Finally getting a moment two write down some of my impressions about the Big Nerd Ranch. Assuming that the folks on #apache will leave me along long enough …
I arrived at Big Nerd Ranch late Sunday evening. I navigated all the way there by GPS, and when I was about .25mi from the place, I couldn’t find the road to turn on. So I called Emily, who gave me the last instruction I needed. The place is about an hour south of Atlanta, and far enough into the boonies to be outside of the city-glow. It was nearly 11 when I arrived, and by then it was completely dark.
The Ranch is located on the site of the historic Banning Mill and the lodge thereof. It is quiet, out of cell phone range, far from the city lights, far from traffic sounds, clean, and amazingly beautiful.
I woke in the morning to the sound of the river and the birds. I walked out onto the balcony/porch, and saw the river and the falls. It was quite breathtaking. The cabins are high above the river/stream, with balconies hanging precariously out the back.
Apparently the land was originally owned by the Bowens, and the name of the township was later changed to Banning because the mail for Bowentown was getting confused with the mail for nearby Bowersville.
I seem to remember that when the Bowens came to the New World in about 1640, that some of them stayed in the north, and another bunch moved to Atlanta. Apparently this is that bunch.
There is a dam on the river. It’s been broken down now, but much of it remains, made of HUGE rocks. Then there are spillways down each side of the river, each going to a water mill wheel far down stream. On one side of the river is the old paper mill, now just the stone foundation, made of equally HUGE stones. It burned in 1905 and was never rebuilt. You can see some pictures of it here (1045, 1046 and 1047) They made paper there out of pine and rags.
On the other side, there’s a textile mill, which was in operation prior to the Civil War. They had electric turbines back then, and people used to come from Atlanta to watch the lights come on. They claim that they had electric power before the invention of the lightbulb, and were using it for the textile process. They claim that it’s the first hydroelectric generation plant in the southern US, and possibly in the world. That building is still there – it’s the large brick building in the photos referenced above.
The training facility is at the back of the lodge, and overlooks the river. The Internet connection was satelite based, and went out during the heavy rains. And there was negligible cell phone reception unless one climbed up on the roof. These turned out to be small detriment to what we wanted to do. If anything, the absence of cell phones was a HUGE bonus.
Each day started with a wonderful southern breakfast. When we were done eating, we started class, and went until lunch, which was equally wonderful. After lunch, about the time that people started getting sleepy, we went for a hike down along the river, or around the Mill property, for an hour or so. After that, we resumed training until 6, when dinner was served. In all, a very full day.
Evenings were freeform, with nothing much planned. On some of the evenings, I showed DVDs on the big screen in the training room. We watched Finding Nemo, Office Space, and Hackers. Need to take more geek movies next time. 🙂
So that’s the long and short of it. The city folks found it too quiet, and had a hard time sleeping at nights. (!!) The rooms were equipped with fans for the purpose of making noise for the city folks. I should have taken a picture of them, labeled as “noise fan.” And if you didn’t have a flashlight, it was pretty hard to find your room after dark. I loved it, and I’m looking forward to going back.