well-located and somewhat reasonably priced.  It’s no Marshall House – instead of a veranda with a rocking chair overlooking a tree-lined street I have a window looking at a parking lot and the back of a Kroger’s – but it’s fine.  No, really.

One last dinner… there’s a BBQ place right next door called Lovies, so I got me some pulled pork and mac and cheese.  It’s not bad – not the best I’ve eaten on the trip – but overall I’d give it a solid B+.

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I fly home tomorrow and then start the process of sorting through the nine bajillion photos I took.  I should have my author photo proofs sometime early next week and then it’s the mad dash to get the book ready for a late October or early November release.

I hope you enjoyed reading along with my little adventure.  I certainly enjoyed doing it!

 

 

 

 

 

Southern Fried Road Trip Day 8: BACON FEST!!!

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen, today was the second annual Savannah Bacon Fest and for the second time I was here to experience it.  I am truly blessed.

Before we get there, though, a couple of random things…

First, last night there was a drag show at the bar I was at.  Drag is really big here in the south – not sure why.  Most of the ones in this show were not very good.  One did back flips in high heels while another just kind of pouted and moved her mouth randomly as opposed to trying to lip sync the words.  But there was one that did a fine job, probably why she is the reigning Miss Gay Savannah…

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And just because I don’t want to finish with this, I want to show you what I saw on my way back to the hotel after bacon fest.  At first I thought I was having the meat sweats and hallucinating but no, I got photographic evidence…

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Driving around the square, music blasting from a tinny speaker (country, of course), and the big sign that says “Tired of all the LIES?  Sarah Palin for President 2016″ and then goes on to list a bunch of her admirable qualities like honesty, bravery, and intelligence.

Feel free to editorialize as you wish.  I certainly did.

But back to my day… it started in Bonaventure Cemetery where I was having the first of two photo shoots to try to get a good author picture for my book.  The photographer, Angela, was very patient with my extreme discomfort of being anywhere near a camera and I think we got some good shots.

Afterward, on the recommendation of one of the drag queens, I went to Johnny Harris restaurant, a Savannah institution since 1924.  They are famous for their BBQ and for their batterless fried chicken – I sampled the latter.  Really good – juicy, crispy and peppery skin.  I approve.

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From there it was back to the hotel as a few big thunderstorms rolled through, dumping torrents of rain on the city.  I sat out on the veranda and enjoyed the hell out of it.

It let up just in time for me to go to photo shoot #2 and this photographer, Heather, was also very patient with me.  We did this one along Factor’s Walk, the row of old cotton factories along the river with lots of pretty parks, cobblestone streets, brick alleyways, wrought iron walkways, and more.  Here’s a taste of the area:

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Afterward it was just a few feet to BACON FEST!!!  Last year they just had the one night, taking over the city’s usual First Friday celebration.  This year they stretched it out to two days, but I can’t be here tomorrow so I had to get in all my bacony goodness now.  Let’s start with the ambience… bouncy castles, slides, and statues…

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A mechanical boar (instead of a mechanical bull):

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Right on the river with the paddlewheel boats floating past…

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And lots and lots of people, booze, art festival booths, and restaurants selling all things bacon…

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So what did I eat?  Well, I started with a Bacon Pork Popper – pulled pork and a jalapeno wrapped in bacon and then deep fried…

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Yes.  That’s all I have to say about that.  Yes.

Next, a Bacon Pancake – bacon, dipped in pancake batter and cooked, served with maple syrup…

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Hell yes.

Next… the Bacon Pop… strips of bacon on a stick with a cherry glaze and a cherry on top…

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It was right around here that my vision started blurring so I didn’t get the bacon cotton candy, which is served on a bacon stick – they wrap bacon around a stick and then twirl the bacon flavored candy onto it.

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Genius or evil genius, you decide.

My vision came back so next I got a two-fer – the Reverse BLT, with bacon on both ends, followed by lettuce, tomato, and a crispy piece of bread in the middle, topped with a  bacony ranch dressing.

Also, Bacon Chips served with peach marmalade.

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The bacon peach thing was insane!!  I’m lying on the floor in serious pain as I type this but I really want more.

And finally… the Bacon and Pimento Stuffed Meatball Slider…. no explanation necessary, I think:

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And of course, I got me a t-shirt…

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If I feel better I’m going to wander back down and watch the fireworks.  If not, then I still think my Savannah trip ended on a definite high note!  As has happened every time I have visited, I totally don’t want to leave.  I was looking at real estate again.

But cooler heads will prevail and tomorrow I head back to Atlanta, taking a little The Walking Dead road trip along the way, and then home on Sunday.   Booooooooooooooooo.

 

Southern Fried Road Trip Days 6-7: It’s My Birthday and I’ll Drink If I Want To

And I wanted to.  I went out last night for a few cocktails, which should surprise absolutely no one who knows me.  It’s pretty quiet here in Savannah this time of year so the bars were not terribly busy but I still managed to find some fun.  Vodka helped.

On my way back to the hotel, I snapped a bunch of great pictures of eerie Savannah at night.  Here’s a couple…

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Speaking of eerie, the hallway in my (supposedly haunted) hotel.   Is it wrong that every time I walk down it I hear two little British girls saying “Come play with us Danny… forever… and ever… and ever…”

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Anywho… I got up early this morning to go to the first of two photo shoots I have arranged to get author photos done for my book.  Unfortunately it was raining so we postponed it until tomorrow.  So I’ll be doing one in the morning and one in the afternoon.  At any moment now I’m going to start stressing about what to wear.

So it was back to bed with me, where I lazed until 10-ish (good for me!) and then finally hauled myself up to go attack the day.

First on the list was to complete my Savannah Historic Squares tour.  Yesterday I did 13 so that meant there were 9 left to go.   Saving most of the photos for my book marketing push, but here are some good ones of Whitefield, Lafayette, and Troup (where the heroine of my books lives):

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I also wandered by the Mercer-Williams House, the place made (in)famous as the murder scene in “Midnight in the Garden of Good & Evil.”

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While I was doing the squares, I turned a corner and, providentially I will say, there was Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room.  This is a Savannah institution, serving family style meals of all sorts of different kinds of Southern down home cooking.  Usually there is a line down the block but this time there were only about 30 people waiting – the first rush had already been seated and was being served.  It only took about 15 minutes and I got in and took my seat at the head of a table that looked like this:

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I’m sure I didn’t note it all but there was at least… beef stew, meat loaf, bbq pork, cabbage, macaroni and cheese, butter beans, black-eyed peas (not the Fergie kind), squash, dirty rice, mashed potatoes with cheese and onions, candied yams, pickled beets, red rice, collared greens, okra and tomatoes, potato salad, baked beans, macaroni salad, creamed corn, cole slaw, and corn bread.  And it is worth noting that this is BEFORE they brought out the fried chicken…

They also serve dessert but I wound up leaving before it came, already feeling like my body was going to rebel against all of this rich food.  Good thing, too, because when I got back to the hotel there was this from my friend (who knows me very well) Maureen:

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Thank you Maureen!

Next on the agenda was Forsyth Park, a big beautiful public space located just north of the Historic District in what is known as the Victorian District for the architecture found on most of the buildings in the area.  This is the park where you’ll find the iconic fountain that you will often see in pictures of Savannah…

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Next it was out to Wormsloe State Historic Site in the Skidaway area of Savannah.

Among the first colonists to the area in 1733 was Noble Jones, a physician, who leased land on the Isle of Hope about eight miles south of Savannah.  He built a house of tabby concrete, with fortifications along the Skidaway River to keep any attackers out.  Not much is left standing of it today but the walls that remain are the oldest known structure in Savannah.

There isn’t a lot so see – the grand main house that Noble’s descendants have occupied since the early 1800′s is not open to tourists – but you do get to enter along another iconic bit of Savannah landscape:

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Can you imagine that being your driveway?

You can wander through portions of the estate, see the ruins of the original tabby house, and walk out onto an observation deck overlooking the marshy river…

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After way more exercise than I ever intended to get (I was hiking through the WOODS y’all!), I came back to the hotel to relax and recharge and eventually headed out for more photos and then to dinner at neighborhood kitchen called the 5 Spot.  They have an eclectic menu but it was their bacon wrapped meatloaf, smothered in Carolina BBQ sauce that caught my attention.

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Now that’s what I call eatin’.  It was fantastic and my only regret was that I couldn’t eat more of it – a common regret these days, but whatever.  What I am able to eat tastes good!

