Monthly Archives: September 2021

Pumpkin Perfect

Appetizers and Snacks

It’s that time of year again when pumpkins become the centerpiece of many fall dishes and decorations or find themselves carved into scary jack-o’-lanterns.

Here are five tips to help you pick out the best pumpkins in the patch:

1. Look for pumpkins with rich orange color and a dry, attached stem. A green stem means the pumpkin is freshly harvested.

2. Knock on the pumpkin. It should sound hollow when ripe.

3. Choose a firm, heavy pumpkin. It will have more meat and a sweeter flavor than a lighter pumpkin.

4. Reject any pumpkins with blemishes such as white mildew, brown stains or wormholes.

5. When planning to cook pumpkins for pies or other dishes, pick small, heavy pumpkins called pie pumpkins or sugar pumpkins. They have more pulp than larger varieties.

If you choose to eat your pumpkin and not just carve it, you’re in for a tasty — and healthy — treat. Pumpkins are packed with vitamin A, calcium, potassium, phosphorous and vitamin C.  They also have no cholesterol, are a good source of fiber and contain only traces of fat and sodium.

Roast some seeds, and you’ve just added vitamins B and E to the mix:

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

  • Salted water for boiling
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon salt

Boil seeds in salted water for 20 minutes to clean and flavor them. Blot dry and spread on a cookie sheet overnight to dry. Toss in a bowl with the melted butter, olive oil and salt. Spread on a cookie sheet and bake 30 minutes at 300 degrees, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.

Starting Now — Toad the Wet Sprocket

Listen To This

It’s hard to believe that 30 years ago marks the release of Toad the Wet Sprocket’s mainstream release, Fear, which dropped during a pocket of pop culture when college rock was an impactful headwind among the sea of grunge and boy bands.

Toad never set out to be a chart-topping mega band, remaining steadfastly under the radar since forming in 1986, but its unique and simplistic-yet-complicated baroque arrangements, laden with mysteriously introspective lyrics, craft a clever perspective into life.

These ingredients that have defined them for three decades remain consistent on Starting Now, Toad’s seventh studio release. Title track “Starting Now” is a textbook Toad classic, with awkwardly beautiful tuning, stair-stepped strumming and a story that defines the bittersweet affinity for nostalgia while declaring the future will be different — starting now.

Surrounding the nucleus of this record are songs that are complementary spokes and reflectors that craft a solid record — songs like “Game Day,” an autumn anthem of life’s withering leaves and the newness of optimism just around the corner. Or “Transient Whales,” a dreamy yet deeply personal retrospective. “The Best of Me,” which has a Black Crows “She Talks to Angels” vibe but with Michael McDonald singing backup, is a refreshing wildcard.

As the days get shorter and the sleeves get longer, there is no finer record to envelope the season and embrace every moment — starting now.

– Chris Rucker

Crispy Honey BBQ Wings

Food
  • 18 chicken wings
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • Sauce:
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce
  • 1⁄2 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons hot sauce
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray generously with cooking spray. In a small bowl, mix together flour, salt, garlic powder, chili powder and black pepper. Wash, dry and dip wings into flour mixture until coated. Place wings in a single layer on sheet and bake 35-40 minutes, turning once. While baking, make sauce by slowly simmering sauce ingredients over low heat. When wings are done, carefully dip in sauce and place back in oven 5 minutes more or until sauce is bubbling. Serve hot, at room temperature or cold. Makes 18 wings.

Women’s Work

People

Whether they’re taking care of crops or animals, women are making their mark in farming.

Maybe it’s the nurturing nature of the business. Maybe it’s the close relationship that women have with culinary prep. Maybe it’s the desire to know the source of their food. Maybe it dates back to our country’s agricultural roots. Maybe it’s all of the above and then some, but farming is a field that seems to attract females.

According to Rebecca van Loenen, executive director of Augusta Locally Grown, an online farmers market, 74% of the organization’s growers are female. She attributes that to several factors.

“The spouse usually has a fulltime job outside of the home, and the wife is left at home to manage the farm,” she says. “Many of them are veterans, so these women want to do something therapeutic. Because they have other sources of income, it lets them pursue something they love.”

