family

Small Town USA

On an extended road trip, I had the pleasure of staying in one of my family’s heritage hometowns, Bemus Point, New York. Perched on Lake Chatauqua in western New York state, Bemus Point has a population of about 350 people. This population swells a bit in the summer and drops in the harsh northern winter, I’d suspect. Far removed from my densely populated life in suburban Atlanta.

Small towns are fascinating, so very different from my suburban life. I immediately noticed the banners on every light pole with photos of all the graduates from the local high school. Each student had their own banner, their own celebration. There were maybe 50-60 banners. My daughter’s graduating class is almost 1,000 in number. It was impossible to imagine how many miles of light poles her class would cover! Above each was an American flag.

Little woodchucks scampered everywhere on my morning runs. Numerous deer leaped for cover as I approached. Many of them were just out by the roadway nibbling when I startled them. So many creatures without that many people stirring at all hours. I smiled driving through the country side seeing all the different “heads up” signs for drivers. I’m used to seeing signs to watch for deer, but we also saw signs for tractors, bears, moose or elk (maybe?) and snowmobiles. We were way out in the northern sticks, sharing the road with many other creatures, not just cushy suburban SUVs.

Speaking of sticks, there were so many roadside pickups for firewood just out in people’s front yards. Hand painted signs…$5.00, $4.00, pay what you can. The honor system in full effect. (I also wondered if there was a price war between neighbors!)

My mother once lived in this town, and her parents spent decades living here. My family road tripped here many summers in my youth. Several downtown shops I visited as a child were still there. A local grocery store. A general store turned souvenir shop. The wing place near the dock. Each had a rocky road through the years but made it.

When we went out for dinner, many other parties that came in dropped by to say hello. Everyone knows everyone’s business. Driving around town with my aunt and uncle was a parade of small town dramas. Stories would tumble out as we passed houses of friends and family. Where someone had worked for the summer. Which person had sold their house for too much or too little. Who broke rules that brought them in front of the town council. Who didn’t keep their property up well or planted trees to block someone else’s view of the lake on purpose. Small town charm as well as small-minded petty. Little room to forget when the stories are so narrow and intertwined. Grudges and alliances last across generations.

Small town life has its ups and downs. A pleasant place to visit and remember.

adventure

Local Flavors

I’m fortunate to have quite a few road excursions this summer. When I am out of town, I try my best to find and support local people and places. When I visit, these are some of the things I like to do that help me get to know a place.

1.) Start your day the local way

I’ve written about this before. Find a local coffee shop! Many have interesting traditions and can give you the “feel” of a particular community. If you prefer donuts for breakfast, hit the donut or bagel place, or have a full breakfast if you’re up for it. Yelp is my favorite app to use for local spots. I’m told google searches are more popular, but I’ve had better luck finding unusual and wonderful places with yelp.)

2.) Find a farmer’s market and / or grocery store

As a farmer myself, I love seeing what is in season. Maybe there are local specialties. On a recent trip to New York and Pennsylvania, I had my choice of both permanent farm stands with a variety of local products as well as an “every Thursday afternoon” market. I loved that I got to enjoy local strawberries in Pennsylvania, especially since the growing season for strawberries at home was already over. I also found locally made whoopie pies, pretzels, maple syrup, and other treats. Regional grocery stores can also give an interesting glimpse into different foods and traditions.

3.) Eat the local specialty

When my family took long road trips in my youth, my dad would hand me a book called Road Food, Good Food. Before google, yelp and Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, Jan and Michael Stern looked for local joints serving regional specialties. I was in charge of using the book, organized by state, and the atlas to find places that were at least sort of on the way to the destination. (But we have been known to drive hours out of the way for special types of pie, barbecue and more.) They now have a website that is still organized by state and will tell you the special dishes a place is known for and give you some small, independent spots to give that dish a try. This website is challenging to use, and reminds me of juggling the index of the atlas, map coordinates, and so on. But, it’s usually spot on with great little places and special foods.

Asking a local is another great way to find things. My aunt and uncle steered us to pink stripe cookies and Bison brand French onion dip in Western New York. Both were top notch!

Whatever you do, break out of the chains of chain restaurants and predictable average while you’re on the road! Experience new places in different ways.

business

At the Car Wash

Sitting at the car wash on this sunny day. I don’t get here often enough but when I do I enjoy the scenery. Today it’s a good bit of sunshine and a slight breeze in the air. 

It starts with the drive in section. Sort of old-fashioned. The soap is applied manually while you sit In the car. The workers use their hands to massage in the soap, scrub the tires. Rinse. Repeat. Then you get shuffled outside to wait while phase two takes place.

To paint you a picture: the small car wash stand is located in a gas station parking lot with a small hair salon. The car wash and hair salon are operated by the same family. Some inside some outside working the day away. I sit observing from the metal chair outside the salon. A little stoop of sorts. Here I have a view of so much action on the street corner. Makes me think of my childhood days In the city.

