My grandson Drew and I celebrated birthdays this week. Drew hit double digits and I hit double old! Our birthdays are only two days apart – plus several decades. We wanted to do something special for our birthdays this year. Drew had mentioned he wanted to go to Six Flags over Georgia. I’ve been to Six Flags more times than I’ve been to Wal-Mart, but I haven’t been to either much in recent years. That has been by design. Part of the reason is because of the long lines and my age. I’ve grown older standing in those lines.

The last time I went to Six Flags I thought I might need traction afterwards. I rode a rollercoaster called The Mind-Bender. I placed a card in their suggestion box that they change the name to The Spine-Bender. I made my first trip to Six Flags when I was eighteen. Jean and I were dating and I took her there on one of our first dates. I’ve never been good at riding things that spin in circles, but how do you tell a pretty girl who you want to impress that you can’t ride the drunken barrel? I don’t know, but I should have found a way. I prayed through the whole ride that I wouldn’t throw-up...especially on her. After we stopped, I was so dizzy I couldn’t walk straight. The world was still spinning. I don’t know if the barrels were drunk but I certainly was - and I don’t even drink. When Jean had to lead me off the ride by the hand, I don’t think I made a good impression.

On Thursday of our birthday weekend, my family and I loaded up and headed to Georgia. I still can’t believe that I somehow missed the Six Flags exit. I drove right on by and ended up in Germany! We spent the weekend there in a little German Alpine village called Helen. Okay, Helen is not actually in Germany but in northeast Georgia. The town does have the look of a southern Germany Bavarian town. Helen is far from being the largest city in Georgia, but it is the third most visited one in the state. Back in 1969, when scores of travelers and tourists zipped through the sleepy community on their way to the Smoky Mountains, the residents decided to try something to cause them to stop. They reconstructed their town to resemble the classic southern Germany style of architecture. They opened cafes that served German cuisine. Travelers did begin to stop. New shops, stores, motels, and restaurants opened, all with the Bavarian look. Today tourists aren’t stopping on their way to somewhere else, Helen is their destination.

We rented a little cabin, a few miles outside of town. We enjoyed drinking morning-coffee while sitting in rocking chairs on the porch and watching the sunrise over Appalachian Mountain tops. That was a little too mundane to suit Drew for long. The Chattahoochee River runs through the heart of Helen so we went tubing. The rapids aren’t too swift and much smoother than most of the rides at Six Flags! The water is cold and yes, most of my family got wet, including the two birthday boys. Afterwards we picnicked on the banks of the river and watched others get wet. That evening, we warmed by a fire in the fire-pit outside our cabin as we made s’mores. The next morning, “they” went zip lining.

This has been a birthday weekend I will never forget and I hope Drew doesn’t either. I thank God for another year of life, my family and time spent with them in Helen, Georgia...oh, and bypassed Six Flags exits!

— Bill King is a native of Rainsville, where he and his wife graduated from Plainview High School. King is a director of missions in Opelika, a writer, musician and author. His column appears in the Times-Journal Thursdays edition. Visit for more information.

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