Gas Stations Aren’t on Every Corner in the Wilderness

Continuing from my post last week, I’ll finish my tale that belongs in a horror movie or at the very least deserves its own National Lampoon’s movie.

It had been about twenty minutes since we turned onto NF 15 and we still hadn’t seen a vehicle, house or any other sign of life.  When we arrived in Ellijay, my Mom had said she wanted to see a bear…now in the middle of the dark forest she changed her mind.

The gas was steadily going down, but our only saving grace was that my Dpd had a hard and fast rule when it comes to fueling your vehicle: When traveling always refuel when you reach a half a tank.

I’ll be honest and say that I’ve given him a hard time about that one. I thought it was silly, because how often would you ever be in a place that you couldn’t get to a gas station when you were on a quarter or below and still had plenty of miles to go?

Tonight…he proved his point. If we had went with my laissez faire approach to gas refueling, we’d be stuck in the middle of nowhere, sleeping in a car and spending the rest of our vacation trying to get back to civilization. But even with his good mantra, this little road trip was testing the limits of it.

The bumpy road wasn’t helping either. We were being jarred and thrown around the inside of the vehicle to the point that it felt like we were on some Jurassic Park ride at a theme park. By this point my Mom and I had almost had our limit of the off road adventure in the woods.

Dad was trying to stay up beat, and my husband? He thought it was a blast. He kept saying how fun this was and I all I could think is, really? I guess I shouldn’t have expected less from a hunter and a former Army Medic. This was just the tip of the iceberg compared to the things I’m sure he’s dealt with and therefore it was just crazy enough to be fun.

I, on the other hand, didn’t think there was anything fun about it.

Finally, we saw something besides endless woods. The “road” came to a dead end, and you had to turn left or right. But the choice wasn’t hard and for once the GPS made the right  choice. To the left the road dead ended at a 4-H camp. “Hey, I’ve been to this camp!” my husband exclaimed. That had to mean the road from 4-H camp had to lead back to civilization, right?

We turned right and the road was still gravel, but less bumpy. We passed the Rangers Training Station, which was interesting and explained a lot about the roads.

Finally, we hit pavement! It was like reaching the pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. I was so happy! I felt relief rush through me, only to have it dashed by the stupid GPS that I really wanted to throw out of the window. It was indicating that we should turn down another gravel road. I refused. I looked at it and I said “No, you moron!”

Montaluce Winery & Estates

So I backed up and turned around, hoping it would choose a new route, which it did. This one led us into a neighborhood called Montaluce, which I thought was odd, but maybe it had a way out on the other side. It was very dark out, but it was easy to see this was a super upscale neighborhood. The homes were huge and looked like they belonged in the Alps.

On top of that, the homes were surrounded by grape vines, and there was a restaurant perched on top of a sloping hill in the middle of the houses. Even in the dark, you could tell it was a very pretty area. It was definitely an area worth coming back to when we weren’t tired and annoyed.

We pass all the houses and the restaurant and guess what? The road the GPS wants us to go down has been barricaded. UGH…that meant we would have to go all the way back out of this neighborhood and onto the road to find a new route.

We all were so frustrated that we decide to go the restaurant and ask for directions. My husband and I stay in the car, while my parents went in to speak with someone.

He begs me to let someone else drive, because he could tell how frustrated and stressed out I was. I refused. I don’t give him a reason, but I knew exactly why. One, I wasn’t about to quit when I had made it this far, and two, as long as I was in the driver’s seat I didn’t have to worry about Speedy Gonzalez terrifying me with his professional driving skills that belonged on a closed course.

My parents came back with good news. There were told there was an easy way to get back to the highway from there. The man who helped them did ask how we ended up all the way out here from Helen.

Yeah, I could do this…no problem now.

We left the neighborhood with new found purpose. The man had told them to turn on such and such road and it should lead us straight to the highway. He did say that it was one lane and pretty curvy, but at this point I was a pro and would’ve drove up the side of a mountain like in a Jeep or Subaru commercial if it meant there was a highway on the other side.

The man was correct! And voila, we were back to the highway. Never in my life had I been so relieved to see a divided highway made of asphalt.

