The drive from Interlachen FL to Atlanta Marietta RV Resort in Marietta GA, just northwest of Atlanta, was 379 miles and would take 6 hours, 2 minutes according to Google Maps. I had already hooked the Ram to the Bighorn so I had minimal “prep to travel” tasks in the morning. That preparation is vital whenever I want to get an early start – and an early start would be essential if I were to get through Atlanta metro before the afternoon rush hour. I managed to get on the road a few minutes before 6 AM on Wednesday, May 16, 2018 with my first cup of coffee in my travel mug. Fortunately, I was travelling north so the rising sun was not an issue. The trip, although long, was uneventful, and the early afternoon Atlanta traffic was much lighter than I had anticipated.
The weather forecasts for my entire Atlanta stay were iffy, more iffy and most iffy. Rain chances were over 30% for every day and some days the probabilities went as high as 90%. Using the hourly forecasts, I planned my tourism activities for morning or afternoon. My first stop on Friday, May 18 2018 was at
the Georgia State Capitol and Museum
in Atlanta. I quickly found on-street parking with a 2-hour limit about half a block from the capitol. Hmmm, might that have been designed for the visitor? Outside, I found several statues of famous Georgians, including former President Jimmy Carter, and four 1920-era bronze placards commemorating and summarizing the evacuation, the siege, the transfer of command and the battle of Atlanta during the Civil War.
Both the exterior and the interior of the capitol are relatively “plain Jane,” and the visitor accommodations are sparse, limited to a nicely done, but very brief, overview. No guided tours are available to walk-ins. The “museum” consists of numerous display cases on the fourth floor all of which provide only a C-U-R-S-O-R-Y overview of any given subject or historical event. For example, seven elected offices, from Lieutenant Governor to Insurance Commissioner are described in a single paragraph each and all offices are explained in a single display case! Fortunately, and as I found out later in my visit, the “museum” at the Georgia State Capitol is not the authority for Georgia’s history. As state capitols and state history museums go, the Georgia State Capitol and Museum, unfortunately, could easily be omitted
from the “time-conscious” tourist’s list without suffering any significant loss. Indeed, I cannot think of a less impressive capitol/museum of the thirty or so I have visited.
During my quest for a nice exterior photo of the landmark, I made a stop at the Georgia War Veterans Memorial Plaza
. The memorial park, dedicated on April 6, 1998, resides across the street from the capitol and was one of my planned stops anyway. I first encountered an older “plain jane” Vietnam Veterans Memorial first located about a block from the current plaza and first dedicated on July 4, 1979. It was relocated to the (All) Veterans Plaza on October 2, 2013. Memorials to the veterans of the Spanish-American War, World Wars I and II and the Vietnam War were original fixtures in the plaza, and memorials to veterans of the Desert Shield and Desert Storm campaigns and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been added. The centerpiece of the plaza is a Vietnam sculpture of three figures and contains the following inscription: "THIS MEMORIAL IS DEDICATED TO THOSE GEORGIANS WHO FOUGHT, DIED AND ARE STILL MISSING IN ACTION IN SOUTHEAST ASIA. THEY ANSWERED THEIR COUNTRY’S CALL TO DUTY WITH COURAGE AND SACRIFICE AND
THEY SHALL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN.” Of the 228,000 Georgians who served in the military during the Vietnam era, 1584 were Killed in Action, 41 remain Missing in Action, 8534 were Wounded in Action, 21 were held as Prisoners of War and five were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Very nicely done.
My next stop was at the CDC/Global Health Odyssey Museum
in Atlanta. The U.S. Public Health Service established the Communicable Disease Center (CDC) in 1946 to work on malaria, typhus and other communicable diseases. First, make no mistake, this is not your typical museum and is not something to excite the average tourist; however, my medical background and my quest for the unique placed this attraction on my Atlanta list. Second, the security hurdles are significant – I had to open all four doors of my truck, and it was casually searched before I was granted a visitor pass and access to the parking deck. Upon entering the building, I had to negotiate a metal detector (which I always fail because of my suspenders) before I could enter the museum.
