The personal authentic travels of a world-wide drifter, you'll always see pics of me at the locations being described (if the other blogs you're reading don't do that, odds are they were NEVER there, just saying…)
A Smithsonian Affiliate museum: while a lot of the art work here is ‘so-so,’ there are quite a few impressive pieces (often borrowed), especially among some of the modern art works.
I’ve spent a fairly decent amount of time in the Southwest, in large part living on the Navajo Reservation, so I’m pretty familiar with this sort of work, and have seen better collections out there; that said, considering this is in the southeast I’m guessing its probably the best publicly viewable collection of Southwestern narrative art in this part of the country. It’s also a Smithsonian Affiliate which means they get to borrow things from that collection that the Smithsonian would otherwise keep in storage, like this incredibly racist piece which seems to have come from the Buffalo Bill Historical Center.
What I particularly enjoyed, were some of the modern art works.
And this is a process I do not believe I have ever seen before, cast paper
The museums also contains some examples of paintings produced to be used for things such as book covers for western-genre literature, film posters, and magazine covers, etc. I found this particularly interesting as the wife of an old high-school friend of mine is an artist who specializes in the western genre and has had her work used for magazine covers, etc… so I checked to see if they had any of her work, but they did not.
What initially brought me the museum however was an Ansel Adams exhibition (I was a photography major as an undergrad). It was an OK exhibition, it had a few of his photos and a collection of works by other who either influenced him, or were influenced by him. Of the latter, the most surprising ones were these:
And then this was one of the ones I might like in my own home
This was a very tasty and VERY cute looking restaurant — like Disney Wilderness Lodge cute; traditional Appalachian music was on the radio (brother where art thou type stuff) and they specialize in a gourmet twist on traditional Appalachian food. I had the pecan chicken from their Appalachian specials list. It was AMAZING … the kind of thing that would make judges on cooking shows very happy — simple ingredients cooked creatively and with style.
I was staying in Dalton, about an hour north of here and had come to Cartersville to see an Ansel Adams exhibit at the Booth Western Art Museum (it’s an extension of the Smithsonian Collection). The grill is located just around the corner from the museum and under the overpass — an odd location for a chef driven eateries, but from my perspective it was a great thing because it was raining cats and dogs the day I went and I was able to park my car in a space under the overpass and walk to the restaurant without needing an umbrella.
This place is close enough to Interstate 75 to be worth a pit stop if you’re looking for something FAR SUPERIOR to any of the national chain fare most travelers suffer.
Museum dedicated to a medal. Currently located in a mall, but expected to move back to central Chattanooga soon.
This is a tiny but very interesting museum that should not be confused with the larger Museum that is being built in Mt. Pleasant, South Carolina. I had a published pamphlet advertising it, and had called previously to confirm that was open and that it was really located in the mall… all of which turned out to be a very good thing, because if I had needed to rely solely on folks who worked in the mall to direct me, I’d have left feeling lost and annoyed; as it was, once I was at the mall I quite literally had to ask seven different staff members for directions before I found one who even know it was there and could direct me (and none of her fellow workers had any idea about it and laughed when they learned it was there and had been there for a while; One even realized she’d walked by it daily, and never saw it).
Like I said previously, the first medal of Honor was given for the civil war campaign called “The Great Locomotive Chase” (which, not surprisingly, Disney made a 1956 movie about) that occurred during the Civil war and ended in a tunnel near Dalton Georgia, where some union soldiers tried to steal a confederate train, take it back up north to Chattanooga, and do as much damage to the strategic rail line as possible along the way, hence the existence of this museum in the Chattanooga area. This museum used to be downtown and according to the docent, intends to move back there soon. The guy running it was a young war-geek guy, maybe 27 years old (where most docents are retired elderly people) who seemed to know a heck of a lot about every aspect of the museum. From what I could tell this was sort of a dream job for him, where he gets paid to sit around all day reading every book he could get his hand on about medal of honor winners, and shares that knowledge with visitors.
