Alabama 2023

Montgomery, Troy, North GA, Western NC

Alabama 2023

We’re back on the road again! This will be a short trip, but will be packed full of events.

Rather last minute, Dad, Trevor, and I decided to drive down to Troy, AL to watch App play the in the Sun Belt football championship game. Since we defeated undefeated JMU in Harrisonburg (who also wasn’t eligible to win the conference in their first year, per the agreement they signed), we were the Sun Belt East Division champions.

Ordinarily, a trip to southern Alabama would make a reasonable weekend road trip, but there was a slight wrinkle: App State men’s basketball was hosting Auburn in Boone on Sunday at 13:00 in front of a sold out Holmes Center crowd, so we had to be back in time to both fight the crowd and (hopefully) cheer the Mountaineers on to victory. So, I devised a logistics plan, and the three of us left Boone right after I got off work on Friday afternoon to start our whirlwind of a weekend.


To avoid Friday evening traffic in Charlotte, we decided to head west before we headed south. After passing through Asheville, we finally stopped for dinner in Waynesville, NC. My aunt and uncle had recommended a couple places, and Watami Sushi & Noodles had the trifecta of being both open, not overly crowded, and conveniently located.

Our meal was outstanding! We started out with some egg rolls, and then Trevor got General Tso’s chicken, and Dad and I split a couple sushi rolls and orange chicken. Everything was perfectly prepared and cooked; the portions were generous; the spice level was just right; and the prices were very reasonable.

Watami Sushi & Noodles
Waynesville, NC

Fantastic Japanese, Chinese, and sushi dishes. The food is reasonably priced, the quality is exceptional, and the flavor is phenomenal.

* – Would definitely visit again

** – Exceptional, must visit if you’re in the area

*** – Worth making a special trip to eat there

For more info on food ratings, click here.

After dinner, we drove down US-23 through north Georgia, passing the Rabun Gap-Nacoochee School (a well-regarded athletic preparatory school), but not really seeing much else of interest.


A couple hours later, we arrived at our Airbnb in Gainesville, GA, and settled in for the night. We woke up early the next morning, and drove downtown to Inman Perk Coffee, arriving right when they opened at 07:00. We each got a large mocha to go, piled back in Dad’s truck, and proceeded down US-23, thankfully avoiding heavy traffic as we passed through the Atlanta metro area.

After joining I-85 in Atlanta, we continued south, stopping at Buc-ee’s in Auburn, AL for a quick snack, some petrol, and a bathroom break. I’ll revisit Buc-ee’s later in this post, so for now I’ll just post a few photos of the mammoth gas station experience.

Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site

I guess it wouldn’t be an “Isaac-planned” trip without a detour to some random historical site. I made an eleventh-hour decision to pull into the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. This was the training site for African-American pilots during WWII. When we first pulled in, we didn’t really expect much – it just looked like an abandoned airstrip and some empty hangars. However, as we walked down and entered the buildings, we realized there was a fantastic museum full of planes and other artifacts from the era. 

We spent about an hour doing a rushed walk-through of the museum’s three buildings, and then Trevor, braving the plethora of warning signs about aggressive bees (and many dead bees on the ground), climbed the observation tower while I opted to stay downstairs in bee-free territory. Thankfully, the bees were all dormant for the winter, so there were no issues. We visited the gift shop, and then headed back to the interstate. We learned a lot from our visit, and would highly encourage you to stop by sometime if you’re in the area. To avoid a history lecture, I’ll just share some photos from our visit, but I encourage you to read about the site and the brave pilots who trained there. I did find the room full of training materials particularly interesting. In addition to the uniform guides and propaganda on the walls, they had full guides available to browse through, including “The United Nations War Atlas” and a 1944 “Pilot’s Information File“.


By now, we were getting very hungry, and needed to kill some time, so we took a slight detour over to Montgomery to seek out some seafood. We revisited a place we’d been a couple times before, Wintzell’s Oyster House in downtown Montgomery. When we first sat down in the restaurant, we saw the App State football team buses leaving their hotel to head to the stadium at Troy. We ordered a Chargrill Oyster sampler, which had all of the restaurant’s signature oyster flavors. We also got some onion rings, fish tacos, and po’boy’s, but if we had to do it again, we’d just order onion rings and oysters.

Wintzell's Oyster House
Montgomery, AL // Various Locations

We’ve been to Wintzell’s, an Alabama chain, at least three times now. The restaurant gets a star for their exceptional oysters and quirky wall décor, but I’d mostly avoid everything else on the menu. Focus on the oysters!

* – Would definitely visit again

** – Exceptional, must visit if you’re in the area

*** – Worth making a special trip to eat there

For more info on food ratings, click here.

After lunch, we attempted to find a cheesecake place just outside of downtown. However, when we walked in the door and wound up straight in the kitchen, we quickly realized they were now a catering-only business. So, we scurried out without anyone noticing we’d ever been there, and continued (disappointed and dessert-free) towards the football game.


A couple hours before kickoff, we pulled into Veteran’s Memorial Stadium in Troy, AL, after passing as quickly as possible through a very rough part of town right outside campus. Despite its surroundings, Troy’s campus is actually quite nice. However, it was unnecessarily difficult to find an entrance into the football stadium. Once we finally found our way inside, we made our way to the App State section, rendezvoused with a handful of friends from Boone, and settled in for the game. It was a long, wet, miserable game. The Mountaineers, plagued with injuries, held on for a while, but were ultimately defeated by both a few unfortunate plays, and by Troy’s superior linemen and depth.

Though a loss, it was a fun game, and nice to check another collegiate stadium off our list. I was very unimpressed by the turnout of Troy fans, especially for a conference championship game, and equally impressed with the amount of App State fans that made the long drive.


