Pine Mountain, Georgia

September 1, 2009
Filed under Travel

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I am in the Purple Cow Café eating ice cream and studying my map of Georgia. At the next table, a girl, wearing a University of Georgia sweatshirt, is engrossed in reading e-mail. I can’t see her computer screen, but she has the obvious signs – eyes fixed, rhythmic mouse-hand motion, expression blank except for some private smiles.

This is Pine Mountain – a town about an hour south of Atlanta on the western edge of Georgia. Its main street, Highway 27, is lined with small boutiques that define it as a place where city people escape to on weekends and the rest of us stumble upon in our travels.

The Purple Cow’s ice cream comes from Texas in 24 flavors – I am having “cotton candy.” Emily Bryant, the owner,
told me that this used to be the Kimbrough Bros. General Store. It had been that since 1892, which, for me, explains its beautiful hardwood floor. About that name – she said that the “cow” is for the ice cream, and the “purple” is for the Georgia wine they sell and offer for tastings. (Editor’s Note: Since this publication, The Purple Cow Café has
been closed.
)

Looking at the map, I noticed that the Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park is just east of here in Warm Springs. Roosevelt built a simple, vacation cottage there that became the Little White House during his presidency. That’s where he died just before the end of World War II.

“Excuse me, are you looking for Callaway Gardens?” It was the voice of the e-mail reader, back from her cyberspace trip. She was getting up and stuffing her laptop in her backpack.

“Actually, just looking,” I said.

“It’s what most people come here to see.” She picked up her cup. “I’m going for a coffee refill, you want some?”

The openness of Southern hospitality sure makes life simple and pleasant down here. I love it.

She brought the coffee. I asked her to sit down and put the map away, figuring it had just been superceded. She said her name was Kim and that she grew up near here.

We talked about things Southern, like “lumpy Coke.” It’s a Georgia thing – pouring salted peanuts into a bottle of Coke. Kim suggests shaking it before drinking to settle some of the fizz. And chocolate kisses – they’re called “silver bells” by her Georgia-born grandmother. She said the best ice cream down here – but it’s hard to find – is made from muscadine grapes. It’s a local grape also used in wine.

Kim works at Callaway Gardens during the summer doing landscaping. A few miles south of here, it’s a 13,000-acre, private park.

Created 50 years ago, its founder intended that the gardens be a connection between man and nature. It’s remained true to his vision, but it’s also a first-class resort, with two of the best golf courses in the state. It has several lakes – one big enough for water skiing and wakeboard tournaments – restaurants, an inn, cottages, a spa, pools, tennis courts, a gun club, even a woodland chapel where they have a wedding almost every weekend.

Kim pointed me to Highway 18 and minutes later I was there. I spent the day absorbing the beauty of the gardens. Pine
Mountain RV Resort (a Good Sam park) is just down Highway 27 north, for those who want to spend more time here.

I took a picture of a couple who were giving their dog its monthly tour of the gardens. The dog can’t walk much any more so they push it along in a specially made, three-wheeled cart. Seeing the best side of humanity always makes for a good day, and this is one.

Welcome to America’s Outback.

Bill’s e-mail address: roadscribe@aol.com

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