After getting through the various layers of security, I first encountered a nicely done temporary exhibit about the 1918
influenza pandemic. In the main museum, one is reminded of major health events through time – polio in the 1940s and 50s; the Swine Flu outbreak and the Legionnaires’ Disease mystery in the United States in 1976; the deadly Ebola fever outbreak in Africa; and the AIDS epidemic of the 1980s and 90s. A handful of pieces of vintage “state-of-the-art” medical equipment is on display. Public health emergencies such as Love Canal in 1978, Three Mile Island in 1979, Mount Saint Helens in 1980 and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1994, led CDC to place more emphasis on preparedness. Terrorist attacks, such as the 1995 sarin gas attacks in the Tokyo, Japan subway system and anthrax attacks in the U.S. in 2001, resulted in new CDC efforts to combat bioterrorism. New approaches to combating old medical problems, such as venereal disease, diabetes and heart disease; and new ways of thinking about old problems not previously considered public health issues, such as violence, has broadened the mission of CDC. Although CDC/Global Health Odyssey Museum satisfied the appetite of a professional tourist with a medical background looking for an attraction “outside the box,” it is not a destination for everyone; indeed, I
cannot even recommend the attraction to the average tourist because of the security obstacles confronting the visitor.
Saturday, May 19, 2018 found me heading for the 35-acre Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site
in Atlanta – one of the sites on my list with significant outdoor time and the need for a relatively fair-weather day. The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site is not a building but rather a campus of new buildings and a community of historic structures in the Sweet Auburn neighborhood. On the way to the visitor center from the parking lot, I entered Freedom Park, paused along the "International Civil Rights Walk of Fame," which commemorates some of the courageous pioneers who worked for social justice, and then encountered a statue of Mohandas Gandhi. Inside the visitor center, there are numerous multimedia exhibits outlining the life of King and the Civil Rights Movement, and one wing highlights the life and philosophies of Mohandas Gandhi. Other campus exhibits outside the visitor center include the "I Have a Dream" International World Peace Rose Garden, a reflecting pool, the tombs of Dr. & Mrs. King and Freedom Hall.
After visiting the King Complex, I took a stroll through the Sweet Auburn
neighborhood, which includes Martin Luther King Jr.'s boyhood home; the original Ebenezer Baptist Church, where King was baptized and where both he and his father Martin Luther King Sr., were pastors and the 1894 Fire Station No. 6, which served the Sweet Auburn community until 1991. King and his friends used to play behind Fire Station No. 6 which today, I am told, contains an exhibit about desegregation in the Atlanta Fire Department. Unfortunately, both the boyhood home and the firehouse were inaccessible on the day of my visit. As I wandered through the neighborhood taking some pictures, I happened upon a local “Ma and Pa” eatery and stopped for a breakfast burrito smothered in chitlins and collard greens. Just kidding, but a breakfast burrito definitely was not an option I was expecting to find on the menu. Uncle Larry, get your corn-fed brain outside the box!
I deem it unfair to compare the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site to the National Civil Rights Museum
(located in the former Lorraine Motel, site of the assassination of Dr. King) which I visited in 2015 (There's a Lot More Than Graceland in Memphis TN
), so I won’t. Both are outstanding attractions. For those interested in watching numerous A/V presentations and
reading numerous placards at either facility, plan to spend the entire day. For those planning to read and watch everything, plan for a week-long stay!
