Athens, Georgia Trip, January 2016

Athens is one of my favorite little metropolitan cities and home to R.E.M., B-52’s and the Georgia Bulldogs. One must stay in the downtown area where the streets are filled with college dive bars, cool clubs and of course lots of great restaurants. It seems the night-life in Athens is always active with live music, drink specials and numerous college folks walking around. Maybe it’s why the Georgia Bulldogs ranked number two in the nation for best partying schools. Make sure you have your driver license on you, they card everybody…even people like me in my fifties.

One of my preferred places to wine and dine is the Five and Ten, this place is actually a couple of miles south of downtown so you will probably need to drive; there is plenty parking behind the restaurant. Owner and Chef Hugh Acheson is famous for his cotemporary Southern cooking and was named one of Food and Wine’s 10 best new chefs.

This trip I was very fortunate to meet up with some longtime friends, AJ Hudjins and his wife Colleen. I first met AJ in the winter of 1979 in Cozad, Nebraska and slowly we became best of friends and roommates at times. AJ and Colleen are now living in Hartwell, Georgia…a small city about 45 minutes Northeast of Athens.

Georgia Trip, November 2011

Linna and I flew down to Atlanta to visit AJ Hudgins and Colleen Favinger, old friends of mine that moved to Hartwell, Georgia about six months ago. I use to work with AJ and Colleen back in Cozad, Nebraska at Tenneco Automotive in the eighties. This was only a three day trip, but…the drive from Atlanta to Hartwell was warm with beautiful fall colors.

We arrived Friday afternoon and later had dinner at a local Mexican restaurant. After dinner AJ and I stayed up late getting caught up on gossip, life, and work. Linna and I slept in on Saturday and eventually woke up to AJ’s homemade breakfast. For dinner, AJ wanted to check out a new restaurant that was being featured in the “Food & Wine” magazine, “Five and Ten” located in Athens Georgia. Before we headed to Athens, we drove around Hartwell, AJ and Colleen’s new home for many years to come. It’s a quaint little town, but…bigger than Cozad, Nebraska where we all lived for many years. We stopped in at a local art gallery; you never know when you might find a piece of art that you might like. The owner and artist, Diane Geiger moved from Atlanta a few years ago to open her own studio “Hang it up Gallery and Studios”. I bought a small piece from Diane that I knew would be managable to travel back to Seattle with. It’s a small world, Diane’s sister lives in Bellevue, just a few miles from Linna and I.

After exploring Hartwell, we took the back highways to Athens. As we were getting close to our destination, we noticed it was college game day for the Georgia Bulldogs; our restaurant “five and ten” was walking distance from the stadium. After locating the restuarant, we decided to cruise the campus area which happened to be an eye opener. I haven’t been to a campus before that allowed open containers on campus, not only on campus…but walking on the street, sidewalks and all over. The campus reminded me of the movie “Animal House” with all the empty containers all over. After the campus fun, we headed to our dinner spot, it was definitely a five star dinner. We got stuck in the football traffic after dinner, which was a total drag. Sunday was another sleep in, but eventually got on the road back to Atlanta after lunch; we wanted to stop at the Aquarium, but our departure was to close. It was a great to see AJ and Colleen again.

Nebraska Trip, April 2011

I haven’t been back to my hometown (Cozad, Nebraska) since my class reunion in September 2009.  The main purpose was to spend Easter with my sister Nova Walker, she was diagnosed with cancer 6 months ago.  Linna and I flew direct from Seattle to Denver on Alaska Airlines, just a little over 2 hours.  Cozad is located on Interstate 80 halfway between Denver and Omaha; taking a direct flight from Seattle is much easier than flying into Omaha with a connection and still driving 4 hours.  The Eastern side of Colorado is not much to look at and all it does is encourages you to drive as fast as you can through it.  Speed limit is 75 and I usually drive 85 to 95 to make sure I get to Cozad for dinner…..well this time I had Mr. State Trooper stop me to say hi. 

After we settled in with my good friend AJ Hudgins and his girlfriend of 27 years, Colleen Favinger in Cozad we headed out to Bella Italia for dinner.  There isn’t much in Cozad, but I have to admit I am totally impressed with this Italian restaurant located in my small hometown.  After dinner, AJ and I sat up until 4 a.m. gossiping about the 4,000 residents in Cozad.  The next two days AJ and I spent driving around Cozad seeing old friends and neighbors.  We stopped in to visit with Mark McKeone, Scott Diehl, Eric Seaman, Marty Munster, Verna Story, Ardi Wilcher, Heidi Bazata, John Dorsey, Scott Hergenrader, Sherry Armagost and even dropped off a dozen tulips to Ardi Wilcher.

Linna and I spent Easter Sunday with my sisters Nova and Alicia and their families.  We started the day off with church service at the Nazarene; I haven’t been to a church service for 9 years or so…..and it might be another 9 before I go back.  After church we drove over to Gothenburg, ten miles west of Cozad for brunch at Walker’s Steakhouse.  After munching down the Midwest buffet, we headed back to Nova’s house for pictures and an Easter egg hunt for the kids. 

Most all small towns in the Midwest, especially Nebraska….the towns are pretty much closed down on Sundays….which means there is no place to dine.  The nearest town for a decent dinner on a Sunday is Kearney, a college town 50 miles East of Cozad.  We first stopped at Hunan’s, a Chinese restaurant that Linna rejected after taking one look at the menu.  After another late night, we got up Monday morning and headed back to Denver.  I took a small detour to Sidney, Nebraska and stopped in at Cabelas to pick up a new shotgun case for my over/under Browning Citori 12 guage shotgun that I was flying back to Seattle with me.

30th Class Reunion, September 2009