The mountains of north Georgia and western North Carolina have been my and B. J.’s second home since the early days of our marriage. We have been going to Helen, Ga. since Richard was just a kid and Betty’s Country Store was indeed “country”. This was Big Red’s second trip.
Big Red was beside himself as I reined him across the Hooch (Chattahoochee River) and into downtown Helen. He pranced and snorted rowdily when he spied the horse-drawn carriages carrying cheerful vacationers on tours of lovely Alpine Helen. Those well-groomed horses were beautiful as they strode pompously along the streets of Helen. Big Red had arrived, though, and he was the hottest steed in town now. It was eyes-right by the other horses.
I bridled him along River Street to River Bend, our snug home on the Hooch for the next five days. We own timeshares in Helen and have stayed in all of them at some time of other but this time we were staying at another old favorite of ours, River Bend, formerly the Kristy Chalet. We had stayed there before and the cordial proprietors, Frank and his lovely wife Francine treat us wonderfully. This time we would have our own private parking garage.
River Bend is only a few steps from the charming waters of the Chattahoochee rippling briskly among the rocks. To enhance one’s stay on the Hooch, there is an attractive outdoor recreation area along the water’s edge that includes swings, lounge chairs, picnic tables, grills, a fishing area and a pebble beach. Adorable trees along the banks form a canopy over the river that shades it and keeps it cool and refreshing even on the hottest days. When steaks are sizzling on the grill, the tantalizing aroma drifts along the river driving the “Hooch shooters” frantic as they float by.
I nudged Big Red up to a hitching rail. We went in and picked up the keys to our abode. While the attendants finished tidying up our cozy quarters, B. J. and I hit the trail for a fun trek along familiar paths.
Helen, a popular tourist destination, was abuzz with merrymakers. Horses pulling gilded chariots chauffeured excited sightseers throughout the town. A spirited band livened things up. We turned the corner onto the “strip” and threaded our way amongst the goings-on in the direction of our favorite place in Helen, Betty’s Country Store.
As we ambled along, we reminisced about past visits to this Alpine Village in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We had begun coming here when part of it was still under construction. We had been here with our family, that now resides about an hour away in Dacula, Ga., a couple of times on the Fourth of July and seen the amazing fireworks display they do here. Of course, perhaps the most thrilling things in Helen are the eateries. Since Helen is a copy of towns in the Bavarian Alps (we’ve been there, too), German food is a specialty. If you should happen to be in town during the Oktoberfest, take care not to overdose on bratwurst.
B. J. likes to shop in Helen. There is no end to the shops in this place. There are department stores, shoe stores, jewelry stores, trinket stores, gift shops, glassware shops, candy stores, “T” shirt shops, etc. We would pay our semi-annual visits to some of these shops later but now we were on our way to Betty’s. Lovers, arm in arm, mingled amid the multitude.
We have known Betty for many years. Her health has deteriorated in the past few years and she seldom comes to the store but we used to visit her often. She tried out some of JEB’s Old Fashioned Hickory Smoked BBQ Sauce one time and offered to put it on her shelf but it was too far up there to keep her supplied.
When we sauntered past the Safari Steakhouse, the fragrance was perfuming along the sidewalk and wreaking havoc among people’s sinuses. We paused long enough to read the menu and then, tearing ourselves from the temptation, we continued toward Betty’s.
At the entrance to Betty’s is an ice cream station offering several flavors. If you can make it past the ice cream, you are greeted inside by free samples of various brands of delicious cheeses, a number of flavorful dips, and tasty nuts.
Betty’s is a study in scrumptious foods. There are flavorsome homemade cookies and candies, exotic coffees and cold drinks, and a meat market second to none. We would later buy steaks there for our cookout in the mountains.
We browsed through Betty’s, loaded up on all the free stuff and returned to River Bend. They had our nook ready; it was nice, clean, cool, and smelling fresh and inviting.
Frank rustled us up some help to unload Big Red’s saddlebag and we settled in for the next five days. We were excited and hungry.