Sunday morning found me heading to The World of Coca Cola
, also in Atlanta, which was to open at 10 AM according to the information I had gathered. Being fashionably late, I had a fashionable wait – until 11 AM. The World of Coca Cola has, well, the world of Coca Cola – the creation, the growth, the memorabilia and the taste. Make no mistake, this is a family museum with the emphasis on the younger generation; however, there are sufficient displays geared to we oldsters that keep the attraction interesting and fun while being educational and nostalgic. John S. Pemberton, an Atlanta pharmacist, tinkered with new products in his small laboratory. In Spring 1886, he came up with a formula that was not only a new soft drink flavor, but an entirely new category of soft drink – the cola. Two years later, he sold his company but died shortly thereafter. From a single bottling plant in Chattanooga TN in 1899, Coca Cola grew to 1800 plants by 1920. Coke was bottled in straight-sided bottles, but all
The Sampling Area Was My Favorite
The World of Coca Cola - Atlanta GA
that changed when, according to a 1915 design briefing, the company sought, “A bottle so distinct that it could be recognized by touch in the dark or when lying broken on the ground.” The contour bottle was born.
Other corporate landmarks are noted, the Polar Bear is available for photographs and the “vault” holding the closely guarded “secret formula” is open for public examination. Of course, a bank of video surveillance monitors is emblazoned with the faces of visitors captured from several locations within the “vault.” Although I prefer several other soft drink flavors over cola, and I prefer Pepsi over Coke, I will not dispute Coke’s stature as an American icon in the global marketplace. That admission leads me to my favorite area in the attraction – Coca Cola Freestyle. This area has a dozen or so “self-service” soda fountains (ala those found in fast food restaurants) containing soda products from various countries, I assume all made by Coca Cola but there is no signage supporting that assumption. I tried 12-15 different drinks from a dozen or so different countries. Very interesting and unique. Although what some might describe as a two-hour commercial, I found the attraction interesting
The Good …
Jimmy Carter Library and Museum - Atlanta GA
and would not dissuade nor encourage anybody from attending.
My second downtown Atlanta stop on a “schoolless Sunday” was the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum
. Finding the site was no problem and finding parking was no problem either, but finding the actual facility was happenstance. The grounds are well-forested and the building housing the center is equally well-camouflaged, but my keen sense of intuition set me off in the proper direction. Yeah, right. Raised in a wealthy family of peanut farmers, Carter graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1946 and joined the United States Navy’s submarine service. After the death of his father in 1953, Carter left his Naval career and returned home to Georgia, in part, to take on the reins of his family's peanut-growing business. Jimmy Carter Library and Museum is much more about the man’s youth and the values that were instilled in him during those formative years than about his accomplishments as an adult. Indeed, it was his need to do more for humanity, the other part, that was the decisive factor leading to his departure from the Navy and his return to civilian life. Carter served two terms in the Georgia State Senate before becoming the
… Along with the Bad
Jimmy Carter Library and Museum - Atlanta GA
Governor of Georgia and was then elected to one term as the 39th President of the United States (1977-1981).
After his presidency, Carter remained active pursuing humanitarian causes. Most of us oldsters remember him pounding nails with the Habitat for Humanity project. In 1982, he set up the Carter Center as his base for advancing human rights. He has traveled extensively to conduct peace negotiations, to observe elections and to advance disease prevention and eradication in developing nations. In 2002, Carter was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his work in co-founding the Carter Center.
Arguably, Carter’s greatest achievement was the Camp David Accords
, signed by Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin on September 17, 1978, following twelve days of secret negotiations at Camp David. The peace between Egypt and Israel has lasted since the treaty went into effect in January 1980, and Egypt has become an important strategic partner of both Israel and the United States. Again arguably, his greatest failure was the unsuccessful, botched hostage rescue in Iran, Operation Eagle Claw, on April 24, 1980. On November 4, 1979 a group of Iranian students had taken over the U.S. Embassy in Tehran. Fifty-two
American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for the next 444 days until January 20, 1981, the same day as the presidential inauguration of Carter’s successor, Ronald Reagan. In 2012, Carter surpassed Herbert Hoover as the longest-retired president in U.S. history and is the first president to mark the 40th
anniversary of his inauguration. I’ve now been retired from the fire department for longer than I worked, but Carter has been retired from the presidency for ten times longer than he worked. I don’t think I’ll reach that milestone! It’s really not practical to visit the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum and the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site
, some three hours south of Atlanta in Plains GA, on the same day. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t visit the Atlanta facility when I was in Plains – A President and a Confederate POW Camp – Albany GA
. For those who have seen neither, one attraction is requisite; but, for the average tourist, having both on the “must see” list might be unnecessary.
