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Best times on car rides don’t have plotlines

POSTED: September 7, 2008 5:01 a.m.

Technology, in my opinion, has ruined the road trip.

Now, there are some improvements I've gladly accepted, such as air conditioning and FM radio.

But the guy who invented that DVD player for the car should be punished. A kid younger than 10 can't ride in a car for more than 20 miles without playing a DVD.

What's worse, you can now get two DVDs built into your SUV or minivan. If Johnny likes action heroes and Susie wants to watch fairy tales, no problem.

Just put one in one seat and one in another and plug them in.

My parents, particularly my mama, wanted us to see the important things on the road to our vacation.

We actually stopped to see the "Geographic Center of Georgia," which is 17 miles east of Macon off Interstate 16. It is located in Marion, a town that doesn't exist anymore.

The town was named after Francis "Swamp Fox" Marion, a hero of the Revolutionary War. In 1948, the U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey officially established a swampy clump of land nearby as the "exact" center of Georgia.

There used to be a historic marker there, but folks kept stealing it. Since the town dried up, there was nobody to see or report the crime. There used to be a sign noting the center on I-16, but the highway folks took it down because there was nothing there to see, except a place where a sign and a town used to be.

We also stopped in Cordele to see the missile that is parked outside the Krystal.

The missile, a Titan intercontinental ballistic missile, was brought to Cordele in 1968 by the president of the Rotary Club. They had a big ceremony attended by every Rotarian in Cordele.

Bear in mind, this is in the heyday of the space program. Astronauts were celebrities and we were within a year of putting a couple of guys on the moon.

To hear my mother tell it, they'd be leaving from Cordele.

Laugh if you want to, but tell me a time that you heard of a threat against Cordele during the cold war. Cordele, incidentally, is the watermelon capitol of the world.

One Soviet missile could have left us eating cantaloupe for the rest of the summer.

But there were other treasures we'd see, like the big chest of drawers in High Point, N.C.; the water tower that is supposed to look like a peach at Gaffney, S.C.; and the Boll Weevil monument in Enterprise, Ala.

I spent a little time recently in Staunton, Va., which incidentally is pronounced "stanton." It is the birthplace of Woodrow Wilson and home of the Statler Brothers. Wilson's presidential library is there, not to mention Mrs. Rowe's Restaurant and Bakery, which has some of the best food I've ever had.

It is also one of the last outposts for sweet tea. I'm not sure if it is global warming or an infiltration of Northerners, but the availability of sweet tea is being threatened in the top end of Virginia.

When your child is in a hypnotic trance while motoring along and watching "Dora the Explorer," they will miss these great sights that await them outside the car window.

One day in the future, I hope to load up grandchildren and take them to see these sights.

There'll be no DVDs, mind you. I'll pop in an 8-track tape of some good music and we'll be on our way.

Harris Blackwood is community editor of The Times. His columns appear Sundays and only in the print edition on Wednesdays.



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