Category Archives: Road Trip to Athens, Georgia

Road Trip : Part 7 – The Road Home

Our trip back was to be a bit quicker than the one out, but we were determined to make this leg of our journey an enjoyable one. So we took a more roundabout way back up to Rt 81 via rte 26, a new highway that winds high up into the mountains. It’s the new road to Asheville, NC, where we had a pleasant 2 hour stop for lunch.

Asheville, NC

Asheville is a trendy little artist’s town nestled high in the mountains. It is fueled by an amazing community of artists and a real committment to providing them venues for their work. One could spend weeks seeing all the antiques, art and crafts in the Asheveille area. Some of the art space we visited was cooperative space, meaning that the artists see their own profit, rather than feeding the bankrolls of the gallery owners.

The town’s old Woolworth store has been converted into an artist superstore. If you’re lucky, you’ll meet the artist.But if not, just find your art, pick it up, and bring it to the check out counter.

Stop at the old soda fountain for lunch while you’re there.

The Asheveille area is loaded with antique stores and markets. Studio 5 Antiques on Patton St. specializes in old typewriters, and I almost bought this one home with me to use when I write my great American novel. There’s nothing like the clicking of a typewriters keys…

There’s a bit of the retro hippe feel to Asheville, and we encountered not a few street musicians who could have been plucked off the streets of Haight Ashbury in the 70’s.

Lunch was at the Bistro 1896, a moderately-priced upscale feeling restaurant with a modern side room. Ask to sit in the enclosed tiny room at the back for a special feel to your meal. I had the pork curry which was just right.

For dessert, we had amazing cupcakes from the Sisters McMullen Cupcake Corner on Patton. I don’t have a good photo of my cupcake, but it had the best white icing I have ever had. If anyone knows where I can get their icing recipe, do let me know….

All I can say is that our visit to Asheville was much too short. This is a great place to visit, and would make a great honeymoon destination. There is lots of hiking and nature as well as a little funky city with great restaurants and a good music and arts scene. I definitely want to come back and stay for a few days or even a week there, maybe this summer.

The Stonewall Jackson B&B

Harrisonburg is a largish town on Rte 81 in Northern Virginia. We had a reservation at the Marriot in town, but cancelled it thinking we would make it farther north. That left us looking for a room at 7 pm on a Saturday night inn a strange town. Fortunately, we passed a vacancy sign at the Stonewall Jackson B&B, and that’s where we spent the night. (Mr TBTAM negotiated us a good rate.)

What a sweet place! Our host Wayne and his son Roger were warm and attentive, and receommended a fine local Italian place for dinner. Our room was warm and comfortable, and had all the necessary emenities, including free wireless. Their motto is “A Night’s Delight and a Breakfast to Remember”, and it was. Thanks guys!

Home Again

Next morning we hit the road bright and early, and were back in Philly in time for Easter dinner with my family, then back to NYC. It was a great vacation, and we can’t wait to do it again next year!

Road Trip to Athens, Georgia: Part 6: Rachel’s Crabcakes

We were fed some amazing food this trip. Thanks to JB for a wonderful four course dinner, and to Joe and Rachel for the night of endless appetizers. I wanted to feature it all, but since these were the photos that came out best, we’re going with the crabcakes. Thanks, Rachel for sharing your secret recipe!

Rachel’s Crab Cakes

2 cups Crab
¼ cp. and 1 ½ cups Panko Japanese breadcrumbs
Handful of small diced red peppers (optional—sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t. I’ve also used celery, carrots, or green peppers.)
Chopped chives
1 egg beaten
2 TBSP. mayonnaise
Salt and pepper
Canola oil

Flake crab in large bowl. Add peppers, 1/4 cup of breadcrumbs, some chives, a beaten egg, the mayo and salt and pepper. Mix.

Make palm sized patties (squeezing tight). Adjust binding ingredients (mayo and egg) if the mixture is not staying together.