While some of the growers were born into farming families, others have fallen into it by chance.

“I’ve heard people say, ‘I bought a plant at the store, and before I knew it, I bought a farm,’” van Loenen says. “There is a nurturing quality to farming. It makes you want to take care of something.”

Half of the farmers affiliated with Augusta Locally Grown, which always has been led by women, are veterans as well.

The female farmers have plenty of help, often from their husbands or children, but how much they get often depends on whether or not their spouse is retired. While men help with the heavy lifting, says van Loenen, the women are in charge of the day-to-day farm operations such as tilling soil, pulling weeds or doing paperwork.

She says one of the main challenges for female farmers is that farm equipment typically is built for a 6-foot man rather than a 5-foot-1-inch woman.

Tink’s Grassfed Beef

The 5-foot-2-inch Etwenda “Tink” Wade, one of the original founders of Augusta Locally Grown, has been a farmer all her life.

A fourth-generation cattle woman whose great-grandfather started raising cattle on a central Florida farm in the 1800s, she helped launch the nonprofit Augusta Locally Grown in 2008 in a Grovetown front yard. She and her husband, Tim, bought their 230-acre Washington, Georgia farm, Lucky 7w, in 1995, and her business, Tink’s Grassfed Beef, grew from it.

“We were raising hogs, but I have always raised grass-fed cattle,” says Wade. “I’m from Florida originally, and that’s how it’s done there.”

After she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1993, she started researching ways to improve her health. “Grass-fed beef was part of that,” says Wade, who hasn’t taken any medications for MS in 15 years. “I eat healthy, take care of myself and listen to my body.”

He husband works for Ericsson, and he travels often for his job. Their three adult children helped out when they were growing up, and they still lend a hand as needed.

“Farming is hard. There are ups and downs. You can make a plan, but it’s not going to work the way you thought it out,” says Wade. “I’m a woman in a man’s world. But once the people in my county saw that I was doing what I said I was going to do, and people were buying my products, I was accepted then. I don’t do this for a hobby.”

In addition to Black Angus and Red Angus cattle, Wade has free-range pigs and chickens. They only sell the chickens eggs, however. She also has apple, plum and pear trees; scuppernong and muscadine vines; and any flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Some years she plants a vegetable garden as well.

“Women can do anything.,” Wade says. “All you have to do is put your mind to it.”

Brown’s Place Farm

Lynn Brown and her husband, W.B., who have been farming for 20 to 30 years, own the certified organic Brown’s Place Farm in Grovetown.

“You have to grow your food organically,” she says. “You can’t use any synthetic fertilizers.”

Her husband is a retired veteran, and she worked on a military installation. They moved often because of his military career, but they always had a garden wherever they lived.

“My grandmother was a farmer, and my husband’s father was a farmer, so we have it instilled in us,” Brown says. “You would have thought that after being raised on a farm, we wouldn’t want anything to do with it.”

The Browns farm 1.25 of their 20 acres, where they grow tomatoes; spaghetti and butternut squash; cucumbers; mustard and turnip greens; peas; Japanese and Nadia eggplant; jalapeno, banana, giant macaroni, lantern and bell peppers; purple and white Russian kale; and microgreens. They only use material that has been approved by International Certification Services in the production of their vegetables.

“It’s healthier for you. You don’t have to worry about chemicals,” Brown says. “You know what you’re growing. You have to follow USDA guidelines, but you’re helping everyone as well as yourself. Organic food cooks quicker and tastes better.”

She takes care of the microgreens, certifications and paperwork, while her husband plants and grows the vegetables. “When you have your husband by your side, it’s not that bad,” says Brown.

The Browns, who became part of Augusta Locally Grown in 2016, have three high tunnels, where they can grow products year-round, and about 20 goats.

“I like to see things grow,” she says. “I like to put seeds in the dirt and watch them grow. We have great results in the end.”

Shooting Star Acres Farmstead and Rescue

First-generation farmer Alicia Weiss, a retired U.S. Navy veteran, and her husband, Hunter, a Navy reservist who is based at Fort Gordon, moved to Grovetown from Pennsylvania in 2017. They fell in love with the area but soon realized they wanted more space for their family of four.

