Our TWD Summer Road Trip – 2017 Edition
by Mariann E. Danko
Just as we did in July of 2014, my Son and I ventured to Georgia for another TWD Summer Road Trip. I would have liked to do this later in June, as to give us some time to regroup after a grueling Junior Year and 2 weeks filled with a ton of extra stuff, but that would have meant 2 of us in my department at work out at the same time, and that’s just not cool when there’s only 4 of us.
So, Thursday, June 15th, the day after my Son’s last final exam, we hit the road. Needless to say, we got a late start, but we were not doing any site seeing on the exodus South, so I was not concerned.
The total drive time was approximately 12 hours, with our goal to do 8 hours Thursday and the rest of the way on Friday.
Day One we went from PA, through MD, WV, VA and spent the night in Gastonia, NC. I knew some of the roads in VA could be challenging because of the truckers and the hills, but this time things were exasperated by downpours that slowed traffic down to 25 mph.
In addition, there were the crazy drivers who think a speed limit of 70 gives them the right to do 90. Throw in construction in the heaviest traffic and you’ve got a less than appealing road trip, AND, one that took longer then the estimated 8 hours.
At least my Son was very entertained by some new “colorful” expressions that came out of my mouth.
It was a good thing we stopped for a late lunch, because till we got to the hotel around 10 PM, we had no desire to cross a highway just to get dinner. We settled for popcorn and for me an adult beverage.
The next morning, we were refreshed and ready to go. We headed out for the rest of the journey to Georgia, which we extended an hour to get us to Macon, where the Allman Brothers’ Museum, the Big House, is located.
As an Allman Brothers fan, especially Greg, I couldn’t be that close without checking it out. Halfway there though, I came close to bagging it and heading to Fayetteville where we were staying for the duration of our visit.
Why you ask?
The traffic on I75 made all the craziness we saw on the first leg of our sojourn seem relaxing.
I am convinced having a speed limit of 70 gives insane drivers what they perceive as permission to drive even faster and without any care for anyone else on the road. Or, maybe it’s just our society, the “me first” mentality is everywhere, and it’s getting worse, but that’s a subject for another post.
We persevered and did make it to the Big House, which I am grateful for. The place was amazing. It is the very house Duane, Greg and Berry Oakley lived during the early years of the band. Everything was impeccably preserved and laid out in a chronological, laying out every detail of the bands journey.
You could feel the energy as we walked through the front doors. I got chills standing in Duane’s room and the kitchen where “Ramblin Man” was written.
This visit was definitely for me. My Son thought the place was cool, but didn’t get the significance when it comes to the history of music. Hopefully when he gets older it will sink in.
From the Big House we trekked to our Airbnb rental in Fayetteville. The moment we stepped through the door of this basement apartment it felt like we were home, which we greatly appreciated after our trying two-day exodus.
The apartment was stunning and beautifully decorated. We also had access to the pool and lake; unfortunately we were on the go so much our pool time was limited.
I was beyond happy that I decided to go this route. Julia and her family were amazing hosts and we look forward to hopefully returning one day. If anyone decides to head to the Atlanta area, I highly recommend looking Julia up.
Saturday, June 17th, we headed into Senoia for Dad’s Zombie Road Trip with Will Riggs, Chandler Riggs’ (AKA Carl) real Dad. He does a walking and a driving tour.
We opted for the walking tour because the areas he drives to are ones we had seen on our 2014 trip. The walking tour is 1 1/2 hours centered around Senoia, which was Woodbury in TWD, and the Alexandria Safe Zone, which is a housing development right next to downtown Senoia.
On our previous trip in 2014, we had explored Senoia a little bit, but not with the behind the scene stories Will dished out at every stop.
The tour started at the Senoia Coffee & Cafe, which was the Woodbury Coffee House during the filming of Season 3. Will pointed out the buildings that now stand where the false front of Town Hall stood, and other significant buildings across the street.
