Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Words To Live By

Long driving day today – we are coming down the mountain. We actually left Tallulah Gorge State Park by 9:06 which if you know me (and the Joneses) is pretty damn impressive.

First stop is the Georgia Guidestones. I am not too sure how to describe this. So here is the Wikipedia link.

They have been called everything from the Stonehenge of Georgia to extraterrestrial guidance. They are a “subject of interest for conspiracy theorists”. Perhaps it is all a little bit strange which of course calls to me. The Guidestones are in the middle of a field, someplace in extremely rural Georgia.

Each panel has the following words, but each panel is in a different language.  
  1. Maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature.
  2. Guide reproduction wisely — improving fitness and diversity.
  3. Unite humanity with a living new language.
  4. Rule passion — faith — tradition — and all things with tempered reason.
  5. Protect people and nations with fair laws and just courts.
  6. Let all nations rule internally resolving external disputes in a world court.
  7. Avoid petty laws and useless officials.
  8. Balance personal rights with social duties.
  9. Prize truth — beauty — love — seeking harmony with the infinite.
  10. Be not a cancer on the earth — Leave room for nature — Leave room for nature.

There was so much more to these stones – astronomical, universality, good for at least a ten minute stop.

We got to Augusta, Georgia and are staying in Heritage RV Park – a private park but the wifi is excellent. I can overlook a lot if there is great wifi. We set up our rigs and head to what I've been long considering as one of the highlights of the trip. The Laurel and Hardy Museum in Harlem, Georgia – a very small town about twenty minutes west of Augusta. In fact, the Laurel and Hardy Museum is the only reason that we have come to this part of Georgia.

I was wondering why the Laurel and Hardy Museum was located in Harlem but it all became clear when we rolled into town and saw this:

Ok, maybe I'm getting a little jaded with some museums. What I want in a museum is to learn something about the subject. You probably could learn a little bit about the boys but you really had to dig for it. The front room was mostly Tschotchkes – dust collectors. Things like Laurel and Hardy salt and pepper shakers. Or Marionettes. There were some binders that you could open and read some of the details, but it wasn't really easy to get at. There were a ton of movie posters and even a Laurel and Hardy pinball machine.

We sat and watched a couple of Laurel and Hardy movies – The Music Box and County Hospital but then decided that we had seen and conquered and it was time to move on.

This is the whole town of Harlem

Well, except for more flowers in Harlem
We had to stop for nourishment on the way home and ended up Perry Foster's BBQ.  I think there was another Perry Foster branch in Mississippi - so I guess technically I was at a chain restaurant.  We just did takeout.  I very seldom get to eat out because I have Miko at home and often I am gone all day long doing touristy stuff so I feel bad leaving her even longer to eat out.  So this was a treat.

Monday, March 28, 2016

From the Profound to the Silly

I did a Google search on Best Georgia State Parks and one of them that popped up was Black Rock Mountain State Park. This park was listed as the park with the best views. Since it was only a half hour drive away and it was dog friendly, we decided we needed to check it out. We had thought about camping at this park, but they only allow RVS that are less than 25 feet so that left us out. As we drove into the park, we were again grateful that we were not driving into the park with our RVS. Another narrow mountain road with a long fairly steep incline. Inclines aren't too bad, but if you have a long, steep incline that means that to leave you have a long steep decline which is when it really gets scary. I think that the actual altitude was something like 3600' which is not much in the Rockies, but here in the Southern Appalachian Mountains it is a good size hill.

The park itself spans the Eastern Continental Divide which surprised me. I guess I thought there was only one Continental Divide and that was out west in the Rockies.

Once we got to the visitor's center, we looked at all of our hiking options and decided that we would go back down the mountain to the Black Rock Lake Trail which was flat and only about a mile long. The trail was also a fitness trail where they periodically had “Fitness Stops” where they told you to do 20 jumping jacks like a bunny or 20 pushups like a toad. We were very selective about which stops we executed.

Lots of fisher people – bass and trout were the targets for most of the fisher people. It was just a lovely day to do a laid back stroll.

Hazy, dull brown - but Georgia Mountains

The Joneses

Lou creeping in the rocks

Black Rock Lake
On the way back to the campground, there was a touristy place called Goats On The Roof. They actually did have goats on the roof. 