After visiting the Wisconsin River Papermaking Museum
in Wisconsin Rapids WI in August 2015, Always Capture "The Highground" - Stevens Point WI
, I placed its sister facility, the Robert C. Williams American Museum of Papermaking
on my “to do while in Atlanta” list. First, there are numerous distinct differences between the Atlanta attraction and the Wisconsin Rapids
Paper Drying in China – Photo by Dard Hunter in 1931
Robert C. Williams American Museum of Papermaking - Atlanta GA
facility. Atlanta is 99.9 percent about paper-making while the Wisconsin Rapids attraction includes other topics related to paper-making IN WISCONSIN RAPIDS. Dozens of placards describe (some might argue hypothesize) the use of papyrus to record the ancient writings of the Egyptians; the use of huun and amati by the Myans and Aztecs; the use of strips of bark (some as long as thirty feet) to record genealogy, religion, poison antidotes and cures for ailments by the Batak people on the Island of Sumatra in Indonesia; and early paper-making in Japan, Korea and China, where paper is believed to have been invented in 105 A.D. There is a small section about William Joseph "Dard" Hunter, as well there should be, for he was the authority on the history of paper-making and travelled the world in pursuit of the genesis of paper-making in various cultures. Other topics include the invention of printing, lithography and watermarks; a short biography of Johannes Gutenberg; the development of books; and, finally, modern paper-making. Neither attraction has been cast in the “earth shattering” mold; however, both provide interesting insight into one aspect of everyday American life. Unlike most university-situated attractions, the Robert C. Williams American Museum of
Papermaking has its own small, free, visitor-friendly parking lot just outside the entrance.
My second stop on Monday, May 21, 2018 was the Atlanta History Center
in, you betcha, Atlanta. A timeline first tells the visitor about the Native cultures but soon relates that this railroad passenger stop was initially called Terminus but soon became known as Marthasville and, finally in 1845, Atlanta. Two years later, the growing town was incorporated. A display case contains artifacts related to notable events and topics in Atlanta history including cotton, Civil War battles, the creation of Coca Cola, prohibition, the Ku Klux Klan, Gone with the Wind
, the introduction of professional sports franchises, the murderous rampage of Wayne Williams and the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. An interactive monitor allows the visitor to examine the growth of Atlanta and the problems accompanying that growth. The main exhibit area expands and supplements the snippet of information given in the timeline and adds new topics such as the problem of child labor in the (cotton) garment industry, the desegregation of Atlanta’s public schools, politics and women’s suffrage as well as Atlanta’s religious diversity. Last, the main exhibit examines the sense of community found in barber shops and
local eateries in times past.
There are several focused exhibits which might be or might not be temporary. The first, “Barbecue Nation,” exalts the wonders of that (traditionally Southern) taste sensation. “Native Lands: Indians and Georgia” briefly examines native history from early Anglo intrusion through the Trail of Tears to modern times via contemporary historians and artists. The life of one of America’s most famous golfers is depicted in “Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story” while “Shaping Traditions: Folk Arts in a Changing South” does exactly what the title implies. The final exhibit, “Year of Crisis: Turning Point 1860,” examines the Civil War in a unique perspective with placards explaining why each side (the North and the South) wanted to fight in the first place, how each side planned to win the war and what happened. Then, the “Agonies of the Wounded” and “A Time of Dying” relate the human costs of the war. The Atlanta History Center is very well done and should be a “must see” attraction for every Atlanta visitor. Thankfully, the Georgia State Capitol and Museum isn’t the only lady in the dance hall.
Visiting Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park
in nearby Kennesaw GA was a challenge –
“Why Did the South Fight?”