Put 1½ cups breadcrumbs in a flat bowl. Coat both sides of each patty with crumbs, then re-squeeze the patty and recoat it in breadcrumbs.

Heat ½ inch of oil in pan. When hot enough to sizzle a breadcrumb, put patties in oil until golden brown, then flip. Drain on paper towels.

Serve on mixed greens with lemon wedges and sauce mock roasted red pepper aioli (below).

Red Pepper Aioli

Put a roasted red pepper in the food processor and puree. Add 1 cup mayo, some squeezed lemon, and salt and pepper. Adjust seasoning and consistency. Sprinkle chives on top.

Next Up: The Trip Home (via Asheville, NC)

Road Trip to Athens, Georgia : Part 5- The Athens Music Scene

Athens is known for its music scene, and is most famous for being the home of the bands REM and the B52’s. The clubs and bars of Athens are alive with new music, fueled by audiences filled with students from the University of Georgia. But if you’re hanging with my brother and his wife and their friends, you don’t need to hit the bars to get a taste of Athens music.

Megan Baer

We were privileged to listen to Rachel’s friend and fellow-Philly suburbs gal Megan Baer sing at a wine-tasting and book signing party at the Georgia Botanical Gardens. Megan has a soulful and sultry voice, and sings her own stuff, plus some really nice covers. I really like her sound, and wish her great success!

Check out Megan on her my space or head to CD Baby to hear samples from her CD Out of Place.

Betsy Frank and the Bare Knuckle Band

Betsy is yet another friend of Joe and Rachel’s. We didn’t get to hear Betsy in person, but she was featured for a full hour on It’s Friday, WUGA’s end of the week music show, while we were there. This is the kind of music you’d love to hear in a bar on a Friday night with a beer in your hand and good friends around to dance with. You can hear Betsy on her MySpace. Be prepared to get up and move!

Cyndi Lauper

Well, technically, Cyndi wasn’t singing in Athens. But she was singing on Dan’s widescreen TV, and Dan lives in Athens, so I’m counting it. This performance of Cyndi singing “Carey” is one of the most incredible covers of a Joni Mitchell song I have ever heard (or seen). It won’t have the same impact if you’re not sitting on Dan’s sofa late at night after a few glasses of wine, but do click on the YouTube player below and witness this new standard.

I have to thank Dan again and again for sharing this incredibly special music video with us. Although I think next time he should move the TV out onto his new back porch so we can watch it while sitting in the hot tub. I think Cindy would like that, don’t you?

Next Up: Rachel’s Crab Cakes

Road Trip to Athens, Georgia : Part 4 – Out and About in Athens

We spent three days in this delighful college town, home of the University of Georgia. What made it most special, of course, was that we were hanging out with Joe and his totally cool family and friends. But the town itself has lots to offer visitors, and I encourage you to add it to your list of places to visit. Rather than bore you with the details, I’ll just give you some of the highlights. And since this purports to be a food blog, I’ll start with …

Where we Ate

  • The Grit:
    My favorite place in Athens. Great vegetarian food served with a bit of attitude and lots of flavor. I love the look and feel of the place. Old bulding, lovingly revovated, very casual and hip.

    Check out this veggie stir fry. The portions are huge, the prices moderate.

    The kids love the mac and cheese.

    They even have a cookbook!

  • The Jot ’em Down
    The Jot Em Down is an old local country store that has been revived as the same plus barbecue. It’s name comes from what you do with the list of things you need from the grocery store – you jot ’em down.

    And what a coincidence – I had just jotted down “Buy deer head and new baseball cap” and there they were!

    This is genuine beef and pork barbecue, smoked out back in a steel shack, served with sides such as cole slaw and cabbage cooked in creamed soup with crumbled crackers on top. No haute cuisine here, just typical Southern food served on styrofoam platters, so roll up your sleeves and dig in!