In 2019, they bought the 4-acre Shooting Star Acres Farmstead and Rescue in Dearing so she could pursue her dream of living as self-sustainably as possible.

“I started with containers on our back porch where we grew our first carrots,” says Weiss. “It’s all me, and whenever I can rope my family into it.”

She grows eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, watermelon, corn, sweet potatoes, salad greens, carrots, beets, radishes and wildflowers that attract pollinators, and she sells her products in CSA (community-supported agriculture) boxes to customers that pay a one-time fee each season.

“I’m trying to close the gap so people know where their food comes from and trying to reduce travel time so food doesn’t lose its nutrients,” says Weiss.

She also has about 200 rescue farm animals including goats, pigs, ducks, geese, guinea hens, quails and chickens. On October 9, she is holding her first event at Shooting Star Acres, a farm-to-table dinner to raise funds to expand the animal rescue operation.

In addition, the former high school rodeo queen and 4-H Club member tries to take at least one class per year to benefit the farm or the animal rescue.

The self-described “farm-her” says her best friends and her mentor are fellow female farmers.

“We’ve been told for so long that we can’t do hard things,” she says. “It was such a manly thing to do to work on a farm. Women want to nurture. We want to make sure our families are taken care of properly. What better way to do that than to grow food in our backyard?”

White Hills Farm

Former Evans residents Amy and Patrick Sutter also were looking for more space when they made the “life-changing” decision to buy the 28-acre White Hills Farm in Dearing four years ago.

“We wanted a couple of acres, and I wanted a big backyard garden,” she says. “The farm came available, and we made the jump off the deep end.”

The lavender farm has eight large garden beds, where they also grow tomatoes and herbs such as rosemary, oregano, dill, parsley and basil.

She plants most of the lavender and herbs, and in the fall, she conducts workshops for visitors. She also dries all of the lavender and herbs and uses them to make other products, which are sold in the onsite gift shop.

Her husband runs the equipment. “He likes to say that he just does what I tell him to do,” she says.

The property is open every Friday and Saturday for self-guided tours, and groups can make appointments to visit at other times. An herbal activity is included in the group tours. Three or four times a year, the farm holds all-day yoga retreats on Saturdays as well.

Sutter enjoys having guests, who come from across the country, at the farm, and she feels a kinship with other female farmers.

“Augusta Locally Grown promotes camaraderie. We get to know each other and support each other,” she says. “We learn from each other, get confidence from each other and feel inspired to try new things.”

While Sutter says being outside makes her feel centered and peaceful, farming – and fickle Mother Nature – still present challenges.

“Sometimes I literally cry and have real blood, sweat and tears,” she says. “But I learn something new every day. I learn a lot by trial and error. If you don’t know it, then you YouTube it.”

Southern Swiss Dairy

It’s only fitting that fourth-generation farmer Ginny Franks and her husband, Jimmy, originally a beef farmer from south Georgia, met when they were working together on a Winder, Georgia farm.

In 1991 they bought their own Franks Farm, a 979-acre Waynesboro property where they operate Southern Swiss Dairy. They have about 175 cows, mostly Brown Swiss and a few Holsteins, and in 2010 they opened an onsite bottling facility to gain more control over their pricing.

The husband and wife team share responsibilities for the farm equally. “For us, it works great because we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” she says.

She is the purchasing coordinator and bookkeeper for the farm. She also tends to the cows and makes butter and ice cream.

“I’m just drawn to working with animals,” says Wade, who showed cattle when she was growing up. “I try to improve the herd generation after generation.”

As the head of trucking for the bottling plant, her husband spends a lot of time on the road. Their customers include schools and universities, coffee shops, restaurants and ice cream shops in Augusta, Atlanta and Savannah. They sell at farmers’ markets, and they have been part of Augusta Locally Grown since 2010.

In addition to the dairy operation, the couple grows corn, soybeans, oats, ryegrass, wheat, sorghum and hay. They also sell beef cut from their farm-raised steers.

Farming is full of hardships such as a 2013 tornado that hit Southern Swiss Dairy, flattening some of its buildings and injuring or killing some of the cows. However, Franks says being a female farmer never has phased her.

“It depends on your own determination and what you want to make out of it,” she says. “Nothing has held me back.”

Her father also supported and encouraged her. “He had more confidence in me than I had in myself,” says Franks, who has a master’s degree in embryology. “I never thought about doing anything else.”

Local Support

Despite the physical strength the job often requires, the female farmers generally agree that marketing is the toughest part of the business for them.

“Once you grow the product, you have to have somebody to buy it,” Brown says.

While female farmers compete with each other for customers, says van Loenen, they generally don’t sell the same products. In fact, she says, they often buy each other’s goods and swap food preservation tips with one another.

People often don’t realize that a local farm is a small business, van Loenen says, and when they shop online, they don’t always know that a female is leading the business. The ability to sell a product and have a business also depends on support from the local community.

“People want to know where their food comes from,” van Loenen says. “In Columbia County, people come from all different countries or parts of the United States. They value the person involved, and they like the agri-tourism component. They also want their kids to embrace an appreciation of where their food comes from.”

She says more women and minorities are getting involved in farming, and she encourages backyard gardeners to become part of the local agricultural community as well.

“We would love to help you get started,” van Loenen says.

By Leigh Howard

Electro Melodier — Son Volt

Listen To This

Thirty years after the pioneer release of the genre-forming album Trace, Son Volt is back with its 10th studio masterpiece, Electro Melodier. Named for two vintage guitar amplifiers, this album is a meat-and-three buffet of Americana with a side of blues and funk groove and a heap of folk salad.

Frontman Jay Farrar has a unique way of filtering life through the cheesecloth of fiction to provide a fragrant first-person perspective on life, love and the roadmap of human connection. He spares no byway with songs like the ramble-thumping “Reverie” and the lazy waltz of “Levee On Down”.

With simple melodic strums, there’s heart cord to be struck with the autobiographical love story of his 25-year marriage in “Lucky Ones” and the tremolo buzzing ballad “Diamonds and Cigarettes,” which features the haunting and angelic backing vocals of Nashville’s own Laura Cantrell.

As festival season is blooming and live music is in revival, make a point to catch Son Volt as they roll into Thomson on September 25 for the 27th Annual Blind WIllie McTell Music Festival. You will not be disappointed.

– Chris Rucker

The Blue House in the Woods

In The Home

Photography by Sally Kolar

A family of three, plus their menagerie of animals, enjoy back-to-nature living at their Harlem home.

When Terri and Patrick Colley decided several years ago to sell their Summerville house so they could move to Columbia County to be closer to family, they weren’t kidding around.

They built their new house on 2.5 acres of family land in Harlem, where their closest neighbors were Patrick’s mother, his aunt and uncle, and two of his cousins and their families. (A fourth cousin has since moved to the property as well.)

The land where the Colleys and their extended family live originally belonged to Patrick’s late grandfather, Weldon Hair. At one time, he owned more than 500 acres in Harlem.

“We call anything out here Weldon’s Woods,” says Patrick.

However, they also have left their own imprint on the territory. For instance, as the contractor for the house, Patrick built it himself in eight months. He did the framework, trim, doors, electrical work and some of the masonry work, and they moved into their home in February 2018.

They decided to make sure their house was distinctive as well. Their last residence was white brick with white shutters, and they originally planned to paint their new home white until Terri had a change of heart.

“When we designed the house, I thought I wanted a white house, but I kept going with blue. It’s a very dramatic blue,” she says. “I thought, ‘I am going to stand out, and I’m going to paint my house blue.’”

Their self-sufficiency extends beyond the construction of their home, however. The property includes a garden where they grow corn, squash, peppers, green beans, sunflowers and zinnias. “Hummingbirds and butterflies love the zinnias,” Terri says.

They clear pathways in the woods that they have given names such as the Chicken Trail or the Pirate Trail. The Hair Trail, which is lined with stones and solar lights, leads to the home of Patrick’s aunt and uncle.

