Traveling the Southeast, Covid-style – on Destination Regency

You may be wondering why I haven’t left you all with a recipe from my local farmers lately.  Well, I’ve been moving cross-country with my four-year-old and dog in tow.  I know.  I know.  Not an ideal time to move, but my husband, an officer in the Marine Corps, received orders to Fort Worth, Texas.  Our parents live in the metroplex, our house sold amidst a pandemic and we’re all healthy.  So, there’s much to be abundantly grateful for.  Nevertheless, traversing half the southern United States in a mere sedan, sans my Regency RV, with a little boy and a rambunctious Boston Terrier amidst the panic over COVID-19 was not for the faint of heart, I assure.  Rest area bathrooms were closed.  Fast food restrooms were closed.  All-but-truck-stop restrooms were closed.  The answer: road-side tinkles.  My son even made it a point to pick my mother-in-law and I wildflowers during each “potty break.”

we traverse…

The two most important things I took away from this crazy pilgrimage, however, was that there are a lot of wonderful people across our country that are just eager to lend a hand, show small kindnesses and make someone’s day a little brighter during an altogether stressful and difficult time.  The second was that this would have been exponentially easier in my RV!  So, on your next RV trip through the South, here’s a list of people and places you should definitely seek out!

Goodbye to the Lowcountry

As rubber met the road through the Spanish moss-drenched beauty of South Carolina’s Lowcountry, we said our goodbyes to the place we’ve called home for the past five years.  Our first stop, before we even left the state, was a peach stand.  I never liked peaches until I moved to South Carolina.  If only I had known what I was missing…

Peach Country:

Our next big stop was in the state of Georgia where we once again stopped for…you guessed it, peaches!  Lane Peach Farm has been growing peaches since 1908 and Duke Lane III remains involved in the now vast operation.  Even amidst covid, the staff was incredibly warm and helpful.  “My phone doesn’t have reception.  I can’t order by phone, but we’re desperate for peach ice cream and cinnamon glazed pecans,” I explained to the pandemic-style car hop.  He asked what was bringing us cross country, packed to the gills, and I told him we were on a military move.  When the lovely gentleman brought our bag out to the car, it contained a free order of peaches and our bill was discounted 10%.  In short, their produce is as sunny and delightful as their crew.  So, give Lane Southern Orchards a visit next time you pass through!

Roosevelt’s Little White House, Warm Springs, Georgia:

We weren’t on the road long before we decided to make a “quick” detour.  My mother-in-law and I share an abundance of enthusiasm for anything historical, thank heavens.  So when I suggested we veer off the beaten path for a quick peek at Roosevelt’s Little White House in Warm Springs, Georgia, she fortuitously found it as essential as a full gas tank.  By the time we reached said white house, we realized the National Park was still closed to the public thanks to a nasty little virus I refuse to once again mention.  The park rangers, without breaking a single rule, actually went out of their way to show us the grounds and the exterior of the house without violating an inch of social distancing while another ranger walked and water our dog!!  I will never forget the kindness of these wonderful people!  If you have never heard of Roosevelt’s Little White House, it’s well worth a visit – when everything opens up again that is.  Warm Springs, Georgia became a lifelong mecca for Franklin Delano Roosevelt.  He first visited for their soothing, warm spring waters in 1924 after his polio diagnosis.  He continued to return year after year and inevitably established a rehabilitation institute and built a house on Pine Mountain nearby.  The institute became the foundation for the March of Dimes, while his home, the Little White House, remained a place of respite for Roosevelt throughout his presidency and until the day he died at his home in Warm Springs on April 12, 1945, just five months shy of the conclusion of World War II.

Montgomery, Alabama:

The only time I didn’t sorely miss the convenience and luxury of our Regency RV was during the night we spent in Montgomery at Red Bluff Cottage.  It was here that a crazy comedy of errors ensued.  After we emptied my car of important documents, cleaning supplies, our wine collection and a host of vinegar and olive oil, I lost my car keys in the bushes surrounding the B&B’s gazebo while wrestling with our spirited, blind Boston Terrior, Bonaparte.  Davis broke a candy dish fully of jelly beans in the hallway. The next morning, we left his beloved Big Arf, who is a stuffed dog that should now be called Big Scarf for his total lack of stuffing.  It would have been untenable, sheer chaos had it not been for our gracious host, Mrs. Bonnie Ponstein.  Bonnie armed us with flashlights and helped search when the keys were lost.   She laid out a spread of breakfast that would rival the Ritz.  When we called down the road to say we’d left behind Big Arf, she sent out a search party and was waiting with him in the drive when we pulled back up.  This pandemic has been increasingly hard on Mrs. Bonnie and her husband, Barrie.  Nevertheless, she spared no expense or energy to ensure our stay was something special.  Years from now, I’m sure we’ll look back at the evening we spent under her roof as one of the most memorable of the whole journey.  If you or anyone you know are headed to Montgomery and want a room for the night, spread the word that Red Bluff Cottage is the place to be!

