So I gave a quick overview of Ft. Monroe previously. With that much to see in one place you’re bound to get hungry during your visit. The good news is that you don’t have to wander far to fix that problem.
If I told you there was a great spot for seafood at a marina just outside the gates of a Civil War era fort, your mind might go to Fish Tales in Richmond Hill. And you would be right. But Fish Tales is a bit of a drive from Ft. Monroe, especially if you’re hungry.
So we’ll try another marina. Just outside the fort proper but still within the modern limits of the installation you’ll find the Old Point Clear Marina. If you arrive at the marina you can’t miss The Deadrise.
While this name sounds like something out of an evangelical eschatological thriller movie, the term is a reference to a way of measuring the depth of a boat’s hull. It’s a fitting moniker for a restaurant in a marina.
A marina is always a tempting sight. Rows of boats, particularly sailboats, tug at the heart strings and make me want to shove off in search of adventure or solitude...or perhaps both. The Old Point Clear Marina was no exception. From atop the stairs at the restaurant’s entrance you can see quite a varied collection of pleasure crafts.
With easy access to Hampton Roads, Chesapeake Bay, and the Atlantic, as well as numerous rivers, the boat traffic is abundant. A lot of vessels coming and going on a beautiful day. It adds to the overall ambiance of the location.
As of this visit, Virginia’s COVID-19 restrictions were pretty strict, perhaps draconian. Reduced seating capacity made for a bit of a wait but, again, the scenery was nice as was the weather and the company so it was only a mild inconvenience.
We were greeted and served by a friendly and helpful staff. The hostess was energetic and her work posture was quite kinetic. Our waitress was knowledgeable about the menu and was helpful as we made our selections.
Until someone puts warmouth in the menu, flounder will be the best actual fish you’ll get in a place such as this. Obviously shellfish are always going to be good but I saw a waitress carrying a flounder filet that belonged on a forklift so that’s what I went with. It was paired with fried oysters, and served with fries, hush puppies, and surprisingly good slaw.
They offer nachos as an entree. This is a delightfully fresh option. The components are plenteous. It’s where nachos, a seafood entree, and a salad come together. The ingredients combine nicely to form a cohesive dish.
With good food, great service, and that waterfront atmosphere, The Deadrise is a recommended part of a Ft. Monroe visit.
Oh, and one last thing, they have a posted sign down by the dock. It’s a warning to boaters, fishermen. This area has a long history. These waters have been fought over. An observer could have witnessed the first ironclad battle, the famous duel between the CSS Virginia and the USS Monitor from this location. That battle, along with plenty others, means that it’s not unheard of to find unexploded ordnance. It is intended to keep people safe but it also reminds us of the history of the area. It’s not just an abstract idea in a book. That history, the good and bad, still lives among us today.
Sam Burnham, Curator
At ABG our perspective is Southern. That’s because most of the people who have contributed here are Southerners. We take our stand among the live oaks, the peanut fields, and meandering rivers of The South. But the ideas we love and support aren’t always uniquely Southern.
In their Statement of Principles, the 12 Southerners of I’ll Take My Stand added this thought:
”But there are many other minority communities opposed to industriaism, and wanting a much simpler economy to live by. The communities and private persons sharing the agrarian tastes are to be found widely within the Union. Proper living is a matter of the intelligence and the will, does not depend on the local climate or geography, and is capable of a definition which is general and not Southern at all. Southerners have a filial duty to discharge to their own section. But their cause is precarious and they must seek alliances with sympathetic communities everywhere. The members of the present group would be happy to be counted as members of a national agrarian movement.”
So when we speak about a need for unity in this country we have to look for common ground. We have to find things that unite us rather than divide us. That’s something that has come up in our travels and stories. I’d like to take a look at some.
In 2014 I traveled to Maine. My goal was to visit the bedside of my Grandpa, to say goodbye. But my experience there shed light on the plight of non-coastal Mainers. Maine, like Georgia, is two states. The cities, which are coastal, hold political sway over the rest of the state, which is mountainous.
The political issue at that moment was a ballot initiative that would put an end to hunting and trapping practices regarding black bears. The city people found the practices “cruel.” The state wildlife biologists (read: “settled science”) argued that the practices were essential for maintaining healthy populations of bears and for minimizing human-bear interactions. The rural people, whose values, practices, and beliefs belong in the articles of this website, fought to preserve hunting and trapping. The proposal was defeated by about 40,000 votes but the threat of coastal tyranny remains in Maine.
