Our Great and Funny United States

Week 6, Vermont

I don’t know enough about Vermont! I’ve spent less than a day there. It was a gorgeous 5 or 6 hours, and the French-derived ‘green mountain’ state lived up to the hype. Some of you may be thinking ‘Vermont and hype’ don’t go in the same combo. Gosh, if Vermont isn’t serene and understated in the most majestic way.

The hype, for me, came from my Niagara Falls, NY grandfather who told me Vermont was his favorite place of anywhere, and he saw a lot of places and a few countries, too, before I had the opportunity. He would become nostalgic remembering and hoping we’d go together. He wanted my sis and me to learn to ski at Killington (and he IS responsible for this GA girl learning to ski at a young age, a rare and much appreciated experience in 1985!). We didn’t go to Killington, VT because Grandpa was 74 by the time he got us on the slopes.

Anyway, his love of the place left a snowy, magical Vermont residue in my mind. If I’m stereotyping Vermont, forgive me, since I admit only a brief personal glimpse. Grandpa used 100% maple syrup from The Vermont Country Store exclusively. The image of the tin can- the smell and the taste- etched in my mind like food glitter. We also wore flannel from TVCS before flannel was hip for Southerners. Again, Grandpa was just authentically Northern and flannel IS nice and warm. …I’d eventually seek TVCS catalogue as an adult, to order Christmas gowns and good bedroom shoes (slippers, Grandpa called them) and tin can maple syrup after he passed away. He told me about grazing cows (most cows of any state per human, turns out ), and green hills and quaint churches and wooden bridges and snowy valleys.

Vermont in December, 20+ years after his death, when I first saw it, was exactly as Grandpa recalled. My venture into the state, a somewhat inconvenient fast day trip meant to send a telepathic message- Grandpa, you’re right. It’s what you said it was and I made it.So, yeah, Ski Killington and eat syrup (it is in fact the biggest producer of maple syrup) and take pictures of cows and churches and bridges (the most of any state). Vermont is the second least populated state and, I believe, there’s no McDonald’s in its capital city and it was the last state to give into a WalMart. Quaint and genuine. Plus, there’s Bernie, who’s pretty chill 🕶 of late, and the home of Ben & Jerry’s (are they still in the 🍨 biz?)…Grandpa bought the best ice cream and once told me that he had Vermont to thank for his quality taste.

I’m headed back to Vermont for a longer stay. It was top of our list to return there after our glimpse of it in Dec. 2019. Then, Covid 🙄 So, I’m counting on you special Vermonters (got a few cool friends up there😘🧣) to let me know when to come. Soon! Last pic is where we are staying when we return. Oh, I forgot to tell you that, my hubby! 🏔💚

As always, please leave your comments and travel photos.

Travel review: A couple of nights away in High Falls, GA

*Note- There is only one picture, not six, above.*

GLAMPING POD at High Falls, GA *** Surprisingly, the most requested trip review I’ve ever received😳!

This excursion was kind of like riding a bicycle built for two. Some coordination and pre thought required but awfully fun and cute and simple. Made for two and only for a short time. 🚲 Which coincidentally reminds me, note, we should’ve taken our bikes! We did two nights; retrospect, we might go three just because we LOVED hanging out at the falls and, well, with Covid, it’s not like we have someplace better to go. Easy trip from anywhere in GA or beyond, really. 1 hour, 10 mins for us, coming from Middle Georgia.

The pod is precious. Plenty of standing room, clean, and a good place to basically sleep. One drawback: In the pics, it looks like it’s dropped in the middle of nowhere, highly desirable for us👏. Actually upon arrival, it’s on the outer edge of a campground and the nearest RV is a stone’s throw away. BUT, the pod patio is on the edge/woods side, and the pod is kind of high, angular, igloo like-stacked (if I’m making sense). So, grilling, listening to music, sharing a bottle of Jack on the patio, you can pretend you’re remote👍 Soon, we couldn’t be convinced we weren’t hardcore excursionists (with the amenities of home three steps away, yeah!).

Things to take: More comfy outside chairs than those provided, microwaveable sides (we took steam-bag veggies) or quick breakfasts perhaps. Bug spray. No bugs bother me because my blood type is pickle juice, but if you’re on the sweet, smell-good side, they might tote you off without spray, coils, candles, whatever you primpy or campy types use.

Things to do nearby: This gets a solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Granted, I’m a gypsy spirit and Covid restrictions had me climbing the walls pre trip, so I was as easy as blackberry cobbler to impress). But truly, the scenery and quaint, laidback attractions nearby have you thinking you are somewhere farther from home. Somewhere worth killing a little downtime. I pretended I was in Colorado, so just do your thing and soak in simplicity.

