Erma Bombeck’s Writer’s Workshop
Pelted with Pine Needles on Pine Mountain
Pelted With Pine Needles on Pine Mountain:
Bugs, Balloons, and Black Bean Burgers
After a summer filled with doctor’s offices, surgeries (his and hers), a beach trip with five kids (three of which are teenagers), and some other unfortunate events, the hubs and I needed an escape. I saw an advertisement for Fantasy in Flight at Calloway Gardens. The hubs has always wanted to see the hot air balloons. As I am usually up for an adventure, we planned and packed.
With us and our his and mine family of seven, planning usually means figuring out the 15 minutes a year that neither of us has our kids or negotiating and schedule swapping with ex-spouses. It was the hubs turn to beg and swap. Since, he put off the enviable playing nice butt kissing as long as possible, our accommodation choices became more limited in an already limited selection pool of Pine Mountain, GA. The resort and cabins at Calloway Gardens were all booked up for the special event weekend. Using the Booking.com app, I found a bed and breakfast with free cancellation for a sweet $140 a night. The reviews were good and the pictures cute, and who doesn’t love free breakfast and snacks.
Room booked, tickets bought, things to do research done, and bags packed, we head out as August dwindles to a close to celebrate Septembers arrival. We are off on an adventure, well almost, we have to stop by Wal-Mart, and Starbucks, and argue with Siri’s British cousin Jeeves about routes. Two hours later and five miles from our starting place, we are finally headed out on our adventure.
Road trips for us usually mean a scenic route of coffee shops and bathrooms. I will say the coffee shop offerings on 431 south from Oxford, Al to Pine Mountain, GA is poor. The major metropolises like Wedowee and Roanoke have just not caught up with the coffee shop scene. If you have never travelled down 431 South from Alabama to Georgia, just imagine a repeat of Mayberry over and over again with large stretches of cattle farms in between. You are lucky if you find a Jack’s and a gas station that doesn’t sell live worms and has an outhouse. The journey is only 100 miles from our humble abode. That is somewhere between a 2 -5 hour drive depending on the number of tractor and cattle traffic jams and the number of arguments the hubs gets into the GPS. We managed to stop at and appraise the facilities of 2 gas stations and a Burger King restroom in this time. I will cover gas station restrooms at another time.
The sun was high in the Georgia sky and the afternoon felt a lot like what I felt walking into Mordor was like when the hubs and I arrived at our destination or rather near our destination. Jeeves had betrayed us and led us into the wrong entrance of the Gardens, so we took the scenic route before finally discovering Robin Lake Beach. After receiving our stylish neon green wrist bands that indicated we had two day tickets, we almost immediately discovered the Classic Car Show that the website had boasted. Front and center was a delightful Beige VW Bus. I must admit that I LOVE anything Volkswagen. All the VW cars just look like they have personalities. Maybe, I watched Herbie too many times as a kid. The selection of cars other than the adorable bus and two beautifully restored quirky Beatles was Mustang and Corvette Skittles. It was shiny, sparkly different colors of the same cars over and over. The hubs ogled each one with enthusiasm. I, however, was beginning to wander if we were looking at the same three cars over and over again.
Once the hubs drooled over and fondled each and every 1960 something Mustang, we headed out to seek the reason we were there- the giant, colorful, gas filled sacks with baskets. I had never seen a hot air balloon in person, but I have seen The Wizard of Oz many times and have known many men full of hot air, so I assumed that a field full of hot air filled sacks of every color with a basket hanging from them would not be hard to find. The hubs, however, seemed to think they were hiding from us. After some bickering and discussion of where they might be or if the trolley would take us there, the hubs asked an employee. She said that they would be back at 5. It was 2. Apparently, the balloons have siesta from 10-2. I am not really complaining. It is hotter than the 7th level of hell in August and September at that time of day in Georgia. I also need an air-conditioned siesta. I convinced the hubs that finding our B&B and checking in was an excellent plan until the balloon naptime was over.
As we drove the winding country roads between Pine Mountain and Hamilton to the location of our B&B, I longed for a rest in the air conditioner. We found the Holly House with only a few route recalculations from Jeeves. The yard was lush maybe a little too lush. A green house peaked out from behind the ivy, bushes, and trees. The porch was furnished (very furnished) with what I could only describe as Little House on the Prairie meets Mrs. Claus style. So many pillows – so much holly. I should have been tipped off by the name; I had assumed that it was the owner’s last name. Alas, I was mistaken. The note on the door instructed me to ring the bell. After a moment, a lady that was no doubt the person that decorated that porch opened the door. She wore an obviously homemade prairie dress, and apron, and was the human equivalent of what would happen if you merged the bumbling fairy godmother from Cinderella and one of Santa’s elves. We were immediately given an enthusiast tour of every overly decorated themed room. The proprietor took pride in showing me her bookshelves that were filled with multiple copies of Louisa May Alcott books. Her obsession with Little Women might explain the interesting décor.
