On the road again
If Willie Nelson had only written one song in his career, “On the road again” would still make him a star in my book. Going place where I’ve never been, seeing things that I may never see again is much of what I live for.
So today was just great. I drove from Gatlinburg to Auburn, Alabama (home of Bill Pollacek’s alma mater), then back up to Peachtree, Georgia. Then to that mind numbing pile of concrete known as Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport to pick up Gail, out to Senoia, GA for a pre-wedding party, and back to Peachtree. Quite a day.
Leaving Gatlinburg, you get to drive through Great Smoky Mountain National Park, which is just a delight. The mountains really are “smoky” which is a haze from the moisture and organic compounds exuded by the lush vegetation. The road winds through a few small towns, full of tourist attractions and old-style roadside motels.
The closest town to Gatlinburg is Pigeon Forge, home of Dollywood, Dolly Parton’s amusement park and the largest local employer. Every Friday and Saturday night the entire town turns into a car show, with enthusiasts coming from hundreds of miles around to see and be seen in their lovingly maintained and kept cars. It was a particular pleasure to see dozens on wonderful cars, Model T’s ad A’s and every kind of Chevy and old trucks et cetera driving towards Pigeon Forge as I was driving away.
Passing into Georgia, you move into the Chattahoochee National Forest. Here the land slowly flattens out, and there is more population. Just driving along and seeing the houses, all with 2 or 3 well-tended acres of surrounding lawn is a pleasure. Traffic moves slowly here: the speed limits are low and people seem to obey them. The world looks different at 55 than it does at 80, and while I wouldn’t drive down I-5 to Los Angeles that slowly, it seems particularly fitting here in the South.
Soon, though, the traffic gets more and more congested, there are more buildings and signs, and you are in the outskirts of Atlanta. Gone is the two lane highway, this is Interstate 85, barreling through a major city. Smoky Mountain Haze has given way to downtown smog. It isn’t as much fun anymore.
But this, too, passes, and once more you are in the country. Wide lanes, (no concrete center dividers here, just a very wide swath of grass between directions of freeway), big open shoulders and green, green, green.
Six miles from the Alabama border is the KIA Avenue exit, where KIA motors, from Korea, has built an automobile assembly plant. The may have closed the NUMMI plant in Fremont, but here is a right-to-work state with very low wages the economics are attractive.
Stopping at the first rest stop just inside the state of Alabama, I was struck by the beautiful building with solid brick construction–California rest stops are nothing like this.
Auburn University is like something from a picture book of what a college should look like–all imposing brick buildings of stately design. Fraternity row consists of huge mansions for the young elite. I had an iced tea at Toomers, which is supposedly one of Oprah’s 50 things to do before you die–all fresh squeezed lemons and pure cane sugar. Lots of sugar. My kind of drink, to be sure.
Then back up the road to check into our hotel and go collect Gail at the airport. Her flight was late, and I got EIGHT automated phone calls from American Airlines with varying takeoff and landing times. Atlanta-Hartsfield is an ugly, ill-designed pile of concrete that serves the entire South–if you die and go to Heaven, you must pass through ATL. If you aren’t going to Heaven, Hell is just staying in the airport for eternity.
(exhaustion took over at this point in the writing: I finished this on Saturday morning)
We are here for the wedding of Becky Rice,who is the director of the Ruth Bancroft Garden in Walnut Creek, to John Harrington, who is a music teacher in Antioch. He is also a professional musician, and the post-rehearsal party was at a pub in Senoia, Becky’s home town. John has had a jazz band for many years, and they are here for the wedding. And that is how the tiny town of Senoia had world-class jazz last night. It was quite a party.
If there is indeed a limit to how much you can cram into one day, I think I found it yesterday. The story of the wedding tomorrow.