Itinerary: Day 1- We left our hometown about 10 AM. Stopped in Juliette and ate lunch at Whistle Stop Cafe (met the hype. Okay, y’all do know you get the fried green maters, there, right?). If you’re the movie type, you already know the back story. If you’re the trivia type, look it up so you realize it’s more than a neat cafe. We browsed adorable shops on the Juliette strip, made friends with shop owners (this will be a prevailing theme, you’ll soon find out), got good Southerny snapshots. Checked in to our Colorado glamping pod. Unloaded by 4:30! Let’s face it; there’s not much to unload at the glamping pod. Nice.

We tend to overestimate ourselves. Decided to take the ‘long walk’ (about 10 mins, campground manager said). A cinch. Let’s go! 25 huffing-puffing mins later up, down, around Lake Jackson, we found the falls which turns out were five, mostly-flat-walking mins away on the highway. But, beautiful! Ah! So many trails and views, but we simply wanted a late-day sneak peek. Can’t say enough about the falls. Grilled out on the pod patio. Pretending I was in Colorado worked great. What a day; just what we needed. It’s all so low key and if you are serious about social distancing or off-grid experiences, you can feel like you are on a real getaway without being anxious!

Day 2: Hubby grilled sausage night before. Warmed for breakfast. Easy, slow morning in the, uhm, lower hills of Colorado. Packed sandwiches and chips for lunch at the falls. The park is lovely and a 3-min drive! They have kayaks and canoes and stuff and we’ll do that next time, but we just wanted to r-e-l-a-x. You can picnic close to the dam. Park the car right there, trash receptacles and grills there, too. Yummy! Romantic! Pretty! Sunny! Private! In fact, I just decided, we’re going back next month! There are various trails on both sides of the bridge. We loved the far side across the road from the park and dam. Spectacular views, unhindered nature, good banisters and sturdy steps if you’re not normally a hiker. Gorgeous! Relaxing! After lunch, we drove to Indian Springs. We like to think we are those touristy-type history buffs because we’ve traveled a lot, but we’re honestly amateurish. We’ll stop at a few marked points, read a few paragraphs on a sign, snap a photo, and probably opt to bust time eating the local known-for, instead. For example, we spent, eh, an hour at Hoover Dam then crashed the Hash House LVNV and ate 10,000 calories. If you’re more of the put-the-headphones-on, pay-a-guide type, you may want more time at Indian Springs. It’s got good history, a bit like Warm Springs, Roosevelt’s Little White House in western GA. We stayed, eh, an hour including the river-rock sunning, which along with the free-running well, were the highlights for us. Take an empty bottle and try the well water! Some folks brought jugs and apparently do their bottled-water shopping there for free🤷‍♀️ Mid-afternoon- We drove on to Jackson (15 mins) cuz we are spontaneous and easily entertained. Hung out with a new friend at his small, charming River’s Distillery, got the quick-version tour, enjoyed the smell (KWIM), did the tasting, bought his vodka and brandy, rocked in his rocking chairs and talked gambling-trip memories with him. Just right… Went down the street to Mesquite Mexican around 3PM for a midday snack. Good lord, get the Mesquite Special dip with nachos if you go. Sinful! Maybe don’t order the margarita pitcher so soon after the distillery, JS, but a socially-distanced good time was had by all (meaning we had the place to ourselves and were perhaps too loud). But we ate a bunch of chips, did I mention the dip, made friends with our server (we liked him, not sure he liked us) and watched the Nat hockey cup game on a flat screen in August (what? 2020 is crazy). Side note: That Jackson Bottle Shop is something to see! Feels more like something in a bigger beach town or somewhere like ATX. We didn’t need to buy alcohol, we weren’t planning to stop, but we saw the intriguing, old-style, BIG, caddy-cornered, triangular brick building, went ‘What?’ and next thing we know, we’re sending Snapchats of ourselves with ten-foot inflatable pirates and airplanes hanging from the ceiling amid rainbow stacks of ciders we’ve never heard of to our grown kids texting us, Is this at the glamping pod??? Why, yes, sort of! Don’t worry ‘bout Mommy and Daddy! Mm, k? Bye😘 Huge selection, awesome displays. We might’ve made purchases there, too, Idk😉 Evening: Chilled out/grilled out on the Colorado side of pod, (parents and small kids arrived on GA/RV side). So, music turned up on tiny Bluetooth speaker (pack that if you go). Ah! Harris Grocery kabobs on grill. Dancing, eating, drinking, heck yeah. Oh, the queen size bed in the pod is custom fitted to the opening, very cozy, nook-like, with AC above and a swivel flat screen, if you’d rather inside-chill. We stayed on our pod patio in Colorado till midnight.

