By day, I am a marketing professional working remotely in the travel industry. My husband works for himself doing video production and graphic design. We were very fortunate to see little-to-no professional disruption in the wake of COVID-19, but we were definitely feeling cooped up, like many others across the globe. We're not big "world travelers", but back in the day, we were the king and queen of the spontaneous road trip with no real destination in mind. These made for great memories and unique experiences, but it didn't really fit the scenario when life took us in directions that demanded at least a little stability and a little more financial planning. It's been far too long since we just - WENT, and the itch was definitely present with both of us. We needed a road trip.
With very little discussion, the decision was made for the two of us to just head north. We had a few loose ideas of stops along the way, but no firm plan and no reservations - not to mention, no real idea of what kind of COVID-related challenges we may encounter along the way. It ended up being a week-long getaway that completely skipped over some of the originally-planned stops while incorporating other surprising turns along the way. Frankly, it was the best week we've had in years... even if there was a Griswold-esque moment or two.
DAY 1 - Plains, Georgia ---> Cleveland, Georgia ---> Helen, Georgia
We left the Orlando area very early in the morning with the goal of finding a 13-foot tall, smiling peanut. No joke! Thanks to a discovery on Roadtrippers.com, we found out that Plains, Georgia pays tribute to its most famous resident in the form of a 13-foot tall smiling peanut statue. That famous resident is former President Jimmy Carter. Jimmy Carter was President when we were born, and he is such a charming, lovable man. It seemed only fitting to drive about an hour off the main route to go grab a pic with this nutty roadside attraction.
The drive out was really worth it. Not just for the statue, but the scenery. Being fans of roadside Americana and lovely landscapes, this was a hidden treat! Lots of backroad pathways with expansive farms and so many birds. We even saw a proud looking coyote standing guard in front of a corn field.
The statue itself was positioned in front of a few homes near a church, directly beside a defunct filling station. The town has much more to share for Jimmy Carter fans, but we were due to get back on the road toward Stone Mountain.
We weren't sure what to expect at Stone Mountain, but it was open. Note that it was Memorial Day... and the crowd seemed to reflect that. After seeing the large swell of cars and people - and the sign noting that all attractions were closed anyway, we opted to trek on toward another location I had heard about some time ago in Cleveland, Georgia.
If your parent ever made it their life's mission to get a new doll called a Cabbage Patch Kid under your Christmas tree in the 1980s, Cleveland, Georgia may be a familiar place to you. It's the home of the actual cabbage patch and Babyland General Hospital - the place where Cabbage Patch Kids come from. Go ahead and snicker as my inner child reveals itself... I teared up as we pulled up the drive. I just wanted to call my parents and say "It's real, and I'm looking at it"! Alas - it had closed mid-March due to COVID-19 and had yet to reopen. Unfortunately, this was as close as I got this time around, but what a beautiful sight!
Just a few miles outside of Cleveland, tucked into the foothills of the North Georgia mountains, Helen, Georgia is a tiny little Bavarian town with big, authentic personality. At just over a couple miles long, Helen is a very walkable place. We ended up at a chain motel near the end of the main strip, about one block off the road through town. We were easily able to walk up and down the center of town, which holds endless charm and a bevy of original shops hidden within its streets and alleyways.
On a related note regarding accommodations - we learned a new lesson during this trip, a lesson that was reiterated multiple times... do not use Priceline or Hotels.com. Just don't do it. Book direct. Personally, I should know better!
Helen reminded me a lot of the little town I grew up in in Texas, and it was such a wonderful feeling of nostalgia to see all the little German decor and trinkets - everything from the design of the buildings to the high-quality, affordable merchandise for sale held endearing, genuine charm. There's lots of pizza and beer in Helen, as well as candy, wine, and live music. The people of Helen are just as genuine as the town itself, and we were happy to spend time chatting with the locals we met along the way. My favorite discovery was Unicoi Hill Park, which was across the street from our motel. This gorgeous little park sits at the top of a hill, offering a little oversight of the town. There are multiple play structures, swings, trails, and benches as well as a waterfall.
Unfortunately, most of our stay in Helen was greeted with rain, so we missed the chance to do some tubing this time around. Next time - top on our list!
For a more visual recap of our 4-state road trip, check out our two-part video: