Where the streets have one name


The joke about Atlanta is that every street is named Peachtree.

Of course, this isn’t true. Only 71 streets in metro Atlanta are named Peachtree, and many of them intersect with one another, and while locals know which Peachtree they’re talking about, it isn’t always obvious to out-of-towners.

I drove to Atlanta the other day on business. I printed out my hotel reservation. It said my hotel was on Peachtree Street Northeast, but when I plugged the address into my GPS (you don’t want to drive in a city where 71 streets are named Peachtree unless you have a GPS with updated maps), it came up dry.

The hotel’s website listed the Peachtree Street address, too, so I called the front desk. The bored-sounding woman who answered said to look up the same number but search for Peachtree Center Avenue Northeast. (I’m guessing I wasn’t the first person to call for clarification.)

It turns out that Peachtree Street Northeast is one block over and runs parallel to Peachtree Center Avenue Northeast, and my hotel was smack in between them. Exit on one side of the lobby, and you’re on Peachtree Street. Exit on the other side, and you’re on Peachtree Center Avenue Northeast.

When locals talk about Peachtree, they’re usually talking about Peachtree Street, which is Atlanta’s main street. Peachtree Street, though, eventually becomes Peachtree Road, Peachtree Boulevard, Peachtree Industrial Boulevard and Peachtree Parkway — 5 names, same street.

Downtown, there’s also West Peachtree Street, which runs parallel to Peachtree Street and at one point crosses it.

What’s funny is the different Peachtrees weren’t named for an actual peach tree.

According to historians (OK, Wikipedia), Peachtree was named for a Creek settlement called Standing Pitch Tree. Supposedly, the Creek used the pitch, or sap, from pine trees in its ceremonies. “Pitch tree” didn’t sound right to European settlers, so they called it “peach tree.”

Which is interesting but isn’t going to help me get back to the interstate.

It’s a Southern thing

Saturday is the annual RC Cola and MoonPie Festival in Bell Buckle, Tennessee.

It’s like a lot of small-town festivals. There’ll be live music and crafts and a 10-mile run. I’m guessing the race is for people who don’t eat a lot of MoonPies.

There are contests, too, like a watermelon seed-spitting contest and a hog-calling contest. Anyone can enter.

Last year, our daughter gave it a try. She’s not a city girl, but she’s definitely suburban. She did OK spitting a watermelon seed, but she wasn’t much at hog calling. You’re supposed to yell, “Sooo-EEEEEEEEY!” She went, “Sooey?” like she’s trying coax a kitten out from under a bed.

But all that’s just a prelude to the main event, the thing that makes the festival worth the 1-hour drive from Franklin: the serving of the World’s Largest MoonPie (see above).

If you’ve never had a MoonPie, it’s a graham cookie-and-marshmallow sandwich dipped in chocolate or some other flavor. They’re usually 3 inches across.

The World’s Largest MoonPie is 3 feet across, probably closer to 4, and it’s 5 inches thick.

It arrives at the festival bandstand on the roof of a golf cart. If it’s sunny, it’ll be warm and gooey. If it’s cloudy, it’ll just be gooey.

It’s better warm, but it’s OK just gooey.

It’s sliced and served by local dignitaries. Each piece is about the size of a silver dollar (kids, ask your parents), but it’s so rich, you probably couldn’t stomach a bigger piece if you tried.

You wash it down with a cold RC, which may be the only time all year you’ll have one.

As the T-shirts say, it’s a Southern thing.

The story goes that a salesman from the Chattanooga Bakery was talking to a group of Appalachian coal miners back in 1917, and they asked for something filling, because they didn’t always get to break for lunch.

Back in Chattanooga, the salesman saw some workers dipping graham cookies in marshmallow. Someone decided to make it into a sandwich and dunked the thing in chocolate.

By the 1930s, an RC Cola and a MoonPie were known as the working man’s lunch, which says a lot about the state of the Southern diet.

I don’t know how Bell Buckle (population 391, according to Wikipedia) ended up with the MoonPie festival. Bell Buckle is a pretty little Mayberry of a town, though. We always have a great time at the MoonPie festival, so I’m not going to worry about it.