Atlanta History Center - Atlanta GA
highway paving has been, as usual, ongoing throughout my summer travels. On my first unsuccessful attempt (of two), I was fortunate enough to be able to park in the overflow parking lot and walk about ¼ mile to the visitor center but was unable to drive to the top of the mountain. I couldn’t even get close to the facility or the road on my second attempt. Admittedly, that drive was not a life-and-death matter that preoccupied my thoughts throughout my visit. Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park commemorates the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain
, part of a much large Union offensive known as the Atlanta Campaign
. The Atlanta Campaign was a series of battles fought throughout northwest Georgia and the area around Atlanta during the summer of 1864. Union Maj. Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman invaded Georgia near Chattanooga TN in May 1864 and was opposed by Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston. Johnston repeatedly withdrew his army toward Atlanta in the face of successive flanking maneuvers by Sherman. In July 1864, Confederate president Jefferson Davis replaced Johnston with a more aggressive commander. Gen. John Bell Hood began challenging the Union Army in a series of costly frontal assaults. Hood's army was eventually besieged in Atlanta. The
“How Did the North Plan to Win?”
Atlanta History Center - Atlanta GA
city fell on September 2, 1864 and set the stage for Sherman's infamous March to the Sea.
The Battle of Kennesaw Mountain was the next-to-last battle with Johnston as the commander of Confederate forces. It was the most significant frontal assault launched by Sherman against Johnston, but the battle, per se, ended in a tactical defeat for the Union forces. Strategically and overall, however, the battle failed to deliver what the Confederacy desperately needed – namely, a halt to Sherman's advance on Atlanta. The visitor center presentation offers overall topics about the Civil War, including a timeline and the reasons the North and the South were at odds, and then begins to focus on the Battle of Atlanta before zeroing in on the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain. As are most National Park Service facilities, the visitor center is well-done; however, I cannot offer a comment on the battlefield itself. I guess that leaves my reader with a little intrigue!
In my travels to and from the RV park, I had seen an interesting-looking 1950s-looking eatery, Marietta Diner
. The placemats impressed me. Apparently, two brothers own six Marietta restaurants. That is not uncommon, but what is unique is that each
of the six has a different cuisine – Marietta Fish Market
, Pasta Belle
, Yeero Village
(Authentic Greek), Casa Grande Bar & Grill
(Mexican) and Cherokee Cattle Company
(moo). In pondering the business model, I decided that a prospective diner might surmise that good food, good service and fair prices at one establishment might translate to finding the same qualities at a sister establishment when the patron is not in the mood for XXX cuisine on any given day. Pretty creative!
There were other attractions I would like to have seen, but for various reasons, including the unpredictable weather, they were omitted. Underground Atlanta
was closed for renovation. Tours of the CNN Center
sell out days in advance, and, not knowing the parking situation, I wasn’t willing to have a tour scheduled such that a three-block walk through a downpour would be necessary. The $15.00 price tag for a tour of the Fox Theatre
was a little bit much in my opinion. I drove around for a half hour trying to find a parking space near Centennial Olympic Park
before I abandoned the attraction, although I would have loved to take a ride on the Ferris wheel. And last, the Center for Puppetry Arts
was next on my list, but the calendar and the weather just plain didn’t
For me, Atlanta was a mixed bag. My GPS got me to the places I wanted to go in spite of construction everywhere. That is not an unusual phenomenon – past generations of governmental officials have opted to keep taxes low to assure reelection and, therefore, to pass the buck on to their successors. These cities are now forced to react to an overwhelming problem while other cities (the minority, for sure) have opted to behave proactively so when growth inevitably occurs the solution is much less challenging. Parking, for the most part, was just as insane as the traffic; however, I never felt uneasy about my safety, and everyone I encountered was friendly and courteous. Will I return to complete my unfinished agenda? Perhaps, but there are several other “revisit” locales sitting higher on my priority list.
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