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Georgia Crossroads

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Ever since Creek Indians traversed nearby trade routes, the area around
present-day Perry, Ga., has served as a crossroads. After Europeans
settled the area, stagecoaches and railroads brought travelers to the
town. Today, the confluence of three major highways, plus the impressive
Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter, makes Perry an ideal base
for travelers exploring Georgia’s heartland.

The Perry Welcome Center, located near the 1,100-acre fairgrounds and site of The Rally 2008,
offers abundant information about Perry and the surrounding travel
region. Armed with Welcome Center literature and advice, you can point
yourself in any direction and venture into Georgia’s rich Southern

Perry itself is a quintessential Georgia town where you can
walk the historic tour, seek treasures in the quaint shopping area and
catch afternoon tea at The Front Porch Tea Room. Later, just as
generations of locals and tourists have, you can enjoy Southern cooking
and charm at the 1925 New Perry Hotel.

To the west and south of Perry, visitors can explore the
Andersonville Trail, which passes cotton fields and pecan orchards along
State Highway 49 to the town of Andersonville. Just outside of town is
the Andersonville National Historic Site, which is home to Camp Sumter,
the notorious Civil War prison.

The Confederates built the outdoor prison in February 1864 with
the intention of holding 10,000 Union prisoners. By August, the 26
1/2-acre site confined more than 32,000 soldiers at a time, with almost
13,000 eventually dying from disease and mistreatment. Today, visitors
can tour the picturesque grounds, walking among the monuments, sections
of reconstructed stockade and dramatic rows of white headstones in the
national cemetery.

The historic site also hosts the inspiring National Prisoner of
War Museum, which is dedicated to the servicemen and women of the
United States who have endured enemy captivity. The museum presents
poignant exhibits — including artifacts, videos and photos — that
honor the courage and hardships of POWs from the American Revolution
through the war in Iraq.

Beyond Andersonville, you’ll come to the charming little town
of Plains — a place made famous 30 years ago as the home of President
Jimmy Carter. This tranquil town, and its classic American story of
local boy rising to the nation’s highest office, attracts many travelers
regardless of their political orientation. Carter still resides in
Plains and visitors sometimes catch a glimpse of him while they tour the
town or attend the periodic Sunday school class he teaches at Maranatha
Baptist Church.

The Plains High School, where Jimmy and Rosalyn Carter received
their public schooling, serves as the visitor center and museum for the
Jimmy Carter National Historic Site. Once you’ve visited the school,
you can tour the town’s 1888 train depot, which doubled as the 1976
Presidential Campaign Headquarters, and Jimmy Carter’s boyhood home,
located on a nearby farm where the Carter family grew cotton, peanuts
and sugar cane.

If you’d like to view the area’s scenery and towns without
driving, then check out the availability of the SAM Shortline Excursion
Train, which begins in Cordele, 35 miles south of Perry, and ends
practically in front of Carter’s boyhood home.

After Plains, more of Georgia’s Southern legacy awaits by
heading 25 miles north of Perry to the historic city of Macon. The city
marks the beginning of Georgia’s Antebellum Trail — a 100-mile route
from Macon to Athens that meanders through seven communities that
escaped destruction during the Union Army’s march through Georgia during
the Civil War.

In Macon, you can tour classic antebellum structures, such as
the Hay House and the Cannonball House. The Hay House, completed in 1860
and nicknamed “The Palace of the South,” is a stunning
18,000-square-foot Italian Renaissance Revival mansion. The Cannonball
House is an 1853 Greek Revival mansion, which features fine period
furnishings and the unexploded shell that smashed through the parlor
during a Union attack.

In addition to architecture, Macon offers a vibrant cultural
heritage. The Georgia Music Hall of Fame honors the state’s contemporary
music traditions and showcases performers such as Little Richard, The
Allman Brothers, Otis Redding and Ray Charles. And visitors can explore
African-American heritage at the Tubman Museum, which features the
South’s largest museum celebrating the significant achievements of
African-American artists, inventors and leaders.

Between visits to Macon’s many attractions, you can stroll
downtown boulevards lined with thousands of Yoshino cherry trees and
dine alfresco at Southern-style cafes.

East of Perry, you can head to the nearby town of Warner
Robins, where visitors can immerse themselves in the noble history of
the U.S. Air Force. As with much of the South, Georgia enjoys a proud
military tradition, and the Robins Air Force Base serves as the area’s
largest employer.

At the base, you’ll discover the Museum of Aviation — one of
the nation’s largest aerospace museums. Its expansive 51-acre site
delivers eye candy for aviation enthusiasts, showcasing more than 100
aircraft and hundreds of fascinating aviation-related exhibits. You’ll
see aircraft ranging from an 1896 Chanute Glider, to the Flying Tiger’s
shark-nosed P-40, to the world’s fastest aircraft — the SR-71
Blackbird. In addition, the museum hosts the largest exhibit on the
inspiring Tuskegee Airmen and an IMAX aviation theater.

Warner Robins also serves as the southern origin of the Peach
Blossom Trail, which heads back through Perry then north to Atlanta,
where more than 50 streets contain Peachtree in their name, including
the famous Peachtree Street. If the area’s pink and white peach blossoms
are in bloom, you’ll want to drive the trail. Georgia isn’t known as
the Peach State for nothing. The trail skirts orchards in an area
populated with 1.6 million peach trees.

Beyond its immediate environs, Perry also serves as a
crossroads to farther regions. You can travel three hours north to the
Georgia mountains, with nearby stops in Atlanta and Great Smoky
Mountains National Park. Or you can venture three hours along the Golden
Isles Parkway to the scenic and tranquil Georgia coast, or three hours
south to the Gulf of Mexico. But regardless of your next destination,
you’ll depart with excellent experiences and images of the rich Southern
heritage of Georgia’s heartland.

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