It’s a small place, but it’s packed to the gills with information about the medal itself, it’s history, and placards describing some of the more outstanding individuals who had won the medals. Among the ones that peaked my interest was the only medal of honor ever given to a woman, Dr. Mary E. Walker, which — according to the docent, was then taken away from her because women weren’t in the military (only she refused to stop wearing it), but the right was later returned to her posthumously. She had been a volunteer Union army surgeon who had been taken captive when she cross enemy lines in order to help wounded civilians, and declared a spy (probably because they couldn’t believe she was a doctor)
Among their fairly large selection of original medals and historic artifacts, was special cash brought back by WWII soldiers that had been created by the nazis for Jews to use within the concentration camp of Theresienstadt, which I’m not sure I ever saw before. For those who don’t know, Theresienstadt was a mediveil walled city which the Nazi’s had converted into a Ghetto for Jews, and as something of a waypoint to the extermination camps. Mostly however, they also used it for propaganda purposes, making movies about it claiming it to the world that it was an example of many Jewish resettlement areas, and an area they allowed the red cross to visit to prove the lie.
And of course, we can’t forget everyone’s favorite Medal of Honor Winner, Audie L. Murphy who initially tried to enlist at 17, then won the medal of honor for valor he showed in battle when only 19, and then became the most decorated hero of WWII (33 different awards) when he finally left the military at age 21; and if that weren’t enough, he then went on to be a fairly successful hollywood star who even performed in a few movies that went on to become classics, including as himself in “To hell and back” his own life story.
Traditional (horribly unhealthy, but oh so) tasty southern breakfast
This would be one of the myriad of places that does breakfast and lunch, not lunch and dinner — in other words, places I rarely manage to get to because of my tendency to not wake up till noon. However, since I had to be at the car repair at 1 PM I JUST managed to get here before closing. It’s one of the top ranked places in Chattanooga according to Yelp so I had wanted to try it. I was impressed that you can get iced coffee with maple syrup as a drink, and I ordered their “suggested” dish, the ‘5 and dime’. It was a biscuit, fried chicken, bacon, cheddar cheese, an over easy egg and sausage gravy — can’t you just feel your arteries hardening? The piped music was fiddle and banjo — I actually went home and searched for Appalachian music in iTunes afterwards (I now have a decent collection and am many dollars poorer).
The people at the next table (who all have thick southern drawls), who I overheard saying “well we found it, I hope it lives up to the hype” while walking into the place, were — after tucking in — all saying it did (live up to the hype) and are eating with gusto. Based on their conversations I assumed they were from Nashville, and after talking about working in their churches they all said grace before eating (yes, I’m in the bible belt — but I kind of took that as proof of their expertise in the fare). It was an interesting southern moment, as just then a homeless woman was walking by and stopped so as not to interrupt them, and then said “hallelujah” when they were done.
Highly educational restored home that will blow away historically inaccurate, Hollywood based, preconceived notions of who Native Americans were in the early 1800’s.
If you are in the area and have little hard knowledge regarding the original inhabitants of what is now the United States of America, than I strongly suggest a visit to this historic house if only because it may help to destroy some of your misconceptions regarding who the Cherokee were at the time of the trail of tears (1838-1839).
Most Westerners (and in this I include Americans and Europeans), based on what they have learned from Hollywood films, etc., seem to believe that all Native Americans were backward, or refusing to integrate into western society and that was the reason they were moved westward to what was called the “Indian Territories”, but this is woefully incorrect. In actuality, the reason the native inhabitants were removed had more to do the the recent discover of gold in their lands in 1829. The historic location I visited today is the restored home of Chief Van, a Native American so rich that he owned at least 100 slaves, a bunch of paddle wheel river boats, many trading posts, etc.
He was one of the influential Native Americans of the time who were using the American Judicial system to fight for the rights of his people, and with varying degrees of success in that regard (think of this as the first time that America Judiciary and the southern states came into direct conflict with each other — a pattern later repeated with civil rights, abortion, and then gay rates, et al). In spite of all of his wealth, and power, he made the major tactical error of hiring a white overseer when it was illegal for an Indian to do so (the states had been passing laws restricting the rights of native Americans that were not all that dissimilar to the segregation laws after the civil law, or to what Hilter later did to the Jews in Germany) thereby giving the federal government cause to kick him out along with the rest of the Cherokee during the trail of tears (only he took all of his furniture, slaves, etc. with him and continued to be very rich).
