This week I traveled with some colleagues to the north Georgia mountains, and the industry town of Dalton. I knew going into this trip that it would be very different from most of my other adventures. It is fair to say that I’m a “city guy,” yet here I was traveling to a small town in the hills, where my main concern wasn’t how much subway fare would be from the airport, but rather if they even had 3G wireless coverage. There would be no diamond plaques at our hotel front desk, and the restaurants would no more know James Beard from James Brown. Still, I looked forward to this trip as much-if not more-than many I’ve taken lately, and I even managed to learn a few things along the way.
As some of you may know, my 9 to 5 is in the flooring business, and Dalton, Georgia holds the distinction of being the “Carpet Capital of the World.” What Detroit is (or was) to cars, Dalton is to carpet. In addition to being home to nearly all the major manufacturers, there are more flooring stores within a two square mile area along I-75, than Starbucks on the island of Manhattan. Upon closer inspection, however, it is clear that Dalton has seen better days, because for every one store that was still in business, there were two others that were not so lucky. The combination of a poor economy and changing trends within the industry has brought difficult times to Dalton, much like their automobile counterparts in Michigan.
Miles and Miles of Thread...
Our first day in Dalton was mostly dedicated to purchasing inventory for our stores. We paid a visit to several wholesalers around the city, but the highlight of the day were the tours our group took of a laminate flooring and carpet production facility. I have been in the flooring business for much of my career, and it was great to finally see first hand how the products I work with every day are actually produced. The engineering that goes into the machines within these factories is incredible, and I'm still trying to wrap my head around how any human had the capacity to create them.
Leads to Miles and Miles of Carpet
After a full day dedicated to work, day two was our opportunity to play. We traveled a little south of Dalton to the Barnsley Gardens Resort for a little friendly competition on the golf course. Barnsley Gardens is located well off the beaten path, in the hills of north Georgia, and is clearly designed for those looking to get away from it all and unwind. The resort features many unique cottages, a full service spa, and several other recreational options aside from golf. It is difficult for me to imagine any golfer walking away disappointed, regardless of their score, because the course at Barnsley is truly spectacular. Many of the tee boxes offer panoramic views of the surrounding mountain vistas, and I often found myself looking around simply awestruck. Our trip seemed to coincide with the peak of fall colors on the area's foliage, which no doubt added to the breathtaking scenery.
The Most Beautiful Hole I'd Ever Played...
Speaking of fall colors, this was the first time in my travels that I can recall ever experiencing them. I've lived in Florida my entire life, and in the Sunshine State our trees go from green to brown, with pretty much nothing in between. Of course, the same seems to go for our transition from summer to winter, so I'm sure that has something to do with it. Either way, for years I've never understood the fascination with the fall colors and why people plan vacations around leaves. After seeing them for myself, however, I get it. I could easily have rented a cabin at Barnsley Gardens for a week, with my only desire to be to sit on the front porch with a book and watch the leaves.
Until We Got to This One.
When our group set off for the metropolis of Dalton, the last thing I expected was to walk away feeling like the trip was an educational experience, but that's exactly what happened. I learned that much of the carpet being produced today starts out at plastic pellets and somehow ends as yarn. I learned when a factory can produce millions of square feet of flooring a year, with only 4 employees working per shift, then automation - not China and Mexico - is the real job killer in America. I learned that the fall colors really are spectacular, and that a short trip to a small town in the Georgia mountains can in the end be just as gratifying as walking the streets of New York City.
Robert Frost Was Here
I learned a lot in my two days in Dalton, Georgia, but the biggest lesson is one I hope to always remember in my travels. Never again will I prejudge a trip by the destination, but instead on what I experienced along the way.
~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~