Goats had a whole playground up there

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Another Day, Another Georgia Wonder

Sometimes you have to lose yourself 'fore you can find anything.
                                  Lewis in the movie "Deliverance"

Onward to another of Georgia's Seven Natural Wonders. Tallulah Gorge. Back in the 1880s, this used to be quite the tourist spot. It still is, but you don't see the women in long skirts and men in suits and ties climbing all over the boulders. Now it is all lycra and spandex.

We are staying in Tallulah Gorge State Park. We got the last two sites available for rigs our size. Since we are in the mountains, the campground sites were a little bit of a challenge to get level. I have automatic levelers in my rig that are supposed to sense how much to raise and lower each corner of the camper, but sometimes I think each of the four levelers are in competition with each other, all trying to outdo each other – level be damned. After using some boards, I got some of my under acheiving levelers to step up to the plate and I was level.

They had a lovely laundry here – I can't tell you how much you appreciate clean clothes and clean sheets after being on the road for a while.

From Wikipedia:

The Tallulah Gorge is a gorge that is formed by the Tallulah River cutting through the Tallulah Dome rock formation. The gorge is approximately 2 miles long and features rocky cliffs up to 1,000 feet high. Through it, a series of falls known as Tallulah Falls drop a total of 490 feet in one mile. Tallulah Falls is actually composed of six separate falls.

The pictures will show how impressive it was walking along the north rim of the gorge. But what I found truly impressive and super cool in itself was when I went to the Interpretive Center and found out that the movie "Deliverance" was filmed in the gorge. I saw the movie in my youth and it made such an impression on me. It actually made me scared to come south for a few years because of some of the horrifying parts of the movie. If you saw the movie, though, you know how beautiful the scenery was and it was very interesting to see the spot that Jon Voigt actually climbed (without a stunt double) back in the day.

Imagine this in the Fall

See the Suspension Bridge way down there - it is 80 feet above the gorge floor

Red Buds in bloom
The other big deal about the gorge (besides the sheer awesomeness of the scenery) was that Karl Wallenda performed a high wire stunt across the gorge in July of 1970 doing two headstands on the way over. They built these giant towers mounted on footings in the rocks  to hold the cables across the gorge and then once he finished his walk, they just tipped them over and left them there as an eyesore. I guess that is sort of an editorial comment, isn't it?

Clean Up Your Mess People

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Amicalola Falls

One of Georgia's Seven Natural Wonders is Amicalola Falls which is located about an hour and a half north of Atlanta. Amicalola is a First Nation word meaning Tumbling Waters and at 729 feet is the tallest falls in Georgia. Another must see in Georgia.

Our campground is about a half hour drive away from the Falls so we all pile into the car and head over. Narrow roads with grand vistas – too bad I was driving and couldn't see either left nor right cause the road was so twisty and turny.

After a stop at the Visitor's Center we learned we had two options to get to see the falls. We could walk about two hours from the Visitor's Center but that involved about 640 steps. These steps were the metal ones that have a tendency to tear up dog's paws and since Miko was with us, that really wasn't an option. Gee Bummer. The other option was to walk about ¾ of a mile on a rather flat trail. Seems like an excellent choice.
There was a bridge that crossed the falls that was rather close to the top of the falls

Looking Up

Looking Down

And of course Me!!!

At the top of the falls looking over the edge - see the little sliver of water way down below

To get to the falls, you had to drive up a very narrow road that had a 25% grade.  25% is a huge grade.  I was really really really happy that I was in the car and not the RV.  When we got back to the parking lot, we saw this.

What were they thinking? 

Friday, March 25, 2016

Flowers, Flowers, Flowers Everywhere

We are moving today – sort of a short hop – about 72 miles so not too bad. We have a stop on the way though – we are going to Gibbs Gardens which we had heard about when we were zip-lining a few days ago.

Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground Georgia, about an hour north of Atlanta, was started in 1980 as a private 300 acre estate. Jim Gibbs sort of went nuts and planted 100,000 daffodils that year. Every year since then, he has planted another 100,000. There are now currently 22 million daffodils that bloom about this time of year. Think about that for a moment. Unfortunately, we were maybe a week too late to see them all in their glory, but it still was very impressive.

There are currently 220 landscaped acres and there is something in bloom all year round. Currently, besides the daffodils, the cherry trees, Bradford Pears, Red buds, plus a lot of annuals are all in bloom.

