Off the beaten path: Highway 280

Joyce Balch demonstrates the best technique for picking blueberries at her u-pick farm. She recommends hooking the bucket on your arm and running your fingers along a cluster of berries as the ripest ones drop into the bucket. Photo by Kathryn Acree.

By KATHRYN ACREE

For many of us, summertime brings out the urge to hop in the car and see something new. Whether you are a longtime resident or have just moved to our area, here are a couple of venues we recommend a visit to this month. All of these spots are family-friendly and found a short drive from Double Oak Mountain.

Balch’s U-Pick Blueberries
Grab your sunscreen and load up the car with the whole clan because blueberry picking is easy and inviting to everyone from toddlers to grandparents. Bob and Joyce Balch have four acres of blueberries in Sterrett that are overflowing with the little blue gems this summer. All of the varieties available are known as “rabbiteyes” but vary in size and “juiciness,” with names like “climax” and “premiere.”

The Balches have been growing blueberries since 1984, so when they share their pamphlet of recipes (many perfected by Joyce’s mother), you know they are going to be good.  This season started early due to the warm winter, but berries will still be available into July.

Don’t miss: If you see Joyce Balch, ask her to point out the “peach” variety of blueberry to you. Its taste will indeed remind you of a peach.

To get to the Balch farm from Highway 280, turn onto County Road 43 toward Vandiver and continue 14 miles. Watch for the Balch sign on the left. The field is open Wednesday- Saturday, 7 a.m. until dark. U-pick blueberries are $8 per gallon.

Miller’s Cheese House
A few miles off Highway 280 in Vincent, Miller’s Cheese House specializes in products from the Amish country. Miller’s offers jellies, jams, butters, syrups, ciders, preserves, relishes, and of course, a variety of cheeses.

Miller’s most popular seller is their Colby cheese and their pounds of butter. The store was opened by Harold Miller, now retired but living nearby, who ran a dairy in the area and would travel north to buy cattle. He met and befriended members of the Amish community on his travels and brought back their products to sell. Miller turned the business over to Tim and Kim Miller after retirement, but the wood swings he builds are still for sale at the store.

Don’t miss: Ask at the checkout counter about another popular product: canned possum. It comes in regular and organic varieties and is sold as “sun-dried” after having “cured for one day” by the local Roadkill Meat Company. Ok, it’s really potted meat, but your friends that are “not from around here” don’t have to know that when you serve it.

Miller’s Cheese House is located at 425 Highway 467 in Vincent. From Highway 280 in Harpersville, turn onto Highway 231 North to County Road 83 and follow the signs. They are open Tuesdays – Saturdays, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.;  on Thursdays they are open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Harpersville Drive-in
The Harpersville Drive-in’s two screens show movies on Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights beginning at dusk or approximately 8:15 p.m.

Owner Brian Skinner takes pride in showing the “number one movies in the nation,” keeping them limited, as a general rule, to only PG and PG-13 films. “I follow a guideline of not showing anything with nudity,” said Skinner. “No one wants to see that as they drive by on Highway 280!”

The atmosphere is family-friendly with many visitors making it a tailgate opportunity with lawn chairs and blankets. Sound for the films is broadcast through a radio station programmed for each screen.

Skinner is planning another blockbuster summer of films including Ice Age: Continental Drift and The Dark Knight Rises as big hits for July.

Don’t miss: Unlike a movie theatre, the drive-in offers a surprisingly affordable selection of concessions at the snack bar. Popcorn and sodas are around $1 or $2; nachos and candy area also available at reasonable prices.

Admission to the drive-in is $5 for adults and $2 for children. Kids in a car seat are no additional charge. For the most current movie listing, call the movie line at 672-8484.

Kymulga Grist Mill Park
Childersburg’s Kymulga Grist Mill stands as a testament to strength against the rushing waters of Talladega Creek and the Union Army during the Civil War. Built by a Confederate captain, other mills in the area were burned during the War but Kymulga was missed.

Today, the Mill and surrounding park, including a historic covered bridge, are managed by the Childersburg Historic Preservation Commission. The Grist Mill Task Force is working to raise funds to pay for a way to divert Talladega Creek away from the Mill’s foundation, at least temporarily, to prevent further damage.
From time to time, the Mill offers demonstrations of grinding corn into grits and cornmeal. The Mill still operates using the original grinding rocks brought to the site from France in the 1860s. A walk across the covered bridge leads to trails and shady campsites. A screened pavilion near Talladega Creek offers a great picnic spot.

Don’t miss: The store located in the Mill sells bags of grits and cornmeal ground onsite that come with recipes like shrimp and grits and cornbread. The Preservation Commission will soon sell cornmeal and grits in newly designed bags that feature an image of Kymulga Mill.

To visit Kymulga Grist Mill Park, from Highway 280 in Childersburg, follow DeSoto Caverns Parkway through town and follow signs to Grist Mill Road. For more information, visit http://www.kymulgagristmill.com.

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