During our backpacking trip to Providence Canyon, we literally stumbled upon the tiny town of Lumpkin, GA when we were in need of fuel when we arrived at the park. The small town reminded me of Washington, LA – the small town where I spent about 5 years of my youth. Many of the homes in town were well maintained and we were curious to see what the rest of the town had to offer, so we made sure to do a bit of driving around before we returned home. I (of course) had my camera and took plenty of pictures.
The town features a beautiful courthouse that is currently undergoing restoration. Across the street is a historic home (the Bedingfied Inn) and a nicely maintained town square.
Unfortunately, most of the stores in the downtown area seem to have gone out out business. Two thrift stores – coincidentally located right next to one another – are out of business, but their inventory is just left in the store – just like someone decided to close up shop and never returned to vacate the property. We drove around a bit and found what I deemed to be an unattractive home – it was a historic home with very brightly colored trim. I asked my husband to drive by slowly so I could get a picture of the home – and wondered aloud why on earth someone would paint their home white with coral colored trim.
Just as we were driving away, we were greeted by the homeowner – he was outside, preparing to go for a ride on his motorcycle. He asked if he could help us with anything. After I told him we were just driving around and exploring the town, he began to talk to us about the town – the history and the challenges they are facing. He remarked that it was a beautiful little town, but that it was dying.
The local grocery store went out of business – the nearest option for groceries is 9 miles away – a local Piggly Wiggly. They are 30 miles from the nearest Wal-Mart. After talking to him for about 1o minutes, a local policeman drove by and harassed him for stopping traffic again. He seemed to know all of the members of the local police department – not surprising.
He then asked if we’d had lunch yet – we said “Nope” and then he proceeded to give us directions to the next town where there was a gas station – with a lunch counter inside. He admitted that from the outside, it didn’t look like much, but he told us it was the best food we’d find in the area and it was affordable. We decided to trust him and give it a try. We followed his directions to the tiny town of Richland, GA.
We soon found the gas station with the “Dairy Cream” inside – this was our destination. We entered to be welcomed by two employees – and we were given menus and when we pointed to the food in the display case, the young man said “Yeah, you can order from the menu if you don’t want ‘real food'”.
Coincidentally, all of the food on the menu appeared to be frozen, then would be prepared fried. We opted for the plate lunch/real food option, which was economical, homemade and tasty. We could choose from a variety of meats (pork, hamburger patty with bell pepper & onion, or chicken wings). The sides (we could pick two) were macaroni & cheese, fried rice, collard greens & roasted potatoes. All plates came with a piece of cornbread, cake and an iced tea. All that for about $7. Yeah, I know this wasn’t paleo. In my defense, I didn’t eat most of the cake nor the cornbread, but I will admit to eating the mac & cheese.
We were surprised to find tables set up in the gas station (complete with table cloths!) and to be served on real plates and have real silverware. It was a bona-fide dining establishment. I left a tip on the table and I think I confused them, but the cashier just shrugged and said “Well, you can do what you like” when I went to leave a tip.
We drove away with our bellies full of home-cooked food for a long drive back to Atlanta. Even though it was sad to see another small town dying from lack of industry, it was good to experience the friendliness of a small town community. So next time you pass a gas station in a small town, don’t write it off as a bona-fide dining establishment. What looks like this from the outside…