This is a water lily garden with an exact replica of Monet's Bridge - supposed to be spectacular when the water lilies bloom 

We ended up in Talona RV park in Talking Rock Georgia – a tiny little park with fabulous WIFI. I feel I have to mention this because it is so seldom that campground WIFI is as good as this. There was a lovely little creek running along in front of our rigs so we took our chairs down to the creek and had another wonderful Happy Hour.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Another Acheivement - Another Moment of Glory

Today there were two activities on our agenda. Busy, busy day.

We took off for Marietta Georgia, about an hour away from the campground,  where the acclaimed Gone With The Wind Museum was located. I was a little young (not born yet) when GWTW came out, but saw the movie at a fairly young age. I knew the story and that was about it.

Dr. Chris Sullivan saw GWTW when he was in sixth grade and it made quite an impression on him. He started collected everything he could that had to do with GWTW. Most of the museum seemed to be about Vivian Leigh though. Personally, I think perhaps he might have had the hots for Vivian and that what started his obsession. To be fair, there were a lot of artifacts around Margaret Mitchell, the author of GWTW, but there was very little about Clark Gable or any of the other stars in the film. It was rather a dull museum and I would not recommend it at all.

We moved on to Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield. This battle was when General Sherman was pillaging and burning his way through the South and it was the last stop where the Confederates tried to save Atlanta from the Yankee Scourge.

Most of the National Sites have a program called the Junior Ranger Program. It is a program to try to engage the young people in the whole National Park thing. They get a work book that has a lot of exercises in it that relate to the particular site that they are visiting. It is very educational and supposed to make history fun for the kids. I have always felt a little left out – it seems like such a great program. I asked the ranger at Kennesaw if they had a “senior” ranger program. No such luck. So...I decided that it was ageism and I was going to become a Junior Ranger.

Yes, they did look at me a little strange, but it wasn't the first time that that has happened. I got my booklet and I was ready to start down the road to becoming a Junior Ranger. I had to fill out basic Junior Ranger info – what are the objectives of a Junior Ranger (Explore, Learn, Protect). I had to fill out a map with Southern States, Northern States and Border States. I had to search through the museum to find particular artifacts. I had to walk a 1.33 mile environmental trail to exercise all of my senses and report back. There were about 14 different exercises that needed to be completed. It actually took a lot of work to get this done. I almost quit about half way through, but figured I would do this just once and then be done with it.

I started this off as a lark, but as I started working through all the tasks, I got into it and tried to do the best job I could. I finished my workbook and came back to the Ranger Station where they would check me in. They were a little perplexed – they had never had any kid come back with a finished book. I was their very first Junior Ranger!  It was really exciting. It took about fifteen minutes for the ranger to find the actual oath that I needed to recite to become the Junior Ranger. In all seriousness, when I did the oath, I felt very proud and absolutely thrilled that I had done this. It was an amazing feeling.

I got a big goodie bag. Lots of cool things. I got Kennesaw Mountain badges, I got a paper ranger hat, I received trading cards. I got a rubber bison (symbol of the park service). I am a Kennesaw Mountain Junior Ranger and I will try my very best to uphold my oath to Explore, Learn and Protect.
Me and my Junior Ranger workbook

Getting sworn in as a Junior Ranger

Newest Junior Ranger - check out my badge, all shiny and glittery

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The More Serious Side of Atlanta

Lou and Davey have other things to do and they have already seen what I'm on the way to see so today I'm driving into Atlanta on my own.

I drive to the Martin Luther King Jr. Historical Site Visitor Center parking lot which is totally packed. People are double and triple parked. Based on the fact that I see dressed up people walking around with palms in their hands, I realize that it is Palm Sunday. Part of the Historical Site includes a couple of churches which are still having services, hence the parking problems.

I enjoyed the MLK site a lot. Watched the movie which was all about MLK's birth home and how he grew up in the Sweet Auburn area of Atlanta. The museum area was one of the best laid out historical site museums that I have seen and I've seen a lot of them. There were six circular areas which displayed different parts of MLK's life. What made each of these areas so interesting is that there was video of people of the time talking about MLK interspersed with MLK speaking either in interviews or giving us parts of his speeches. What a powerful orator he was and what a great message he had.