From there we strolled down to “Alexandria.” Note, the development is walled in just as it is on the show, and no one outside of cast, crew and residence of the development are allowed in or even on the streets leading into the development. Security is tight, and although it’s tempting to just stroll down the street for a closer look, it’s just not worth it. The cops are everywhere.
Will pointed out which building was Deanna’s in the show, and noted where Jessie and Pete’s house was, which is where Rick and Pete had their huge fight. He also noted the back alley where the residence who actually live in the development can come and go during filming.
Next up were the “Coma House” and “Pudding House.” These are on a street that runs along the backside of the development. The “Coma House” is where Rick and Carl hauled up after the fall of the prison and Rick nursed his wounds from the battle with the Governor. It is also where Carl came to the realization that he truly does need his Dad.
I personally feel this was one of Chandler Riggs best episodes and was sure to tell his Dad. It was great to hear his Dad talk about the challenges Chandler faced while filming this scene. In particular the fact that he was not use to extensive dialogue, so he was nervous and Greg Nicotero, who directed the scene, was very supportive and worked with him to get it just right.
I’d say the two succeeded!
Any fan of the show knows the “Pudding House” and it’s significance with Carl. (Walker inside got my shoe didn’t get me.) We had seen this house on our previous trip, but again, being able to hear the actor’s side of it was very cool.
Will also pointed out the alley where Carl lead the walkers who were at the front door, and while walking backwards stumbled and fell, having them land on him. Just like the rest of the cast, Chandler did all of his own stunts.
While walking to our next stop, Will pointed out where the train car was placed for the Season 5 finale when the gang is reunited and Rick states “They’re messing with the wrong people!” The actual site of Terminus is in Atlanta and this was a last minute decision to shoot this scene in Senoia.
Note, there are defunct railroad tracks that run between Main Street, the development that is Alexandria and all through the area, including within the studios property, which have been used many times. One never knows if they are crossing an area used or to be used in filming.
Our final stop was an area that has been used multiple times in multiple seasons. It was Milton’s lab; the area where Michone releases the walkers the Governor had locked up; Enids’ wall, where her parents were killed; and the wall Carl, Michone and a Kingdom resident sneak past during the final episode of Season 7. 4 scenes, one location.
As we found out on this trip, this is very common. If they shoot from a different angle you can’t tell the difference. The studios location scout is very savvy.
After Will’s tour we did some shopping at the Woodbury Shoppe, a must for any TWD Fan and then treated ourselves to lunch at Nic and Norman’s, the restaurant that is owned by Norman Reedus, Greg Nicotero and Robert Kirkman. The food was very yummy and you don’t need to be a TWD fan to eat there, but it adds to the appreciation factor if you are.
Note, in the basement of the Woodbury Shoppe is a museum with props from the set, donated by the studio. In addition the walls are signed by the actors. We had seen this is 2014, but it’s always seeing again.
Before we headed back to the apartment we explored a little on our own, with the aid of the TWD Locations map for sale at multiple locations.
We found the house where Rosita finds the toy gun and the store where Tara finds the bobble head for Denise. Plus I used my zoom lens to get a closer shot of the entrance to Alexandria, without breaking the law.
In addition, we got as close to the studio as is allowed, and traveled down Crook Road, the most used road for filming, which is just up the street from the studio. We had heard they were prepping the road for filming and the stories were true. Cables were along the road and security was hovering to be sure nothing was tampered with.
On Sunday, June 18th, we did two tours, the Atlanta Movie Tours Big Zombie Walking Tour and Big Zombie Tour 3.
These tours meet at The Waking Dead Café, which is located next to the Woodbury Shoppe. The café is cute and decorated with autographed photos from the cast and signed TWD Season posters. I am not a coffee a drinker, but all who have sampled the coffee I brought back have said it’s really good and can truly “wake the dead” as the can states.
This walking tour overlapped some of what we saw with Chandler’s Dad, but Cindi, our tour guide was a wealth of information. Besides working for Atlanta Movie Tours, she is also a vice president with Walker Stalker Con, the only Con dedicated to TWD fans, and the Con my Son and I have been to three times.
