After spending three weeks at home, making renovations, finding new tenants, catching up on errands and working out, I was ready to hit the road again. My truck didn’t stay parked the entire time. I took her to the shop and also did two overnight FedEX loads to Newark. Finally, Landstar assigned me a trailer so I drove up to York to pick it up.
As luck would have it, at my very first light in York, my truck stalled accompanied by a nagging Stop Engine Alarm that urgently sounded like Battle Stations. I truly thought that I would need to get towed to the nearest shop. Thankfully, I was able to start the truck and drove to the nearest International dealership 10 minutes away.
Unfortunately since it was Saturday, I would have to wait for a couple of days before they would reopen. So I opened up the fuse box, removed the fuse for the instrument panel and reinserted it. Just like magic, the blasted alarm cleared.
I decided to drive to York to visit what the city had to offer, and the Fig & Barrel Pub seemed like the perfect place to cool my heels.
Along the stucco wall sat orange leather banquettes, firm and buttressed. On both sides of the fireplace were two faux skeletons dressed in a party hat and shades. I can imagine many cold winters nestled by the hearth wearing a cozy sweater and a watch cap, sipping on a warm Old Fashioned while adoring the whiskeys along the wall.
Fig & Barrel has plenty of scotch, bourbon and rye, and if you’re not sure what to order, just ask the loquacious bartender, and he will explain in detail their boozy library – floor to ceiling rows of spirits, enough to last through the starkest of winters.
As soon as I sat down, I was greeted by Rita. She was really personable and I found out she is from Angola and is studying Comp Sci at Penn State.
The short ribs were indeed fantastic. “They are cooked overnight so they literally fall off the bones. Marinated in a red wine reduction sauce and served over garlic mashed potatoes,” said Rita.
At Fig & Barrel, there is a wide range of smoky whiskey to enjoy, from light and crisp to bold and heavy that delivers a big, smoky punch to the face.
Last year, during the Superbowl, a rowdy patron began arguing with the pub staff to the point that they paid his tab and asked him to leave.
The patron, Alexis Pillot decided to take things into his own hands and started attacking Nathan and another customer with a knife.
Pillot stabbed an intervening employee, opening a large gash that ran from the top of his head down his cheek.
Next Pillot coldcocked Nathan before they contacted police. Luckily the York City police was just a block away. It took six officers and two blasts from a Taser to handcuff Pillot.
And thankfully the courageous acts of the Fig & Barrel staff and customers prevented the attacker from making things worse. Saluti!
The next day I booked another FedEX load going from Dulles to Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta. I figured the 100 mile drive from York to Dulles would give me an opportunity to see whether or not the engine would derate and whether the alarm would reappear. Thankfully, neither of these two happened, so I picked up the empty Rollaway and drove her south towards Ashburn.
Spent the night just north of Richmond and the next day I made it into Charlotte. The Pilot Truck stop, albeit small, is only a short uber ride to downtown. Since I got in late, I was glad to find a pub that stayed open past the witching hour. Cowbell Burger and Whiskey Bar – it was like walking into a time warp 40 years back.
Like the percussion instrument, the pub was rocking that night with awesome 80s hair band videos playing on MTV. Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers followed by Steve Nicks – Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around.
The quintessential open-faced beef patty with melted Swiss cheese, sautéed mushrooms, caramelized onions, brown gravy over grilled sourdough bread was soaked in flavors.
The burger was paired with loaded garlic fries with lemon aioli and they were to die for.
On the back wall a portrait of a polished, well groomed Dean Martin in tuxedo next to a disheveled Bruce Springsteen in flannel. How many Gen Xs made the circuit here, after catching a show at Knight Theater, pairing bourbon and burger while banging their head to pop metal.
Charlotte has been going through a major revitalization and a huge influx of millennials have moved in. Millennials born between 1980 and 2000 are gentrifying the city. This younger generation value experience over possession resulting in a caravan of gastropubs and a vibrant night life.
The next day I drove into Atlanta and delivered the trailer at Hartsfield-Jackson, which until last year was the former airport in the world.
I decided it would be wise to get my engine power washed to determine whether or not I had an oil leak.
I called Landstar to get a trailer assigned to me and told them I would be in Darien, GA visiting my mother.
Then I stopped in Macon, GA “Where Music never sleeps.”
Founded in 1823 on the banks of the Ocmulgee River, Macon is a city where soul lives. James Brown recorded his first single here. The Allman Brothers laid roots here and lived in The Big House which is now a museum. They headlined a benefit concert for Governor Jimmy Carter in Rhode Island lighting the spark for his long shot presidential election.
Little Richard, the singer behind “Tutti Frutti,” “Good Golly Miss Molly,” and “Long Tall Sally” was a native of Macon. So was Ottis Redding who released his #1 hit “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” three weeks after he died in a plane crash on the way to a show. Today a statue memorializing his life and contributions sit at the Otis Redding Park across the Ocmulgee River.
I then found a power only load from Savannah the next day. This would be my first true port load in a couple of years.
After delivering the container to Anderson, SC, I drove to Darien to see Mom. As soon as I parked, I noticed a huge screw in my drive tire. I pulled it out hoping to patch it but the plug wouldn’t go in. Since it was Friday, I would have to wait till Monday to take the truck to the shop.
I visited the Darien Sports Lounge and brought my laptop to the bar.
