Monday, November 02, 2009

Weekend Road Trip


My education began in the northeast Georgia mountains, in Demorest, which is on the old U.S. Highway 441. Mom went there for a couple of years on a basketball scholarship, some sixty years ago, and I followed her to Piedmont College. Each of my undergraduate years began in September, as the temperatures began to cool down, and before long, Mother Nature put on a heck of a good show. When I lived at Piedmont, my 64 Chevy took me to Clarkesville, to shop at Reeves' Hardware and Batson's supermarket, and I loved an occasional treat at the Dairy Queen. Helen is an easy drive from Demorest, as is Tallulah Falls, so I know many of the local roads in northern Habersham and southern Rabun counties.

On Sunday, hubby and I rode up the new 441, a wide four lane with a median, which takes away the curves and grades of the old road, but does provide some panoramic views of the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the trees were displaying a few remaining red leaves, along with yellow and golden brown. Leaf watchers would probably describe it as "just past peak" but it was still a good show. When we reached our destination, Tallulah Gorge, we turned right off the main road, onto a section of old 441, which goes past the old entrance to the private school at Tallulah Falls, where I began my teaching career, to view one of the largest canyons in the eastern United States, two miles long and a thousand feet deep, a magnificent combination of foliage, sheer rock faces, and water moving over falls and rapids. There was only one tourist filled shop open on Sunday, but there were four of them when I taught English at Tallulah Falls School. When we left the Gorge, we rejoined the old road, which is now called "Historic 441," and I remembered the road well because I drove along it daily, from my rental home in Demorest to Tallulah Falls School, some thirty years ago. We passed some businesses, now wrapped in weeds and kudzo vines, which did not survive the loss of tourists after the new road was built, but many of the landmarks I remember are still in place. We came through Clarkesville, with its quaint square, by the Charm House, and while the Adam's Rib Restaurant has a new name, the old DQ is in the same spot. U.S. 441 is now three lanes wide in front of Piedmont College, taking away some of the grassy area I remember, and an elevated crosswalk now links the main campus with buildings and parking across 441. We rejoined the new road just south of Demorest, but once we reached Baldwin, we were able to get back on the old road just south of there, where it is called the "Historic Homer Highway" and it goes right through the county seat of Banks County. Before the old road rejoins the newer one, we turned right to travel to Maysville, noting a big crowd at Sarah's restaurant, and from there, back to our home in Jefferson.

The day turned cloudy as the afternoon waned, but the leaves were still vivid, signaling the change of seasons once more. While the entire road trip only lasted an afternoon, I enjoyed seeing the foothills of mountains once again.

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