Big Time Tallahassee

When You Live in a Rural Community, A Trip to the Capital City is a Treat

Tallahassee is only an hour away from Bainbridge. Growing up, I was always grateful for this fact.

Bainbridge is rural and quiet. It sits in the southwest corner of Georgia, just above the state line. There’s not much to do there and nowhere to go. When I was a kid, there was no real mall, no decent restaurants, no Chuck E. Cheese. But Tallahassee was always the opposite — lively, lots of stores, a greater diversity of people. So whenever an adult would say, “I’ve got to go to Tallahassee,” I would perk up, hoping they would ask, “You wanna go?”

My mom and I would ride along with a one of her girlfriends to Tallahassee a couple of times a month. I’d look forward to the trip from the moment I found out we were going. We’d get ready that morning, ironing, hot curling, choosing the right outfit. You couldn’t go just any old way.

The trips were always the same — shopping, followed by dinner at Morrison’s Cafeteria in the Tallahassee Mall or Quincy’s Steakhouse across the street. If we went to Governor’s Square, a real treat, I’d get to see the tall buildings downtown. I’d gaze up at them from the back seat, happy that something resembling a big city existed this close to me. As we headed down Apalachee Parkway, I’d look back at all the cars coming down and going up the hill in front of the Capitol. Big city traffic — almost, anyway.

Leaving always made me a little sad. As we drove out of town, I’d look out the back window at the cars on North Monroe, headlights and taillights glowing in the dark of the night, and the neon signs fronting all the stores. As a teen, I imagined it must favor the famous big city strips — Lakeshore Drive, Broadway, Sunset Boulevard, Peachtree Street. 

I knew it wasn’t the real thing. New York City, Atlanta, Chicago … those were the genuine articles, not Tallahassee. But its allure was about more than its resemblance to some big city. It was a real lifesaver to me, and thousands of southwestern Georgians. Want to see a movie? Shop for new school clothes? Need major surgery? See a college game? Attend college?

Go out for a decent dinner? Get a higher-paying job? Most everyone headed to Tallahassee. They still do.

Those who live in self-sufficient cities don’t know how good they have it. Be anywhere you want at a moment’s notice with no need to get all dolled up or fill up the gas tank. Run to the mall to exchange that pair of pants, see your therapist on your lunch break, pick up some wheatgrass at New Leaf. It’s all done without much forethought or planning.

Living in Bainbridge — or any small town — you make daily sacrifices. Some people accept this reality easily. Others fail to see the sacrifice at all. And then there are those like me, who pout and sulk, throwing temper tantrums, vowing never to return. I’ve lived in cities bigger and smaller than Tallahassee since those starry-eyed trips as a kid. Now that I’m back home — so much for the vow — I’m still thankful for the lifeline Tallahassee extends to its neighbors to the north.

And I still perk up when someone asks, “You wanna ride to Tallahassee?”

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