Although there’s quite a lot of ground to cover in Montgomery, from the Civil Rights Memorial to the Hank Williams Museum, one of my personal favorites is the F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald Museum.  It’s in a charming home where F. Scott penned Tender is the Night and Zelda, a Montgomery native, wrote part of Save Me the Waltz.  Today, the house is home to a museum and plays host to myriad writer workshops and panels.

Natchitoches, Louisiana:

Over 450 miles and countless pit stops later, we reached the ridiculously charming town of Natchitoches, Louisiana. Pronounced “Nack-a-dish,” the riverside French charmer was established back in 1714, making it the oldest permanent settlement of the Louisiana Purchase.  This quintessentially French Louisiana town also provided a backdrop for one of my all-time favorite films, Steel Magnolias.  As a matter of fact, M’Lynn’s home still stands and is now a lovely bed and breakfast.  But this town is so much more than a tourist trap destination.  It’s oozing charm, natural beauty and offers loads of unrivaled Southern Hospitality.  For dinner, we stopped at Maglieaux’s and picked up an order of their famed Crawfish Monica as well as a Hen and Andouille Gumbo.

We enjoyed this pitch-perfect creole feast in Beau Jardin, a meticulously manicured public park along the Cane River Lake, where Davis and Bonaparte were in heaven after the long day’s drive.

As I strolled down Front Street, Kaffie-Frederick General Mercantile’s massive antique display windows and doors perched above a bed of mosaic tile floor signage, immediately caught my eye, but it was the customer service, charm and family narrative that stole my heart!

Ross, a beloved fixture of the store and former Marine-turned-police officer, welcomed all of us, including our dog, into the store and promptly introduced Bonaparte to the store’s full-time poodle.  Davis was invited to explore radio flyer wagons and a wonderful array of classic toys.  Meanwhile, dollar bills promptly flew out of my wallet as I strolled up to their kitchen section, which boasted the ideal blend of quality manufacturers and well-crafted nostalgia.  I did come home with a cast iron, Fleur de Lis Bacon Press regardless of how overstuffed my little sedan was already.

This was only the tip of the iceberg.  An honest general mercantile in the purest sense, Kaffie-Frederick is the ultimate mix of eclecticism, historic significance, practical necessities and is overflowing patinaed charm.

Ten minutes with Ross as well as fourth-generation Jonathan Frederick, made it abundantly clear why the oldest general store in Louisiana is still around today!  On our impromptu tour, we received a lesson on the inner-workings of the still-in-use freight elevator from the 1890’s, a comprehensive history of the Kaffie and Frederick families, a contagious dose of authentic entrepreneurial spirit as well as intriguing and delightful customer service.

It was odd to feel reluctant to leave considering we were in the midst of moving cross country, but I was sad to bid Natchitoches adieu nevertheless.  As we gassed up the car to make our final push into Dallas-Fort Worth, I ventured inside the French Market Express to grab some snacks for the road.  What I found was the finest gas station in the country, aside from possibly Bucee’s.  They had an impressive French wine selection, a host of spices as well as Louisiana pantry foods like NOLA’s Café du Monde Beignet mix.  Best of all they had hot, fresh Crawfish Pies that proved to be the greatest $3.00 I have ever spent.  I can’t recommend this little gem more.

As we hit the road for the last leg of our journey, I reminisced about what made all of these experiences so special.  It wasn’t just the enchanting patina and aesthetic charm of Kaffie-Frederick or the picturesque rooms and cozy linens of Red Bluff Cottage, it was the families and employees that ran these unique establishments.  If you’ve ever thought of supporting small businesses and the hard-working people that run them, now is the time.  We wish you all good health and safe travels.

Until next time…happy trails, y’all!