Back at the hotel for another recharge and then I’m probably going to go out and hoist another couple to finish off my birthday.

Thank you very much for all of the kind birthday wishes – I really appreciate it.  That and a beautiful day in Savannah is all I need!

 

 

Southern Fried Road Trip Day 6: I Heart Savannah

There really is something magical about this place.  Look at this picture, just a slice of Savannah, and tell me how you could not want to be here…

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I left Charleston this morning and headed south along Highway 17, which winds its way through the marshy wooded lands just off the Atlantic.  It’s scenic and much more interesting than the Interstate but it does force you to go over this:

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Have I mentioned that I’m terrified of heights and get severe vertigo when I drive over tall bridges.  This one was designed to give me vertigo.  I drove across, talking out loud the entire time… “Okay, we’re driving and I’m looking at the car in front of me and I’m not looking off to the side I’m just going to keep staring at the car in front of me, which is  Lexus, and the license plate is…” and on it went for the entire two minutes it took me to drive across.  I’m pretty sure I bent the steering wheel.

I’m staying at Marshall House, which is now my favorite hotel in Savannah.  It opened as a hotel in 1851 but was used as a hospital during the Civil War and again during two yellow fever epidemics.  It became a hotel again until 1957 when it closed and sat derelict for more than 40 years.  In 1999 it was purchased, restored, and modernized.  My room has 14 foot ceilings, a (non-functioning) fireplace, an antique claw foot tub, original wood floors, and a window that you can climb out onto to access the wide veranda with rocking chairs.  Seriously.  I want to live here.  A couple of pictures…

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It’s also reputed to be haunted, having been used as a hospital for all those years.  It’s been on the Travel Channel several times as one of the most haunted hotels in America.  We’ll see…

Just as I arrived, a huge thunderstorm blew through town, which I took as a greeting since I love thunderstorms.  We don’t get them in Los Angeles (or at least very, very rarely) and it was so cool to sit out on the veranda, watching the rain and the lightning and feel the warm wind.  Have I mentioned that I want to live here?

After it cleared up, I went off on one of my missions while I’m here, which is to get pictures of every single one of the 22 historic squares in town.  I’m going to be using them for the website and social media campaigns for my book Interitas Volume 1: The Beginning of Sorrows, which is set in Savannah.  I can’t show you all of them – there are too many and I’m saving the really good ones, but here’s a little taste:

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Lunch today was at The Pirate’s House, which is one of those Savannah rites of passage that I hadn’t done until today.  It opened in 1753 as an inn and became a favorite for the bloodthirsty “arrr matey” types who sailed the nearby waters.  It became such a part of the pirate lore that Robert Louis Stevenson is said to have incorporated some of the action that took place here into his book Treasure Island.

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I had heard you come here more for the experience – the rambling dining rooms spread throughout the house, the staff dressed like pirates who wander around and try to nick things off your plate, and the treasure chest filled with candy – and less for the actual food, but I figured I had to give it a shot at least once.  I had the chicken gumbo and it was not fantastic but it was pretty good – lots of tender meat and veggies, just the right amount of kick, and a big mound of Savannah red rice.

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And yes, I found the treasure chest:

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The rain came back and so I was forced to sit on the veranda and read for most of the afternoon.  So sad!

It cleared up again in time to go to dinner and I walked about a block away to B&D Burgers.  I had heard good things about them and tried their Colonial – 1/3 pound Angus, with applewood smoked bacon, cheddar, and a fried egg.  It wasn’t great – the patty was tiny and a little dry, the bun was right out of a store bought package, and the curly fries were obviously frozen and dropped into a fryer – my first disappointing meal of the trip.

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I am now on a mission to find a really good burger before I leave Savannah.

After dinner I strolled along Bay Street and River Street and got a lot more pictures, again most of which I am going to save for later, but will share one…

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Tonight I’m heading to a local watering hole and will be toasting the arrival of my seven squared birthday with a shot of something at midnight.

Tomorrow, I go for the first of my two photo shoots for the author picture for my book.  This one is going to be at Bonaventure Cemetery!  Then more photos, a visit to a couple of the local bookstores, and hopefully better food than I had today.

 

 

Southern Fried Road Trip Day 5: Dog Days

I was kind of lazy today.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I am old and tired and old some more so I just couldn’t face walking a billion miles in the Charleston heat and humidity to explore all the things I wanted to explore.  So I blew off a visit to the Magnolia Plantation this morning and just slept in.

