I want to live in Georgia! Perhaps I will change my mind over the next couple of days, but during my weekend away, I was definitely smitten.
Memorial Day weekend started with us leaving the office earlier than usual, but later than planned. The week had been quite stressful in many ways, and we did not experience the usual 'quietening' down that normally precedes a holiday weekend (for which I am not complaining). Samantha was going to take us to the airport. However, there were very heavy storms and the radio started to report traffic building in all directions.
We finally left a few minutes before five, but not early enough to miss the line of vehicles that was backed up for about half a mile. We inched forward every couple of minutes, and watched the traffic on the bridge ahead remain stationery, as it merged, along with a third group, with us, to the bridge that would take us to the highway. Samantha was playing 'I spy' with herself, and Dana was giving us a running commentary of how the cars were moving at a snails pace, and how we had a 'green light, but nowhere to go'. I sat in the back of the mini and closed my eyes and ears, and waited for the traffic to disperse. Eventually, we arrived at the airport with enough time to go through security, but with no time to get anything to eat.
We boarded our plane, and all appeared to be going well, until the weather, once again, delayed the departure. However, the flight time was not as long as had been published, and we arrived in Atlanta with about twenty minutes to spare. Samantha had looked up the next departure gate, and once we were allowed to use our phones, I powered up and received her message. The time that it took to get from one gate to the next, was almost as long as the flight from Atlanta to Chattanooga, Tennessee.
We touched down at about 11:15pm, and were driven to the car rental office, and then drove ourselves to the hotel. Being, perhaps, more worldly than my husband, I explained to him that when a hotel calls itself the 'Quality' suites, it really should not be taken literally. When it comes to accommodation, it is usually best to steer clear of those that advertise themselves with anything descriptive in the title. It was clean, so I had nothing to complain about, but was probably as near to 'quality' as it could have been, about fifty years ago.
Saturday morning started with 'hot breakfast included' at the Quality Suites. Although it was served between six thirty, and nine thirty, it appeared that 8am was the time that everyone wanted to partake. There was one waffle iron (which made the 'hot' dish) and the (not so) old lady who lived in a shoe, was there with about 95% of her children, all of whom wanted to eat. Toast has always been a favourite of mine when at a hotel, and there was plenty of cereal and coffee. I did manage to slip in between child number seven and eight, when Mrs Shoe left her post to refill the kids' juice order. Unfortunately for child eight and beyond, everyone who had been waiting for numbers one to seven to be fed, jumped into the queue behind me.
We 'hit the road' at around nine thirty and drove through town to the petrol station where Dana picked up a map, then followed the road around for several miles. Eventually we stopped to check that we were on the right road, and were given the directions to take us into North Carolina. The coffee had started to filter through, and I needed to stop. 'Sure, honey, restrooms are just outside and through the gate, on the side'. Now it was my turn to take the word 'restroom' literally. Outside, through the gate, and on the side, were three, bright yellow, portaloos'. Needs must, etc, etc, I did what I had to do, and left. The scenery was absolutely amazing. We were surrounded by trees of all different colours. I was driving, so the photo taking was not as prolific as is the norm, but I was able to enjoy my surroundings.
As we drove up to the Georgia sign, I was getting very excited. I was entering territory that I had only ever seen in movies. We passed over the border, with the obligatory photos delaying our entry by a couple of minutes, and I knew I had found my new 'retirement' home. It was green! Considering the amount of red clay that is the 'earth' of the Peach State, the flora and fauna was magnificent. We stopped for lunch at a Burger King restaurant. Much as I would have liked to have had lunch in a 'local' cafe, there is little more an authentic eatery when on the road, than the original American 'drive thru'.
My excitement was at fever pitch, especially as there were so many signs that read 'Cherokee'. We were on the very grounds that this indiginous nation roamed. We travelled along the Ochoee River as I drove up to the South Carolina border, and crossed into an identical topography. Unfortunately, the nearest town was a long way off, and we had dinner plans later that evening, so we drank in the beautiful scenery for a while, and circled back to Georgia, North Carolina, and finally Tennessee, where we continued to see the white water rafting along the Ochoee River, the site of (I think) the canoe competition during the 1996 Olympics. Although awarded to Atlanta, it appeared that this event spread over into just outside Ducktown, Tennessee. Share and share alike!
We arrived back at the hotel just in time to have a quick shower and make our way back into Georgia, to meet Dana's best friend from High School, David, and his wife Carolyn. They had not seen each other, or been in touch for 25 years. As we were going to make the trip to Tennessee, and they lived just across the border, it seemed a good idea to make contact. We had a wonderful evening, at their favourite restaurant, and ate until we were about to explode. I opted out of the 'special', which was a 3lb catfish, but enjoyed my roasted duck breast. We returned to their home, and did not leave until after midnight, vowing to keep in contact.