Once the husband and I escaped the enthusiast grasp of our host to see our room for the weekend, I was awe struck. I have never seen so much green and red in one small room and bathroom. Santa has nothing on this lady. The hubs was not feeling my nap plan, we were in our room mere moments before he decided that we should venture out to find a cigar shop. Here I might note that my hubs sole purpose to travel is to explore cigar shops and coffee shops. I am game for the coffee. All cigars stink alike to me, but I digress. Off we go on another road trip. This time to a town only 30 miles away to a cigar shop that does not exist. However, we did see some impressive road rage on our travels. It was like an action movie. We were not the subjects of the incident. We were merely wandering down the road when one car flies into the turn lane in front of the driver and proceeds to get out of her car and beat on the other car’s window. I blame the lack of coffee shops for this.
The hubs and I return to Calloway Gardens still 3 hours too early for the nightly balloon glow. There are still no signs of the balloons. No one told me those things were like unicorns. With much effort, I convince the hubs to exit the car and get on the trolley with me. As much resistance to the trolley and its destination he had, one would think he was afraid it was the trolley to Hell itself.
I exclaimed there is a butterfly sanctuary. Hubs response,” They are bugs. I only want to go if I can swat them.” I drug him anyway with many warnings that no swatting was allowed. No butterflies were harmed in this adventure. No husbands were lost or harmed either. There were a few moments… but I digress.
There was only so long I could keep the hubs in line, so back to the beach we go. Though he was content to stand on the sidewalk and stare into space, I convinced him to grab a table at the beach bar and wait on the unicorns (I mean balloons.) One bad beer and one overpriced cocktail later, we are living the faux beach life. Then it happens, the breeze turns ugly, we are attacked by pine needles. Hubs suggest we make a run for it. I concur. By the time we reach our car, there was a surprise monsoon. Wet and grumpy, we head back to Christmas land for some homemade cookies and bed. After I removed 20 of the 21 quilts on our bed, we both had a restful nights sleep. Have I mentioned it was September in Georgia, so the outside temp was about 106 in the shade. I would hate see the number of quilts our hosts thought appropriate for winter.
Fast forward to morning, we wake to the smell of bacon. We quickly get ready because it is uncouth to eat in public in one’s pajamas and bedhead. If I need to wear a bra for bacon, a bra it is. Mrs. Fairy God Mother Claus From the Prairie proudly exclaims that she made pie and cake for breakfast to cheer us all up because of the unfortunate rain out the night before. I felt a little betrayed. The pie was quiche. Pies are not made of eggs, onions and potatoes. Just because you make something in a pie pan does not make it a pie. Pies involve butter and sugar.
Hubs and I ate our crumb cake and bacon and headed out to see if we could catch a glimpse of the unicorn balloons.
Our spirits dwindled as it began to mist rain as we approached the balloon field, but the unicorn balloons had decided to peek out for just a moment. Some were trying to climb back in their hiding spots, but we caught them. For a few glorious moments we were in the presence of hot air filled bags with baskets. We even got to climb into one and got up in the air a little. Then it was their naptime again. The balloons did not come back out to play that evening. It was simply not meant for us to see them glow.
After a rainy drive to another near by city to find a cigar shop, and a couple of coffee shops, the hubs and I ventured around to look for dinner. We ended up in a quirky looking mom and pop place named Cricket’s. Thankfully, they did not decorate with or serve crickets. The hubs had a crab cake sandwich, which he described as just okay. I had a black bean burger, which was yummy, but I was starving. I am fairly sure both were bought frozen at the local Save A Lot grocery. Since food is important to me, as I am a fat girl, I will say that the culinary faire in the area was lack luster with exception of the Holly House homemade chocolate chip cookies and old-fashioned crumb cake. Oh yeah, there was also bacon. I will wear a bra for bacon.
I am word nerd, geek girl, boy mom, keeper of the books, teacher, and yogi. I practice yoga in hopes to being Zen. My filter is often broken. I wear by nerd and geek status as a badge of honor. I try to find the funny in every day life.