For lunch, I ventured out to the Tattooed Moose, a really interesting combination of a dive bar and a foodie gastropub.  It kind of looks like it was a dive bar first, complete with sassy signs (“We don’t serve women here, you have to bring your own.”) and lots of animal heads with wacky party hats on them.  Then, it seems at least, someone came along and said “let’s serve something more interesting than chicken fingers and burgers.”

Hence what has been hailed as the “best sandwich ever,” Mike’s Famous Duck Club – duck confit, applewood smoked bacon, hickory smoked cheddar, garlic aioli, lettuce, tomato, and red onion, on Hawaiian bread done like thick, grilled Texas toast.   That and a side of duck fat fries served with more of that garlic aioli.

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So, okay, “best sandwich ever” is pretty lofty praise and almost impossible to live up to but I will say that it was absolutely incredible.  The bread, the bacon, the cheese, the garlic, and the tender, melt in your mouth duck…  I can understand why people give the accolades they do.

As I left, I spied a couple of classic southern cemeteries nearby.  I’m kind of a sucker for really beautifully done places like this and while it wasn’t as drop dead (pun intended) gorgeous as Bonaventure in Savannah, it was still quite lovely.  A couple of pics…

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On my way back to the hotel I saw a sign that rung a bell and a detoured off the main road to see if it was what I thought it was.

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is where 9 people were murdered during a prayer service a few months ago by a guy who liked to do things like pose with Confederate flags.  I didn’t take a picture of the church – it seemed unseemly – but I did stop for a moment to silently pay my respects from afar.

Continuing the theme of “Wow, People Can Be Monsters,” I visited the Old Slave Mart Museum.  Charleston was one of the major slave trading ports in America – in the world, actually – and until 1856, they could be bought and sold on the street like oranges at the bottom of a freeway off ramp.  When a law forbidding that practice was passed, nearly 40 slave marts were set up around town including this one, the biggest, known then as Ryan’s Mart.  It had a showroom, of sorts, where the slaves were inspected and negotiations between traders and buyers happened, and a jail, a kitchen, and more.  Today only the main hall still stands and they have turned it into a nice little museum about the horrors that people inflicted on other people.

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The price of a slave in good condition back then?  About $900, or roughly $23,000 in today’s money.

Saddened and needing a shower to wash off my white liberal guilt, I headed back to the hotel along a lovely cobblestone street…

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…that is lovely to walk but absolutely SUCKS to drive on.  I had to go this way last night and I thought the fenders were going to fall off the Malibu.

Back at the hotel I sat on the balcony with some freshly squeezed lemonade and read a book – Finders Keepers by Stephen King in case you’re interested.  It’s the second in a trilogy that is a crime thriller rather than a supernatural monster type thing.  Enjoyable.

For dinner I walked a whole 50 yards or so to Poogan’s Porch, another one of those Charleston institutions for nearly 40 years.  The story behind the name from the restaurant’s website:

Built as a spacious and grand Victorian home in 1888, the structure and its neighborhood had, by 1976, changed suitably to allow for the conversion of the house into a restaurant. The owners sold their home and moved away. A little, down-home Southern dog named Poogan stayed behind.

As far as he was concerned, our porch was his. After all, he’d been a neighborhood fixture for years, wandering from porch to porch, in search of back scratches and table scraps, endearing himself to all. From his proud porch perch, he served as official greeter. It seemed only right to the name the restaurant after him. Poogan died a natural death in 1979. We still miss him. His porch and restaurant live on in his honor.

And this, along the front path…

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Awwww….

The house is lovely – I ate in what I think was the former dining room right next to a beautiful fireplace.  For dinner, a traditional fried pork chop with country ham gravy, served on a bed of mac and cheese done with aged, smoked gouda and ham, and a side of butter whipped potatoes.

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It was fantastic.  They really know how to eat, here in the south.

I got a dessert to go, which I am eating as I type this – bread pudding with strawberries and peaches.  Yum!!!

I was supposed to go to a show tonight but it was cancelled, so I spent the bulk of the evening catching up on the rest of the world, reading some more, and enjoying watching Charleston go by from my little balcony.

Tomorrow it’s off to Savannah!