I seem to be coming down with Ethan’s cold now and could probably do without a long drive, but needs must.
First stop of the day – further into the back of beyond than we would generally like – is the Georgia Guidestones. This is a sort of mini Stonehenge commissioned by an anonymous donor, wanting to spread his message to humanity in multiple different languages. Much beloved of all the mystery and conspiracy shows, I felt it had to be worth a visit. Most of the message makes perfect sense, although the first few have been interpreted in some quarters as some iffy eugenics scheme.
From here we drifted on to Tallulah Falls. This is where Deliverance was filmed – although you would never know it from the information in the visitor centre. Apparently, they don’t like to draw attention to it. Not a single mention of purty mouths – very disappointing! Anyway, as I didn’t have my crossbow with me, we decided to skip the long hike up the trail in the heat and settled for an ice cream instead. How intrepid are we?
From here, a long, slow, tortuous drive up into the Smoky Mountains and our cabin above Pigeon Forge. This genuinely is purty and I’m typing this sat in a rocking chair on the balcony overlooking this view…
A day exploring the joys of Atlanta today. It started off with some homeless guy spotting our directional confusion and appointing himself as our tour guide. To be fair he was very engaging and well spoken and gave me a detailed lecture on the socio-economic shortcomings of Atlanta. I couldn’t help but agree and (much as I am a guest in the country and don’t feel particularly inclined to comment), with all that is going on here at the moment I can’t help thinking that they would be better fixing the present rather than trying to fix the past. Anyway, our guide then relieved me of slightly more money than I had intended. Ethan said it was the politest mugging ever, but given that we were just about to drop $80 to visit an aquarium, I couldn’t really begrudge a homeless guy a meal.
The aquarium is quite spectacular, especially the vast tank with 4 whale sharks in there. They are pretty impressive beasts.
Some of the other denizens were creepier or cuter to various degress
Onwards to the Coca-Cola museum. I have to admit, that I couldn’t really see the point of this place other than to extract money from people with sugar addictions. Having been there, I don’t see any reason to change my view. Ethan has wanted to visit this place for years, particularly the hall where you can try all of the drinks that Coke make around the world. Ironically, his cold meant that he couldn’t actually taste most of them. I think that the Indian one that tasted like TCP got through though – probably did his throat some good too! I hadn’t realised that they actually had a Coke dispenser on the space shuttle.
Evening was given over to a trip to the baseball to watch Ethan’s favourite team the Atlanta Braves. That was quite an experience and the Braves won which was all good.
I was surprised to see that, given the various racial tensions which are bubbling just under the surface here, noone thought twice about the celebration involving a chant and dodgy tomahawk motion of the hand.
A day of mountains today, of which I thoroughly approve of course. We started the day with a visit to Rock City on Lookout Mountain, the sole purpose for us including Chattanooga in the trip. Those who have read American Gods will know that it is one of the key sites in the book, but I won’t add any spoilers for those who are just watching the series (should arrive about season 3 or 4 at the current rate I guess!).
Rock City seems to have started as someone’s garden on a cliff with a view over a number of states and in true American style was seized upon as potential gold mine. It follows the standard pattern of taking a natural wonder and “enhancing” it with some bizarrely manufactured kitsch. The “Enchanted Trail” is all very pleasant (piped soothing music notwithstanding).
… and yes I did make it through! Things get decidedly
Things get decidedly weirder as you venture into the Fairytale Cavern.
I love this stuff. There is something very appealing about a personal folly elevated to the level of obsession and shared with the public (it’s what makes the internet great after all). If you are going to do it, may as well go for it! I can see why Neil Gaiman latched onto these places as places of power.
Anyway, having had our fill of gnomes, it was on to Atlanta via Stone Mountain. Stone Mountain is America’s version of Ayers Rock – a huge granite monolith (only about a tenth of which is above ground), rising 1700 feet just outside Atlanta.
We toyed with the idea of walking up for all of 4 seconds before leaping on to the cable car to the top. Stopped for a snack in the cafe, but the only veggie option was fries. I went for the cheesy option, thinking UK style cheesy chips and then looked on with horror as they piped some noxious gloop on top. Ethan was very amused. It is a bizarre concoction which seems to combine a very unpleasant slimy texture with a thoroughly bland taste, and yet not quite bland enough…
Didn’t stop me eating the fries of course, but I felt dirty.
At least the dining was better in Atlanta later, even if it was in a restaurant famed for its bison.
Today could be a struggle. We started off with a trip to the pharmacy to get some drugs for the poorly one and I can feel whatever lurgy he has burrowing its way into me.
Still, a trip to Graceland beckoned so we manned up and hit the road. The actual mansion turns out to be smaller than expected
but it manages to cram in a fair amount of tackiness. Any room that has carpet on all surfaces is pure class. I would say that the decor is of its time, but I don’t quite remember the 60s and 70s like that.
Onwards with the tour and a visit to the grave. People were still genuinely upset visiting the grave 40 years after his death. Given the sombre atmosphere, I felt that reenacting the scene from Spinal Tap might be considered inappropriate. All those hours learning the harmonies to Heartbreak Hotel wasted…
Leaving Graceland, we girded our loins for the long drive to Chattanooga, passing through Mississppi, Alabama and (briefly) Georgia (tick, tick and tick). We were both a little nervous about stopping for food. Spotted a shack called the Camo Cafe and wondered whether to stop. Not so much. A Burger King further down the line seemed a better bet. The staff were the friendliest, most helpful people I have met on the trip so far. That will teach me to harbour unwarranted prejudice based on shallow media stereotypes! Alabama also looked pretty pleasant and (mostly) devoid of Confederate flags, so there you go: more civilised than Norfolk. Move on. That said, I was very careful not to give any excuse to be pulled over by a southern sheriff.
In Huntsville we passed the space centre. Had I realised that we would be passing that way I would have tried to spend some time there. The Saturn V and space shuttle looked pretty impressive even from the road.