Our TWD Summer Road Trip
by Mariann E. Danko
For all who didn’t read yesterday’s post, “The Optimist Realist Wingman,” please note, this post is strictly a run down of all the places my son and I saw during our TWD adventure. For my personal insight into the amazing bonding experience we had, please check out “The Optimist Realist Wingman.” This trip has certainly made an impact on both us.
Now for the nitty gritty of our escapades. We started out for GA on Thursday, July 10, 2014 with a pit stop in New Market, VA to tour the New Market Battlefield Military Museum. This museum was well worth the stop. It is actually the personal collection of John M. Bracken. Extremely impressive. After our tour, we proceeded to our overnight stop in Lake Norman, NC. (Can anyone guess why I picked this spot?) Lake Norman is the largest manmade freshwater lake created by Duke Energy as part of the Cowans Ford Dam between 1959 – 1964. From what we could see, the lake was beautiful. Unfortunately we got in late and didn’t have any time to explore. Hopefully one day we can return. This stop was strictly to rest and refuel.
The next day we completed our journey, landing at the Wyndham Peachtree Convention Center in Peachtree City. This would be our base camp while touring the TWD sites and what lovely base camp it was. The pool area was a virtual oasis. While driving through Atlanta en route to our hotel, we couldn’t resist playing the TWD theme song as the view of the Atlanta skyline was visible on the horizon. Link to YouTube is listed at end of post. We also got a real taste of Atlanta traffic, hitting it around 3 o’clock on a Friday. I have no idea how people drive in that every day. God bless them. Once at the hotel it was time to get a little R & R. Mommy got an adult beverage while her son took a dip in the pool.
Saturday, we headed back into Atlanta for Atlanta Movie Tours – Big Zombie Tour, Part 1. This is a three hour tour, that covers the locations from TWD’s first Season. We started at the building that was used as the department store where Merle is left on the roof. This building just happened to be by the bridge Rick crosses on horseback when heading into Atlanta and the railroad tracks and overpass where Glenn, Rick and Daryl park the truck when they return for Merle. In a distance you could see the high rise where Rick sees the reflection of the helicopter. Next we traveled to the street where Rick pulls the box car to the loading dock to get the group trapped in the department store. And, next to that is the store front where the walkers crashed through the doors. From here, we drove through the area where Rick’s horse went down and the tank was parked. We also saw the narrow alleyway where Glenn helps Rick escape the horde of walkers. Next up was the goat farm where the Vatos exchanged Glenn for guns. After the goat farm was the building that was used for the outside of the police station and the alley along side of the building where Rick, Morgan and Duane park and head in for weapons and hot showers. This is also where Rick has to dispose of his fellow officer turned walker. The building used as the hospital followed and this was truly the highlight of the tour. Flashing back to Rick stumbling out the back door in just a hospital gown, seeing all the covered bodies lined up in the parking lot, then walking up the hill and seeing all the abandoned and destroyed military vehicles. You really felt like you were reliving the scene. From here we went to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center that doubled as the CDC in the show. The structure is stunning and very impressive. Believe it or not, the window they all jumped out of was actually removed just for that scene. The final stop on the tour is the bridge with the Atlanta skyline as a backdrop. This is the view used when Rick rides into Atlanta on his horse. The part with Rick was filmed via green screen and digitally joined with the abandoned highway and skyline. As I found out when driving through Atlanta on 85, the skyline used for the shot is not the actual skyline on 85. 85 runs North to South and the skyline runs East to West, so, in order to get the dramatic shot they wanted, they needed to use a little Hollywood magic. If you watch our video driving into the city you can see the difference. Finally, capping off the tour, our guides, Patrick and Kathryn, have both been walkers on the show, so in between location hopping, we heard great behind the scenes stories about their time on set.
