As Floridians one of the most simple, cathartic and utterly complete weekend get-aways we are easily afforded, is the exploration of our northern neighbor’s pastoral small towns and blue-highways…
Our road-trip started out in Tampa on busy Friday afternoon where we picked up a brand new 2012 Honda Civic Si to evaluate and review on our west Georgia back-roads journey…
As is our general practice we decided to leave Tampa around 4:30am, just to stay ahead of traffic and with any luck make it to at least Lake City, Florida before the sun came up and bringing with it spring-break traffic and the FHP’s notorious state-line speed-traps…
Mission accomplished, by 7:05am when the sun triumphantly rose in the east over the pine and oak stands of north Florida we were well north of Lake City and quickly en route to cross the state line into Georgia. With regard to our car, we were surprisingly very impressed with the noticeably faster and more torquey 2012 Civic Si. Making good use of it’s 2.4-liter 201 hp i-VTEC® 4-cylinder engine the peppy civic responded well to even the most spirited highway-driving all while still preserving good mpg efficiency where on average we were getting right around 30mpg; nice work Honda, truth in advertising.
Making great time on this quiet early Saturday morning, Interstate 75 had cooperated and with minimal traffic or construction between Tampa, FL and Tifton, GA we had somehow managed to arrive at the start of our west Georgia back-roads adventure right around 9:30am.
Turning off Interstate 75 at exit 122 for Unadilla/Byromville you are immediately greeted with what this trip is all about; small towns, twisty-roads and some of the most spectacular agrarian back-country the south has to offer. Leaving the interstate behind and finding your way to Georgia Highway 26 West which brings you into this time-warped western side of Macon County it’s at times hard to believe you are still in Georgia and not somewhere more…Amish, like Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The picturesque fields of cotton, vegetables and pecan groves are dotted ever so sporadically by silos, barns and farm houses. In the distance horses, mules and other farm animals roam the paddocks bounded by white fences and vast expanses of green fields, it a visceral visual experience that serves to perfectly evoke the local Amish community and more northern origins.
Passing farm after farm on this well paved 2-lane highway you traverse a springtime sea of agrarian green, it’s a visual greatly unlike any farm settings you would find in Florida and then as if out of nowhere you arrive at the community oasis that is the famous Yoder’s Deitsch Haus; part restaurant, part general store and completely novel. Here at your first stop you are greeted by the friendly Amish families of the area, members of a thriving secular community that peddle their hand-crafted wares and excellent foods to the public in a comfortable all-be it simple and dated fashion. Dogs and puppies roam the property approaching all visitors with a friendly and disarming look as they await pets and praise. Inside, the Yoder’s daily prepare a veritable smorgasbord of locally grown and prepared southern and northern delicacies all served affordably and family style. Directly off the dining room you will find the Amish bake-shop which features what can only be described as the best doughnuts and sourdough bread we’ve ever had (or at least the best sourdough east of San Francisco see Boudin’s Review Here) along with countless cakes, pies, breads and all manner of baked goods. As ridiculously cheap as they are excellent any visit to Yoder’s is incomplete without bring along some baked goods to eat along the road trip!
Moving on from Yoder’s Deitsch House you leave behind the Amish and their flowing fields of pastoral green and in turn find the quiet and nearly forgotten streets of picturesque Montezuma, Georgia. Rich with Victorian Architecture and history this small railroad town has seen better days but is building a brighter future through the renovation of their many Victorian mansions, an effort which is drawing in much needed revenue and tax dollars from retiring baby-boomers eager to become part of the modern landed gentry with their affordable and historic Victorian palaces.
A unique and still functional small town, Montezuma has a rich history which is highlighted in the town’s free history center which resides in the restored railway station in downtown. While there take a moment to poke around downtown and maybe grab some photos of your car at the awesomely vintage and abandoned Montezuma Motors Ford dealership…no sign no crime!
Leaving Montezuma, Georgia on Georgia Highway 90 North you will snake your way through some more Amish held farms and homesteads intermixed with cattle ranches, dairy farms, tobacco fields and more. Eventually you’ll arrive at the sleepy town of Rupert, Georgia….blink and you’ll have passed it. Leaving Rupert you will have exited Macon county and will now find yourself on US Highway 19 North…a far cry from the US 19 we know well in central Florida’s Pinellas, Pasco and Citrus counties. Heading north you’ll have smooth roads, sweeping banked curves and hardly any traffic save the stray local from time to time. Moving north the land starts to roll a bit and the farms and pecan groves take on a different feel, a preview of whats to come as we move ever closer to Georgia’s foothills of the Appalachians.
Next you’ll arrive at Thomaston, Georgia which by Montezuma and Rupert standards is downright huge. Another Victorian boom town, Montezuma has fared far better than it’s counterparts to the south if for no other reason than proximity to the economic center of Georgia…Atlanta. Never the less Thomaston still offers that sleepy small town or home town feel. Possessing a beautiful and historic downtown this is a great place to stop and enjoy a meal, stretch your legs and appreciate the slower more relaxing pace of rural Georgia life. Typical of this type of town, downtown is built around a central square and in this square lies one of Georgia most architecturally lauded county courthouses; the Upson County Courthouse.