A spur of the moment purchase of a mountain home in Helen, Georgia flung my husband and me into an unexpected trip and immersion into a country lifestyle. We won the high bid on a foreclosure and decided to turn it into a vacation rental for ourselves and others. Collecting furniture from auctions and personal knick-knacks from our Florida house we hit the road with the goal of having it ready for the rental market in a week or less. Game on. It was not my first rodeo doing this, we’d done it twice prior. My ten pound snorkie was accustomed to the drill and probably thought we were professional movers.
It was my first time seeing the house, hubby flew up and checked it out prior to our bid. It blew me away instantly. Within walking distance to the quaint Bavarian styled village, yet in the woods in a gated golf course community and we are the only house on the street. Hiking trails are nearby as are wineries, ATV rentals, zip lines, mini golf, German restaurants galore and my favorite country store Betty’s.
What surprised me as the crème de la crème and the real gem of north Georgia are the super friendly people. They are warm, sociable, helpful and generally pleasant folks. We made friends everywhere we went, already feeling like part of the community. Before we even arrived in Helen we got stuck in gridlock traffic on Interstate 75 due to a fatal accident. We backed up an interstate ramp and pulled over to figure out directions around the traffic jam. A local pulled up in a red dodge asked where we were heading.
“Follow me.” He suggested.
We sped through winding country roads, landing us just north of the accident and continued on our merry way. During our detour I spotted a unique bright yellow government issued sign reading “Quiet Sickness,” and silently pondered its meaning. Does this mean I’m in danger of getting sick and why the quiet part of sickness. Weird and strange things to discover on country roads in Georgia. Winding paths I’d become all too familiar with over the course of the week.
The gate guard at our newly acquired house as well as the young freckled blond at the local convenient store were smiling and congenial. As were our few neighbors who went out of their way to introduce themselves, welcoming us to the community.
The best part of our initial stay was the interaction at bars and restaurants. One night we joined a biker party singing Karaoke combined with a separate birthday party group from Atlanta. Everyone laughed, toasted drinks, exchanged home states and even shared an impulsive parking lot mob flash dance. Many of them were in a band and we applauded their performance. I smiled all night including our stop at the local pub where we mingled into the wee hours. One woman was a little too friendly and a fight between two men almost broke out. My hubby grabbed the bartender, our new friend and neighbor, warning him of the tension building. He was quick to react, diverting any fight.
At Lowes when I couldn’t find something the clerk was readily available and walked me to the item. At Betty’s, when ordering lunch, the boys behind the counter were attentive, assuring me that my sandwich was made with care and the best I would have. They were right.
So with all the love is there any downside to Helen? Just that’s it far from some basics like large chain stores. Groceries, home improvement, Wal-Mart and anything other than a small country grocery store will be at least a 45 minute drive or more. But I’ll take that given all the natural and cultural beauty of the place.