Blackie’s not too picky about the surface she travels on. She can cruise or crawl over most anything. Her passengers direct the course and choose the terrain. When we’re in a hurry we travel on the vast interstate system President Eisenhower commissioned. It’s convenient but crowded along the East Coast. Being buffeted by semi-tractor trailers for hours or creeping along bumper to bumper can wear our patience thin. So whenever possible we seek out the back roads, away from the mayhem to try and find the true DNA of the area. After St Augustine we veered off onto US Highway 17, also called the Coastal Highway. It begins in Florida and ends in Virginia. It tends to hug the Atlantic coast traversing rural areas – ah perfect! Our pace relaxed and Blackie hummed along sipping fuel, another advantage of taking it easy.
You never know what you will come across on a back road. Now that we can actually see the landscape in focus instead of a fiendish blur we spot deer grazing in shady glens, farmers tending their fields, people fishing alongside a river. The flowers in bloom are vibrant, the fields of wheat rippling gently in the breeze. We cross a small bridge and into view comes – The Redneck Yacht Club?! No blue blazers here, blue jeans and bandanas get you in the door. Truly a piece of Americana it is a favorite haunt of local bikers as well as anyone who wants to sample a beer or listen to music by the water. I’m not sure about the food. N30.44.17 W081.43.35. Listen to the song by Craig Morgan- Redneck Yacht Club- to get you in the mood. The town is in Florida but that’s all I’ll say- discover it!
We wandered north and remembered a friend had recommended we stop to see his old hunting partner and high school buddy. Where was that again? Georgia…Woodbine that’s it. We checked the map and we were close enough to swing by. Rural Georgia has lots of character and characters. Some of the little towns we saw were all but closed, some hadn’t changed since the 50s, others were sleepy in the noonday heat. We missed Captain Stanley’s on the first pass distracted by the quaint character of the town. We crossed the Satilla River and turned around. Right in the middle of town is a collection of buildings which comprise the Satilla River Outfitters and Capt. Stan’s Smokehouse. We pulled in for a look – we had just missed Stanley so we found an empty stool and took in the scene.
Stanley’s creation consists of several structures nestled under a grand old oak tree embellished with all sorts of “collectables”. This establishment claims to be the “oldest tavern in town”, as I look around I notice it is the “only” tavern in town, in fact for quite a few miles around town. Well that would definitely make this a draw to the locals and not so locals, but it’s not just the regional watering hole – it’s the food that brings ‘em in.
Captain Stanley is certainly one of the characters of the area. He has had a colorful past as an international model, a soap opera star, entrepreneur, boat captain, champion speed skater… but his Italian grandfather inspired him and gave him some recipes from the old country that will knock your socks off. He smokes all the meat himself using his secret marinade to cure the cuts beforehand. Try the smoked chicken wings, the Boston Butt Sandwich (pork shoulder) or the Captain’s Special – an extra large baked potato loaded with chopped Boston Butt covered in butter, cheese and sour cream. There are also shrimp, blue crabs, crawfish (check out the annual Woodbine Crawfish Festival) and oysters to be enjoyed. The weekends are for dancing under the stars to the live music. When Captain Stanley isn’t cooking he’s hunting wild hogs or alligators or guiding a hunt or even a sunset cruise on the river. Step back in time, slow down and experience some fine southern hospitality. Don’t forget to say hi to Mack!