When we arrived back at the cabin (after a stop at the gas station), my Dad and I tried furiously to figure out what had wrong. We couldn’t figure it out, except for that I had to have made a wrong turn somewhere and instead of the GPS telling me to go back it re-routed. Lesson here folks? Never set your GPS on fastest route without excluding side roads that barely pass as such.

By the way, do you want to take a guess at what NF stands for in a road name?

National Forest or National Forest Service Road. That explains a lot.

Drive Faster…I Hear Banjos

I have to admit that I didn’t come up with that title all by myself. It’s a twist on a popular saying printed on a line of t-shirts that I saw (and bought) in Ellijay. But it fits so perfectly in describing my little adventure in the mountains over Thanksgiving.

Photo: Panning for gold. Maybe will get rich..haha. #goldmineMy husband and I both had places we wanted to see and things we wanted to do. He wanted to go to Dahlonega, a town he had often went to with his family. I wanted to visit Helen, a town I had heard a lot about in magazines and from friends. So we all decided to make a day trip to both places.

My Dad agreed to drive, but only after he took a blood oath he wouldn’t drive a hundred miles an hour around the curves (only a small exaggeration here..haha).

I didn’t have too much anxiety about the roads today, because from what I could tell the roads to Dahlonega and Helen were nowhere near as curvy and treacherous as getting up to the cabin. Well…the Google maps sort of lied (or I just didn’t interpret the map very well). No, we weren’t dangling near the edge of the mountains, but the curves were never ceasing. It was an hour of side to side and up and down, which made me car sick.

I couldn’t believe how big of a wimp I had become just after a few years (okay more like seven, but still) of being on flat land. But either way we made it to both destinations without too much trouble.

I loved Dahlonega. It had the coolest town square with tons of interesting shops. Dahlonega is known for it’s gold panning and rich history in gold mining, so of course we had to go panning for gold. It was a lot of fun except for the whole putting your hands in freezing water.

If you know nothing about Helen, you need to know it came to fame because the entire town looks like a Bavarian Alpine village. Yep, that’s right, even fast food restaurants like Wendy’s have all the lattice work and decorative elements that you would expect to see thousands of miles away in Europe. It felt a lot like being lost in a part of Epcot’s world showcase. We ate at a German restaurant, where we ran into people who were actually speaking German, which I thought was pretty interesting. I don’t know the history of the town, but maybe it has some true Bavarian roots?

View December 29 2013 016.jpg

Helen, GA.

At night, the whole town lit up with lights to create a beautiful display for Christmas. It was a memorable trip and a new experience for all of us. My Dad had already asked me if I would drive back. I had already mapped out the route back and confirmed it with the GPS that it would take us back to Ellijay on a four lane highway. So everything would be fine, right?

We get out of Helen and for about twenty miles were on a fairly curvy road, but nothing I couldn’t handle. I would look at the GPS and see we only had a few miles left to go before we hit the highway, so no worries.

Only begins to describe the curves.

But those few miles turned into ten more, then fifteen and so on. With each turn the road got worse. There was a section of the road that was curvy that I literally did a curve to the right then a hundred feet later went into a left curve. I couldn’t go any faster than 25 miles and most of the curves required a speed of ten. I’m not exaggerating…you can ask my husband, Mom and Dad to back me up on this one.

I kept staring at the GPS and watching the number of miles go by, but with each turn onto a new road it seemed like I was only getting further and further from the highway. What was wrong with this crazy thing? Now I understand those commercials where the GPS sends you into a pole or a building.

After about an hour I started to lose it, because I knew we were going up and up into the mountains with no end in sight and very little way of a shoulder on the road. On more than one occasion, I was driving in the other lane praying another car wasn’t coming around the bend. The one thing I was thankful for? That it was pitch black out and I couldn’t see beyond the trees lining the road. For once, darkness was my friend, because otherwise I probably would’ve been hyperventilating.

More Accurate 🙂

I kept my cool…for the most part. But mile after mile, I started to get weary…and not in a figurative way. That kind of driving requires a lot of concentration and after an hour and a half I had about had it. I started asking when this was going to be over? We should have been to the highway by now!

