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Atlanta, GA is the Hub of the South

sunny 69 °F

(Tuesday) After leaving the campground in Huntsville I headed south to connect with I-20 going east toward Atlanta. It was a beautiful day and as I traveled I enjoyed seeing the white cotton fields along the way. Huge machines were harvesting the crops of cotton. Very interesting. On my way through AL I noticed an exit for Talledaga and the fabled NASCAR raceway. Located about 50 miles east of Birmingham it is a small town of pop. 15K. The NASCAR track is 2.666 miles long and race cars speed up to 215 mph during their races. The spectator bleachers extend for a mile along the perimeter and have a capacity for 78,000 fans. While I have never been a NASCAR fan, attending at least one race is on my 'bucket list' before I die.
As I crossed the AL-GA state line it brought back memories when I saw signs for Columbus, GA, where the Ft. Benning Army Base is located. Forty-eight years ago I graduated from the Army's Officer Candidate School, earning my officer's commission. As I relect back, it was probably the most mentally and physically challenging experience of my life. They challenged us physically each day (& night) for we were required to run (double-time) a minimum 6 miles daily and sometimes more. Twenty-mile forced marches were part of the rigors, along with low-crawling across the parade field until our knees and elbows bled through our uniforms. Mentally, we were challenged in the class room and with the continual harrassment we received from the Tac Officers. In the end only 40% graduated, with 60% of our company washing out. At the end I had a strong sense of achievement. After receiving the Infantry commission, I got branch-qualified in Combat Engineers through Ft. Belvoir and retired with the rank of Captain and Company Commander. It was an interesting period in my life.

Purposely, I chose a campground south of busy Atlanta. The Atlanta traffic is horrendous and I had to go through it on the I-285 beltway to pick up I-75 S. After my adventures in Atlanta I can easily leave the campground and head south for Florida.

(Wednesday) My little car, the TOAD (towed vehicle) is much easier to navigate in heavy traffic. The trip into Atlanta was filled with stops & starts with numerous 'fender benders' noticed along the way. My approach to the 1st day of visiting the city was to take a 'Trolley' bus tour to get an overview of the city highlights. The narrated tour was very informative for we saw, among other things, the Historic District, the Ball parks (baseball, football), Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Memorial and burial site, and learned of the city's history.
Destroyed in 1863 by Union General William T. Sherman's 'March to the Sea' which terminated in Savannah. The city of Atlanta literally rose from the ashes after the Civil War. Now, it has a metropolitan pop. exceeding 5M people, is the center for commerce & the transportation hub of the South with 3 Interstate highways intersecting here, and is a nexus of freight and passenger rail connections. Its airport is one of the two busiest airports in the world (so they claim). On the practical side are the inconveniences of auto travel with the average commute time to jobs at 45 minutes, among the worst in the nation. The unemployment rate is about 5%.
After the Trolley tour I had lunch at a BBQ place, then walked past the Atlanta Aquarium to the World of CocaCola. Sandy and I visited the aquarium on a previous visit to the city so I chose the Coke museum. CocaCola was 'invented' in Atlanta long ago by a pharmacist who was very secretive of his formula and guarded it passionately. The company protected it to the point of keeping it in a New York City bank safe for about 70 years. Only in recent years was it transported under armed guard to its present vault in the World of CocaCola in Atlanta. The museum showcased the success story of the beverage and its products today. It is bottled in several hundred locations worldwide with specific drinks, in addition to Coke, promoted/sold to markets, such as, Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa, and the US. All bottling locations receive Coke syrup from Atlanta, then mix it with filtered water (they use their own sophisticated filters), and add the CO2 to create the 'fizz' in the soft drink. The place is a huge marketing facility for Coke. The Company has contributed millions and millions of dollars to Atlanta through the years. Robert Woodruff, Coke's CEO for many years is an icon in Atlanta, and his name is on many parks, buildings, streets, etc.