Caisson that carried MLK's casket.  Ada and Belle were the mules that pulled the caisson

After the visitor center, I headed to Ebenezer Baptist Church where MLK preached but as I said before, services were going on and I didn't feel like I should go in. MLK and Coretta Scott King's tombs are on the property and it was really a beautiful tomb.
The Tomb
The location - see the tomb way down at the other end of the pool?

I walked over to the birth home and walked around the neighborhood, but it was probably the least favorite part of the site for me. Just a working class neighborhood.

On to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum. Parking was much better here. The grounds were beautiful. Spring is definitely here.

The museum was a nice and shiny building. Crisp and clean. It followed President's career from childhood, through his navy and his presidential career followed by his biggest contributions – his post-presidential life.

I know a lot of people don't care for President Carter but I admire him an awful lot mostly because he has a moral compass and has always seemed to be true to it. The amount of good that he has done in his life makes me feel like maybe I should figure out some way to give back (besides, of course,  spreading joy with my sparkling personality)
Anybody that can sing with Willie must be cool

Fun Fact: Jimmy Carter graduated 60th out of 840 in the Naval Academy.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Things Go Better With Coke????

Now that the big adventure is done, it is back to the regular RV life. Next stop Atlanta. I have decided that Chicago traffic doesn't even come close to Atlanta traffic. It is insane here. We decided to take the bypass (285) around Atlanta to get to the RV park thinking that there would be less traffic than if we had decided to go through central Atlanta. Holy cow!!! My side of the freeway had seven lanes of traffic all either moving along at 70 mph or crawling. It could change at any second. Nobody seems to like the lane that they are in – much much lane changing.

Staying at the Jones RV park which has maybe 20 sites for short timers like me. Counting the attached trailer park, there have got to be about 300 sites. Us temporary people are scrunched in tight and I am nestled right up next to the bath house. At least it has full hookups and wifi. Quite a change from the lake.

First up it one of the top rated attractions in Atlanta. WORLD OF COCA-COLA. It is in downtown Atlanta, right in the middle of Olympic Square. I paid $14 entrance fee for basically a three hour coke commercial. Parts of it were almost impressive though. They allow 215 people to enter every nine minutes and we had to wait in line perhaps a half hour before we got to go through security and were allowed to enter. The first room we were in had a lot of old Coke print ads and Coke paraphernalia and a young woman leading us along who used to be a cheerleader in a past life.
World of Coca-Cola

We then all shuffled into a movie theater and watched an emotionally manipulative movie about how good life is with coke. Then we were set free to wander around the complex and experience all that the World of Coke had to offer.
See how crowded and how weird?

I guess the new Coke mascot is a polar bear. They had a sad looking polar bear standing there that you could take your picture with. He really looked like he might slap down the next little kid who hugged him.

There was one room where they had a mini bottling line and they explained how Coke is bottled. I have always been a sucker for automated manufacturing lines and this was really cool with conveyor belts pushing and pulling coke bottles all over and then filling them. They said this particular bottling line would fill 20 bottles a minute. They had slowed it down so that we could really see how the process worked. A bottling line out in the real world would do 2,200 cans in a minute.

Moving on to the 4D movie that I got to watch. The story was hokie about some scientist trying to figure out the Coke secret formula is. You had to wear the 3D glasses, there was lots of 3D action and then the seats in the theater would move and water would spray on you. Sort of fun.  
The tasting room was where you could taste every flavor that Coke has around the world. More than 100 different beverages. I tasted one from Italy – vile, vile, vile stuff. Lou and Davey seemed to like the African products the best. They were hanging out with some kiwi-mango concoction. The floor was incredibly sticky. You really had to work at un-attaching your feet from the floor.
Extra Large Bottles representing Coke packaging from around the world

Fun facts: Pemberton, a chemist, created the Coke formula in Atlanta in 1886. A guy named Chandler bought the rights in 1888 for $2,300. He sold the rights in 1919 for $25 million. Not a bad investment. Also, it is rather common knowledge that Pemberton used cocaine in creating his formula for Coca-Cola. No where in the World of Coca-Cola was that fact mentioned.

