I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
July 25, 2011
On Saturday, I drove with the kids from Nashville to my dad’s house on the river in TheMiddleofNowhere, Georgia.
It’s the first stop on my Grand Tour of Georgia, 2011, which began in TheMiddleofNowhere, continues on this afternoon to Atlanta, and ends at Sea Island with my high school friends. I’m sure you’ll hear more about it later. But for now…
Getting to The MiddleofNowhere isn’t easy. Soon after I crossed the Georgia state line, I left the interstate for a two-lane highway in Dalton, Georgia. From there, my GPS sent me on a maze of country lanes that wound past rural hamlets, around pastures, through nature preserves, and over rivers. I had no earthly idea where I was, but the scenery was a nice change from the hours I had just spent on the interstate.
I was charmed by tiny town squares that popped up in the most unlikely places. (I even stopped to take a quick photo of the town of Talking Rock, pictured above.) I marveled at the beauty of pristine lakes surrounding ancient mountains. I gawped at the tiny houses that dotted the landscape, fashioned of logs and tin roofs that I wouldn’t believe could possibly still be inhabited if I didn’t see laundry strung up outside and shirtless, beer-bellied men sitting on busted sofas outside the front door. I noted wonderingly that every other house was holding a yard sale, and guessed that yard sales were probably a permanent weekend event at these houses in a place where the jobs were few and the land unyielding.
“Turn right on Old Burned Down Church Road,” my GPS instructed me about 20 minutes into the backroad portion of my drive, and I did. Almost immediately, the road began snaking upward.
Oh, Lord. I was headed up a mountain. My palms began sweating as I climbed the hairpin curves, slowing to a turtle’s crawl in our ancient Expedition.
I have never liked driving up and down mountains, but it wasn’t until a couple of years ago that my slight fear of them turned to terror. I was driving with my kids down Monteagle Mountain on the way from Nashville to Atlanta when a mounted bike flew off the car in front of me, directly into my path. I saw my life flash before me as I, along with seven other drivers, swerved quickly to escape the bike as it bounced across a steep grade of interstate. We got out of that situation safely, fortunately, but ever since that time, I’ve broken out into a cold sweat every time we’ve gone over that mountain.
And now, as my car struggled up a much narrower road with much steeper turns, I realized that this situation was infinitely worse. I had no idea where I was or how high I’d have to climb in my SUV. The cars behind me multiplied as I gripped the steering wheel and drove at a snail’s pace. I pulled off the road whenever I could to let them get by, but there were few turnoffs. On my left, the mountain rose abruptly. On my right was a steep drop off. The treetops of a mature forest were visible right beside us, cluing me in as to just how much of a drop there was just a few feet away from our car.
After what seemed like an eternity (not to mention a marathon session of brake-riding), I managed to make it over that damned mountain.
“When will we get there, Mommy?” four-year-old Bruiser asked for the one-hundredth time. I looked anxiously at the GPS. The arrival time kept growing later and later. It now said we were more than an hour away.
“Um, it’s going to be a while, Bruiser,” I said in a singsong voice. I expected a freakout in the backseat; the kids had been traveling for hours. But they were strangely okay with the news. Which was good, because…
“Turn left on Ramshackle Shed Road,” the GPS said impassively. I turned left and the road began climbing again.
I was headed up another mountain.
And this mountain put the first one to shame. It included twice as many hairpin curves, as well as drop offs so impressive that turnoffs had been built so that drivers could pull over and snap pictures of the magnificent view. I glanced at one vista when I used the turnoff to let other cars go by. It was certainly scenic, with mountains undulating majestically into the horizon. However, realizing that I had to get down from this scenic spot left me feeling frankly nauseated.
I studiously avoided glancing to my right as I got back on the road and inched my way down the other side of the mountain. Instead, I focused on the road ahead of me. And I talked to myself. Fortunately, my kids were too young to realize that this was a prime opportunity for ridicule.
“Only 12 miles ’til the next turn,” I whispered in a strangled voice. A few moments later, I glanced at the GPS monitor again. “And now, it’s only… oh god… 12 miles until the next turn.”
I imagined that I had been caught in some sort of purgatory, where I would eternally be driving down a mountainside in terror with my two precious charges in the backseat. Because truthfully, my terror was not over what might happen to me if my brakes burned out or I miscalculated a turn and went sailing over the side of the road. It was over what might happen to them.
“Stay calm,” I muttered to myself. This was definitely not a time to let my imagination get out of control. “Don’t overthink this. Just. Drive.”
It took what felt like hours, but we finally made it down the mountain.
And the damned GPS said I still had an hour to go.
I drove like a banshee the next 50-odd miles. I ignored the quirky country stores and left the roadside vegetable stands in my dust. I made it to my dad’s remote house just a few minutes before it got too dark to see, which was lucky because in the dark, I could never have found it.
I do love being in TheMiddleofNowhere.
I just hate what it takes to get here.