The hectic life can sometimes be ameliorated with a Sunday drive that begins before daybreak. Recently, a drive from Athens to Augusta brought pause to a week that had been marked by events and projects with deadlines. It was nice to relax and to reflect.
Initial thoughts had to do with the changing of times. In the late 1700s when Augusta was the second most-important city in the state, Savannah being the first, it took two days on horseback to get from Augusta to Athens. Now it takes just under two hours by car.
There is considerable history along the way. First you leisurely move through Crawford, named for William H. Crawford, who among other noteworthy achievements made changes to the Monroe Doctrine. In Lexington, where a number of governors, senators, and other politician-statesmen are buried, you are reminded that to experience the past to the fullest on this drive, you would need a day or longer. This drive of 109 miles is peaceful and refreshing. You feel no need to rush. It becomes easy to observe the speed limit, which is a good thing to do. State troopers seem to hang out on U.S. 78. Even on Sunday morning when they ought to have something better to do.
If you start out before daybreak, you appreciate the stillness that envelops your journey along with street scenes: The newspaper courier feeding the racks at the convenience stores. A student buying an Alka-Seltzer, a bearded professor reaching for a carton of milk, and a pretty girl with a Minnesota license plate on her SUV pumping gas. Have you ever noticed that when most of the world sleeps, there are the many who enjoy being the early bird?
As you move through Oglethorpe County, you notice that as first light is coming about, there are cows already grazing. When you return at dusk, they will still be grazing. No being on the planet has a more monotonous life than a cow, but this peaceful animal nonetheless never complains about the cards it has been dealt.
The farms segue into woodlands. Pastures, lush and green, bump up against tall pines, which stand at attention like soldiers awaiting review. Here and there, you will find abandoned automobiles in the yard of a weathered dwelling that has seen its better days. A lonely looking dog is tied to a tree. A rooster scratching in a dirt driveway. Nobody seems connected with the news of the world — the stock market, Obamacare and Flight MH370.
There is a vineyard advertising scuppernongs for sale. It doesn’t matter that scuppernongs are of season. The season will come again, and the sign will become relevant once again. There is always a boiled peanut stand on this stretch of road, but the one with which I am most familiar seems to have been abandoned.
As Interstate 20 approaches at Thomson, there is the expansive and refreshing Dudley Nurseries, with acres of plants, next door to a cemetery. Life is over where life is being renewed. Up ahead is a sign advertising the Laurel and Hardy Museum. It is worth the stop. But I have gotten ahead of myself. The Callaway Community, near Washington, is where the forbears of Ely Callaway worked the soil and prospered. Ely Callaway, you may remember, got into the wine business a few generations later but is best known for his golf club making. When the metal golf clubs came on the market, Ely, remembering the history of World War II, came up with the “Big Bertha,” a popular driver which returned Ely millions.
In a visit with Callaway once at his company headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif., he seemed to be as proud of his winemaking as he was of producing golf clubs that became the club of choice for some of the biggest names in golf. Why did he get into wine making? “I just wanted to see my name on a quality bottle of wine,” he said. Ely’s fine wine, however, would not be as intoxicating as my Sunday drive.