Final day: Breakfast and coffee on patio for us. Then, we went to High Falls Water Park, opens at 11! It’s adorable, cheap, clean, and fun! We’re not the fancy types, so we just changed in the locker rooms afterward to head on to the next diversion on our meandering journey toward home. Which was: BBQ and looking at interesting, old farm junk at Hamlin Hills Farm in Forsyth about ten mins away. Good music blaring, scrumptious food, and like I said, cool farm junk. Made another new friend Lee, chatted about farming (well, that was mostly Nat Farmer of the Year aka my hubby Chris and the owner Lee); I was petting the dog, dancing on the empty band stage to “Hurts So Good”, and eating homemade divinity. Another fifteen-minute drive and you’re at Jarrell Plantation. Interesting history! Presented well. *Could also be visited on your first day, headed toward glamping pod, because it’s right outside Juliette, if you allow time. Evening: We planned to kill time in Macon, eat out, and do the Dueling Piano bar (hey, did you know it’s the longest bar in GA😎), but we were damp and tired. So we drove home, unpacked (let’s face it, took like 7 mins to unpack bc, you know, #Coloradopodliferocks), napped, grabbed our redheaded grown kid and her boyfriend, and we were back in Macon at the piano bar by nine with energy to spare (it would also be an easy drive FROM the pod while you’re staying there- or see a Macon Bacon game, Bass Pro, downtown dining, whatever, even if you wanted to add an extra pod night for Macon nightlife; it’s like 20 mins away). And that’s a wrap 🏕🌊 4.7 ⭐️

PS- How you know it’s 2020: I just wrote a longer review for rural RV park pod in Middle GA than I did for our 6-day Philly trip. -CC

Southern soul

At the heart, or soul, of a Southerner (United States) is food, music, land, family. That’s a rough draft list off the top of my head. I’m a Georgia peach.

Today, the hubby and I were out and about in the Golden Isles (Georgia coastline) on Saint Simons Island. I was doing a bit of promotions for Lainey Cash, Book One. We stopped for lunch at a place that’s an ole fave of ours.

Southern Soul BBQ (btw, I’m not getting paid to blurb this place, just writing whatever comes out). It’s BBQ at a former gas station, in a roadside curve, rural-cool decor (you know, forks and spoons in Mason jars, license plates and old ad posters on the walls), scrumptious Brunswick stew.

Oh, do you know what Brunswick stew is? Hmm, how to tell you, if you don’t. One of those classic foods I simply take for granted around here. I’m looking it up, just a moment… From Google/Wiki- Brunswick stew is a dish generally involving a tomato base, local beans, veggies, and originally small game meat, though today often chicken, but usually smoked pulled pork. Yes, that’s it, and most families have their minor variations (yes or no to corn, yes or no to hot sauce, etc.), a handwritten treasured recipe from generations past, and Thanksgiving/Christmas stew-making, freezing-for-winter tradition.

Anyway, as I was sitting in a solid wood booth, surrounded by women in ball caps, men in blue jeans and Columbia shirts, and meat smoke, at Southern Soul, I thought to myself for the millionth time: Isn’t it neat how the things that define you- where you were born, how you were raised, what you eat, your go-to hot spots- pop up in your writing? Often, very unintentionally.

When I write, the primary intention is to portray characters and places that are as authentic as possible.

Lainey Cash is Southern. She’s from Mississippi. She grew up on a cotton farm. She and Jed, the rival/neighbor farmer across the road, eventually share the same heirloom recipe for Brunswick stew. They listen to Led Zeppelin and other old rock favorites. They adore and resent the same scenery. They lack family and long for a family.

Writing is the circle of life. Nineteen years after you pen a novel, you hold the newly-printed copy and think, Ah! That’s why that nugget is buried in there. Or maybe you sit at a chic barbecue place on a December day, sunny and 75, and think, Well, of course, Lainey Cash and Jed McCrae like Brunswick stew. Duh.

Food, music, land, family. Yep, that’s southern. That’s me. –Clare Cinnamon

Roadside bbq shack in GA
Sunny and 75 in South GA today
Snapped a pic that somehow did NOT include Brunswick stew… -CC