Monday, January 30, 2012

Drivin' on Daytona Beach

You can smell the salty air long before this famous Florida beach appears on the horizon. And what makes this beach so special is that it’s one of the few places where you can actually drive ON the sand.

For a mere $5, you can drive past fire pit rings, brightly painted ice cream trucks or beachcombers snoozing under a striped umbrella. Here and there a kite tugs a child along the sand, so be sure to observe the 10 mph speed limit.

Drivers can relive a dream that began in the early 1900’s when the hard packed sand of the local beach became the Daytona Beach Road Course. This is where land speed records were set back in the 1920s and 1930s. In later years fans would celebrate the names of Red Byron, Marshall Teague and Lee Petty.

The last beach race was held on the sand in 1958--a year before the first Daytona 500 was held at the new Daytona International Speedway in 1959.

This is also where NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing), the internationally popular sport, got it’s start.

NASCAR headquarters is still located in Daytona Beach. There are track tours and a museum at the Speedway for race fans to enjoy.

Daytona beach is open to vehicles from sunrise to sunset Nov. 1 through April 30, and from 8 a.m. - 7 p.m. the rest of the year.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Munching at The Marietta Diner

The parking lot is filled with cars at all times of the day or night. Shiny chrome doors flap open to admit hungry diners while letting out small clusters of happy faces. Step inside this big shiny building and you will become one of over 2,000 visitors a day ready to eat at this famous roadside restaurant just northwest of Atlanta, Georgia in the city of Marietta. While it may be local, the diner’s heritage goes back to its Greek owner and his New York City roots.

Here, the scent of freshly made desserts mingle with the aroma of crisp fried bacon and the tang of pickles, homemade soups and oversized tuna salad-on-rye sandwiches. You can almost hear the sizzle of burgers as the staff brings out the heavily laden serving trays. Have a taste for spanakopita at midnight? They’ll carve out a generous piece for you from one of the more than 30 trays a chef prepares fresh each day.

Wine? In a diner? Yes, and beer too, which complement any of the nearly 500 items on the menu. As you leaf through the pages of the menu, you’ll find long lists of tasty entrees, appetizers, soups and specialty fare. The food is all-American but includes a number of ethnic Greek, Italian and Spanish dishes. Portions are oversize and all of it is delicious. There’s even a bakery, and a take out section. But most of the patrons linger over large plates of breakfast or lunch in the unexpected charm of the classic dining room d├ęcor featuring dark wood, sparkling mirrors and art deco fixtures.

I should have taken more pictures, but I was too busy eating.

The Marietta Diner is located at 306 Cobb Parkway South in Marietta, Georgia. If you go, bring a big appetite, and you won’t leave hungry.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fitzgerald GA Architectural Tour

It used to be a turpentine forest before the Union soldiers came. And the road into town is still lined with pine forest interspersed with cotton fields.

The history of the town dates back to 1895 when P.H. Fitzgerald, a newspaper editor from Indianapolis and former drummer boy in the Union army, bought land in southeast Georgia to establish a “colony” for aging Union veterans of the Civil War. Why relocate? After the War Indiana farmland was stricken with blizzards and drought and nothing would grow in the dust. In the new town of Fitzgerald, men who once fought each other on the battlefield now worked to build a city where North and South reunited.

What remains today is a charming historic district where visitors can see the beautifully kept homes built by the settlers dating from that era. You can drive or take a walking tour of the area using a downloadable guide.

Harris House - Queen Ann style, built c. 1905

Phillip Jay House - Unusual house that has only three masonry Doric columns, built c. 1905

Dorminy-Massee B&B, built c. 1915

Glover House with Victorian turret, c. 1900

Blue and Gray Museum with Civil War artifacts

If you go, don’t miss the Wild Chicken Festival in March that celebrates locally grown, colorful Burmese chickens.