We arrived back at our vehicle soaking wet, as the steady showers had changed to a downpour right when we exited the stadium. We basically had to slide down a giant grass hill to get back to the truck – I wasn’t sure if Dad, still not fully recovered from his knee replacement, was going to make it. Even Trevor and I were having some difficulty navigating the slick grass and steep embankment.

As disappointed as we were with the loss, our spirits were quickly lifted by the knowledge that we’d soon arrive back at Buc-ee’s in Auburn for dinner. Our GPS enthusiastically called it “Buc-eeeeeeeeeee’s!”, so I’m using that pronunciation from now on. Apparently all the App State fans had the same pit stop idea, as did the Alabama fans who were headed home after defeating UGA in the SEC championship game in Atlanta.

Famished, we went all-out with our food order, and were so hungry we finished all of it except the “snack food”! We got a fried chicken sandwich, a sliced brisket sandwich, a pulled pork sandwich, and XXL chopped brisked sandwich, banana pudding, coconut cream pie-in-a-cup, chocolate pie-in-a-cup, and a cinnamon roll. For snacking later, we bought some Beaver Nuggets and a box of animal crackers.

The food was great – particularly the sandwiches. Even though we’d visited multiple Buc-ee’s in Texas, we hadn’t gotten many of their “meals”. I thought the chicken sandwich, though different, was just as good or better than Chick-fil-A, and the pork and brisket were also great. It’s not quite what you’d get from the best Texas barbecue joints, but it’s better than 99% of beef barbecue you can find in North Carolina. The dessert cups, which we consumed on the road to save time, were a delicious way to cap off the meal and the day.

Buc-ee’s is truly an experience like no other, so you need to make sure you go sometime. One awestruck App State fan commented to us as we exited, “You can buy everything in there to hunt and process a deer except the gun and the bullets!”. Indeed, they had tree stands displayed between the soft drinks and the beef jerky wall, plus a robust camo selection a couple hundred yards away on the other end of the store.

Auburn, AL // Various Locations

There’s a reason everyone can’t stop talking about it. You have to visit at least once in your life, and until you do, there are no words with which I could accurately describe it to you.

* – Would definitely visit again

** – Exceptional, must visit if you’re in the area

*** – Worth making a special trip to eat there

For more info on food ratings, click here.

We really struggled to stay awake the rest of the rainy drive north, but we made it through Atlanta and back to the Airbnb alive, mostly thanks to some extra-large caffeinated drinks from Buc-eeeeee’s and lots of loud music. We rolled into Gainesville after midnight, showered, and headed straight to bed, knowing we’d have to wake up early in the morning to make it back to Boone for the basketball game.


Our alarms went off around 05:30 the next morning, and after snoozing a few times, we reloaded the truck, and drove north on US-23 back to Waynesville, NC. On our way through northern Georgia, we passed by the beautiful Tallulah Gorge, an area I’d like to visit sometime. Our first stop in Waynesville was Daylight Donuts, a donut chain that used to have locations in Boone and Hickory. We got a dozen, focusing (as one should) on their old-fashioned donuts, but we sprinkled in two glazed yeast, a maple, and a chocolate glazed for some variety.

Daylight Donuts
Waynesville, NC // Various Locations

In my opinion, Daylight is the best donut franchise in the country. Be sure to get their signature old-fashioneds, but the yeast donuts are fantastic too!

* – Would definitely visit again

** – Exceptional, must visit if you’re in the area

*** – Worth making a special trip to eat there

For more info on food ratings, click here.

Patiently waiting to eat our donuts (and maybe doing a little taste-testing), we drove up the hill to downtown, where we headed in Orchard Coffee to get some much-welcome caffeine to complement our donuts. All three of us got large mocha cafe lattes, which were exceptionally good.

Orchard Coffee
Waynesville, NC

Excellent coffee with an attention to detail.

* – Would definitely visit again

** – Exceptional, must visit if you’re in the area

*** – Worth making a special trip to eat there

For more info on food ratings, click here.

Leaving Waynesville, we joined I-40, and then US-221 as we climbed the mountain back to Boone. We arrived just in time to easily secure a parking space, and were one of the few dozen people in the arena right after the doors opened around 11:00.

App State vs Auburn

Once inside the Holmes Convocation Center, we headed to the Yosef Club room, where they were serving sandwiches and snacks. We ate a light “lunch”, and then walked out into the arena to watch warmups and cheer on the Mountaineers.

The atmosphere for this game was incredible. The highly anticipated matchup between the Tigers and the Mountaineers marked the first time since 1999 that a Power 5 program had come to Boone. Both teams were having an exceptional season (the Tigers would go on to be SEC champions, and the Mountaineers were regular-season SBC champions), so we were in for an unforgettable game. The noise was so loud that I kept getting “loud environment/potential hearing damage” warnings on my smart watch.

After a nail-biter of a game, the Mountaineers pulled out the win, upsetting the Tigers in a win that all will remember as a signature win for App State basketball – like Michigan was for the football program in 2007. The students stormed the court, and the crowd went absolutely wild. It was a moment we’ll never forget!

Here’s a sort highlight video from the game:


Here’s a video from this trip’s adventures, and some more highlights from the game.

The Best Things We Saw [This Weekend]

I’m not doing my usual “best things we saw/ate”, because we simply had too eventful of a weekend to recap it in one short section. Our biggest highlights were the Tuskegee museum and the basketball game. Our best food included Watami, Buc-eeeeee’s, Daylight Donuts, and Orchard Coffee. It was a memorable weekend, and another successful App State sports road trip!


There’s another Church Trip coming soon (in early summer 2024). Keep a sharp eye for an intro post coming soon – its should be another exciting trip with 3+ national parks and lots of great scenery!

– Isaac, Jerry, and Trevor

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