The parking lot is also home to the local guy with a pickup truck and peanut stand. It’s always loaded with the best boiled peanuts and today he has some watermelons as well. Many folks stop by and grab some peanuts on their way to a day on the lake while others stop by on lunch break or while filling up with gas. Such a diverse group of buyers visiting the peanut stand today.

I like to support small businesses whenever I can. Whether it’s the local dog groomer, mechanic, or the peanut man. Tucked on the corner of a main road I can hear the hustle and bustle of the roadway. The cement trucks accelerating as they leave quarry next door. The rushing of water from all the car washes. The reviving of engines at the red lights from the souped up cars.

Observing the small details while I sit and wait in my special chair. I write. Sometimes I read. Sometimes I answer emails. Today I write as I think about whether I should buy the watermelon or the peanuts before I leave. It’s a tough decision. I will choose one.

As you can see the peanuts won today. They are too hot to eat at the moment but such a nice treat after my trip to the car wash. The good old fashioned car wash.

adventure, friendship

Breakfast Time

It was time for breakfast on a sunny Sunday morning. Visiting a new town and not an egg in the house. Time to eat out.

Off we go online for reviews. We find a local place in town. Palmer’s Cafe on St. Simons Island. It was a cozy place in town. There was a line outside which was a good sign.

Then there was the menu:

Well this is just one page to highlight and really the reason for this post. I wanted an omelette but I was just unsure what to order. They sparked my curiosity but sounded weird too.

I went with the chicken pot pie. Partly because of the name but also because I just had to see what it was like. Let me me just say it was delicious from the first bite to the last. I made a happy plate for sure.

My omelette was not the only tasty one. Everyone at the table opted for a different one which enabled us to share. The Local, the Hooch, even the special of the day with brisket was amazing. This is a must visit place if you ever are on St. Simons Island.

I can’t even stop at the omelettes. They have delicious pancakes as well. One was even named Buddy and it was a banana pudding pancake that had banana goop oozing out the sides. I’m not a fan of oozy banana flavors but everyone else at the table was nibbling and savoring the flavor.

All the while I was polishing off some grits. Not just any grits. They were pimento cheese grits that were extremely tasty. Another staple to try if you make it to St. Simons Island.
Enjoy my tidbit for your tastebuds. Hope you don’t get too hungry reading this.

adventure, fitness and nutrition

I Hit the Road

For the first time in 2021 I hit the road for an 11 mile bike ride. Just me, the pavement, my trusty bike, a travel buddy, and some AirPods.

It was a spring day and the sun was beating strong. The breeze was just right when I went downhill. I took the scenic route on some roads that a small town noted as a great trek. I have no clue how many others take this trip but it was a fabulous ride today.

Good Hope, Georgia was the starting point. A postage stamp town of sorts. A gas station / general store and Dollar General were about the biggest storefronts I came across. That was fine by me today.

Instead of city life, I saw some chickens and lots of cows on the trek. I stumbled upon a historic landmark and breezed by what seemed liked a ton of cemeteries. Oddly enough the cemeteries were intriguing. Some had fresh flowers displayed and were well maintained while others were hidden gems in random spots where all else around them were either developed or forgotten areas. While riding my bike I very much enjoy seeing what is in plain sight. Some things we can easily miss when riding in a car rushing to our next destination.

The scents of the air were different with the passing miles. There was some fresh cut grass. There was the scent of animals lingering by the roadside. There were some nasty and foul stenches that smelled like the worst poop smell ever. Burning poop is all I could think of. I’m pretty sure some farmer was burning manure. The smell could cut straight through the best face coverings. Guess I know what to burn if I need to annoy my neighbors!  Onto more pleasant aromas. The floral smells definitely were more enjoyable as many flowers and trees were blooming around.

The sounds of the ride were also fun. Listening with one ear for approaching cars or trucks. Guessing what kind of vehicle will pass you as you feel the car approaching your rear. So many drivers are courteous to bikers enjoying the day however others could be annoyed and want to cut a little close to you. Listening to engines crank for tractors and lawn mowers. Hearing kids giggle when you pass a pool.

The cows were not only chatty with their moo moo here and there but also with their interest in humans. They rose from their naps, came close to the fence lines and just stopped chewing the grass to see what was passing by. It was definitely an experience. Take the back roads. You never know what you may see!

I guess you are living on the edge when sharing the road with cars while you are on two wheels. Similar to a motorcycle yet self-propelled. It’s great to explore new places, try new things and just escape the ordinary. That’s exactly what I did today.

Opt outside. Take a ride on a bike or maybe try skates. Just opt for active and enjoy the outdoors. I am sure I will write more about my cycling adventures in 2021 as I am opting to travel to new spots to see what adventures unfold for me.

Until next time. These two chicks will leave you with some stinky reminders of the burning poop field. The fact that we stopped to take a photo indicates we have issues. Just saying! 

Thanks to @waltonwellness for the shout out on Instagram and the great trail experience. Be sure to find your local Share the Road project.