The Long Drive

On March 30, 2010 · 4 Comments

There was a time when I’d drive a thousand miles straight, stopping only for gas and food and not give it a second thought. Those days are long gone. I can make it only six to nine hours with kids in the car, and even alone I wouldn’t have the stamina to drive overnight anymore. Now the journey has become part of the adventure, making time for interesting destinations along the way.

Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson

I’d been building-up Stone Mountain for a couple of weeks prior to the trip as a means to get the kids excited about the long drive. They weren’t as keen to forgo airline travel as I was, and they needed a little motivation. I’d been to Stone Mountain a couple of time before so I knew the gondola ride to the top would certainly entertain them.

This ride would provide close-up views of the world’s larges bas relief sculpture, an homage to Confederate icons, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson (not that any of those names would be even remotely familiar to the kids). They would also be able to see for miles once atop the mountain, all the way to the Atlanta Georgia skyline on a clear day. We set our sights on the massive quartz monzonite (not granite!) monolith as we drew closer to the city.

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We somehow lucked out with a perfectly cloudless day, not too warm, not too cold, and absolutely stunning. We arrived at the ticket booth and… the gondola was shut down because of wind that was forecast to arrive later that afternoon. We briefly considered the 1.3 mile uphill trail but we weren’t properly prepared. A hike wasn’t going to happen this time.

I sensed an impending meltdown from our two young sons who’d just spent the last seven hours confined in a car and who’d been held in check with the expectation of a gondola ride and a memorable mountaintop view. Thankfully the park included other activities such as a large, noisy barn-like structure where the kids could run around, holler, shoot each other with foam balls and things like that. It salvaged the day but mom and dad left the barn with splitting headaches. It was still worth it and a lot better than the tantrum we feared.

I pondered the vast array of cultural diversity that is modern Atlanta enjoying a wonderful spring day. I wondered whether anyone else understood or even cared about the irony of the situation. Stone Mountain was the 1915 birthplace of the modern Ku Klux Klan. This gets little if any mention at the park. I toured through the small museum and saw lots of information on Native Americans who once lived nearby, about the farmers who tilled the soil in post-colonial times, about the armies that formed on both sides of the Atlanta Campaign and things of that nature, but I didn’t see anything related to that dark, hateful event. Maybe it was there but I missed it.

I felt somewhat torn. As a student of history I believe that lessons can be drawn from both the good and the bad episodes of our collective experience. On the other hand, perhaps modern Stone Mountain and its mosaic of visitors sharing a peaceful coexistence provided the ultimate revenge for a century-old racist event. Does that shameful past still have meaning in a successful, largely African-American suburb that has grown around the mountain, or has it finally been relegated to the dustbin where it probably belongs?

There are certain signs that one has entered the south. The prevalence of Sweet Tea provides a primary clue. My family thinks I’m nuts but I love the stuff. It’s almost impossible to find a proper Sweet Tea in the North. It’s a fairly simple recipe that involves adding way-too-much sugar to hot tea before it has an opportunity to cool. Those of you who remember junior high school science class will recognize this as the basic formula for supersaturating a solution. In other words, it allows one to dissolve lots of extra sugar into the tea, locking all that sickly-sweet goodness within it.

Another manifestations would be the increasing ubiquity of Waffle House restaurants as one pushes deeper into southern territory. One situation, however, surprised even me. We stopped to refuel near Thomson, Georgia, and noticed two Waffle Houses practically within sight of each other on opposite sides of the Interstate 20 overpass.

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Eastbound traffic can stop at this Waffle House…

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While westbound traffic can stop here.

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Apparently there is enough demand to keep both franchises in business. Nobody has to deal with the "inconvenience" of traveling two-tenths of a mile to the other side of the Interstate.

Finally, "Welcome to Mississippi." This signaled our impending arrival, less than an hour away from our ultimate destination along the Gulf.

Welcome to Mississippi, Birthplace of America's Music

It’s nice to be back with family. Yesterday evening we dined on shrimp pulled from the Gulf. We’ll be feasting on crawfish before you know it, too. It’s time to kick-up our feet and relax. I might still have time for a couple of geo-oddity surprises so stay tuned.

On March 30, 2010 · 4 Comments

4 Responses to “The Long Drive”

  1. Matt W says:

    Tracked back to this with your link today (18 Jan 2011). I grew up in NH but served an internship in Birmingham, AL. Fell in love with sweet tea when a girl I dated ordered it for me. As I drove back to school (upstate NY) I checked sweet tea availability at every stop. I got my last one in Maryland, and that was 1996 (shudder).

    I also was amazed by the Waffle House craze. I joked that there must have been a law requiring one per exit, but that clearly an exception existed. A local exit lacked a Waffle House, but the next one down–you guessed it–had two.

    Now, I find that using an artificial sweetener (sweet n low) gives an approximate sweet tea experience if your tea is already cold. And when I hiked Pikes Peak in Colorado, I was thrilled to find a 24 hour Waffle House to tank up on that cold March morning.

  2. Michael says:

    I live in Atlanta and I found this article when looking for things on your index that are near my fair city. As a lifelong adherent to Waffle House (which started in the area), I can verify that there actually several interstate exits around here that have more than 1 WaHo. There used to be one a little west of the one you linked to that actually had 3. The reason is not just so people don’t have to be inconvenienced by driving 1/4 mile, it’s that WaHos all share a cookie-cutter layout. A single Waffle House only has so much capacity. If a given location has too much traffic, it actually calls for a second Waffle House to be able to serve all the customers. So it’s not just enough demand to keep both in business, it’s more demand than one (or, in some cases, two) can handle.

    • Michael, you are using the new Complete Index exactly as I hoped people would use it: to be able to find articles featuring areas near-and-dear to them even though they may have been published long ago. The map index presents information in a way that blogs typically have trouble dealing with, the ability to transcend time.

  3. Fritz Keppler says:

    Being from New Orleans, I quibble with the slogan on the Mississippi welcome sign! (I did notice it during my recent trip down there.) But I’m willing to forego to maintain amicable relations with our northern neighbor.

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