Out in Oregon I have a friend who recently discovered he has a gift in the visual arts. His family has deep roots in those woods.
His father was a logging road inspector who started in forestry at the age of 16. He put in 42 years of service before retiring. Now his son has a pile of stories from riding shotgun in the forestry truck with dad. Deep in those woods stands the memory of a burned train trestle that spanned a huge canyon. “ It’s something nobody else but someone that drove back that deep would ever see or knew existed.”
He also has the stories from his great-grandmother who went out on the Oregon Trail. “ She lived to 105 and used to tell us kids about coming over on the wagon train as a little girl and the history of that area.”
”My family is tied to the woods here. Sadly, they’re burning now.”
That sorrow isn’t just from the environmental or economic damage the fires are creating. It’s from a real attachment to the land. It’s the knowledge that those trees, mountains, rivers, that land is where generations of his family took their stand. That love comes through in some of his art which appears here, linked to his artist page.
We could tell these stories forever. They could come from every region of the country. Those proud Texans, Kansas Jayhawks, and Indiana Hoosiers could all make an argument on why their plot of dirt is the best place on Earth, whether you agree or not. We even see this phenomenon in the troubled communities deep in our cities. For a person of this mentality, home is home. It’s not just where you hang your hat, it’s where you take your stand.
For a man or woman this connected to home, they’ll fight to protect that spot. They’ll work to make it better. They’ll ward off gentrification, they’ll support local businesses, they’ll look out for their neighbors.
The problems we face as a country aren’t going to be solved in Washington. It does not matter which party has control. It will only get better when this mindset takes root in all the little places no one thinks about. When folks love a place enough to make it better, that’s when we’ll see true greatness return. Mentoring school kids, picking up litter, just loving a place - thinking local, acting local - that’s where the difference is made. That’s where, although divided by space, we become united in mission.
Where’s your spot? What do you love?
Sam Burnham, Curator
A few years ago I stumbled across a shuttered old roadhouse on the shores of Lake Allatoona in Cherokee County. As I looked at the old building and admired the signage, I wondered what all might have gone on at the Blue Cat Lodge.
I posted a picture of the place on the ABG Instagram page to document such a place existed. One of our followers there commented that the site was a filming location for the Netflix original series “Ozark.” Since that moment I’ve learned that the signage is the impressive work of a set design team who made use of the old roadhouse. I published my thoughts on this incredible show here.
While the Blue Cat Lodge, that happening spot where Marty Byrde laundered drug cartel money to keep his family alive, is a work of fiction, you can visit the location today. The roadside sign with its majestic blue catfish are gone. In its place you’ll find a sign for JD’s on the Lake, the current restaurant and bar that occupies the building.
The business is working off a limited menu during all of this *:gestures into the void:*. The good news is you can still get fried catfish and fries with hush puppies and slaw. Honestly I was expecting something colossally mediocre making a living off the building’s fame and notoriety. I was pleasantly surprised that the food was quite good.
The service is excellent and you can dine or drink inside or out. There is an inside dining room, screened in decks, and open air tables. Out back is a great location to sit on a comfortable evening to watch the sun set behind the Allatoona Mountains.
Remember that this location is reality. The dining room and bar are not decorated the same as the Blue Cat in the show. Most of the props are gone and the real place remains. The old sign that hung above the front porch now hangs over the bar but you won’t hear Bob Segar’s “Still the Same” on repeat. It’s unlikely that you’ll encounter Marty or Wendy but Ruth gets some love in the form of a cocktail on the menu. And no, middle aged gentlemen, Rachel Garrison is not working the bar.
While a lot is different, there’s plenty around that you’ll recognize. The floating fuel pumps where Marty stood, cooking the books, are updated, in use, and quite busy on the holiday weekend. If you’re a fan of the show, it feels like Ozark.
There’s a nice balance here. JD’s is it’s own place and it’s enjoyable on its own. It isn’t some campy place where the waitresses ask you Ozark trivia questions or dress in costume. They give some hat tips to Ozark and the Blue Cat while maintaining their own identity.
To see this for yourself, take Bells Ferry Rd south from GA 20 near Canton. Stay on Bells Ferry until the Blue Cat is dead ahead in the curve. If you cross the Ronnie Clay Chastain Memorial Bridge, you went too far. If you’re headed north from Woodstock, look on the left past the bridge.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire