Road trip to nowhere Georgia

I’ve mentioned before that I love watching urban explorer videos on YouTube and how, if I weren’t deathly allergic to black mold, I would love to explore abandoned buildings.

Recently, I was watching a video from Sidestep Adventures where they explored what was left of an old railroad town aptly named Junction City.

I was captivated by a beautiful house that was slowly being consumed by time and nature. Looking it up on Google, I found out that it was only 3 1/2 hours from Savannah.

My friend Jazzy who had gone with me to check out Strathy Hall Cemetery said she was interested in going with me, so we quickly made plans.

We also decided to bring our skates because how cool does skating around a ghost town sound?

Since roller derby has been canceled this year due to COVID, I’ve really missed road trips with friends. An entire day catching up on life with one of my dearest friends was exactly what I needed.

Jazzy and I are just the right amount of cautious and chaotic. That’s why I knew a photographic exploration of central Georgia would be fun.

Right before the cat scared me.

Along the way to Junction City, we spotted other places to check out. As we were driving past a cotton field, we saw what appeared to be an abandoned train depot. Both of us got excited and decided to find the road that led there.

As we pulled up, it appeared to have been used exclusively for crops. Jazzy and I walked around the outside taking pictures and video. I decided to walk around the side facing the railroad tracks.

It was obvious that the depot and the train tracks hadn’t been used in ages. I hopped from ballast to ballast along the track, carefully avoiding rotten wood in order to take more pictures.

As I was taking pictures, I thought to myself that I hoped there weren’t any snakes hiding in the tall grass. That’s when a large cat jumped from a hiding spot in the overgrown grass and darted under the depot scaring the absolute shit out of me.

The depot was shut up rather well, but there was one spot where we were able to stick our cameras inside to see what was there. It looks like it’s farm storage now.

As we were driving through another small town, I noticed a church that looked like a castle. At the same time, Jazzy noticed a tank. Both of us were squealing with excitement, so we stopped to take more pictures.

Picture by Jazmine Mckellar

Reynolds was an adorable little town. Near the church there were several homes that appeared to have been built in the 1920s. We also noticed an antique shop across the road and decided to stop there on our way back.

As Google maps led us into Junction City, we saw a railroad trestle. Stopping to take pictures, we spotted an abandoned car and house. Curiosity got the best of u,s and we decided to check it out.

Picture by Jazmine Mckellar

The home was locked up except for one door that was cracked open slightly. I was dying to get a better look at what was inside and thought I would just stick my head inside, but when I tried to open the screen door in front of it, it was locked.

I was able to smell the mustiness inside the home and was briefly taken back to my great grandparents house. Like this home, their house hadn’t seen many updates since the 70s. I imagined old telephones sitting by empty beds, a box of Corn Flakes forgotten in the pantry, and porcelain flowers resting under dusty glass domes.

We wandered around the house for a few minutes more coming away with legs covered in sand burrs. (We really should’ve worn pants.)

Driving into what was once downtown Junction City, we spotted an old general store, a city hall, and the large house I had seen in the video.

The trees in front of the house block most of the view.

We wandered around the house trying to catch a glimpse of what was left inside. There was only one window we could see through. Y’all, this house has pocket doors! I would’ve loved to go inside this place and see what other architectural features it had.

The roof of the front porch was sagging dangerously, and I was surprised it hadn’t fallen yet. It made me sad to think that this gorgeous house would probably continue to fall apart in this nearly forgotten community.

On the way back to the car, we noticed an RC Cola machine outside the tiny city hall. On closer investigation, it was plugged in! I ran back to the car for change to see if it was still stocked. I dropped two quarters inside and pressed the Peach Nehi button. It worked!

Since we brought our skates and derby gear with us, Jazzy and I decided to skate around a few roads. Despite the fact that I hadn’t skated down steep hills in god knows how long, it was a lot of fun. I’m definitely taking my skates on every road trip now.

On the way home, we stopped at the antique shop in Reynold’s and noticed a working phone booth outside.

Did we fall through some kind of time rift? First the RC Cola machine and now a working phone booth? Of course, we had to take pictures.

We had left my house around 8 a.m. and arrived back in Savannah after 8 p.m. It was a fantastic day spent exploring tiny towns and communities in Georgia that we probably wouldn’t have thought of if it hadn’t been for that video.

A boat trip with some salty dogs

My friend Magen and I have been talking about going out on her boat for a few years, but the timing just never seemed to match my schedule until this week.

Since I haven’t been swimming at all this summer due to one of my favorite beaches being closed and the others being too crowded for comfort, this Floridian was excited to be on the water. I was also excited for my dog, Vash, to finally have his first boat ride.

For all his barking and bouncing around my yard, he really isn’t an adventurous dog outside of it. Vash was apprehensive about getting on the boat and it took me and Magen both to coax/pull him on. He nervously paced around and tried to hide underneath me, but he eventually got used to it.

