Highway 411 Opens Up Charming, Peaceful Vistas

February 15, 2011

By Ronda Robinson

What do Dee’s Roadkill Café, the Curl Up and Dye Salon, sailplanes and Mennonite horse-drawn buggies have in common? They’re some of the charming sites that drivers find when traveling off the beaten path on U.S. Highway 411, the back road between Georgia and East Tennessee. With no major metropolitan areas along the way, this country route offers a peaceful, fun alternative to interstate travel.

Roadside Distractions on Highway 411

I take 411 every chance I get. The drive is a vacation in itself, a respite from computers, e-mail, deadlines and a sense of busyness and urgency in general. Unlike the interstate, where speed seems the ultimate objective, 411 provides a meditative retreat. Whereas the former stretch of asphalt bores me with its sameness, the back road captures my imagination with one-of-a-kind wonders.

Rural Road Food
For instance, soon after picking up 411 after exiting the interstate north of Atlanta, I enjoy a two-lane stretch of road that passes Dee’s Roadkill Café in White, Georgia. Although the logo features a cartoon critter fearfully peeking out of a boiling kettle, Dee’s doesn’t actually have roadkill on the menu. The fare runs more toward homemade biscuits and gravy, country ham, barbecue, pinto beans, coleslaw and fried pies, along with house specialty burgers like The Big Nasty – a half-pound of black Angus beef with cheese, chili, grilled onions and condiments.

“We do homemade everything,” owner Dee Huskins, wearing a red apron, says cheerily one morning, as her husband, Mike, a pastor, chats with the regulars in their eatery – site of the town’s old post office.

Lotties's Diner on Highway 411

Cross over the state line, and just before Benton is Lottie’s Diner, home of the cathead biscuit. As with Dee’s Roadkill, Lottie’s made-from-scratch biscuits don’t contain any disconcerting ingredients; the name comes from how big and fluffy they are.

Soaring With the Birds

The rural highway ribboning into Tennessee features a magical countryside of mountains, pastures, horses, goats, cows, antique shops and barns painted with “See Rock City” signs. The beauty, perhaps, is best seen from the air, and that’s where the Chilhowee Gliderport on 411 north of Benton comes in.

Chilhowee gliderport

Owner/operator Sarah Kelly offers rides in engineless gliders, also known as sailplanes, near the Cherokee National Forest. “Soaring birds use the same type of air we use. A lot of times on the thermals there will be hawks, eagles and black vultures. It’s always a special day when I see a bald eagle from the glider,” she says.

The “ridge lift” when the wind strikes the mountain provides an upward force to help gliders – and birds – stay airborne.

Hovering around 3,000 to 4,000 feet high, gliders also provide a glimpse of the Ocoee and Hiwassee rivers. We pass over what may be old V-shaped Indian fishing traps of piled stone in the water below. Around the bend, Mennonite farmland creates beautiful patchwork designs.

Discovering Treasures in Delano
The element of discovery continues in Delano, where Savannah Oaks Winery grows muscadines and scuppernong grapes, and sells wines, jellies, cheese and gifts.

Further up Delano Road, a mile off 411, Mennonite families run the Delano Community Farm Market, offering locally grown produce from asparagus to winter squash, as well as apple butter, honey, sorghum molasses, canned corn relish, cantaloupe preserves, cookies, breads and more.

Thirty families have a total of 470 acres on which they farm. “It’s the main source of income,” says Joseph Martin, manager of the market.

“A lot of things are picked every day fresh,” he adds.

Visitors to the Mennonite market are encouraged to dress modestly, as a sign says, “We greatly appreciate your business. Please respect us by being properly clothed.” For women, that means no low necklines or strap tops.

A sense of old-fashioned values permeates the area, where often I see Mennonite horse-drawn buggies clopping down 411.

Etowah L&N Depot & Railroad Museum

Whistling Dixie
A few miles north in Etowah, the L&N Depot & Railroad Museum celebrates train travel. Located in a restored 1906 depot listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the museum tells stories of life in a Southern railroad town. Admission is free year round.

I’m most familiar with the middle part of 411, even though the highway stretches about 340 miles from Leeds, Ala., to Greeneville, Tenn. Believe it or not, two hair salons called Curl Up & Dye are located on this short strip of Americana: one in Ranger, Ga., and one in Maryville, Tenn. The name alone has lots of style – as does U.S. Highway 411, with its patchwork of quaint diners, shops and roadside attractions. As the saying goes, it’s all about the journey, not the destination. A great drive like this is an end unto itself.

If You Go:
Dee’s Roadkill Café, White, Georgia
(770) 386-5443

Lottie’s Diner, Benton, Tennessee
(423) 338-8513

Chilhowee Gliderport, Benton, Tennessee
(423) 506-9015

Savannah Oaks Winery, Delano, Tennessee
(423) 263-2762

Delano Community Farm Market, Delano, Tennessee
(no phone or website)
283 Needle Eye Lane, on Delano Road off Highway 411 just north of the Hiwassee River between Benton and Etowah

Etowah L&N Depot & Railroad Museum, Etowah, Tennessee
(423) 263-7840

Curl Up & Dye Salon, Ranger, Georgia
(706) 334-3313

Curl Up & Dye Salon, Maryville, Tennessee
(865) 681-8122

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Comments

  1. Robin Cummings says:

    though you might like this

  2. Melinda says:

    In the article featured in the TN Home & Farm magazine Spring 2011 issue there needs to be a correction on the location of the Seventh Day Adventist Church. I very close to that church and the only place that is called “Dellwood” is the subdivision a few houses up across the street. The locations of the church is just Maryville.

    • Jessy Yancey says:

      Melinda,

      Thanks for letting us know! We apologize for the error. Our photographer must have been confused by signs for the subdivision.

      Thanks,
      Jessy

  3. Melvin Cline says:

    My family has been driving up and down Hwy 411 all my life. I still take 411 every time I go up home to Tellico / Madisonville Tenn. And I must say I’m not looking forward to the 4 lane coming down from Maryville Tenn. My grandparents use to run the old Hotel in Connasuga Ga.many years ago. I love the drive and view all the way up 411. It still feels like home even after 35 plus years in Atlanta. Someday I hope and dream of moving back to what I still call home.
    I salute and give thanks to God for the greatest people in the world, who seem to all live in and around Hwy. 411

  4. Dottie Pullen Thomas says:

    I live in Atlanta but grew up in Etowah, TN. My brothers and sisters and I have been in and out of the L&N Depot many times. Our Dad retired after 47 years of working for the L&N RR. It is like a breath of fresh air to leave I-75 and drive north on Hwy 411 and see those beautiful mountains! Thanks for the memories!

  5. Lee says:

    Does anyone know if the Farmers Market on Needle Eye Lane is open yet for this spring 2011??

  6. RAYMOND BROWN says:

    I GREW UP IN NW GEORGIA BUT I TRAVEL TO PIGEON FORGE 2 TIMES A YEAR AND GO UP HWY 411 AND I HAVE TO SAY ITS THE MOST BEAUTIFUL COUNTRY SIDE I HAVE EVER SAW AND CANT GET ENOUGH OF SEEING IT YOU SEE SOMETHING DIFFERANT EVERYTIME AS YOU CAN SEE GOD CAN MAKE SOME GREAT VIEWS

  7. Charlene Hodgin says:

    The Amish Mennonite farm has been moved to Englewood – do you know what the address is now?

    Thanks. Charlene Hodgin