- Where We Started: Atlanta, Ga.
- Where We Ended: Atlanta, Ga.
- Miles Driven: 78 (1,491 total)
- New States: 0
- Total States: 4 (Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia)
THE DAY'S HIGHLIGHT
There was no sightseeing on Friday, but we did encounter a truly historical sight. Yes, folks, the American University Eagles are headed back to the NCAA tournament after thrashing those pansy "Crusaders" from Holy Cross in the Patriot League championship game. This adds some intrigue to our little journey, since we'll find out Sunday night where AU will be playing next week, which may result in a detour for the FHMA foursome. As mentioned earlier, there are eight places where AU could end up playing, with Dayton, Ohio; Kansas City; and Minneapolis being the easiest for us to reach. Miami and Boise, Idaho, would be the hardest, even though Boise is our favorite little city in America. So we'll see.
The cool part about doing tours like this is you get a chance to see family and friends that you wish you saw more. In Charleston, I had breakfast with one of my oldest friends from college, Jamie Platzer. On Thursday night, had drinks with an old AOL friend, Craig Thomas. Friday was a day full of these types of catchups. First, we had lunch with one of Joan's friends from college, Dave Wittenberg (more on that in the meals section). Then, it was off to see two of Joan's cousins, Pam and Dena. Although their husbands could not join us, we did get to spend some time with Pam's son, Josh, and Dena's son, Joseph. Plus, the dogs got some off-leash time to help them keep fit. And look at the effect it had on Fred:
OK, that's not Fred. That's Kobe, Pam's wire-haired dachshund puppy. He was adorable, though his style of playing, i.e. clamping his teeth on Hank's tail and/or Fred's ears, didn't always go over well with our guys. That's how dogs play, of course, but our coddled, spoiled beagles decided to do their own thing and spent the two hours making themselves comfortable on Pam's furniture and crapping all over her yard.
Pam's other adorable dachshund, Ozzy, ran and chased a tennis ball for the entire two-plus hours we were there. As far as Ozzy was concerned, the beagles were useless; he was just looking for humans to throw his ball. We obliged, and man, could Ozzy jump.
From there, it was off to a bar to watch American play. Being that both the ACC and SEC tournaments were in action at the same time, the bar made sure to jam us into a back room so we could watch the best non-scholarship college basketball and not get in the way of the "real" college hoops fans. We had the good fortune of being able to watch the game with Kathie Patterson Rushing, an old college friend who lives in Atlanta, and who I hadn't seen, well, since graduation. But we reconnected via Facebook at the beginning of this trip, and were able to share this momentous occasion -- AU has only been to the NCAAs once, and that was last season -- with two other AU alums as well.
We closed the day by walking the dogs down to Centennial Olympic Park, where Jim decided to run through the fountain there for the hell of it.
- I accidentally used Joan's toothbrush a few days ago, and while she brushed it off -- get it? -- I knew she wouldn't be able to ever look at that toothbrush the same way again. So it was no surprise when she announced yesterday it was time for new toothbrushes for both of us. Yeah, like she thought I wouldn't see through that?
- Joan also was the recipient of the first physical injury of the trip a few days back, though -- thankfully -- no visible mark was left. After watching me carry my camera around for a few days, she finally convinced me that that strap-like thing on the camera was indeed a strap, and should be used like one. So, with my left hand on a dog leash, and the camera strapped around my left wrist, we headed out into Savannah. Now, anyone who has two dogs knows that leashes tend to get tangled, and one of the ways you fix that is to lift the leash over the head of the other person walking the dog. It's a simple maneuver. That is, unless you have a heavy camera strapped around your wrist. Then, what happens -- apparently -- is you smack the other person in the face with a heavy camera. Lesson learned. As usual, Joan had a great sense of humor about it. Then again, she nearly laughed herself to tears when I once slammed a door on my finger a few years back, so maybe she just enjoys pain. She really should be a Jets fan.
- Toothbrush violations and camera attacks aside, Joan really hit rock bottom on our way to Atlanta. Joan had just stopped to use the ladies' room, and was getting something out of the trunk -- with her butt facing out into the gas-pumping area of this convenience store -- when, out of the corner of her eye, she spotted a piece of toilet paper sticking out of the back of her jeans. She got back into the car, laughing hysterically, and said, "Oh my god, I had some toilet paper sticking out of the back of my jeans." She then started to get out of the car to throw out some trash, and I informed her, "You still do." Five minutes of maniacal laughter later, we got back on the road, freed of any tension and, thankfully, any toilet paper. Welcome to the perils of public restrooms, where the need to line the seat with toilet paper can lead to embarrassing moments like this. Tomorrow's chapter: The propriety of making a cell phone call while sitting on the can, as some guy did yesterday at the Target where we stopped for the toothbrushes. Yuck.