Magen and I had talked about looking for Shark Tooth Island, but due to uncertain weather, we ended up off the coast of Pigeon Island between Shipyard Creek and the Skidaway River, which part of the Wormsloe Historic Site.

Since it’s protected property, people aren’t actually allowed on the island. You can stay just off of it. Magen told me there aren’t any gators or wild boar, so it was safe for the dogs to run up and down the tiny beach while we swam. That’s the closest we got.

Even though Magen and I were just splashing around, we were still able to enjoy some wildlife. Magen pointed out an eagle as we were pulling into shore. Its huge nest in one of the pine trees was hard to miss. While Vash and Magen’s dog Miles were busy playing tug of war with a stick they found, I spotted a dolphin a little ways off the coast. Magen wondered if it was the same dolphin she spotted earlier this summer near the Isle of Hope Marina.

If you head out to Pigeon Island, DO NOT GO ON THE ISLAND! You don’t have to worry about being chased by a wild boar or eaten by an alligator, but it’s important to protect natural habitats. I can’t tell you how many nifty places I’ve seen ruined by careless tourists with no regard for nature or history. (More on that in next week’s post.) Being just off the shore is still fun, and there are plenty of good photo opportunities.

We are the walking dead princesses

It’s not often that you go on a day trip for zombies and find out that your sister is a Disney Princess, but that’s exactly what happened on my visit to Senoia, GA this week.

My baby sister, Abby, tagged along for my latest trip to the picturesque town southwest of Atlanta. I had been there once a few years ago, but I arrived late and didn’t get to see much. This time we left early enough to get there around 10:30 a.m. I picked a Tuesday to make it easier for us to socially distance while exploring too.

Our first stop when we arrived was, of course, The Woodbury Shoppe. If you watch The Walking Dead, you’ll recognize the name for the store as the name of the town from the second season. It makes sense because Senoia’s Main Street is easily recognized as the set for the town. The official shop for The Walking Dead has every single bit of merchandise you could imagine as well as costumes and set pieces from the show. I asked if we could wander upstairs, but the salespeople told me they’re working to turn that part of the store into a Walking Dead museum. It had previously been in the basement. I can’t wait to come back and see that once it’s finished. Meanwhile, Abby and I entertained ourselves by posing with the hospital doors from the first episode.

When we we’re driving into town, we spotted a place called Beez Freeze. The snowball place seemed like the perfect way to cool off, so we swung by after putting our Walking Dead goodies in the car. Since it was a Tuesday, there was only a small group of people at Beez Freeze. It made it very easy to keep six feet of distance between our groups while ordering and eating.

Normally, my go-to snowball flavor is Tiger Blood, but this time I decided to try the Georgia Peach. Abby asked the guy working the counter what flavor he recommended. He said one of his favorites was Polar Punch, so that’s what she went with. Both flavors were absolutely delicious! Mine tasted just like a peach, and Abby’s tasted like punch but not overwhelming. There was one thing on the menu we were curious about but didn’t try. It’s called a Zombee, banana with cream and chocolate syrup. Intriguing. Maybe I’ll try that next time.

Using a map we picked up at The Woodbury Shoppe, we decided to walk around town and look at spots featured in various film and TV productions. Most were from The Walking Dead, but we did see locations used for Fried Green Tomatoes, Sweet Home Alabama, Drop Dead Diva, and The Fighting Temptations (I hadn’t thought of that film in ages.).

Alexandria, one of the main locations since season five of The Walking Dead, is really easy to spot. The entire neighborhood is walled off with the windmill peaking out over the tree line. Abby and I weren’t able to go in, but we did get a few pictures outside.

One thing I learned from my time working in Seaside, Florida when I was younger is if you want to check out fun spots or delicious restaurants in the places you visit, ask salespeople for their tips. The Woodbury Shoppe employees told us to check out Starr’s Mill and Barbie Beach. Starr’s Mill was used in Fried Green Tomatoes and Sweet Home Alabama. Aside from the film ties, it looked like a cute spot to take pictures, so we hopped back in the car and headed over.

I was only able to get to quick clips in the rain before my phone shut down. This is a still frame from one of the videos.

It was gorgeous! As we parked and got out of the car, it was easy to see why this location was picked for a rom-com. The sound of the waterfall flowing and the trees gently swaying around the bright red mill just scream romance. Of course, that was when it started raining. Abby and I risked getting completely soaked to take pictures and video before running back to the car. If this had been a rom-com, this is the part where Abby would’ve met her true love, but I guess our life isn’t a rom-com because that didn’t happen. Oh, well. Wet and shivering but happy with our pictures, we headed back to Senoia for lunch at Nic & Norman’s.

