Finding a slice of 'Sweet Home Alabama' in rural Georgia


A week ago I stood outside our hotel in Gatlinburg and listened to nearby chimes play "America the Beautiful."

The moment seemed like an appropriate end to our family's first week-long road trip.

We spent two and a half days at the beach in Pawley's Island, South Carolina, and two days in the Carolina Upcountry, where waterfalls are almost as plentiful as peaches. 

Then we wound our way farther north for a quick visit to the Great Smoky Mountains before returning home.

While eating lunch at the New Orleans Sandwich Company on Thursday, we saw a note that  Ellen and Lori, "two world travelers from the West Coast," had written on some foreign currency and tacked to the wall. Their message was "Traveling is the only thing you buy that makes you richer." 

A few years ago, I might not have agreed. The cost of traveling seemed like too high a price to pay for a few days away from home. 

Then Zac and I started hitting the road, and I was hooked.

He says I'm happiest when we're on a trip. I know I'm more open to living in the moment when we've left our daily routines and responsibilities in the dust.

For example, on the first day of our recent vacation, Zac pulled off at a random exit in Georgia for a restroom break. As we approached the gas station, I noticed a sign that invited visitors to eat at Heavy's Barbecue, the restaurant featured in "Sweet Home Alabama."

Any girl of a certain age has seen this 2002 film starring Reese Witherspoon. She comes home to Pigeon Creek, Alabama, to demand a divorce from her redneck husband so that she can marry her suave politician boyfriend and live happily ever after in New York City as a fashion designer.

At one point, she gets drunk in a local bar and tells her high school friends how pathetic she thinks they are. 

In the film, the bar is called "Stella's Roadhouse," but these scenes were shot at Heavy's Barbecue in Crawfordville, Georgia.

A quick Internet search revealed that Crawfordville, population 534, was the setting for many of the scenes that took place in the fictional Pigeon Creek.

Even though we had many miles ahead of us, Zac allowed me a half hour to drive around Crawfordville in search of locations used for the film. 

I took pictures of the Taliaferro County Courthouse, where Witherspoon is seen making her phone call from jail, and the quaint but mostly empty downtown area she is seen walking through when she is greeted by her old friend Bobby Ray.

The town's Farmers and Merchants Bank and local cafe also appear in the film, and a host of businesses and residences are seen in scenes as background.

This little detour was meaningless for Zac, who has never seen the movie, and Wyatt, but it made my day.

I had always assumed that the film was shot on a studio backlot. It had never occurred to me that it was a real Southern town or that I would stumble into it one day by accident. 

That's the kind of adventure that seems to happen more often than not out on the road.

Most of our road trips cost us little more than gas money, but even the more expensive ones are worth it because of the beautiful parts of this country that we've seen, the people we've met and the memories we've brought back with us.

Jennifer Cohron is the Daily Mountain Eagle's features editor.