I have written about this con in a previous post. If you’re interested you can check it out here. https://wakingthewalker.wordpress.com/2016/07/31/can-you-feel-the-twd-love-today/
Cindi and I had quite a few discussions about our con experiences and our plan for future cons. I also mentioned our desire to volunteer when my Son is of age. She highly recommended it because this is how she got started. It’s a way to get your foot in the door so to speak. This little tidbit of info was enough to make my mind wonder about the possibility of one day actually changing my occupation.
In addition to some of the overlap sites, Cindi pointed out the building on Main Street in Senoia that was the Governor’s apartment and where he shot the Woodbury resident bitten by a walker. She also noted the walkway where Merle and Andrea discussed Daryl’s whereabouts; plus the spot used for the Governor’s patio; where Glenn and Enid release the green balloons so Maggie would know Glenn was alive; the house where Michone and Carl go room to room and Carl gets to ask Michone questions about her past; and the street Carol, Morgan, King Ezekiel, Shiva and members of the Kingdom walk down en route to Alexandria to help with the battle against Negan.
One interesting detail she told us about is the story behind Raleigh Studios and it’s President, Scott Tigchelaar, who helped to spur the tax incentives for filming that are now in place in the state of GA. The original studio, Riverwood, was siting vacant and they were on the verge of shutting down when Scott stepped in and pushed for the incentives that are now in place. Incentives that have turned Georgia into the Hollywood of the East Coast.
Add to it, he saw the potential the town of Senoia, along with the adjacent property known as the Gin Property, which is now Alexandria, had as a filming location. This all sort of coincided with the timing of the hunt for a filming location for “The Walking Dead” and as they say, history was been made.
After a quick lunch we were refueled for our next door. The Big Zombie Tour 3, which is a 3-hour by bus tour, traveling through towns and locations outside of Senoia, used for filming.
Our tour guide Collin was a hoot and endearingly referred to this tour as the death tour because a large percentage of the spots pointed out were where someone died. He was an extra on the set during season 3, playing a Woodbury resident, so he shared juicy behind the scene stories.
Our first stop was the section of railroad tracks where Denise was killed, and Daryl’s bike was hidden.
As I noted earlier, there are tracks running everywhere, and after awhile it’s hard to differentiate if there’s no distinctive landmark. Thank goodness the tour guides know.
From there we traveled past the Junkyard used by Heepsters. It was hard to get a good pic because the bus didn’t stop till we were beyond the large heep.
Next up was the building used for Noah’s death (didn’t get a picture, my vantage point on the bus wasn’t any good); then the location where Rick’s group came across some of the Hilltop members who had been in an accident; followed by the area where Rick and Shane bring Randal to drop off, only to find out he knows Maggie and a fight ensues between Rick and Shane.
This was followed by the building where the Governor sees a little girl in the window believing it was his dead daughter; the Claimers resting stop with Daryl, and the building Abraham and Sasha hide out in waiting for Daryl to show after they got attack leading the quarry hoard away from Alexandria.
The first pit stop was the building used as the library where Morgan saves Carol and dispatches the walker hanging from the tower. From this point we could see the trestle used when Abraham found the soldier with the RPG and cigars. Turns out the cigars were a request by Michael Cudlitz who is a cigar aficionado.
In addition, we could also see the building used for the outside of the food bank. Turns out the inside scenes where shot at another building that already had a hole in the floor, one big enough for the crew to put a full size pool in it and then fill it with junk for the cast to swim around in.
En route to our next stop, we past the fire house used when Eugene hosed down the walkers; the lot where Carol is cornered by the Savior and Morgan comes to her rescue; and the elementary school used not only for the “tainted meat” scene with Bob, but also the scene where Father Gabriel wanders from his church and ends up having the hoard in the school follow him back to the church.
We also passed the building where Sasha and Rosita had their heart to heart while waiting for the optimum time to shoot Negan, the EZ Stop used in the scene with Abraham and his family, plus where he meets Eugene; and across the street, the building used for Dawn’s Cops.
