Guest Blog: Pie Lady Goes South, Part 3 – by H

Pie Lady Visits the Mountain South, Part 3 (and Final Installment) — As Told by H

So…we are now back in the Iowa plains metropolis of Eldon, and it’s time to reflect upon a California Yankee’s introduction to the Southern Appalachians. Of course, I knew going in that this wasn’t going to be a match made by anyone associated with heaven. If there was a version of eHarmony that matched people with places, Beth and the Georgia mountains would never even make it to the point where pictures are exchanged. The mountains are too steep and the hollows too confining. And the hunters seem to outnumber the animals (except, of course, inside our cabin.) And then there are the Confederate flags

But we did have some adventurous hikes and see some nice scenery. (Pictured:  Amicalola Falls)

And there were some very nice meals at Cucina Rustica 

And Harvest On Main 

And for the pie baker supreme, there is the fact that Gilmer County Georgia is the apple capital of the South, and the orchards have some superb pie apples.

And where else can you get your picture taken with a stuffed bear (pronounced “barre”) inside a place that sells apple cider donuts, apple fritters, fried pies in 15 flavors, stone ground grits and candy and caramel apples? All this plus a petting zoo and an animated hillbilly on a tractor.

But despite all of these wondrous advantages, Beth is a reluctant visitor to the mountain South. Much as I would be visiting a hippy commune. Mind you, she isn’t a General Sherman who’d like to burn the place off the map, but she just didn’t find a connection to this craggy, homespun region. But then, she didn’t have the same introduction to it that I did.

Shortly after moving to East Tennessee years ago I was diagnosed with cancer. The good (southern) folks at University of Tennessee Medical Center had to carve me up and put me back together again. Then they had to essentially poison all of the cancer out of my body without killing me. I’d never met nicer or more caring people. And in the year after I was released from the hospital I rented a mountain cabin across from a small lake. I’d never seen or experienced such a calm and serene place. It helped me put myself back together and continue on with life. So for me, the mountain South will always tug at my heartstrings despite its shortcomings and throwback ways.

And I won’t give up on getting Beth to look at the area through a different lens, to feel just a little bit of what I feel. For there is always next fall, and the promise of a cabin with 10 or fewer stuffed bears and moose, no “Stairs of Death” and a road that isn’t like living through a daily episode of The Thrillbillies.

Guest Blog: Pie Lady Goes South, Part 2 – by H



The Pie Lady Visits the Mountain South — (Part 2) – as told by H

If you replaced “banjo” with “gunshots” this would perfectly represent Beth’s sentiments about hiking in these parts. It’s the height of deer season here in Georgia, and at times it sounds like the civil war is still ongoing. Although Beth and I share our Midwestern roots (Beth Iowa, me Ohio), I have lived south of the Mason-Dixon line for over 20 years, and I am well acquainted with the Southern Appalachians. I even lived in Top O’World Tennessee at one point, a place where a neighbor once showed up at my door with a large jar of canned bear meat.

Beth however, (in-spite of her many world travels) is pretty much a neophyte in Dixie. She gaped in slack-jawed horror at the 30-foot-long confederate flag waving in the breeze over the local Rebel Market and gas station. I explained that the owner of this establishment would likely explain to her that the flag is an expression of “heritage not hate,” but to say that she remained unconvinced would be a notable understatement…

But…Beth is quickly finding that there are good as well as gun-toting rebel elements in N. GA. Yesterday I took her to breakfast at a place I was clued into by a local several years ago. It’s a small country store with a restaurant of sorts tucked back into one corner. One GOB (good ole boy) cooks and serves. If you do something silly like not ordering any meat, he’ll put some of his homemade sausage on your plate anyway. And you don’t get a ticket when you’re finished, you just amble over to the cash register and tell the lady what all it was that you ate and drank. Beth was dubious when I set a plate down in front of her that contained a huge halved biscuit smothered in gravy, two fried eggs and a piece of sausage.

But now? Now she is asking me when we are going back.

She is not, however, asking me when we are coming back to this particular cabin. This cabin affords privacy and a nice view but it has some notable drawbacks. One would be a death defying road that leads up to the place. It’s steep enough to be a bobsled run, has places with ruts big enough to swallow a SMART car whole, and has a blind hill that the stars of the FUEL TV series “Thrillbillies” would shirk in terror from. And if you survive the road up here, there is an equally deadly feature that awaits you inside of the cabin. Through reading the cabin guest book, we found that this wooden horror has a name. Behold, the Stairs of Death…

If you’ve ever been to the amusement park Cedar Point in Ohio, just think of the ride named “Demon Drop” as this is merely a non-mechanical version of it.

There is another feature of this cabin that while not dangerous, is nonetheless somewhat horrifying: the décor. One family wrote in the guest book that they tried for days to count all of the assorted bears inside the cabin, but it was simply too exhausting and mind numbing. After about 5 minutes on the inside, Beth declared, “No, I can’t take it” and proceeded to apprehend armloads of stuffed bears, bear statues and a moose or two and jam them into closets. We have one closet that now looks like a décor bear version of Gitmo. They will stay incarcerated until freed by the cleaning service after our departure.

But today it is sunny and nice and we are going horseback riding in the mountains. We may not make it back up the road to the cabin, but up until that point it will be a great day.

Note to readers: Daisy is doing much better. We will probably leave here a day or two early so she can be part of the early release program at the kennel.

Guest Blog: Pie Lady Goes South, Part 1 – by H

The Pie Lady visits the Mountain South 
(Part 1) – as told by H

It was a decidedly rough start to this adventure, as the days immediately before departing on this trip were rough ones for Beth. Her cartoon character terrier Daisy had surgery, was sick afterward, and had to be left in the care of a veterinarian the day before we left. Although the care, rest and limited activity afforded by lodging at the vet’s office was a good option for a post-surgery dog, leaving a dog for over a week (especially an ailing dog) is anathema to Beth’s constitution. It was traumatic with a capital T, as Beth is one of the dog-lovingest individuals anywhere on the planet. A sick Daisy meant that Beth got little sleep in the days before we headed south, so she was stressed and sleep deprived when it came time for our Sunday morning departure. We discussed not going at all, but the cabin was already paid for, and Beth rallied enough to get herself, me, Jack (terrier), Miska (Chow), Naf-Naf (guinea pig) into my car and onto the road.

Twelve hours in the car wasn’t exactly what Beth needed on that particular Sunday, but we both survived the trip, aided by listening to old radio episodes of Suspense on XM Radio. I’ve wanted to take Beth to the South almost from the day I met her. Why, you ask? Because Beth is about as un-southern as a woman can get. The often uttered, “Woman, get me a beer” which is a staple request/order from men throughout Dixie, would be one of the quickest ways I can imagine to get an instantaneous “Fuck off” response from Beth. If I had to label her geographic/cultural makeup, it would be California Yankee. And “CY” is about as far afield from “MS” (Mountain South) as you can get. This is why I knew it would be both fun and amusing to take Beth to the Georgia mountains…

The Happy Chair

Upon arriving, Beth still need a bit of attitude adjustment, so on the banks of the Toccoa River, she was boosted up into the Happy Chair.

I mean, how can you not be happy looking at this scenery?

Beth already has an appreciation for the scenery and outdoor recreational opportunities here. But southern culture? If only I’d taken a picture of the look on her face when the GOB (good ole boy) asked another GOB in the grocery store if he’d shot anything yet. More on this later…