The house is SO fancy that it had a floating staircase and a fancy interior paint job with pigments most people of the day could never have afforded, and president Monroe had spent the night there when visiting the area.
After I leaving the house I drove past the first swamp I saw in Georgia. According to the docent at the Vann house, Spring Place which is the town where the house is located is the poorest part of the state, I guess this was the proof.
Much thanks to an old friend from college who is hosting me for almost two months at her home in Dalton, GA… and her hubbie, I am getting to experience a truly southern “experience.” We are at a race track in Aiken, SC for the trial runs of the steeple chase – featuring young horses who are being prepped for racing.
In other words, this is not a horse race where folks bet on the horses, but rather a social event of a more ‘gentile’ nature hosted in a part of the country where horse farms are common, attended by folks who love horses and just the general public. The festivities range from informal tailgating by folks in jeans and t-shirts, where folks entertain themselves and their friends before and between races (there’s a lot of standing around and waiting for races that only last a minute or two), as well the more upmarket folks who are in the main tent.
My friend bought the fancy tickets, which give us reserved parking near the fence, and entrance to the shaded tent — and a traditional southern buffet. At first I was worried I was over dressed because the tailgating crowd were all in jeans and t-shirts (while I am in an outfit I might wear when teaching University courses). Once we got into the tent, however, it was women in nice outfits and some big BIG hats.
We parked in the “infield” (inside the tack, just beyond that tree).
We ate what my friend says (she is a southerner from an OLD family) is an ‘obligatory’ southern buffet spread: pulled pork, grilled chicken fillet, Cole slaw, potato salad, and Green beans stewed within an inch of mush; rather than grilling the meats with BBQ sauces, as I assumed it was done, a variety of bbq sauces were lined up at the end of the table — which she assured me is how it should be done. Dessert was banana pudding, which according to my friends has to be (and was) ‘lighter than air’, and some sort of chocolate marshmallow type pudding which was less tasty.
I have to say, looking at all the women with the big hats, as well as some men who were equally dressed up, was probably the most entertaining part.
Local boy does good “museum” dedicated to a now mostly forgotten African American vocalist. Honestly, you’ll learn more about the man via Google than from this place. NOT worth the trip.
This place to be blunt about it pissed me off. I had seen pamphlets for it around town which looked professional and inviting, so even though I had initially gone to Calhoun with the intent of seeing New Echota only to find it closed (they’re only open Wed-Sat), I tried this place instead because of the misleading brochures. I found it to be a pathetically weak excuse for a museum.
Firstly, there is NO signage in front of the building telling you the Roland Hayes museum is in there (or if there is I couldn’t find it), rather you see a prominent sign for the Harris Arts Center in front of an historic looking hotel, located on the towns main street next door to the county government building, that seems to be recently, and (more importantly) expensively renovated. In retrospect, this fact betrayed what I believe to be the museums true purpose … which was NOT to honor Roland Hayes. After much confusion, and second guessing myself as to was I in the right place, I went in.
Essentially, I found a mid sized room set off to the side of the front door, inside of which was mostly just some randomly placed pictures and documents on the walls of the room. The place was so haphazardly ‘hung’ that it took me a full 20 minutes to even figure out who the guy was (as a former art major and history major I was getting really pissed off, a five year old could have done a better job of organizing the place so that it told a story). Considering he was a recording artist whose work was now in the public domaine you would think they would at least have someplace where you could listen to his music — you can on their web site — but NO. And when I say the ‘documentation’ was hung haphazardly, I mean it… they ACTUALLY buried the lead, to use a journalism term; at the far end of the room, and around a corner into a hallway that leads off to some meeting rooms (which don’t feel like they’re part of the museum, so that you get the sense you should not go there) I found a framed newspaper article about the man saying he was the top selling African American vocalist of his day — THAT should have been front and center, as it answers the all important question of, “as a total stranger whose never heard of the guy, why should I care?”
Afterwards, while searching the internet I found recordings of his in the public domain, were they available to hear at the museum? NO… I found a documentary shot in 1990, had they made a deal with the filmmaker to show it at the museum, of course not. I did however spot these things available for purchase on a display in the far corner of the museum store behind the other goods they were working hard to sell, which was mostly what I think may have been art made by locals… or it could have been from China, I didn’t look too closely.