World of Coca-Cola was an experience that assaulted the senses. Extremely loud, extremely in your face. The thought crossed my mind that perhaps I might be getting into my senior years where I can no longer appreciate this type of sensory overload.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Personal Demons

I did nothing – absolutely nothing for a couple of days. Nothing except sit around admiring the lake. Wait – that is not exactly true. I did laundry, drank wine, watched Davey wash the front of the RV – I guess there was a run into Home Depot to get a water filter and CVS at one point. Yup – I take it back – it was action packed.

The View

The Campsite

Wednesday was a move day – we moved up to Chattahoochee Bend State Park which is about an hour west of Atlanta. I had to get gas so I stopped at a tiny little gas station in Lizella Georgia where my Discover card was declined because of a security alert. That is so embarrassing when that happens. I get on the phone – guy asks if I'm traveling. Never mind that I have been using that card for the last couple of weeks here in Georgia. Get with it Discover People. I went a different direction than Lou and Davey – they took the freeway for part of the way - I took back roads. We ended up getting into Chattahoochee within ten minutes of each other. A small little park with only 26 sites and being as how it is the middle of the week, not very crowded.

Thursday – up at the crack of dawn. Huge day happenin'. Today Lou and I are going to go on the Longest Zip Line in the World according to Guinness. That's right – western Georgia not only has the longest zip line but it also has the highest climbing wall in the U.S. Lou and I have decided that the zip line will be enough excitement for one day. We will have to leave the climbing wall for another time. The zip line is called the Screaming Eagle Zip Line and it is in Historic Banning Mills. There are four levels of zip lines and we decide to opt for the Bunny Slope(actually called the Forest Tour) – the one that they let kids do. But let me tell you – this is no walk in the park. Keep in mind how much I hate, let me repeat HATE heights.

You start off getting the safety talk and getting into your gear. I'm doing OK at this point. I'm on flat ground – I'm busy trying to figure out how my gear works. They show us how our safety cables will keep us safe because they are always attached to some monster cables. They teach us about braking and proper form. We are set and ready to go.

Getting Suited Up
The Motley Crew

Then you have to climb up a 65 foot tower. I'm still doing OK. It is just climbing some steps. I'm not looking down – staring straight ahead. I'm OK.

Now comes the sky bridge. I am NOT doing OK. This is a swinging bridge with little pieces of board that you are supposed to place your feet on. The spaces between the boards are far apart – a person could slide right between them. I am keeping my eyes totally on the next board – I have no idea what is happening around, above or below me. Did I mention that if others are walking on the sky bridge the whole thing shakes and twists and shouts. No, wait, that was me shouting. This was not enjoyable in any way.

Notice how Lou and I are hunched over hanging on for dear life


We get to the first platform and our first zip line. There are seven people in our group – Lou is #4, I am #5. I have difficulty watching the others go before me because I have wrapped my arms around the tree and buried my face. Lou takes off and to her credit, there is no screaming. She has good form and is flying along. She seems to forget about the braking and ends up on the next platform in a rather abrupt fashion. The guide on my platform reminds us all about braking again. It is my turn – I can not make myself step off that platform into thin air. I waver, I try to think of a way out. Then, I figure there is no way out – I have to do it. I guess it is a beautiful day to die. I go. I am so intent on getting to the next platform that I don't notice anything around me except that platform. I took very seriously the braking lecture and I braked hard, stopping myself before I got to the next platform. So, now I'm dangling from the cable in thin air a few feet from the platform. Bummer. I have to turn myself backwards and pull myself hand over hand up to the platform. OK, lesson learned.

Lou's First Run - Great Form

Lou survived her first run
And I survived my first run

There were nine zip lines – the first four were sort of practice ones for us to work on our form and our braking. Lou and I were really getting the hang of it. Our braking was picture perfect. We were getting into the zone. The remaining five zip lines got longer and faster. Did I mention higher also? Davey thought we were about 75 to 100 feet up in the air. I don't know – I never looked down. The hardest thing was the stepping off the platform into empty air. It was a real trust issue – will the gear actually hold you and not send you crashing into the underbrush. Once you started actually zipping along – it was heaven. I wanted to go faster and faster. It was like flying.

Lou flying thru the air with the greatest of ease

I finally got the hang of it

Having A Blast

We finished the zip lines. We did it. I've always wanted to do zip lines but I've never had the opportunity or the guts. I am so happy that this gets put in my life accomplishment bucket. I am also so grateful that I get to hang with strange people who like to do weird things.