What A Weekend!

Normally, you’d think that this blog would be about something I did this past weekend. Well, unfortunately, my weekends haven’t been terribly eventful lately, so it’s time to look back a few months and ramble about the 4th of July weekend this year. I had not started my blog yet, but the entire weekend is kinda what made me want to start it. We definitely squeezed every ounce out of a regular weekend, so I wanted to explain our steps so it could truly be appreciated…plus it gives me some good stuff to write about on these slow days. Here’s how it went down…

Tommy Lee Byrd Photography

The G8 with mountains in the background...I live in a great part of the country!

So, I’m sitting at my desk at work, trying to get a scheme going that would allow me to get some serious work done, while also providing a fun weekend for Christina and I. So, after lots of thought and planning on Friday, I decided we’d hop in the car that evening for a trip to Ellijay, Georgia. Sounds simple enough, right? First, we drive home from work (Chattanooga to Dayton, TN), which is backtracking but we had to go home to pack and get my camera gear ready for the weekend. This was truly a spontaneous weekend getaway. So we hop in the G8, and head down the road.

I’d been looking for different things to do for our fun weekend away, and found that McCaysville, Georgia was having a cool little festival thing that evening. So we parked about a half-mile away because the town was slam-packed with people. I’m talkin’ packed. It’s a tiny town, but the festival and fireworks show drew a huge crowd. We ate kettlecorn and watched the fireworks from a one-lane superstructure bridge and it was very cool. From there, we continued our trek to Ellijay and stayed at pretty much the only hotel there–the Best Western. It was a decent place for the money and it appeared to be locally owned, which is good.

Tommy Lee Byrd Photography

Such a wicked car...look for a full feature in the February 2012 issue of Hot Rod Magazine.

I had already mapped out our adventure (pre GPS days) so I had a stack of printouts from Google Maps, ready to rock for Saturday’s trip. We rose early and headed to Calhoun, Georgia for the Paradise Summer Show ‘N Go, held at historic Paradise Drag Strip. I photographed all the action, rummaged through the swap meet and got started on a feature that will soon hit the shelves in Hot Rod magazine. I had actually planned to shoot the wickedly fast Model A that day, then continue with our plans, but a mechanical problem with the car prevented me from shooting it. I was at least able to get some good action shots of the car before it had problems. This threw a hitch in the day’s schedule, but I called my next photo shoot victim, who lives in Dallas, Georgia, and rescheduled our time to meet.

Tommy Lee Byrd Photography

Christina snapped this picture with her iPhone before we devoured some chili burgers, chili dogs and onion rings at The Varsity.

Before we went to Dallas, we decided to “swing by” downtown Atlanta to grab some quality grub at The Varsity. It was great, as always. From there, we headed West on I-85 and then North to Dallas to meet Ryan Wall of Injected Engineering. I had already done a photo shoot on his very cool turbocharged Ford Lightning pickup, but I needed to get some good action shots of the truck for the feature. Ryan also knew where the old drag strip was located in Dallas (Southeastern International Dragway) so that was first on the agenda. We drove right into the place, as there were no restrictions keeping us out. When we saw that there were no problems driving into the track, we decided to do the action shots on the old drag strip, where Ryan had raced the truck many times. As was the case with other abandoned drag strips, it was an eerie feeling being all alone (basically) at Southeastern International Dragway.

Tommy Lee Byrd Photography

I don't want to show too much of the old drag strip, so here's a shot of the recently-burned tower at Southeastern International Dragway.

Tommy Lee Byrd Photography

Ryan Wall's turbo Ford Lightning at the abandoned Southeastern International Dragway in Dallas, Georgia.

So, Christina was my pilot as I hung out the window and photographed the Lightning on the actual racing surface of the old track. We made a couple of passes to make sure I got the right shot, and then loaded up to continue our adventure. We then headed to Woodstock, Georgia to watch a big dirt track race at the legendary Dixie Speedway. We stuck around for a couple hours, and watched the action, then headed back up the road when we’d had enough of the roundy-round stuff. From there, it was an hour or so to get back to Ellijay, where we returned to our room at the Best Western.

Tommy Lee Byrd Photography

It was a nice change of pace to watch some dirt track racing, instead of my normal drag racing stuff. I'll say that I've met my dirt track quota for the year though.

Tommy Lee Byrd Photography

I thought this was a pretty cool shot at Dixie Speedway, showing the crowd and the racecars zooming by.

Sunday morning, we slept in, and headed north to Blue Ridge, Georgia, where I’d photograph yet another abandoned drag strip for my new book. After visiting Double H Drag Strip, we went to the Mercier Orchards for a wonderful lunch. Then we made our way back to Dayton and stopped at a couple of cool places on the way back. By Sunday afternoon, we’d made the best of a weekend, and made it back home safely. Although it was fairly hectic, there were no boring parts of our weekend getaway, and it was actually very productive from a working standpoint. Maybe we’ll do it again sometime soon!

Tommy Lee Byrd Photography

Again, I don't want to give too much away, but here's a shot of the flagman's box at the abandoned Double H Drag Strip in Blue Ridge, Georgia.

Tommy Lee Byrd Photography

We finished our North Georgia adventure by visiting the Mercier Orchard for lunch, and other goodies.

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