Sunday morning was a late start for everyone. Mrs Shoe and her never ending line of off springs came in just after us, but had obviously learned an important lesson from the previous day. I stepped out of line to take Dana a piece of toast, and they slipped into the space that I had left. In fact, as I stood at what I thought was the back of the queue, more children appeared, and made a new line, leaving me standing alone, without a hope of a batter treat. The lady who was refilling the diminishing stocks of bread, donuts, muffins and boiled eggs, was looking on in horror, as each waffle took two minutes to cook, the time was 9:10, and the children kept on arriving. I cannot be certain, but I was quite sure breakfast went on for hours the previous day. 'I have to clear this all away at 9:30', she announced. The bitter cries fell on deaf ears, as the calculations were made and over half the crowd knew they would have to eat cake! I am not entirely sure the 9:30 curfew was mandatory, but this morning it would be passed as law! I chose to leave the rising hostilities and used the hotel computer to check in for our flight home.
As moods sobered and the waffle iron was turned off, children disappeared into all four corners of the Quality Suites, we continued with our day. Taking the Interstate, we entered Georgia for the fourth time, and continued until we reached my 40th state, Alabama. Squealing with delight, I jumped out of the car to have my picture taken by the sign. This was another one of those unreachable dreams. Ever since Manhattan Transfer sang their hit, (although I believe Glenn Miller had a hit with it much earlier) 'Tuxedo Junction', I have always wanted to go 'Way down south..... in Alabam'. The lady at the 'Welcome Center' was delighted to tell us where to go, and what to see. Desoto falls was an amazing sight. The water cascaded down the rocks into a pool just over a hundred feet down. Bravely, I walked along the cobbled steps, and conscious of the 'danger' signs, stood close to the edge, and took several pictures. I only froze three times, and fortunately none were on the way back up! Desperate for a fridge magnet to add to my collection, we stopped at a nearby cafe, and ordered two cups of coffee. They did not have my item, but there were several small holdings around that might be able to accommodate my whim. The small set of booths opposite the restaurant did not have such a thing, so I entered the petrol station, just after the Sheriff. This was definitely a local shop for local people. The lawman received a gushing welcome, as did the lady who entered after me. However, I was obviously not from 'around these parts', and was asked, quite curtly, 'can I help you?' Magnets were not for sale! I wondered if she would let me purchase anything else, but did not attempt to test the limits!
We then went to Rock City, but decided not to stay. The entrance fee was rather exorbitant, and it was a little too much of a tourist trap to enjoy. Instead we drove back into Tennessee and went to see the Chattanooga Choo Choo!
Dinner inside the hotel that now houses the famous train, and the site of the original station (so we were told, and who were we to argue) was good home style southern cooking. Fried chicken, sweet potato pie, beans, fried okra, barbecue and cobbler, were just a sample of what was on the buffet. This was the perfect end to a perfect weekend. We drove back around into Georgia so that we could return to Tennessee, as this was the only state sign that I had not had my picture taken under!
I slept for most of the rest of the evening, and throughout the night, until my alarm went off at 6:30am this morning. After a quick shower, we enjoyed a waffle in peace, and without a queue. Mrs Shoe was no where to be seen, neither were her brood of many. After returning the car, we went through security at the airport, and sat in the seats provided, awaiting the gate to open that would lead to our plane. It turned out to be gate no. 5, of 5. Then after the twenty five minute flight, we made our way through the enormous Atlanta airport, to our next flight. We took our seats, as did the family of four in front of us. I am not sure as to what language they spoke, but when mama shouted at the kids, presumably to sit down, the entire congregation of passengers sat! Although we were in the same row, the aisle separated us. After enjoying our complimentary tomato juice, the stewards brought the trolley back down the aisle to collect the empties. I heard Dana ask for a cup of coffee, and then he said, 'and I think she would like a cup too'. I saw the steward look at Dana, look at the person next to him, who was probably in his twenties, and sporting a very full beard, and then back at Dana. Raising his eyebrows the steward looked away, and then over to me. I smiled, and saw the look of relief spread across his face, as I said, 'he must have read my mind; cream no sugar, please'.
We landed early, and Samantha was at the airport ready to take us home. Dana then went into work, and us females took advantage of 'ladies day', at the range! Finally, Dana and I attended our condominiums Memorial Day soiree by the pool, where several neighbours gathered and soaked up the last of the days sun.
Tomorrow begins another week at work. The legislative session is over for another two years. We failed to stop some really nasty bills from becoming law, but that's life! As my Memorial Day weekend comes to an end, I am reminded that many battles have been fought, lost and won, and rather than bemoan my fate, I thank those who should be honoured today. Those who have allowed us, in this country and others, to live in freedom. As a guest sings, 'You'll Never Walk Alone' (something that does join our nations) I say thank you to all, present and past, (including my husband, his brothers, brother in law, and their father before them, and all those in my homeland too) and know that their loyalty has allowed me to write ................. another story.