To be perfectly honest, the more I looked at this excuse of a “museum” and compared it to the rest of the very large space in which it was placed — that was being actively used by a bunch of local (dressed to the hilt and bouffant haired) society women’ (not one of which was a person of color) on that Tuesday afternoon, I developed a theory as to why it was there at all. I think the town leaders wanted to convert an old hotel in the center of town into a ladies art center and, looking around for external grants, realized their town had a famous POC and they could get government and other funding for the building’s renovation if they simply devoted one room of that building to him — I’m sure their grant proposal said something to the effect that the rest was intended to honor him by promoting the arts (and I’m sure they throw in just enough yearly events ‘in his memory’ to ensure that funding is not revoked). Did I mention there isn’t even an easily visible sign on the exterior of the building saying the museum is in there? I honestly think more money was spent advertising the space via pamphlets than on actually creating something for people to see once they got there… because, and of course this is all my personal opinion, their real purpose was to renovate the building for the elites of the town and to draw in some tourism dollars to the city — hoping that the ‘hooked fish’ who have driven all this way, after having spent 10 minutes (maximum) walking around the room and finding little to see, will then explore the town a little and hopefully spend some money in the local economy.
So day before yesterday I stopped in a MASSIVE antiques store in Helen, GA (it took up all 3 floors of a huge home, described as Antebellum, and a modern extension — off to the right). What made this stop interesting, beyond the sheer size of their collection, was that at the front counter they had a large number of DVD copies of Disney’s Song of the South.
When I said to the owner, a woman, that I didn’t think they HAD released it to DVD because of how controvertial it is, she told me that they imported them from the UK (where I guess they are released). Then I mentioned how Martin Luther King himself had asked Walt Disney (himself) NOT to make the film, and if he did to PLEASE NOT show “happy singing slaves” and how Disney had ignored him on all counts, but the movie had failed at the box office because by it’s release in 1946 it was already out of step with the times …
Then, an older guy, who had overheard my comments and who stated that he was a retired cop, started talking about how they’d changed the name of the road his police station in Texas was on to Martin Luther King Drive, and how offended the cops were that they’d done it… He went on to say that the racism (push back) had just escalated from there… it was a very “interesting” conversation that would never have happened in the North.
Now in retrospect I’m thinking on it and in fact the store had IMPORTED them, and it wasn’t just one copy, it was a lot of copies… i.e., Disney might not want to release them in the the U.S., but this store owner clearly believed that there was enough demand to support the extra cost.
Oh, and before I spotted the DvD I was bemused by a relatively large collection of Sambodolls and figurines for sale — which is something else one sometimes sees sold in other countries but rarely in the US of A.
While the Indian mound is essentially a mildly offensive tourist trap, the tiny village of Sautee — just down the street — is in my opinion well worth the visit:
Located in Georgia, just outside of Helena, there is this Indian mound that really impressed me, at least until I learned from online sources (such as Atlas Obscura) that it had already been excavated, and then replaced (and is therefore a replica rather than the original) — a fact that none of the signs at the location tell you … nor one shared with me by locals.
The area in which it sits could best be described as countrified yuppie. It’s all gift shops and locally made artesian soaps cheeses and art etc., none of whom I suppose have any motivation to tell the truth about historical mound their shops are adjacent to. Not only did the locals not share the actual facts with me, I was, I would argue, actively misled by them. I can’t remember if it was the saleswoman at the racist antiques store across the street (which sold Sambo dolls and ‘Song of the South‘ DVD’s) or one of the other locals business people who initially assured me that the mound was an Indian burial mound that had been kept in “almost pristine condition” in large part because of the gazebo that a local farmer had opted to place on the top, that kept him and future farmers from leveling it.
In fact, if you look closely and read the sign, and then go to this site, you’ll discover that the sign is mostly a pack of lies!!!! There is no evidence that DeSoto visited, and archeologists are fairly certain that the mound predates any Cherokee habitation of the area.
