We are finishing up a trip to Dahlonega, GA and it has definitely been about making family memories. My primary purpose in coming up here was a cycling challenge which you can read about here, but since my family was along, we had some great memories.
First of all, we drove up together, with 4 days worth of stuff. For me and three girls, you can imagine, that was a lot of stuff.
No trip to North Georgia is complete without stopping at Exit 18 off of I-75, to eat at one of the last remaining Fazoli’s in the south. This has been a tradition of ours since 2012. We discovered it was there from a cycling racing friend of mine, Jason Guillen, who sadly has retired from Florida Cyclocross. Hope he comes back some time!
If you aren’t familiar, Fazoli’s is the fast food version of Italian cuisine, and for fast food, it’s not bad at all. I had a delicious Penne pasta with meat sauce, and the girls had similar meals.
It seems that no matter when we leave, we always run in to rush hour traffic around Atlanta. This time was no exception but it did always move a little, and only delayed us 20 minutes or so. Kathleen was very adept at using the Google app on her phone to pick the better routes.
Even though Georgia is “open” there are some restrictions on dining out, such as reduced capacity, distance requirements and for some reason, closing early. We managed to find an Irish Pub that stayed open until 9, and let us stay at our table until roughly 9:30. Grace remembers ordering “The Best Bangers in Town” and enjoying her Irish Sausage.
After our dinner we retired to the Holiday Inn Express on Chestatee St. That’s a Cherokee word, meaning “Land of Pine Torches.”
It was open, but had some COVID restrictions which were really nonsensical and inconsistent, like closing the workout center but not the pool, serving coffee and juice, but no juice machine, “grab and go” food but no seating in the lobby, so everyone sat outside on one bench. Hopefully this all ends the day after election day.
This was a particularly enjoyable meal for me, as I had completed my cycling challenge in spite of many obstacles and failures during the day.
Sunday we ordered Pizza Hut delivered to the room, because we were tired and didn’t feel like going out.
Both Grace and Sophie were impressed and maybe a little scared by the driving in the North Georgia mountains. The winding roads going steeply up, and down, coupled with someone tailgating us because we are “slow tourists” can be a little intimidating.
On Saturday night after dinner, we parked in the back lot because the front lot of the HI Express was full. Turned out to be a blessing as we saw a field full of fireflies. Kathleen has been telling the girls about fireflies for years and they finally got to see them. We spent a good half hour standing there watching them, even with the doggie bags from dinner in our hands.
On Sunday we headed out towards Helen. We stopped at Turner’s Corners, a famous cycling stop, to have lunch and thank the people for all they do to support cycling. I had stopped there the day before and not bought anything, expecting to be there more than once. I had to go back and at least have lunch there or else feel terribly guilty.
Following that we visited the town of Helen. (Yes we went to Helen back.) We had no idea it would be such a busy place. Packed with tourists, street vendors, tour rides, carriages, etc. Not at all the quaint little Germanic town I was led to believe. On the good side we found an indoor arcade (because it started raining) and the girls enjoyed Air Hockey, Spider Stomp, Jurassic Park Dino Hunt and even a game of 8 ball on a slightly tilted pool table. My girls had never played pool before(!)
On the way back we stopped at Smith Falls and walked a trail that we thought would lead us to the falls. It didn’t. But it was great fun and quite a challenge for me to walk up and down the hills so soon after the grueling bike ride from the day before.
During dinner in the hotel room we had a “Family Meeting” to discuss our favorite parts on the weekend. It is always good to rehash these things, and inspired me to write this article. We like Dahlonega but there are other places to visit, so this may be our last trip here. Hopefully the memories last a very long time.