“You doing work?” asked Henry the bartender.
“I’m always doing work. But I’m writing in my blog, so I hardly call it work.”
“What’s the name of your blog?” asked a couple sitting next to me.
“I have two: Truckereater and Chito Peppler.”
“Whoa, Chito Peppler, I haven’t seen you since high school,” stated a man across the bar. “I’m Mikel Littles.”
“That’s right Mikel. I remember you. You played football for the MCA Bucs.”
I walked over and gave Mikel a big handshake.
“It’s amazing how many people that you didn’t know you know when you come to a bar,” stated Henry, the bartender.
“So who all have you seen or talked to recently? Paulette, Michelle, Bess?”
“Yes, I’ve spoken to all of them recently mostly on Facebook.”
“Yeah, I saw Allen a few months ago near Knoxville, Tenn. Say have you heard from Timmy Burkhead?”
“Timmy and I work at SNF Chemtall in Riceboro, but I never see him. I work at the plant. He works in the office.”
“Timmy, I see him every time I go to Skipper’s Fish Camp on the banks of the Darien River. He goes there almost every day.”
The next day I called Allen and come to find out he’s in Darien to see his family.
I meet him at Blythe Island, a nice place for a cookout, to go swimming in the lake, or take a hike or ride in the bike trail.
I mentioned to him that the bartender at Darien Sports Lounge told me that Timmy goes to Skippers almost everyday, and we should try to see him.
Later that evening, I met up with Steven Poppell who graduated a couple years behind me. We first stopped at the Silver Bluff Brewing.
Say I can setup a meeting with Timmy. So Steven sent a snapchat with Timmy. The next day Timmy responded that he would like to see us.
So I called Allen and we agreed to meet him.
On Monday morning, I drove my truck to Dorsey Tire.
I asked the lady who was working the front desk, if they could plug it. The mechanic took a look at the tire and said the screw had gone through the belt, and the best option would be to replace it with an old retread. I was reluctant to do so, since I had a bad experience with retreads.
Then the next day we Allen, Steven and I set out to meet Timmy.
It’s been many moons since the six alumni walked the halls of MCA near Oglethorpe Square on Adams Street. Today, the old school has relocated to US-17, and to reminisce about the good times, the group got together for a mini reunion on the banks of the Darien River at Skipper’s Fish Camp
The motley crew had a lot of catching up to do and enjoyed fried shrimp and strong libations with a pristine view of the Darien River and Altamaha with the orange sun sinking in the wetlands. Over the horizon, a flock fo geese flew in formation and small alligators basked on the banks waiting to be fed.
Inside were more exotic animals: white tailed deer, wild boar, beavers, turkey and other wild animals indigenous to coastal Georgia, hung from the walls and rafters keeping us company.
“Geez, Timmy, you haven’t changed a bit.”
“Yeah, Timmy still has his good sense of humor and his great taste for fashion and style.”
The venerable classmates talked about their favorite teachers, scandals, old crushes, football team woes, 80’s rock bands, school fights, and the greatest films of all times.
Steven ordered spiced peel & eat shrimp and Timmy and I ordered the large sweet Georgia shrimp platter – buttery goodness and fried to perfection. They came with three hush puppies and the moment I sank my teeth into those sweet morsels, I wished there were a dozen more. The Bloody Marys were phenomenal and Timmy drank his usual Titos on the rocks.
To soak up the scenery, the group congregated by the chairs on the docks. The reclaimed timbers gave the Camp a nostalgic, rustic feel as we looked back on the days we took a dip on the murky Altamaha.
The timing was so perfect, that we ran into Chris Brady who just so happened to be enjoying dinner with his family. Three of us have moved on from little ole Darien. That’s why it was unprecedented to be in town at the same time.
Thankfully, our bond is still strong after so many years, and we’ll never forget where we were brought up. The get together was definitely fortuitous and a generational event that we hope would happen again sooner rather than later. Even if it’s many moons later.
And what was their favorite topic after so many years – how they used to skip Mr. Holt’s algebra class and visit the now-defunct Darien Restaurant for sumptious, foiled burgers.
On Tuesday, Landstar contacted me about a trailer ready to be picked up near Atlanta. I immediately contacted Nadia and asked her if she wanted to grab a quick bite.
“I might be leaving Darien and don’t know when I’ll return,” I said.
“Where do you wanna go?”
“How ’bout Spartina Grill?”
People come here to enjoy a Southern skillet overlooking the shrimp boats and marshes. The name spartina reflects the vast expanse of the spartina marsh grass that can be seen for miles. A flock of brown pelicans floats lazily in formation over the civil-war era landmarks and tabby ruins. As the refreshing coastal breeze catches my breath, the relaxing tunes from John, Paul, Ringo and George soothes my soul.
If you come for their daily happy hour, I recommend enjoying the sunset on the deck with some crab salad and buffalo oysters. After enjoying the spectacular view of the orange sun sinking in the wetlands, I come inside the screened-in porch to enjoy dinner prepared by Chef Conrad. Shrimp and grits and seared diver scallops are local favorites and are certainly to die for.
After an enjoyable meal, we order more libations. Olivia makes incredible cocktails, and another fan favorite is the Ocean Wonder which is like a pina colada, only sweeter and smoother. We take the drink outside where I can practically enjoy it sitting on the docks. It’s been an action-packed incredible few days and a great trip to Darien.