Then the GPS told me to turn onto NF 15. Guess what? NF 15 is a gravel road. Since leaving Helen we had went from a two lane highway to a one lane to a gravel road. I turned onto it, still putting my faith in the GPS. Some of the roads to the cabin were on gravel so maybe we weren’t that far away? But this wasn’t the same kind of gravel road. There were no houses, no lights, no signs of life. Just a winding road that wasn’t exactly in the best shape. We went over more than one giant pot hole and that’s putting it nicely. Let’s just say, it was a good thing we were in a SUV with some ground clearance or we might still be on NF 15.

The only plus side? There was a giant dirt embankment separating the road from the edge of the mountains. They were so tall I could barely see over them even in the vehicle.

A new worry was the gas situation. What should have been an hour trip was now turning into two and the constant change in speed and altitude was guzzling fuel. There was a real chance we would be stuck out here and from what we had seen already meant there wasn’t anyone for miles.

I was starting to feel like we were in a B rated horror movie and some crazy psychos were going to jump out and get us or we were going to be eaten by bears… to be continued.

Curves Ahead

My husband in front of his Grandparent’s old cabin. He was like a kid again that day!

There’s been so much going on since the Holiday’s that I’ve got to start all the way back at Thanksgiving, but trust me I’ve got plenty of interesting stories to share. 😉

This Thanksgiving, my husband and I met my parents in Ellijay, Georgia instead of going all the way to Kentucky. Ellijay just happened to be almost exactly the half way point for both of us. My husband was excited because his grandparents used to own a cabin in the mountains around Ellijay and it was always one of his favorite places to visit.

He’s told me countless stories about Ellijay and the time spent with his family and grandparents there. He told me about panning for gold with his grandfather in the crystal clear streams, and the little cave they found in the side of the hill below his grandparents cabin.

It was a wonderful time between the relaxed atmosphere of our cabin on top of a mountain and the wildlife that would almost eat out of my husband’s hands. It was one of the few vacations that I actually came back energized rather than depleted.

BUT there were some rough moments. The cabin and the surrounding area is nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains and the roads View December 29 2013 023.jpg in slide showcareen and hug the edges of the mountains. I was petrified. I never expected that reaction considering I’ve lived in the “hills” (In parentheses because my husband argues they are indeed mountains) and know how to drive on those same little roads. As a teenager I didn’t think anything about going 60 mph around a sharp curve. It was exhilarating, but I’ve been tamed by the flatness of South Georgia and the straight line driving. The occasional curve you do encounter down here that warrants a reduced speed sign would get a laugh from anyone from home.

But these curves even made the roads I grew up with look like a joke (I don’t even want to think about what roads in the Rockies look like). Lets just say that there were at least two curves to the cabin itself that the GPS called “turns” because they were so sharp.

So every time we left I would feel a since of panic, picturing our vehicle falling off the road somewhere (there were no shoulders by the way…pavement ended at the edge of the mountain). I could only hope the trees would stop us from tumbling to the valleys below.

My Dad is a pro mountain driver, in fact, too much of a pro for me. He would take the curves with dizzying speed as if it were second nature (which it was), but I couldn’t handle it. The funny thing is the first time I rode with my Dad down the mountain I screamed, “Tyler! Slow down!” My husband, who was sitting in the back seat corrected me, “You mean Dad”.

“Dad, slow down!” I said, correcting my statement, but it was no use. The damage had been done and had I provided ample evidence  to confirm to my parents that I yell at my husband when he drives. To the satisfaction of my husband, there was no acting sweet and denying that I would ever do such a thing after that. 🙂

But this isn’t even where things get really interesting… this is just the prologue to the main story. Things get really interesting when I get behind the wheel. This adventure is to be continued…

Lifting the Holiday Fog

This past November and December was so weird to me. Things seemed to go by slow, but at the same time they were a blur. It felt like Christmas was a long way off, then suddenly it was here and gone. I’m going to blame it on Thanksgiving be later than usual.

Either way it was a whirlwind of activity and I’m just now recovering from it. I’m trying to get back into the normal pace of things slowly, but surely.

In the next few weeks, you’ll definitely see a lot more posts about The Kingdom’s Revolt and some of the interesting adventures I had over the past couple of months.

The fog is finally lifting and I’m ready to get back to work on a ton of projects in the works!