Consider for instance “legend” that is associated to the mound:
“The legend of the Nacoochee Indian Mound states that Indian lovers from opposing tribes are buried within the mound. Sautee, a brave of the Chicksaw Tribe, and Nacoochee, the daughter of a Cherokee Chief fell immediately and hopelessly in love when a Chicksaw band stopped in Cherokee territory at a designated resting place. The two lovers met in the night and ran away to nearby Yonah Mountain to spend a few idyllic days together. When they later confronted Nacoochee’s father with the idea of creating peace between the two nations, Chief Wahoo ordered Sautee thrown from the high cliffs of Yonah Mountain while Nacoochee was forced to watch. Almost immediately, Nacoochee broke away from her father’s restraining hands and leaped from the cliff to join her lover. At the foot of the cliff, the lovers dragged their broken bodies together and locked in a final embrace and died there. The Chief, overcome with remorse realized the greatness of love and buried the lovers, still locked in death, near the banks of the Chattahoochee River as a burial mound.”
Seems a bit TOO Romeo and Juliet for my tastes… that and the fact that the mound is listed on the National registry of historical places may, in actuality, have more to do with it’s having been located on the estate of L.C. Hardman, a former Georgia Governor, than anything else. … none of which I learned till I started researching the location for this blog post.
I have to say that in retrospect, as someone who has deep personal connections to the Native American community, I felt a bit ‘ripped off’ by my experience at this location. On the upside, it’s not someplace I went out of my way to see, it just happened to be along the drive… but that said, some honesty would be appreciated! I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised, considering this is located just outside of Helen, GA, (notable only for German architecture and restaurants — only one of which is any good — it is essentially a tourist trap aimed at anyone in search of a little touch of a Bavaria in the midst of the Appalachian foothills).
That said, directly adjacent is one of the actual gathering points (of which there were many) for the Trail of Tears… a forced relocation (that for those Native Americans not affluent enough to purchase transit devolved into an ultimately genocidal/ethnic cleansing) of the south eastern United states, during the administration of Andrew Jackson.
That said, I did find one major “FIND” a bit further down Unicoi turnpike… first you’ll find a very cute “village/crossroads” (not more than few stores) of Sautee Nacoochee which includes the ridiculously picturesque Old Sautee’s Store and market,
walking distance from which you’ll find the Folk Pottery Museum of Northeast Georgia, a museum for the Traditional pottery of the area, built as an annex to a converted historic school, which now serves as the Sautee Nacoochee Center, a gallery and visual arts center for local artists (and a lot of what they have for sale — and at affordable prices considering it’s original art… are, at least in my opinion, really good)
Helen, Georgia, a tiny GA town with a local population of slightly over 500, is one very large tourist trap of a town aimed at locals of German extraction trying to reconnect to their ancestral roots, or anyone else in search of a little touch of a Bavaria in the midst of the Appalachian foothills. Not worth visiting unless you’re already in the area and looking German food.
Note: I took this trip BEFORE having set up my blog — although I had been intending to do it for months already, so I didn’t take anywhere as many pictures as I probably should have.
I had been staying at my friend’s place in Dalton GA for a few weeks, with the intention of staying a full two months (I remember her saying “I have no idea WHAT you’re going to do here for all that time” — suffice it to say I proved her wrong), and this was near the top of her list of side trips I should consider. The drive there from Dalton was very pretty (as directed by my new car’s GPS device — which I have grown to LOVE, never had one before), and took me there via state highways (think two lane roads) that I would never have otherwise had the guts to take.
For most of the trip I was pretty much alone on the roads, which is both restful and a tad terrifying — when you have no idea where you are. In retrospect (looking at a maps attached to my images) I know now that my GPS took me all along the Richard B Russell Scenic Highway (which is a National Forest Scenic Byway) up over some nearby foothills, through the Chattahoochee National Forest, and and into the valley where the town of Helen is located.
The trip took me about two hours and like I said, I was instinctively ‘lost’ but trusting my new GPS system to know where we were going for most of the way … According to the folks who drove up on their motorcycle (see above image) at this location we are still about 8 miles away from Helen GA.