Of course, their house, where they love making memories with their 7-year-old son, Brundage, which was Terri’s grandmother’s maiden name, needed a proper name as well. They fittingly christened it the “Blue House in the Woods.”

The Colleys also live among another extended family of the furry or feathered variety. This menagerie includes four goats, two donkeys, two horses, a chocolate lab named Shelbie, a rooster named Danny after Danny DeVito (they also call him “Little Man”) and lots of chickens.

The horses – Reign and Stella – and the donkeys – Jacob and his mom, Jubilee – live on Patrick’s mother’s 15 acres across the street. The four goats – Clover, Shiloh, Feta and Normandy – live on that property as well.

“This is our funny farm,” says Terri. “All of the animals talk to me, and they all have their own little voices.”

Handy Work

While many aspects of their lifestyle are a throwback to simpler times, the Colleys used a decidedly contemporary method to find house plans.

“We saw a house on Pinterest that we liked, so I took that layout and moved a few things,” Patrick says. “The house on Pinterest was 6,000 square feet, but we didn’t have the footprint for that.”

They moved the laundry room downstairs, added a 6-foot pantry, extended the closet in Brundage’s playroom and added a Jack-and-Jill bath between two second-story bedrooms.

Their handiwork is evident in the décor of the house as well. For instance, Patrick built the living room coffee table, along with the breakfast area table, out of pinewood.

A Harry Potter-like broom that Terri made out of forsythia and cedar wood stands next to the raised hearth brick fireplace with an oak mantel.

“I’m a nature person,” she says. “I also love to decorate with fresh garland and holly.”

The house has an open floorplan where the living room adjoins the kitchen, and design elements, such as the Beartooth mountain oak tongue-and-groove flooring, tie the rooms together. The hand-cut brick kitchen backsplash, which Patrick made as a birthday gift for Terri a year after they moved into the house, matches the brick on the fireplace.

Patrick also made the vent hood from a piece of rough-cut lumber. “I enjoy doing things with my hands,” he says. “I can pretty much do anything, but sometimes you have to let other people do some things.”

The kitchen also includes quartz countertops, stainless steel appliances and a hammered copper sink. A cutting board features Terri’s Grandmother Brundage’s pound cake recipe etched on it in her handwriting, which was taken from a napkin where she had written it down.

In the connecting breakfast area, the Colleys hung some of their favorite artwork including two chicken paintings on the shiplap walls. Folk artist Ernest Lee, aka “The Chicken Man” of Columbia, South Carolina, did one of the paintings, and his son, Scottie, painted the other.

Terri displays some pieces by one of her favorite potters, Wade Franklin of Louisville, Georgia, on a sideboard. She painted the wood quilt square that hangs on a breakfast area wall.

Sentimental Treasures

Other prized artwork is scattered in different rooms throughout the house. Every year, Terri chooses a favorite photo and has a North Augusta artist create an oil painting of it to give to Patrick as a Christmas gift.

In 2020 she gave him a painting of Brundage atop his shoulders, and the 2019 painting depicts his Grandfather Hair as a young man, circa 1955, on the property where their house now stands. His grandfather is crouched next to a cornhusk trimmer that he invented, and his blue car is in the background.

A painting of their current home, Terri ‘s 2018 present to Patrick, hangs in the dining room. Others feature their first house in Summerville and Hunter, Shelbie’s dad.

The wood for all of the frames came from the original house on the property. “The wood from the old house had a lot of termite damage, so we had to use small pieces of it,” says Patrick.

Terri and Patrick, who both have large families in the area, also like to celebrate holidays and birthdays by entertaining, and a separate dining room offers another place for them to seat their guests.

“We have so many tables and countertops where we can eat, so it’s nice to have the table to entertain,” says Patrick.

The dining also is full of sentimental treasures that chronicle their life together. A piece of wood, which serves as a base for a trio of pumpkins atop a chest, might look nondescript at first glance. However, Terri found it at Lake Hartwell when she and Patrick were dating, so it has special significance to the couple.

A candelabra, which belonged to Patrick before they were married, sits on an old sewing table in a corner of the room. They used it for their marriage ceremony, and it still has wax on it from their wedding day.