From Atlanta, my son and I travelled to the little town of Grantville, about 45 miles southwest of Atlanta. This sleepy little town was made famous by the Season Three Episode “Clear.” This is the episode where Rick, Carl and Michone go on a run to the police station for more weapons in preparation for a possible attack from the Governor. When they enter the town, they see that someone has already set-up quite a fortress with fencing that pierces walkers. They discover that someone is Morgan with a heavily boobie trapped apartment and walls covered with writing, Morgan’s endless stream of mind chatter. This episode also features an important bonding scene between Carl and Michone. The Grantville Dead Walking Tours are at 6 pm Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and are preceded by a viewing of the episode. Tickets are purchased at the Zombie Geeks store on Main Street, which turns out is the building that was used for the weapons room of the police station. The Saturday we were there an All Night Zombie Apocalypse was planned, with a guest appearance by Parker Wierling, aka Asthma Boy, movies after dark and a sleep out in Morgan’s apartment which has been painstakingly replicated by Marlene of Zombie Geeks. Kuddos to Marlene, Morgan’s apartment is amazing and is truly the highlight of this tour. Speaking of the tour, turns out tour guide was the one and only Mayor Jim. Yes, the Mayor of Grantville took us all over town, walking us through the episode and telling us behind the scene stories about the filming, and, all the red tape involved in just getting the go ahead for the 8 days of filming. We had a fantastic time in Grantville and I highly recommend every TWD fan experience all that this welcoming little town has to offer.
After a good nights, sleep we were up and out the door Sunday morning heading to Haralson. Another small town about 15 miles south of Peachtree City. The landmark in Haralson is the Esco Feed Mill, where Merle attempts to take out the Governor and in turn ends up loosing his own life, leaving Daryl forced to kill his brother turned walker. In the same block of the mill is the barn where Rick and the Governor had their meeting and the building used as the General Store that Michone goes in search of meds for Andrea when she was sick. The highlight of this tour is being able to play Merle shooting an M16 out the window at the Governor. And, playing Rick and the Governor making a toast in the barn. Plus, in the Cherokee Rose Retail store, they have some of the props from the filming of these episodes. In particular the chairs Rick and the Governor sat in. Again, this is must see for any diehard TWD fan. The Walkin DEAD Haralson GA tour is in the afternoon, but we already had tickets for Atlanta Movie Tours – Big Zombie Tour, Part 2 that afternoon, so I contacted them regarding our conflict of time and Jamie was more than willing to arrange a private tour earlier in the day.
Since we had a little time before we had to be in Senoia for the Atlanta Movie Tours – Big Zombie Tour, Part 2, my son and I decided to find a few locations near Haralson that were on the GA Dead Tours ap I had downloaded onto my phone. This ap is really cool. It lists every location from Seasons 1 – 3, with directions to find on your own. Upon checking the ap we realized we were close to the Deer Cooler where Michone and Andrea held up over the winter when Andrea was sick. And not too far from the mini-strip mall where Glenn and Maggie were taken by Meryl when they are on a formula run. So, off we went in search of these two spots. There were other locations, but we ran out of time and headed to Senoia from the mall.
Any true TWD fan should already know Senoia is the town that was used as Woodbury. This lovely town, has been used in many films and tv shows, not just TWD, but it is TWD that has truly breathed life back into it. Once in Senoia, we headed to the Woodbury Shoppe where we met the Atlanta Movie Tour group for the Big Zombie Tour, Part 2. We had just enough time to do a little shopping and quickly tour the museum downstairs before we headed to the bus for the tour. Part 2 of the Big Zombie Tour, travels through many small towns where Seasons 2, 3 and even 4 were filmed. Our guides for this part of the tour were Michael and Cindy, both of whom were awesome. Just like Patrick and Kathryn, Michael has been a walker on the show, over 17 times, to include the walker who falls on Andrea after she kills him at the barn and the one Michone kicks in the chest while tied to the post at the run down motel where Meryl is trying to hot wire a car. Needless to say, his stories were amazing. As we headed out of Senoia, we past the house that Rick and Carl haul up in after the prison falls and the infamous Pudding House. Next stop was Sharpsburg. This town is home to the bar Rick and Glenn find Hershel in after the slaughter of the barn walkers and encounter Randal and his gang. Across the street from the bar is the drug store where Maggie and Glenn go for all of Lori’s needs, plus, where they have their first sexual encounter. Turns out the alleyway where Randal falls on the fence isn’t an alley at all, it’s the yard between the drug store and another store. More Hollywood magic at work. From here we