On our previous trip we had been through this area and had no idea that filming was and would be taking place here. It was pretty cool to see this when the episode aired.
From here we headed to the overpass where the Saviors had the walker hanging and then lit the mountain of lumber just to prove to Rick and his group they meant business. We got out and took pics here.
This one may end up on my Christmas card.
Our final stop was in Hampton, which is where the infamous dumpster debacle took place. The entire episode where Nicholas kills himself and takes Glenn with him into a hoard of walkers was filmed in this very quint town.
Collin walked us through town pointing out little details about each scene, noting areas that were used in multiple ways, yet shot to look like different spots.
Gotta love movie magic.
On our way back to Senoia, we traveled past Carol’s little cottage outside the Kingdom. The “do not mow” and no trespassing signs were still up, so that means we will see Carol’s house again in Season 8.
Almost forgot to include, while traveling between locations we drove on Highway 20, which is the feeder road to the Atlanta Speedway. When the Speedway is not in use, neither is the highway, which makes for perfect highway scenes like when Dale’s RV breaks down and Rick and Michone take out a hoard of walkers with a washline.
Before we headed back to our apartment, we swung by the restaurant that was used when Meryl lured the walkers to the Governor’s gang with the intent to kill the Governor, only to end up being killed himself. This location was pointed out on the BZT3 but I couldn’t get a pic.
One final note about BZT3, Collin asked trivia questions between stops. One was what was the name on the keychain Denise takes in the drug store? I got the answer correct, “Dennis,” her brother, which got me a bullet from the elementary school carnival scene that Rick and Michone come upon.
Monday, June 19th, was our day to explore on own, so armed with the TWD Locations website map, we were off on our adventure.
First off we scouted out a site that was used in filming S8 E1. It is an abandoned gas station in Fayetteville. Can’t wait to see how this location plays out next season.
From here we traveled to Peachtree City, which is where Carl’s elementary school was. This is an active school, and is under construction, but I was able to get a few pics.
Before we headed South of Senoia, we went past Crook Road, and sure enough they were filming. We couldn’t see any stars, but did see activity. A Sheriff was parked at the end of the road, so we just cruzed by slow enough to snap off a pic.
After that, we traveled to Newnan, where the abandoned hospital used for Beth’s death scene is. The facility is all fenced in, but using a zoom lens I was able to get a decent pic of the entrance.
Also in Newnan is the high school used when Shane and Otis go for antibiotics for Carl, and Shane shoots Otis so he can get away from the walker hoard. This location is on BZT2, but I didn’t get any pics, so I figured we were in the area and it was worth stopping.
Next we ventured out into the boonies of Woodbury (yes, there is a real Woodbury, GA) to find the satellite dish location used as the Saviors outpost. This too is abandoned, but what a marvel of a site. Those dishes are huge. Have to give major kuddos to the location scout. I almost gave up thinking we were on the wrong road.
En route back out to the main road, we passed a school that looked like one used for carnival scene with Rick and Michone, but locals told us it was not. The actual school isn’t that far outside of Senoia, and was easy to miss. It’s set back off a busy road and was definitely a challenge to get pics, but I did my best.
Before we hit the school location though, we tracked down the building that was used as the tracker supply place where Glenn, Nicholas and Heath took out the walkers so they wouldn’t attract the hoard of walkers from the quarry. This place is off the road too, but fortunately there was a side road to pull off on.
As we headed back to Senoia, we stopped at a produce stand for peaches to take back home. Turns out Raleigh Studios rented his equipment for the shoot, and he was involved helping to make some of Daryl’s crossbow arrows.
Add to it, a young girl working for him informed me her Mother works for an optician in Griffin, and when they are filming there, which they do often, her Mom helps with the contact lenses for the walkers.
You just never know whom you’re going to run into when you’re on a TWD Adventure in Georgia.
Before we headed back to our apartment, we decided to drive by Crook Road again. The road was open; so we figured what the heck, let’s see if there were any signs of filming.
We hit the jackpot. A wheelbarrow with a microwave, and suitcases with clothing hanging out were along the side of the road, plus a burnt out old car. We only got a pic of the car because there was another car behind us, and we weren’t sure if it was a studio person.