A large tobacco basket, which was a housewarming gift from Terri’s sister, hangs above a chest in the dining room.

Other dining room furnishings include a teacart and an old wooden school desk where carvings such as “The teacher’s crazy” are visible.

“I like antique shopping,” says Terri. “I just wish these things could tell stories. Every time I buy something, I want to know where it came from.”

Patrick made the barn door that leads to Terri’s sewing room with aged oak, which matches the vent hood in the kitchen and the fireplace mantel.

Another wood quilt square that Terri painted hangs in the sewing room, but she creates the real magic with all of the fabric she stores on shelves and in filing cabinets.

“I have an obsession with fabric,” she says. “I have a problem any time I go into a fabric store.”

Terri initially tried to learn how to sew when she was in first grade, sewing a button onto a piece of fabric for Show and Tell. However, she didn’t pick it up again until Brundage was a baby. She makes her son’s Halloween costumes every year, and she also makes cloth baby shoes, which she calls Little Souls, for newborns at their church.

Outside World

When she isn’t sewing, Terri loves to spend time on the back porch, where the ceiling is made of 100-year-old metal from the original caretaker’s house. Shelbie added a decorative touch to it as well. Before they put up the ceiling, she left pawprints on the metal when she walked across it. “I said, ‘I’m not going to wipe them away,’” says Patrick.

The décor also includes wicker furniture, a triangular dinner bell, a wall-mounted tealight in a firefly-shaped frame, a monkey wrench that belonged to Patrick’s grandfather and a swing chair in the corner.

“This is my favorite chair. This is where I read,” says Terri. “With the way the house is positioned on the lot, there’s a constant breeze on the back porch.”

The backyard is full of play things for all ages. Patrick used stones he found on the property to construct a firepit. He also built the treehouse, where the cousins’ children leave notes for each other in its mailbox; chicken coop; goat house and pole barn. “I like to be outside doing yard work or building things,” says Patrick.

They also have a zip line and ninja line, which is like an obstacle course, in the yard. “The zip line is fun,” says Terri. “We put it up a little higher for the adults.”

The roof of the chicken coop, where the Colleys raise their leghorns, Easter eggers and Americanas, also was made from the metal from the caretaker’s house. Terri painted a sign that says, “Last one in is a rotten egg,” and their brood of chickens answers to names like Bojangles, Gray, Duchess, Lady May, Happy Feet and Gizmo.

“I love my chickens. They all have different personalities,” Terri says. “I clean their coop once a week. I have six nesting boxes, but they all want to nest in the same box.”

The chimney from the original house and the old smokehouse still stand on the property across the street. The Colleys like to fill the chimney with firewood and roast marshmallows.

When they sit by the fire, they undoubtedly have plenty of stories to tell – past, present and future – about life in their blue house in the woods.

By Betsy Gilliland

Road Warriors

People

Photos courtesy of John Robert Herzberg

Two Martinez residents have been revving up donations with cross-country road trips to fight ALS.

Even though he is half his age, 29-year-old Martinez resident John Robert Herzberg has always enjoyed doing things with his cousin and godfather, Mark Lang, 58, of Jupiter, Florida.

“He’s my best friend. He’s my mentor. We’ve always been super close,” says Herzberg. “He got me into doing things like kayaking, boating and body surfing at the beach. We played golf nonstop.”

Now, however, Lang can do none of those things. He was diagnosed with ALS in 2017 at age 55.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, is a progressive nervous system disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control. ALS also is called Lou Gehrig’s disease, after the New York Yankees first baseman who was diagnosed with it.

Typically, onset of the disease is gradual, and initial symptoms vary in different people. They can begin in the muscles that control speech and swallowing or in the hands, arms, legs or feet.

However, all ALS patients experience progressive muscle weakness and paralysis, ultimately losing the ability to speak, eat, move and breathe. The mean survival time for ALS patients is three to five years, and there is no cure for the disease.

Lang’s first symptom was weakness in his hand, which he initially thought was caused by a pinched nerve. Within 18 months, he had lost the ability to walk or speak. “He’s in the late stages now,” Herzberg says. “He can only speak using his eyes.”