    The pulled pork sandwich is a classic. It’s mildly spiced, so add the hot sauce.
    And there was plenty of hot sauce…

Where We Wished We Had Eaten
No time to check out Five and Ten, run by award winning chef Hugh Acheson. Definitely checking this place out next year…

Shops We Liked

  • Dynamite
    This upscaled-looking thrift shop is my kids’ favorite place to shop in Athens. Great selection, everything totally retro and now completely in. Every mannequin was dressed just like my girls.

  • Jackson Street Books
    I found some great used jazz Cd’s here, and Nats got a book. But the best part was their parking ticket crusade, mounted in protest to the new one hour parking limit in town. Bring them your parking ticket, and you’ll get the price of the fine off your purchase!.

  • Used Records/CD Store
    I have no idea what this place is called, but we had a great time there. The vinyl records are organized by decade, so if you are my age, you can head straight to the 70’s and 80’s and buy back all the albums you sold at your yard sale when you coverted to CD’s..

Other Things We Did

  • Georgia Botanical Gardens
    Still a work in progress, so it’s small. But all the plants are native. The hiking and jogging trails are apparently well used…

  • Watson Mill Bridge State Park
    About a half hour outside of Athens, this was an idyllic place to spend a spring afternoon sitting on the big flat rocks in the river and watercoloring with the kids. In addition to beautiful views, the park has horseback riding, camping and hiking trails. Here’s the original and my water color.

And for some real art, we went to…

  • Georgia Museum of Art

Small, making it just the place to bring kids for a quick dose of art. They were having an exhibit of wearable and fabric art by Mariska Karasz, a mid-centruy designer and artist. Concurrently, the students at the University of Georgia were having their own exhibition on campus of works inspired by Karasz. It was such a treat to see both these wonderful exhibits!

Next up: Athens Music

Road Trip to Athens, Georgia: Part 3 – The Blue Ridge Parkway

The hardest part about planning this trip was realizing that we did not have enough time to do the entire Blue Ridge Parkway. This national highway treasure stretches almost 500 miles from the Shenandoah National Park all the way to Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina. Hiking trails, fishing, and camping abound along the way, and the views can be spectacular.

We chose to travel a middle section from just outside Roanoke to Fancy Gap, NC. The views in this section are not as rugged as those I remembered along the Skyline Drive portion of the Parkway, but there was plenty of beauty and a few bits of local color.

We stopped for lunch just off the Parkway in a town called Meadows of Dan. We were wondering who Dan was, but we had it wrong. Apparently, years ago, the founders settled the area near the Dan River, and noting the low uniform height of the trees, which at that time were reseeding after a forest fire, coined the town’s name.

We ate at the Poor Farmer’s Market, a produce stand, gift and sandwich shop in this tiny town.

There was a bit of a line at the sandwich counter, so we had time to eavesdrop on the locals sitting in the rows of big wooden rockers there. I learnt me how to pour “ceement” to hold down a persnickety fence post, and watched with amusement as Karen behind the counter ordered one of the men up out of his rocker to make some more fresh coffee, which he grudgingly did.

We had sandwiches, chips, milk and soda. (No bottled water here, dear.) All very good, thank you. Not as good were the fried pies we had for dessert at Becky’s Fried Pies, a sweet little pastry shop next door. I suspect that these pastries, which are made from homemade dough and store bought fillings, are well-loved by the locals, but they were a bit too greasy for us.

Meadows of Dan is part of the Crooked Road, Virgina’s Heritage Music Trail celebrating and preserving the history of gospel, bluegrass and mountain music of this area. Too bad we couldn’t stay around for the Square dancing…

and too bad we somehow missed Mabry’s Mill, a working grist mill and one of the most photographed spots along the Blue Ridge…

Billy Humphries, Forest Resource Consultants, Inc.

but we were on a roll to Fancy Gap and back to the highway.

Next stop: Athens, Ga.

Road Trip to Athens, Georgia – Part 2 The Road to Roanoke

My goal for this trip was to avoid fast food and dumb hotels. Road food was okay, so long as it was truly local, but no chains. The hotel could be part of a chain, but had to have some individuality to it, and could not have those dumb hangers or the lights and TV bolted down, or serve little white powdered donuts for continental breakfast in the lobby. Was I asking too much?

We started our trip in Philadelphia, having spent two days there with Mr TBTAM’s family for Passover. Thus, time for our first road meal came as we were heading west on the Pa turnpike toward Rte 81 south. The junction of these two routes is Carlisle, Pa, and that was where we decided to stop for lunch.

Carlisle, Pa

Carlisle is home to Dickenson College, and like all of the cities we encoutered on this trip, clearly in a revival fed mostly by the arts community. We found antique shops and galleries and had quite a choice of places to eat, finally settling on La Luz, a gallery-coffee shop-cafe. A group of students and their teacher sat nearby on sofas and chairs holding a Spanish reading class, and folks everywhere were using their laptops and taking advantage of the free WiFi. Though nothing terribly special, the food was just fine, and we had salads and soups.

Afterwards, we stopped in at The Carlisle Arts Learning Center, a huge, light-filled community studio, to see their latest student exhibit. The potter’s wheels were inviting, and we would have loved to have stayed and taken a pottery class, but we had places to go and things to do…

So it was back to the road, feeling like we’d not only avoided the road food, but found a funky little town to stop at again next year. Did I mention that this trip south is becoming our annual spring pilgrimage?

Route 81

For those making a similar pilgrimage, the big question is – Rte 81 (and the trucks) or the Skyline Drive-BlueRidge Parkway? We opted for 81 for the north part of our trip, hoping to take advantage of the earlier spring farther down south for the Parkway.

Despite our choice, Rte 81 was a picturesque way to go. We passed trucks filled with chickens and horses, and I was heartened by the many thousands of cows we saw along the way, cows that were grazing on green grass and not being fed processed dead animal, antibiotic-laden feed.
Roanoke, Va.

We spent the night in another up and coming funky little town, Roanoke, Virginia, where I had scored a great web deal at the landmark Hotel Roanoke.

This Tudor-style giant hotel, which looks pretty much like it used to up there, sits high up on a hill, linked right to the downtown by a covered footbridge. The hotel was everything we wanted, except that the outdoor pool was still closed for the season. Don’t you love the lobby?

Downtown Roanoke is a wonderful mix of the old and new and has a great small town feel. Our girls wanted us to move there. In fact, we met quite a few ex-New Yorkers who have settled there, drawn to the growing arts scene, low cost of living and great old buildings. A new art museum is going up next to the train tracks, testimony to the permanence of the transition.

We had a great dinner at Tong’s Thai, located on Salem Street in a wonderful old building. My Thai beef slad was perfect. It was a quiet night, so the owner hung out at our table and chatted, and brought us samples of curries and appetizers on the house. He had come to Roanoke from Thiland via Queens, so we had lots to talk about.

After dinner, we wandered around a bit, though most of the stores were closed. We did stumble upon a local theater that was having a reception following the opening of a play, so we crashed the party for a while evesdropping on the locals, snarfing up some free drinks, and even getting a free baseball cap!

Next we found a painting class going on at the nearby gallery, and the owner invited us in to observe the class and check out the gallery even though it was past closing time. Turns out she was from (where else) New York!

Then it was back to our room in time to catch “24” (Thanks, Linda, we are all addicted)

An early start next day led us downtown for breakfast at Ernie’s, a real local’s place serving typical southern breakfasts on paper plates with lots of grease. Don’t look for great food here, just good Southern atmosphere (and great accents).

Roanoke has a daily downtown farmer’s market, which was just getting started for the day…

and I picked up some fresh herb plants to bring to Joe for his garden.

There were lots of cute shops selling clothes we girls loved…

a Food Court in the old City Market Building, once home to meatcutter’s stalls.

Not expecting to enjoy Roanoke as much as we did, we were disappointed to have had such a short stay. But we needed to move on, so we left Roanoke mid-morning, vowing to return again next year for a longer stay.

Next up: The Blue Ridge Parkway

Road Trip to Athens, Georgia: Part 1 – What to Bring

Well, it’s been a long time since my fingers have graced these keys, and it sure feels good to be back. I’ve missed you all, and am looking forward to some serious catching up time this week.

So where have I been? On a little road trip, that’s where. And I’m here now to tell y’all about it. So pull the old pickup out of the shed, fill up the tank, roll down the windows and crank up the Rockabilly ’cause we’re heading down to Athens, Georgia to visit my little brother Joe…

It’s a long drive, so better bring along something to do in the car. Here’s what we brought along:

Books on CD:These are especially critical if one of your kids gets carsick when she reads in the car.

Feed by MT Anderson. A fabulous suggestion from daugher Nats. Narrated by a young teen who falls for a girl in a future America where everyone is plugged into the web via an implant in their brains, through which they are fed constant marketing messages matched perfectly to their live’s experiences. Chilling, and not so far off from a possible future. Not to mention a great opening line:

“We went to the moon to have fun, but the moon turned out to completely suck.”

Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy by Gary D Schmidt. The sadly beautiful story of an unlikely friendship between Turner, a young minister’s son, and Lizzie Bright, the grandchild of former slaves in Phippsburg, Maine in the early 1900’s. Lizzie lives with her grandfather on Malaga Island in a racially-mixed community destined to be destroyed by the greedy townspeople of Phippsburg, who seek to turn the “Island of Maroons” into a resort community. Although the two children are fiction, the story of the town and the islanders is a true one. The author also weaves in nature in beautiful ways, giving the sea breeze it’s own role in the story, and making the reader long to ride with the whales.

Drive Time Italian. Learn Italian while you drive. Within the first few minutes, you’ll be saying many wonderfully useful travel phrases such as “Il camion e blanco” (The truck is white) and “Vedo un segno giallo” (I see a yellow sign). Actually quite a nice little audiocourse. We have till July to learn Italian, so this wasn’t a bad start.

It’s also not a bad idea to load up your IPOD with a few PBS podcasts to listen to when daughter Em asks for silence in the car so that she can do her homework. Here’s what I listened to:

China on the Rise: Paul Solomons’s seven part series from The News Hour with Jim Lehrer on the emerging economic giant. Fascinating.

NPR Fresh Air. My all-time favorite radio interview show.

World Cafe Words & Music from WXPN: Ah, WXPN – One of the radio stations I missed the most when I left Philly for NY. Now I can listen on line. If only Sleepy Hollow was on podcast…

We had a great little directory of stations nationwide that we tuck in with the maps so we’re never without our feed. But you can go online before you leave, punch in your trip route, and print out a personalized NPR Road Trip.

Okay, our listening needs are taken care of. How about some actual reading material? I brought The Namesake, Mr TBTAM read Nelson Demille’s latest book, and Em plowed through The Invisible Man.

Casino Royale
Oh, all right. I’ll admit it. We did pick up one movie along the way…Nats got through the first half hour in the car before we had to pull over for her to settle her stomach. We watched the rest in the hotel room the last night on the road. One of the best title sequences in a long time. More violent than I think 007 should be, but I would still recommend it. And be prepared for your libido to kick in, ladies, the new 007 may not be Sean Connery, but he is one hot dude…

Great Music
We’re heading South, so grab those Dixie Chicks CD’s. We also listened to John Mayer’s Continuum, and Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon, and Gillian Welch. We also found some great new music in Athens, but I’ll leave that for another post.

We actually did not pack much car food, just some fruit and cheese and pretzels and water and diet coke for me. We promised ourselves we would eat 3 squares and avoid road food, and we almost succeeded.

I love ’em, don’t you? The crinkling of the pages as you wrestle with them in the front seat with the wind tearing the edges from your hands…

Okay, we’re ready to go. Have I forgotten anything other than my pillow? What would you bring?

Next Up: The Road