I wanted to go back down the road to get more pics, but my Son didn’t want to take chances knowing studio people had to be near by. Don’t want to piss off the powers that be.
On the day we were starting our journey North, we scouted out one more future location, a highway in Fayetteville that has been used in filming and is slated to be used again in the future.
Based on the fact that the road was blocked off and “do not mow” signs were up, that tidbit of info was most definitely true. Bags of leaves and other debris where along the roadside which normally wouldn’t mean much, but knowing TWD uses leaf and garbage ranglers, I knew these bags had significance.
While I was walking the road taking pictures, a vehicle drove slowly by with its flashers on. I assumed it was someone from the studio checking to make sure nothing had been disturbed. When I saw that same vehicle headed down the road for the studio later in the day, I knew my theory was right.
Before actually hitting the road, we made one final stop in Senoia to see if any filming was going on and grab a quick lunch. All was quiet around “Alexandria”, but the owner of the Senoia Coffee Shop, told us they had filled a large catering order for the studio in the morning, which meant they were filming there.
With our bellies full and our TWD wanderlust satisfied, we said farewell to Senoia and started our migration North.
The first night en route home, we would stay at the Lake Norman Motel in NC.
Our intent was to take the less traveled route, but it was already 2:30, so we settled on 85 through Atlanta. That was a huge mistake. It took 1 1/2 hours to get through the Atlanta Metro area and of course we hit rain again.
What was to be 5 1/2 hours turned into 7 1/2. Had we taken the alternate route we would have gotten in an hour sooner. This was most definitely a live and learn situation and confirmed in the future we will fly to Atlanta.
The Lake Norman Motel was like going into a time warp, but the food was good and the rooms were clean, so outside of the drive we couldn’t complain.
The next leg of our odyssey took us to The Village Inn in Harrisonburg, VA, with a sightseeing detour in Natural Bridge, VA en route.
It felt great to get out of the car to hike and get some fresh air. Although I had explored a lot of the Shenandoah Mountain area when I lived in Northern VA, I had not been to Natural Bridge, so this was well worth the side-trip.
The Village Inn is a very lovely family run motel with a ton of charm and an extremely friendly and helpful staff. So rare in this day and age.
It was beyond a pleasant surprise and refreshing to find this beauty nestled in the Shenandoah Valley, especially on the last night of our journey. The rooms were large and clean, with a deck and a view of the mountains, plus a microwave, and dorm size refrigerator. The grounds were meticulously maintained and the restaurant on premise served a lot of classic Southern dishes.
Should I ever venture back to the Shenandoah Valley I will be sure to make The Village Inn my home base.
We made a quick stop at The Dayton Market, which is community of 20 shops under one roof, before we got back on the road for the final leg of journey home.
The sole purpose of this stop was to find goodies, in addition to the bushel of Georgia peaches, to bring back for my office buddies. Boy did we hit the mother load. This market is definitely another reason to make a return trip. Not enough time to cover all there was to explore.
As a souvenir of our Virginia stop we picked up “Virginia is for Lovers” t-shirt, which is also a nod to TWD. Some of you may ask how?
When the Rick’s gang first got to Alexandria, there was a scene where Eugene is wearing a “Virginia is for Lovers” t-shirt. Not too many people remember this, but it stuck with me, probably because I lived in VA for close to 10 years, and that has been their slogan forever.
Despite heavy traffic and a detour because of an accident, the final leg of the trip home went pretty smoothly. Although in the future I think I’ll give myself a day to recuperate before going back to work. I was most definitely a zombie that day!
So, all in all we traveled over 2,000 miles on our TWD Road Trip, and although some of those miles were very trying, it doesn’t take away from the time spent with my Son and the fantastic memories that were made.
Next Summer he will be preparing to head off to college and it will be those memories that ease my soul when I’m thinking about my little boy growing up and moving away.
© Mariann E. Danko and Waking the Walker, 2017. All rights reserved.