According to the Georgia Chapter of the ALS Association, at least 16,000 people are estimated to have the disease at any given time and a little more than 5,000 people in the U.S. are diagnosed with ALS each year. (That’s 15 new cases a day.)

Most people who develop ALS are between the ages of 40 and 70, with an average age of 55 at the time of diagnosis. Someone is diagnosed with the disease and someone loses their battle with it every 90 minutes.

“Right now, all we can do is just help make ALS patients comfortable and help them have the best quality of life possible in the time they have left,” says Brandy Quarles, the Augusta University ALS Clinic research operations coordinator. “Our ultimate goal is to find treatment.”

On the Road

To do his part, Herzberg wanted to find a way to raise money and bring awareness to the rare disease. So, armed with a rented van, a tripod and a sense of adventure, he and his girlfriend, Bethany Marshall of Martinez, went on a two-week, cross-country road trip from Martinez to San Diego and back last October.

“I wanted to do something crazy to get people’s attention,” says Herzberg, who studies design and media production at Augusta Tech. “We wanted to do something out of the ordinary. It took a year of planning and saving.”

Herzberg and Marshall stopped in places such as New Orleans, the Grand Canyon and Memphis to visit Graceland, which, much to his surprise, turned out to be Herzberg’s favorite stop. While most of the places they visited were planned, they made some spontaneous stops as well. They made detours to Las Vegas and to Albuquerque, New Mexico so Herzberg, a diehard “Breaking Bad” fan, could see where the TV show was filmed.

On the return trip home, they also had to stop in Oklahoma City after the van’s transmission blew out. They rented a car to get back to Georgia.

Driving eight to 10 hours each day, they stopped often to set up the tripod to take photographs at the various sites they visited. Herzberg posted the images on his Facebook and Instagram pages, @DriveAwayALS, to bring awareness to the cause, and welcome signs were a favorite spot for photo ops. He declared himself an unofficial resident of each state they visited, but the cowboy hat he bought at a Texas gas station became a frequent prop in the pictures.

While they were on the road, donors made contributions through a link on his social media platforms. In their travels they met other people whose families have been affected by ALS, and some of them donated money as well.

“People are very warm-hearted. Once they saw the ALS sticker on the side of the van, they wanted to know what we were doing,” says Herzberg. “A lot of people on Instagram would randomly contribute, too.”

The goal was to raise $5,000 at $1 per mile in the Drive Away ALS campaign, and he surpassed that goal.

“People from all over the world have reached out to me wanting to contribute or travel with us,” Herzberg says.

For instance, he says two girls from Norway contacted him a couple of weeks after their trip to say they were inspired by him to sail across the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for ALS.

“It makes me ecstatic that a local person is taking the initiative to raise funds and raise awareness about ALS,” says Quarles. “Supporting ALS patients is important. These families are going through a lot. ALS doesn’t affect the mind. Our patients still want the same things they always did. It’s important that people participate and help the ALS community.”

More Work to Do

Herzberg has not stopped raising money for ALS. The couple hit the road again this past summer, traveling 2,000 miles to Niagara Falls and back. Along the way, they stopped in Pittsburgh on June 2 for Major League Baseball’s inaugural Lou Gehrig Day to watch the Pirates take on Lang’s favorite team, the Miami Marlins.

Gehrig lost his battle with the disease June 2, 1941 almost two years after he was diagnosed with ALS on his 36th birthday. The annual, league-wide event will be a time to honor and celebrate Gehrig’s legacy as well as to raise awareness and funds to fight the disease.

Herzberg and his team, Drive Away ALS, also will participate in the ALS Association’s Walk to Defeat ALS (walktodefeatals.org) at Georgia State Stadium in Atlanta on Saturday, September 25.

Herzberg and Marshall have visited more than 20 states since October, and they plan to schedule another fundraising trip to South Dakota. And he still finds time to visit Lang in Florida every couple of months and keep him up-to-date on the Drive Away ALS fundraising efforts.

“Mark loves it,” Herzberg says. “If the tables were turned, he would have done the same thing for me.”

By Sarah James