Exploring Georgia's back roads

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Ride along with me as we discover southwest Georgia's hidden treasures.

While the average price for a gallon of gas in metro Atlanta is still under three bucks, the price has inched up.  I recently took a one tank road trip with my family, and when I told you all about it on my Facebook page, you loved the idea, too. So I thought I'd share the details about how we traveled on a tank of gas, never got more than a few hours from home, but packed fun and history. And met new people. 

A memorable family vacation doesn't have to mean a week's vacation or need a long-term savings plan. This trip through southwest Georgia is about as budget friendly as it gets. Our goal was a visit to Providence Canyon State Park. 

It's also called the Little Grand Canyon. You'll see 150-feet gullies created in the 1800s by poor farming practices, but boy, did that carve out amazing canyons and their vibrant colors. It's only two and a half hours from downtown Atlanta. It can be a day trip. Or a weekend get-away.

We decided to explore the back roads of southwest Georgia. We stopped at as many small towns as we could in two days. We found a fancy distillery, a really hip brewery, a giant portrait of former governor Zell Miller, peanuts, lots of peanuts. And some really, really nice people.


About an hour down I-75S, we pulled onto state route 36 and stopped in Barnesville.  We got a homestyle lunch at Maxie's Family Restaurant. And the homecooked meal was as delicious.

Fifteen minutes after lunch, we pulled into the town of Yatesville. It's an old town that was new to us. The railroad depot hadn't seen a train since the late 70s, but it's beautiful. Around the corner, you'll find a quirky antiques shop and an abandoned building worth checking out.

In no time, we were behind the wheel again. Down state route 19  for another 30 minutes and we pulled into Butler, Georgia - the Taylor County seat - population 1972. My eight-year-old was fascinated by the old city jail and horrified when she heard people stayed there without air conditioning.

Just beyond Ideal, Georgia was Andersonville. It's rich with national history.

Painted footprints in the town center mark the path that Civil War POWs took on their way from the railroad station to the camp. It's now the Andersonville National Historic Site. I snapped a picture of my kid whining that her feet hurt and that she was hot. I reminded her that she was wearing fancy sneakers, carrying a bottle of water and that about 13,000 people died here because they drank and bathed in the same water where they went to the bathroom. Nothing like a history lesson to snap them back to reality.

Just down the road, we decided to spend the night in Americus.  But we saw one more name that made us hit another back road. Bumphead.  We got there to find it was simply a crossroad. Nothing more. Or so we thought.

We looked left and saw a cow named Judy giving birth to a calf. Yep. My eight-year-old saw the whole thing and we had a conversation I wasn't planning to have yet. But it was spectacular life lesson.

Lordy, we talk about this all the way to Americus where we stayed the night at the Windsor Hotel. It's stunning and not nearly as pricey as you might think. It dates back to 1892 and is said to be haunted. We loved it.


The next morning, we landed at our destination - Providence Canyon. Put on walking shoes. Grab water and a snack and head down to the bottom and look around. It's really cool. Carve out two hours at least.  

That done, it was time to head back to Atlanta. Again taking back roads and stopping every chance we could. Our first stop was Plains, Georgia the home of former President Jimmy Carter and there was cotton and peanuts, peanut ice cream, peanut brittle. And lots of history lesson. We explored the depot was where the president's campaign kicked off. The spot was picked because it had a bathroom. And his colorful brother Billy.... Remember him?  His old service station is open for a look-see. Pretty cool.

On state route 280 we stopped in Preston and saw another very interesting old jail. And just beyond that was Richland, Georgia. There wasn't much going on or so we though until we stopped to talk to the shop owner who had a large portrait of former Governor Zell Miller. She told us if we walked about two blocks down the street and took a left we'd find a rum distillery. She was right. We found out they grow their own sugar cane, too, for their brew. On our impromptu tour we saw imported, hammered copper stills. And, Georgia White Oak barrels where Richland Rum is aged for a minimum of three years.

Prefer a beer on a hot day? Just down the road in Omaha, Georgia the town has two buildings. One is the Omaha Brewing company. Stop in for a craft beer tasting. Live music on the weekends and kids are welcome.

Whew! Two days. Back roads. One tank of gas. Never more than two and a half hours from downtown Atlanta. Totally worth it.