- The Toilet Paper Incident occurred only moments after I had exited the greatest convenience store ever. I'm a big fan of convenience stores, especially on trips like this, where you can get gas, a drink and use the bathroom in one fell swoop. We stopped outside Atlanta for all three reasons, and when I walked into the QuikTrip in McDonough, Ga., I almost teared up. It had a huge soda fountain with 30 different types of soda that took up a third of the place. They had Super Big Gulp-sized cups -- I only drink soda in massive quantities -- and clean restrooms, etc. Once we resolved Joan's toilet paper problem, I couldn't stop talking about how perfect this store was. Joan announced she was considering stuffing more toilet paper in her jeans just to get me to shut up.
- A few beagle-owning commenters (thanks for reading!) sent along this video of a beagle on Letterman the other night playing dead. Pretty funny. The point Letterman makes about beagles isn't really true; they actually have a wonderful disposition. They're just stubborn, and have a mind of their own. If you want to see two examples of how persistent beagles can be when they've decided they want something -- in these cases, freedom -- check out this escape from a pen, and this escape from a crate.
- OK, so I was wrong about Maryland losing to Wake Forest. They won, big. Consider this the end of my sports predictions for the trip. We watched the end of the game at the hotel, and while I considered heading down to the hotel bar to witness the debauchery -- c'mon, these ARE Maryland grads, for god sakes -- I chose not to. After all, it's not like they're actually in the NCAA tournament yet, unlike some other team I know.
- Random iPod shuffle song of the day: "All You Need Is Love," by The Beatles. Not one of my favorite Beatles songs, but at least it wasn't from John Williams or a soundtrack to a horror film. What are my favorite Beatles songs, you ask? Thanks for asking. Those would be "While My Guitar Gently Weeps," "Strawberry Fields Forever," "I Want You (She's So Heavy)," "The Two of Us" and -- believe it or not, a Ringo song -- "Don't Pass Me By."
- Most-played albums: Mostly R.E.M., though we weren't in the car all that much. Today will be a different story, however. We won't be hitting Alabama until the end of the day, but we're preparing for some Martha Reeves, Nat King Cole, Percy Sledge and Hank Williams. But no Jim Nabors (aka Gomer Pyle) or Bobby Goldsboro. You haven't lived until you've read the lyrics to "Honey,"
- Lunch: Uptown Cafe, Lawrenceville, Ga: We went to lunch with Dave Wittenberg, a friend of Joan's from college, and he took us to the kind of place you'd never find in a travel book or even in Roadfood. It was a tiny -- and I mean four-table tiny -- Middle Eastern place in Lawrenceville, Ga., about 30 northeast of Atlanta. And it was terrific, from the hummus to my chicken gyro. All in all, a great find. My only complaint: Like Babu Bhatt from "Seinfeld," who named his unsuccessful Pakistani cafe "The Dream Cafe," I do wonder why someone who makes such good Middle Eastern food would go for "Uptown Cafe." I thought, like Jerry, maybe I would suggest that, but I didn't want to become "a very, very bad man." Jim Nutrition Rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5). Restaurant Rating: 4 stars (out of 5).
- Dinner: The Varsity, Atlanta, Ga.: We stopped at this legendary drive in, and because we'd left the dogs in the car for the basketball game, we decided to eat in the car with them. That may have been part of the reason we were sadly underwhelmed by the totally unhealthy meal we had. Joan went for the chili dog and onion rings; I went burger and fries. The food was slightly cold, and unremarkable. We both took a walk inside, and the atmosphere was very cool. Too bad the food didn't match on this night. Jim Nutrition Rating: 2 (out of 5). Only because the portions were tiny, and we I left a good amount of my fries behind. Restaurant Rating: 2 stars (out of 5). Based on all the recommendations we got for The Varsity, we must have hit a bad night.
- Westin Peachtree Plaza, Atlanta, Ga.: Love the hotel, love the view. One interesting note about this hotel. It was exactly one year ago today that the hotel was battered by the tornado that slammed into downtown Atlanta. The Westin, which is more than 70 stories, got hit hard and suffered significant window damage. A year later, a lot of those windows remain unrepaired, and no one we talked to seemed to understand why. Rating: 4.5 stars (out of 5).
- Roadside America: Tired of boring historical sites, national parks and art museums, and just want to know where every Paul Bunyan statue is, and where there might be a Jell-O Museum? This is your site. This month's special: Weird roadside creatures.
COMMENT OF THE DAY
From Diana Giammarco:
Nice. Very nice. :-)
UPCOMING PLAN (subject to change)
- Today: Andersonville, Plains and Warm Springs, Ga., and dinner near Montgomery, Ala.
- Tomorrow: Alabama, specifically Montgomery and Mobile.
- The Next Day: The Gulf Coast, probably Mobile and Pensacola, Fla.
BONUS BEAGLE PHOTO