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Key Lime pie and Georgia on our minds

The charm of Savannah and Dublin, Ga. lingers for cross-country travelers Michelle Sathe and Loren

Posted: June 13, 2009 8:41 p.m.
Updated: June 14, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Michelle Sathe and Loren enjoy an afternoon on the waterfront in Savannah, Ga.

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Editor's note: Signal feature writer Michelle Sathe will be taking a seven-week sabbatical to promote homeless dog adoptions. She is taking a rescued pit bull, Loren, along with her as a companion and mascot during their cross-country trip. The Signal will be following Sathe's and Loren's trip every Sunday with a column of their latest adventures on the road.

Loren and I were dropped off at River Street around 10:30 a.m. by a nice mechanic, since my car needed U-joint repairs. We had about three hours to fill, so we set off for the waterfront. The streets are cobblestone in parts, with stairs so steep it takes your breath away, architecture hundreds of years old. It's a very cool place, with parks and memorials around every corner.

Loren enjoyed the sights and sounds, stopping frequently for shade breaks. We found the Dockside Restaurant, which had not only a first-floor patio but misters to offset the heat. The crab chowder was pretty good, the salad not so much. However, the homemade key lime pie was stellar - light, tart, creamy with a crumbly graham cracker crust. Very refreshing. Probably the best I've ever had.

Even better was the service. Our waitress, Melina, sat with Loren twice while I went to the restroom. That is a challenge when sightseeing with a dog - because I refuse to leave her tied up and alone. Besides stray dogs, my second biggest fear is her being dog-napped. Which is kind of crazy - they can't give away pit bulls at shelters - but you never know.

Melina told me she has a red-nosed pit, which she bought from a breeder - she was having second thoughts as she surveyed the scene, but the puppy she picked was so sick and run down, she felt in her own way that she was rescuing it.

Loren the charmer brought the hostess over a few times, who cooed at her. "I'm usually afraid of pit bulls, but this one's so sweet," I overheard her telling Melina. (She also chastised people walking by with McDonalds cups. "Oh no, you did not come to Savannah, Georgia and have McDonalds for breakfast?" Major points for the hostess).

I really wanted to go to the praline shop but again, what to do with my canine companion? (It was probably for the best - I try to limit myself to one dessert a day - even on vacation). When I heard some live music, it felt like a good time to take a break.

The musician was playing a banjo and harmonica simultaneously, singing songs from Sublime, Third Eye Blind, and even Gloria Gaynor ("I Will Survive"). They all took on a Bob Dylan/"Deliverance" vibe which eventually grew monotonous, but for 15 minutes or so, I was utterly charmed and sang along, even getting inexplicably teary-eyed.

Listening to the music, watching Loren panting happily as the river boats cruised by, stuffed full of tasty food, the sun playing on the water - major gratitude filled my heart for being able to take this trip.

A street artist named LaVon came over to meet Loren and sell me a rose which he made from a native sugar palm leaf. "What's your name?" he asked me after getting the traditional Loren greeting (i.e. a hug and slobbery kiss).

"Michelle," I replied.

He smiled. He was missing four front teeth. "Michelle! I've had experiences with Michelles. One that was great, one that was not so good," he said and looked me square in the eye. "You look like one of the good ones. I can tell."

LaVon, I'm sure, is a junkie. His eyes are glazed and yellow and he spoke in a shuffling cadence that I could barely understand as he quickly fashioned my rose with his leathery hands, explaining each step. It was beautiful, intricately wound and finished with a wispy flourish. The cost was $5 - "A special deal for you," LaVon assured me (uh huh). I gave him $1 tip. We all have to make a living.

At 1:30 p.m. I called the shop. It would be another hour. At 2:30 p.m. I called again. It would still be another half hour. I asked to be picked up and was told a mechanic would come get me. At 3 p.m. no mechanic and no call. I called again - the driver would be called and asked to call me. 3:15 p.m. I called again. The driver "had gotten into an accident."

Was he kidding me? Was this a strange sort of Southern customer service, as in I can leave you hanging without explanation unless you constantly harass me for answers? I was slowly losing my patience. You don't leave a California girl in a strange town without her car - it's like taking Linus' security blanket away.

"We can send a cab for you," I was told.

"I don't care who you send for me, just tell me who it is and when they're going to be here," I said.

"I'll call you back," he said.

Surprise, just a few minutes later, my car was done and the mechanic who had dropped us off picked us up. By this time, I was pretty wiped out. Loren was good about the whole scene. She just hung out by my side and thwacked her tail whenever she spotted people, especially when they came over to pet her.

We had a two hour drive to Dublin, where family friends Mark and Julie live. I was so tired, I periodically slapped myself to stay awake until I found a station playing really bad 80s music, which kept me enthralled wondering how the hell these songs could have ever been hits. (There's a reason Taco's "Putting on the Ritz" is not in heavy rotation).

It was 7 p.m. when we pulled up to Mark and Julie's lovely brick home. Loren ran right up to the front door. Inside, she sniffed around incessantly, intensely preoccupied with some of the stuffed animals Mark had killed while hunting. She was especially interested in the massive wolf.

"If that wolf was alive, you wouldn't be so curious," Julie told her.

After a delicious dinner of grilled chicken with a vinegar-based sauce, mozzarella, tomato, and avocado salad, grilled corn and roasted Vidalia onions (a special sweet variety native to Georgia), we went beyond their gorgeous seven-acre property, which shares a look with neighboring homes, to look at some of the other estates.

Mark stopped at the fence of their neighbors and called over to their horses. They came trotting over and I looked at Loren, wondering if she would try to attack them. She stood up on the fence with Mark, watching intently. It was quite a scene, with the sun setting behind them.

I could see the wheels turning in her head. "These creatures are a lot bigger than me," she seemed to be thinking. "I better just let them be." So she did, backing off.

"Wow, Winston would always bark at the horses," Julie said.

Winston was their Lab who died in March at the age of 13. I could tell Mark and Julie missed him, as well as Hewey, a female who died just a few months before Winston. They treated Loren as if she were their own, constantly petting her and letting her kiss them. "She's such a sweetie," they both said repeatedly.

We had a great night's sleep in the guest room, with some of the most divine pillows on earth, not getting up until 8 a.m. Julie and I had some cereal and a nice chat before I took a shower.

Before I got in, I noticed Julie laying on the ground with Loren, stroking and talking to her. They were in the same position when I got out 20 minutes later.

To follow Loren and Sathe on the trip visit the road blog at www.dogdaysbook.com.

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