Southern Fried Road Trip Days 1-2: Pork & Pontiacs

The flight in was uneventful, which is always good.  Eventful flights may give you fun stories to tell later but they kind of suck when they are actually happening.

Got the rental car and had a bad feeling about it.  It was a Ford Fusion, which normally would be just fine – they are good cars, generally speaking – but this one had 44,000 miles on it.  I used to work for Avis and I can tell you that 44,000 miles on a rental car is like 132,000 miles in a regular car.  But it wasn’t banged up, seemed to run fine, and had a sunroof, so what the hell.

On the way to the hotel, the radio quit – like, just quit.  No matter how many buttons I pushed, it had decided to not work.  Of course then it decided to start working again, after I had turned the volume all the way up thinking that might help for some reason.  I almost drove into the center divider.  I love Rhianna but nobody sounds good with the sound turned on high in a closed car.

Then it seemed fine.  (insert ominous music for foreshadowing here)

Staying at the Hyatt Midtown, which is a Hyatt in just about every way.  Clean, comfortable, modern, boring as hell, but it works.  If you haven’t been to Midtown Atlanta lately you probably wouldn’t recognize it with all the construction.  There are new buildings everywhere and cranes everywhere else.

082815_01_skylineFor dinner I went back to South City Kitchen just a few blocks away.  I started with the pork BBQ hoecake, with scallions and horseradish slaw.  Sweet and savory and spicy and tangy all in one, with the sweet coming from the hoecake, the savory from the shredded pork, the spicy from the horseradish, and the tangy from the BBQ sauce.  It was perfect.

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Just in case: hoecake – a cornmeal flatbread, often sweetened.  It’s sort of like a flat piece of cornbread.

I followed it up with the pork chop that I have been dreaming about since I ate here last year.  Bone in with a creole-mustard glaze, topped with crispy onions and sitting on a bed of fingerling potatoes cooked in bacon fat.  COME ON!  I will continue dreaming about this until the next time I come back to Atlanta.

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So after dinner, I decide to go out to a couple of fun bars that I go to when I’m in town and I ask for my car from the valet and it takes FOREVER.  Finally the guy comes and tells me the car won’t start.

So I go up into the garage with him and get in the car and it starts just fine – no problem at all.  He swears to me that he turned the key and nothing happened – no sound, no clicking, no lights on the dash, nothing.  I’m concerned, especially after the radio thing, but I really needed a drink so I went on anyway.

Stopped at a bar and came back out later to start the car and it was fine.  Stopped and started the car again and it was fine.  Stopped and went to start the car the third time, now about 1am, and nothing.  Dead.  Zippo. Zilch. Nada.  Complete and utter silence when I turned the key.

I kept trying for about 15 minutes and was about to call the rental company’s roadside service when I decided to turn the key one more time… and it worked as if nothing had happened.

So, this morning I got a later of a start than I intended because I had to drive back to the airport to exchange cars.  Now I have a nearly new Chevy Malibu, which is as boring as the Hyatt, but at least it runs.

After revisiting Hartsfield, I hit the road north to have a bit of a Plucky blast from the past.  Way back in 2008, on my third Plucky Survivors See America trip with my friend Mary, we did 2,400 miles through the deep south round trip from Atlanta.  On our second to last day we stopped at a place called Poole’s BBQ in East Elijay, Georgia.

The place is famous for it’s colorful owner, the (honorary) Colonel Poole who proudly displays his conservative political views on the walls of the restaurant and has become a de facto campaign stop for any Republican candidate who comes through the state.  There are pictures of him, usually wearing the a bright yellow suit and an American Flag top hat, shaking hands with everyone from Pat Buchanan to Mitt Romney.   He looks like this:

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Politics aside, Poole’s a hoot.  The main restaurant is called  the Taj Ma-Hog and behind it is the Pig Hill of Fame, where people can pay a few bucks to have something written on a wood cutout of a pig and placed on a big hill.   Oh, and they have really good BBQ, also.

Mary and I ordered a pig and they were supposed to write Plucky Survivors 3 on it and place it on the hill.

So today, I drove about 90 minutes north of Atlanta back to Poole’s just to see if I could find it seven years later amongst the hundreds of signs on the hill.  I couldn’t, but it was still fun to know that it was there, somewhere.  All I could think is that if Mary she would have been 100% convinced that she would be able to find it and would have stayed until she did.  Damn, I miss her.

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Then I went inside to have me some ‘que.  Got a plate with a quarter-white chicken, pulled pork, mac and cheese, and corn on the cob.  If you look closely, you’ll note that the corn is sitting in a pool of melted butter, none of this hipster crap with the roasted corn and chile powder rub that you find at gastro pubs these days.  Hot damn, y’all, I’m in Georgia!

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And you want to know how else I know I’m in Georgia?  All the confederate flags on people’s cars and signs like these…

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Please note that all of these were within about 1/4 of a mile of each other in the little town of White, Georgia.  Feel free to insert your own eye roll.

Just down the road a piece, was the main event of the day – Old Car City.  This is 34 acres of trails through the woods – about 6 miles if you do them all – that are lined with junk cars.  They range from 50s Cadillacs to 60s Thunderbirds to 70s Pintos to 80s Pontiacs and beyond, over 4,000 of them rotting there in the Georgia countryside.

It sounds like a junkyard, and it is, but it’s also kind of art, and I found it thought-provoking in a way that I hadn’t expected.  As you scroll through the pictures below, remember that every one of these vehicles was built by people and owned by people.  People drove to work in these cars and took vacations in them and maybe slept in them or drove them drunk one night or fought with their wife in them or sang with the kids or got someone pregnant in the backseat or maybe just took a drive through the Georgia countryside for some memories and some really good barbecue.

I’m taking a meandering road trip east tomorrow and will write more when I am settled in to Charleston, South Carolina.  Someday there will be a gold Chevy Malibu sitting in a junkyard somewhere that helped me get there.

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