The Peach Blossom Cluster. The GPS Bitch

Over the years I’ve heard that the Perry, Georgia Peach Blossom Cluster is a dog show you either like or hate. So it was time to decide for myself and I entered my dogs in a bunch of classes.  The route from Pensacola is not direct as the crow flies.  You either have to go north and east near Atlanta, then turn southeast to Perry or drive directly east of Pensacola and then north along Interstate 75.  Either way involves lots of travel time.

It was a great way to see more of the Georgia countryside after I got off the major highway southeast of Atlanta.  The back road brought me back in time to a slower way of life.  The newly improved road passed small and in some cases very old homes and beautiful churches with white steeples jutting past the pines toward the sky.  The posted speeds on the road encouraged us travelers to hurry and unfortunately bypassed the small towns.  Occasionally a local (I’m assuming) would be on the road driving half the posted speed, which had been normal for them all these decades before the road was widened.  I was reminded of an announcement I had heard on TV that a new law was going into effect in the Atlanta area that would now fine people for driving too slow.  We must go quicker, faster, no stopping, no lollygaggling.  You must conform to our fast paced world.  As if in spite I dropped down ten miles an hour below the posted speed limit to enjoy the countryside.

The route took me past well-groomed fields, farms and lakes, past even a Lake Claudia. This is the America I love, with its gun and ammo shops and American flags proudly displayed, people who love God and freedom.

I passed peach and pecan groves, processing plants, and Southern Electric’s fields of solar panels. It was hard to believe that busy Atlanta was only an hour north.  Eventually my route took me briefly onto Interstate 75, the life blood of commerce between Georgia and southern Florida.

Before the start of the trial the following morning I wanted to find the show site and get my crates set up ring side, as is the usual procedure. But nothing prepared me for the show’s location, the Georgia National Fairgrounds and Agricenter.   It is so big it probably has its own zip code and the buildings are new, well maintained and, for the most part, air-conditioned or heated.  It wasn’t until I was leaving the show a few days later that I realized there was a horse show at the fairgrounds, far enough away in a covered arena that it didn’t interfere with a dog show entry of between 1100 to 2200 dogs.

What I wasn’t prepared for was the unseasonably cold weather. It was in the 40’s in the mornings and the parking attendant and I both shivered as we greeted each other.  It felt strange to turn on the heat in my hotel room because this is the south and we are usually warm or even hot by April, but with the AC on full blast I felt like my room was a supermarket meat locker.  By the end of my stay in Perry I couldn’t wait to get in my van and turn on the air conditioning.  It had changed to warm, sunny weather.  Spring in the south was back.

Well let me tell you about my Global Positioning System, another high tech device we all have learned to depend on instead of using maps and common sense. Now they are standard in new cars but I didn’t use mine for the first year or so until I eventually figured out how to turn up the volume so I could hear the lady’s voice.  But to be on the safe side I looked online at Google Maps before turning home to see what route I wanted to take.  I chose a southern back road path so I could see some new places.

From the beginning Miss GPS lady and I had a difference of opinion.  Eventually she acquiesced and started telling me where to turn on the route “I” wanted.  Fortunately the road held a surprise and took me past the Anderson National Historic Site and then the town of Americus, Georgia, a place that almost screamed for me to stop and spend two hours photographing old buildings well maintained (I’ll bet) from the Civil War.  While researching Americus at home I learned about the history of the  Koinonia Farm.  Or maybe I should take a side route to see Jimmy Carter’s home town of Plains, Georgia since I was so close.

But you can’t reason with the GPS lady. She doesn’t approve of unexpected side trips unless they are pre approved by her.  Thus she took me off the route I wanted and onto a road that was closed.  As I turned down the closed road I saw the construction crew speeding toward me.  It was quitting time.  That gave me a bad feeling so I turned around.  But the GPS lady did everything in her power to get me back to the closed road (118 I think).  She directed me to turn and drive over a railroad track and down a red clay road that quickly disappeared into the brush.  Or she said turn left, turn right, turn around.  Nope.  I ignored her and drove south.  The thing about traveling in the south is that eventually you hit the Gulf of Mexico and then you’re not lost so I didn’t panic at that point.  But eventually I ended up in Albany, Georgia and the GPS lady had me take route 62 southwest.  A surprise on the route was seeing a sign for the entrance for a nuclear plant.  Really?  In Georgia?  But as the sun started to set I continued on and finally came to Alabama and highway 52.

So at this point the GPS lady became something out of a Stephen King novel. She hadn’t forgotten that I had ignored her demand to go down that closed road.  Would I have met my demise on that road, I wondered, landing in the swamps?  She started giving me directions in a “Hal” voice (from Kubrick’s 2001 Space Odyssey).  “I” wanted to get down to Interstate 10 and speed home before it got too dark.  But at every intersection she kept me north and west or slightly south and west.  I called her ugly names but eventually settled on GPS Bitch.  Three times I stopped to check my IPad’s map for the GPS dot showing my location in relation to I10.  Twice Sheriff’s Deputies circled around my car as I pulled off on the side of the narrow two lane road.  But anytime I got close to dropping down to I10 The Bitch would direct me north again.  Finally in the dark of night she relented and (I swear I heard her laugh) and in a sweet voice said turn left here for Interstate 10.  At that point I was exhausted, strung out after drinking a large McDonald’s coffee on an empty stomach.  The dogs and I welcomed a stop at the first rest area in Crestview, FL.

The next time I start driving to a dog show I expect the GPS Bitch to say in her Hal voice, “Hello, Claudia. Where are we going today?  Let me guide you!”  But she is now Miss GPS Backup, as I’ll start carrying a road map and pre-checking my routes beforehand.  I’ll never again trust the GPS Bitch.

Oh, and by the way, I pretty much had a great time at the show. Bodie finished his Graduate Novice class with all blue ribbons and Razzie finished her Preferred Open class, also winning a blue ribbon.  After that I tried to move the dogs up to the higher Open classes but they were having none of that, which proves you can’t change horses mid-stream and my crew isn’t ready to play with the big dogs yet.

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