Earlier in the day, Abby had spotted a butterfly on the sidewalk outside the restaurant. She relocated it to a windowsill to keep it from being stepped on, but it flew away and landed back on the sidewalk. After a few more attempts to move it somewhere safer, we decided to leave it perched on a curb. I managed to get a few pictures of her looking very Disney princess-esque with the butterfly. Why am I telling you about my sister and a butterfly? Well, when we walked into Nic & Norman’s, the server and hostess squealed. They had seen Abby playing with the butterfly earlier and had hoped she would come in so they could meet a real Disney Princess. I started laughing and told them she also made friends with two cats while we were walking around. The hostess insisted that Abby needed to start randomly breaking into song for full effect.

Nic & Norman’s is owned by Greg Nicotero and Norman Reedus from The Walking Dead. The menu offers some fantastic burgers, curious entrees like brisket mac and cheese, and smooth cocktails. Abby and I tried the new vegetarian sliders (two thumbs up from me), and I had a cocktail called a Blind Squirrel. Abby was disappointed it didn’t contain any actual squirrel parts and suggested it should have eyeballs floating in it. Eyeballs in drinks really aren’t my thing, so I thought it was just fine the way it was.

Before we left town, we stopped by Barbie Beach. Years ago, my other sister and I actually ended up there when we got lost on the way to a wedding. We honestly were worried that we had hallucinated it, so we had to turn around and took a picture just to prove it was real. So what does Barbie Beach look like? It’s a fever dream with Barbie dolls, action figures, and a Britney Spears play stage.

The owners of the property said they decided to create it after their rose bushes were destroyed leaving a sandy patch that wouldn’t grow anything else. It’s just so odd that I had to take Abby there to experience the wonder (and confusion) herself.

Our day trip was so much fun! I think I’ve convinced some of my roller skating friends to come back with me when the weather is cooler. Our plan is to skate around to different filming locations. Maybe we’ll be able to go inside Alexandria this time. I mean, that’s what the zombie really apocalypse needs: roller skaters and Disney Princesses.

A walk around Wormsloe

I love taking my dog, Vash, and my foster dog, Hemingway, out for scenic walks. Before the pandemic, Vash and I would walk around downtown most weekends and end at Gallery Espresso for a puppuccino. Nowadays, it’s too crowded for my comfort level, so we look elsewhere. Luckily for us, Wormsloe Historic Site is close by, dog-friendly, and gorgeous.

When we arrived, I stopped by the office to say hello to my friend Gretchen, who works at the park as the site manager. She gave the boys some homemade dog treats that she keeps on hand for all the dogs that visit. In fact, Georgia State Parks are incredibly welcoming to dogs. There is also an entire program dedicated to them called Tails on Trails! Gretchen was able to explain a bit about it before the dogs signaled that they were bored and wanted to starting hiking.

Tails on Trails offers hikes at 42 different parks across Georgia. A $20 membership gets you a t-shirt for yourself, a bandanna for your dog, and a checklist for your explorations. You can learn more about it on the website. I didn’t have time to get my membership on this trip, but I’ll definitely get it next time.

Once the dogs got me outside again, we headed down the trail to the tabby ruins, which is all that’s left of the home built by Noble Jones in the early to mid 1700s.

The Tabby Ruins

I stopped there to give the dogs a break and some water while I shot some video of the ruins. I’m always amazed at what it took to live in places like Coastal Georgia before the invention of air conditioning. You can still see the remnants of a cellar inside the fenced-off portion of the ruins. That probably was a relaxing place to steal a few moments on hot summer days.

The dogs and I kept hiking down the trail along the water before taking another mini-break at the family burial ground. If you ever go to Bonaventure Cemetery, you’ll notice Noble Jones has a family plot there. His wife and son are still buried at Wormsloe though. In fact, some descendants of the family actually still live on the property. You pass their home as you drive to the Wormsloe visitor’s center.

Hemingway and Vash sported their new bandannas from Buddy Bandana.

After some more wandering, we ended up at the Colonial Life Area. There’s a blacksmith shop and a small home with a garden. It was quiet the day we went, but this spot is buzzing with activity in February during the Colonial Faire and Muster. There are reenactors showing how early settlers would make tools, cook, harvest, trade, and defend the area. (Vash may have been startled and growled at a Revolutionary soldier, who laughed it off and told him to use that attitude on red coats.)

Poor Hemingway was getting tuckered out by this point, so we had to cut the trip short because he’s just a bit too big for me to carry. On previous visits, Vash and I have explored more of the 3.2 mile trail. During the summer, this trail is perfect because it’s shaded and breezes from the nearby salt marsh keep it cooler than some other hikes we’ve been on. If you’re tackling this trail, don’t forget to bring bug spray and water. Sand gnats and mosquitoes are no joke, and the humidity makes it easy to get dehydrated.

One of the things I love about Wormsloe is the photographic opportunities. Some of my photographer friends love taking clients out to the park because the canopied drive and salt marsh offer beautiful backdrops, so when you visit, don’t forget your camera.

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