(Thursday) Another day was spent in Atlanta to finish my goal of visiting the State Capitol & Museum, and to see the Carter Center and the famed Fox Theater.
I was warmly received at the Visitor Desk at the Capitol building. Docent tours have to be arranged ahead of time, something I did not do. Therefore, I was given the option of touring with a group of 3rd graders or of taking a self-guided tour. The children, while well-behaved were not much interested in what was being said so, after a couple of minutes I chose to take the self-guided alternative.

Georgia, in 1788, was the fourth state to join the Union, something I did not know. Atlanta is the 5th permanent capitol city of Georgia, with Savannah being the first Capitol site. After moves from Savannah to Augusta, to Louisville, to Milledgeville, then to Atlanta after the Civil War in 1868 it is where the Capitol city remains. Completed in 1889, the building was built with as many Georgia products as possible, including wood and iron. While the exterior is of durable Indiana limestone, the interior is finished in beautiful woods and polished Georgia marbles of different colors. In 1883 $1M was appropriated to build the building, and at its completion in 1889 the project came under budget - by $118.43!! Simply amazing!

The Capitol's exterior incorporates a dome, popular of the Victorian era. It stands 237' and has a 22' female figure of Freedom on top with a torch in her raised right hand and a sword lowered in her left. The dome is covered with gold leaf, from gold deposits in Georgia. A little bit of trivia- Georgia had a 'Gold Rush' in 1828 with the discovery of the metal in Dahlonega, GA, the first in the US. Ten years later a federal mint was
opened, and even today traces of gold are found in that region.
The interior is very nice with Georgia marble staircases, trim, and columns throughout. Due to budget constraints at the time the elaborate stenciling and plaster work of other Capitols is missing. The Senate and House chambers are not high-style like others. The Senators (56) and House Representatives (180) members meet for 40 days each year, and have 2 year terms. The 4th floor exhibits the history of Georgia with displays of its natural resources, its agriculture, its industry, sufferage, Prohibition, politics, Civil Rights, etc. The Supreme Court Chamber was locked so I was unable to see it. All-in-all, it was nice but not spectacular.

My next 2 attempts at visits were a bust. On both my Garmin and iPhone navigation devices I attempted to locate the Carter Presidential Center, without success. I can't imagine why.
The second visit was to the famed Fox Theater, a former movie palace of historical note. After finally finding the place, and finding parking were challenges. Everywhere you go in Atlanta there are either street repairs or building construction to deal with. I walked a block to the Ticket Office. There, I learned that visitor tours must be booked 2 weeks in advance. Grrr! Shame on me for not researching it on-line!
Fox Theater is now a performing arts center and has been restored to its original splendor. With rich red and gold velvets in the auditorium decor and seating for 4,500 people it represents an 'Era Gone By'. It is an active theater with performances booked months in advance. I took pictures of the exterior which encompasses nearly a city block, along with the famous "FOX THEATER" sign. It was the best I could do.

The Georgia territory was/is separated into 3 separate geological regions. 1) The mountain region includes the Blue Ridge Mountains, and the Cumberland Plateau. 2) The Piedmont (French for 'foot of the mountain') lie south of the Blue Ridge Mtns. The Upper Coastal Plain, or Georgia's 'Breadbasket' has rich soil for crop growing. Located just north of the Florida state line is the 3) Okefenokee Swamp, the largest fresh-water swamp in America. In places the peat soil there is 14' thick. 3 1/2) Georgia's Coastline is 100 miles long and is popular among tourists with places like Jekyl Island, St. Simons, Tybee Island, and others.

One of my frustrations in visiting these States is that there is so much to see and visit, and too little time to do it. At my pace it would take decades to explore the lower 48, not to mention Hawaii and Alaska.

Tomorrow, (Friday) I will head home to Estero, FL so I expect to conclude this, my 'Odyssey of 2017' about Sunday. Thanks to all of you who have traveled with me vicariously these past 6 months. It has been fun for me to put into writing my adventures and to share them with family & friends.

Posted by dixter 12:24 Archived in USA Tagged and georgia atlanta

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