From a business development perspective what makes Helen interesting is that once they realized that their local industry had failed, rather than kicking a dead horse, they opted for something completely different; taking advantage of their location adjacent to a National Forest they decided instead to become a tourist destination town. Per Wikipedia: “Formerly a logging town that was in decline, the city resurrected itself by becoming a replica of a Bavarianalpine town, in the Appalachians instead of the Alps. This design is mandated through zoning first adopted in 1969, so that the classic south-German style is present on every building, even on the small number of national franchisees present (such as Huddle House and Wendy’s).”
When I arrived I was hungry with a capitol H, having not eaten anything that morning other than a cup of coffee. So, my very first stop was at the first decent looking German restaurant I could find Hofbrauhaus Resturant in the picture at the top of this blog, which at the time also had decent YELP reviews… BLECH. I had one of my favorite childhood dishes, Weiner schnitzel!! As a kid I was one of those incredibly picky eaters who was 10 lb underweight and could drive my mom crazy by going for a full day on three french fries and a glass of chocolate milk. One summer we were in Austria following my dad around as he presented academic papers at conferences, and my mom had discovered I would actually eat Weiner schnitzel, so the first priority was checking if a restaurant served that, and THEN was there anything else on the menu for the rest of the family. So I know my Weiner schnitzel (which I am said to say I can no longer eat because my penchant for everything fried has resulted – I was diagnosed two months after this trip — in liver disease); and to be bluntly honest I was mightily unimpressed with how this restaurant prepared it … as in, “I drove TWO hours for THIS?”
That said, the place DOES have a good view of the river…
The next thing I did upon arriving was, using just my phone phone and the various apps I had on it, I tried to find a decent place to spend the night. There were NOT as many choices as I would have hoped (I have since gotten much more skilled at delving those depths from my iPhone), and at that time I had not yet installed the Airbnb.com app into my iPhone (I was still using a iPhone 4s then, which was already four years old, had VERY limited memory and was starting to slow down from old age), so I was forced to limit my search to national chains — I now know better. I ended up with a room at the Hampton Inn, and since the hotel was half empty I was able to convince the staff to upgrade me to a room with a balcony overlooking the Chattahoochee river for no extra fee.
After having checked in I went to walk around and discovered that this town closes down way early, and from the looks of it most stores don‘t open till noon. Only two stores still open at 5:30 were both owned by what I am guessing are a man and a woman who were both Indian (India) and I am betting are man and wife– work ethic anyone? The whole town looked like it could be part of the German exhibit at Disney-world’s Epcot, the next day when I walked around I discovered that most of the shops have at least one German style hat with a feather in it … only done on the cheap, so that it kind of reminded me of Old Town in Orlando, which I had just lived next door to for about four months, only sans the amusement park rides and haunted houses, etc.
Other than that there were a handful of interesting shops, like this one place that had it’s own hive to produce it’s own honey… but not much otherwise
Upon checking in, I had told the staff member there how unhappy I had been with the food at the Hofbrauhaus and could he make a better suggestion for my Dinner. He suggested The Bondesee, saying their were the only place in town with an actual chef from Germany, and that it was the place all the locals in town preferred.
And now, after having eaten there… Wow!!! I STRONGLY suggest Bondesee German Restaurant to anyone in the general vicinity of Helen GA.
Walking in the 12 cats who seem to believe that the front entrance of the restaurant is their home (so that the covered patio area which they seem to have taken over stinks of cat urine) would NOT normally have been a good sign, nor would my conversation with the grumpy owner when I swung by there at around 6pm … had it NOT been for the recommendation of a local those two things would have sent me scurrying elsewhere…
However, after having now eaten there, the chef is apparently a man after my own heart in that he seems to believe that there’s no such thing as too much garlic. Seriously, I don’t think The Stinking Rose (a San Francisco institution) serves less garlic… I was in garlic heaven. The butter for the bread was amazing enough to eat without the bread, and the mushroom appetizer came in a cream and garlic sauce that was divine (I had it as a side for my Weiner schnitzel because ALL the sides were carbs (I opted for the Spätzle) … and the portion sizes for me (a single) were more than enough for two people.
The German beer looked dark and a bit scary, but it was very smooth and went really well with the food. Oh, and the OH SO GAY — to the point where he was a caricature of gayness — waiter just CARDED me!!! Talk about how to make a 51 year old woman happy. He looked genuinely shocked to see we were the same age.