(a 6 minute read)

This first installment in a three-part post about an Appalachian autumn road trip from Florida to Georgia is part of our Retro Roadtrip series.

Autumn Sugar Maple Leaf
Note: The following revised and annotated post is part of our new Retro Roadtrip series. This 3-part post is about an autumn road trip I took by myself from Florida to Georgia and was originally posted November 10, 2008, on my Nathan’s Uncle blog.

I’m sure a lot can be said for springtime in the Rockies, but you can’t deny there is something special about autumn in the Appalachians. Every October I trek up to Pinebox, my North Georgia cabin, for my favorite time of year, and once again my mountains did not disappoint. My original plans were to take a short trip like last year, but by the time I scheduled everything I wanted to do, I realized I would have to take off the whole week. I know . . . it was a sacrifice, but you do what you have to do.

Car Breakdown


I left Saturday morning, and everything was great until I got halfway between Gainesville and Lake City. Suddenly, it sounded like all hell broke loose under the hood of my car. I lost power, the temperature gauge rocketed, and my dashboard lit up like a Christmas tree. I limped to an exit, pulled over, and called AAA. I decided to relax and go with the flow rather than have a breakdown over the breakdown. I remembered in all the years I have been driving to the mountains, I had only had minor car trouble once before, and I was grateful for that. While I waited for the tow truck, I played with my iPhone and enjoyed the cool weather. My situation could have been much worse. An hour later the tow truck arrived and hauled me back to Pep Boys, one of only two garages open on Saturdays in Gainesville. While they worked on my car, I crossed the street and ate at Moe’s, then hiked down to Borders, all the while counting my blessings and thinking how much worse my situation could have been. Within five hours from the breakdown I was back on the road. Don’t ask me what had to be repaired. All I know is timing bar-something, serpentine-something, thermostat, and radiator cap. God bless Pep Boys!


A few weeks earlier, my longtime friend Sherry Bethune had asked if she and her parents, Barbara and Bobby Bethune, could stay at the cabin for the weekend while her daddy attended a small Turkey Creek High School class reunion in the mountains. Although their time would overlap with mine, it was not a problem. It would be great to see them again. Sherry lives in Nashville, but she has a key to the cabin and visits every chance she gets. This is fine with me because not only is she my forever friend, she has an OCD house-cleaning proclivity. Sherry was still awake when I pulled in around 10:00 PM, and we stayed up talking into the night. Sunday morning I got to catch up with Bobby and Barbara before they headed to church and more reunion activities, and I headed to the Georgia Apple Festival in Ellijay. While we were getting ready, I played some old Singing Rambos and Lanny Wolfe Trio CDs for Barbara. Just beautiful, bittersweet memories . . . .


Our favorite mountain breakfast spot.


The Sawmill Place.

Monday morning we went for breakfast at The Sawmill Place in Blairsville. It was everything you would have expected. Crisp autumn air, the aroma of brewing coffee, a table spread with eggs, grits, biscuits, sausage, gravy, pecan pancakes, and stewed apples. It would be safe to say Sherry ordered everything on the menu.


Sherry just getting started on her personal buffet.


That big ole cathead biscuit sandwich is mine!


Barbara and Bobby at breakfast.


My forever friend and me.


Shopping, or at least looking . . . .


Bobby, Sherry & Barbara

When we got back to the cabin, we sat down and watched the Dottie Rambo Homegoing Celebration DVD and worshiped and bawled like babies. Earlier that morning Sherry and Barbara had let me know they wanted to watch the whole thing before they returned home. Only people whose lives have been touched by the Rambos’ music for decades, like ours have, would understand.


Watching the Dottie Rambo Homegoing service.


The Bethunes.

While the Bethunes packed, I burned them some music CDs. Then we said our goodbyes, and they headed back to Nashville.

Note: We did not know at the time, but Sherry would lose both of her parents within six months of each other. Barbara passed from this life on September 22, 2012, and Bobby on May 16, 2013. This blog repost is dedicated to their memory and the wonderful time we shared in the mountains in October 2008.

Continue reading Retro Roadtrip: Appalachian Autumn Part 2.

Click here for more Appalachian autumn adventures.

Table of Contents

Map It!

Helpful Links

Georgia Apple Festival

The Sawmill Place

A Visit to Pinebox: My Mountain Cabin

Retro Roadtrip: Appalachian Autumn Part 1 1
Howard Blount is founder and co-owner of the travel blog BackroadPlanet.com. He has traveled internationally since boyhood and lived abroad in Mexico, Chile, and Paraguay. Now his passion is navigating the roads-less-traveled of this amazing planet in search of anything rare and remote. On the stuffy side, “Mr. Blount” has been a writer, consultant, and published author with the likes of Simon & Schuster and McGraw-Hill. Although his road trips are financed by his day job as a middle school teacher, Howard would much rather be doing anything that includes mountains, waterfalls, dachshunds, gospel choirs, books, restored classic movies on Blu-ray, HDTV, autumn, sandhill cranes, hot springs, Florida springs, rain and other gloomy weather, log cabins, cracker shacks, abandoned sites, unearthed history, genealogy, museums, documentaries, To Kill a Mockingbird, scenic and historical sites, castles, cathedrals, the Civil War, cold sheets, National and State Park Passports, inspirational quotes, the Rambos, Dionne Warwick, Steely Dan, Doobies, Diet Pepsi, Fish City Grill, anything Apple, all things British, Jesus, and lists. And on a random note, Howard is a fourth cousin once removed to Truman Capote.