headed to the Arena. This building is private property, but, the gang at Atlanta Movie Tours has the keys to get you down into the actual area that was set up by the Governor for fights with walkers. It is also the same spot where the Governor pits Merle and Daryl against each other. And, where Michone takes out the walkers they have caged up for the fights. Next, is the building Sasha is in when she looks out and sees Maggie laying in a parking lot between dead walkers. Following this we pass the Middle School where Shane uses Otis as bait so he can get away from the walkers and be the hero bringing medicine back to save Carl. After the school is the motel where Michael took his kicks from Michone. As we cross the railroad tracks en route to our next destination, the bus stops, off to the left is the railway tower that the walker fell out of when Abraham, Eugene, Rosaletta and Tara where trying to convince Glenn to take a break. Our next stop is the camp site and waterfalls where Rick declares his Ricktatorship at the end of Season 2. This too is private property that Atlanta Movie Tours has the right to tour. From here the bus heads into Haralson, which, is the tour my son and I already did, but, this tour doesn’t include the playing Meryl part, although you can get into the barn. After Haralson, it’s back Senoia, where we see the final parts of the tour. The train tunnel where Glenn gets stuck, and is reunited with Maggie and, Abraham’s truck, which was parked in a fenced lot the studio uses for their vehicles. Plus, the kicker to it all, the housing development that will become the Alexandria Safe Zone in seasons 5 and 6. The wall wasn’t up yet, but we found out when we got home, was started the day we were leaving. It will a big thrill when we see the development this coming season and we can say we were there. By the time we got back to Senoia, the shops were all closed, but my son and I walked around taking pictures of the buildings we recognized. We also decided, since Monday was a free day, no scheduled tours, we would come back and explore a little more.
After a run to the Southern Sates Harley dealer in Newnan on Monday, on a mission to find a t-shirt for my brother, we headed back into Senoia. Our first stop was the “Woodbury Coffee House.” Had to bring back some Zombie Brew for my Mom and Sisters. After that we went in search of Milton’s lab, pulling up my handy dandy GA Dead Tour ap, we found it in no time. We also pinned down the exact building that was the Governor’s apartment, and the empty lot that was were the Town Hall stood. it was just a facade, but, it was built strictly to be burned down. Since our time at the Woodbury Shoppe was cut short the day before we decided to go back and explore more. So glad we did, the museum in the basement definitely needed a closer look. We found it is a collection of props from the set and is growing with each passing season. One of the coolest things is the walls are signed by the cast. By this time it was going on 2 and my son wanted to get a closer look at the Pudding House, before we went to Griffin in search of Base Camp. Turns out the Woodbury Shoppe has their own tour on their facebook page, but by this time all we had time for was the Pudding House.
Our final destination for the day was the Base Camp is Griffin, which we actually found without too much trouble. There were still trailers, trucks and a food tent, but we found that Norman Reedus had left about 15 minutes before we got there and Melissa McBride had just headed back to the set with Denise Huth. We figured we hang out for a little while, we didn’t come this far to give up so quickly. After about two hours of false alarms, and trailers starting to be removed, we decided to call it a day. We did get to see a glimpse Eulyn Womble, the costume designer, running from her car and into a trailer, so our time was completely waisted. We went back to hotel for a little swimming and a good dinner, then to bed. With the first leg of our trip home, sleep was of the utmost importance.
On our journey home we pit stopped in Mt. Airy, NC, the home of Andy Griffith and of course Mayberry. Unfortunately, till we got there all the Mayberry buildings were closed. We did however stroll up and down Main Street and checked out what shops were still open. We secured some Mayberry wine, Opie’s fudge and a Sheriff badge Christmas ornament as souvenirs, so all was not lost. We hopped back into the car and headed to Staunton, VA we would spend the night before finishing the journey home. We made to the hotel in time to see the AMC special “Inside The Walking Dead Walker University” and much to our surprise, 2 of our tour guides, Kathryn and Michael, were both featured. What a fitting way to end our TWD Summer Road Trip.
Many thanks to all the tour groups and guides, you made our TWD Summer Road Trip better than we could have ever imagined!
Below is a list of the tours and web links for anyone interested.
Grantville Dead Walking Tour
Walkin DEAD Haralson GA
Cherokee Rose Retail
And, GA Dead Tours ap which helped us to track down locations not on some of these tours.
Below is the link for our entering Atlanta to TWD theme video –
© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2014. All rights reserved.