There is one thing we have clear delineation on when it comes to this blog: Carson writes the Local Color / Field Notes posts. And I couldn't be happier about it because I think I speak for all of us when I say that reading Carson's writing is a treat, and it's one of the things I think is unique about our blog. But, you're stuck with me for Atlanta. Because, well, Carson wasn't there. He was on a reporting trip out west. So I'll do my best. Bare with me and be gentle, okay?
Carson almost missed his flight. When he'd punched the directions into Google Maps the night before it estimated a 48-minute drive from Fort Yargo State Park to the Atlanta airport. We packed and jumped in the car at 4:45 a.m. 1 hour 8 minutes, Google said. Not wanting to spur a panic, I muttered, "You'll be fine. Let's get going."
We were ten minutes from the terminal when Google told us to take the wrong exit. We were both slightly panicked seeing the clock turn to 5:50 a.m. I tried course correcting Google, but it was trying to take us back the same way. "I DON'T KNOW WHAT TO DO," I shouted. Then I saw a sign for domestic terminals and barked for him to follow it. We arrived at 6:05 a.m. His flight left at 6:45 a.m. I kissed him curtly and hopped behind the wheel, my first time in the driver's seat and by myself since we started the trip.
My mom and I agreed that she would visit while Carson was away on his trip. I could have certainly stayed by myself in Elsie for the week. But we'd had a rough month, and when she offered to come I felt relieved. I wondered to myself at what age you stop needing your mom. I clearly hadn't hit it yet.
I ran errands the rest of the day and felt the normalcy of "regular" life. I returned some items to Lowe's. Bought stamps at the post office. Wandered around Target.
At 7:00 p.m. I called my best friend. We'd replaced our Wednesday night suppers with phone calls since I hit the road. It didn't matter: I looked forward to it. We played catch up as I drove to the airport for the second time. I cut our call short at 8:30 p.m. and greeted Cindy (aka MOM) at the United terminal with near tears in my eyes and a strong embrace.
"Welcome to Atlanta!"
That first night we ate bar food and shared a Michelob Ultra at Friends bar and grill in Winder. The waitress was bubbly, even as her shift came to a close. I remembered thinking that I felt the same way. Partly because my mom was there -- our first road visitor. But also because she'd brought the engagement ring Carson proposed with two months earlier. It felt like an (expensive) alien on my finger.
The next day we woke late and took a long walk around the lake with Costello. We lost track of time, but we needed to get moving: we had a 2:15 p.m. appointment at BHLDN. I quickly showered and prepared to do something I never thought I would: try on wedding dresses.
I'll be honest: for a girl who has never dreamed of wedding dresses and veils, we had a surprisingly good time. I was completely goofy and awkward, but somehow still felt beautiful and happy. I belly laughed more than once with our stylist, Peyton (she's a dream, btw). I finished my champagne and hugged my mom. We did it.
I'd made a list of Atlanta to-dos, one of which was having a drink at the Sun Dial restaurant in the Westin DT. We paid too much for parking, walked around Centennial Olympic Park, strolled through the CNN Center and then headed to the 72nd floor for champagne and riesling at the top of Atlanta. We rotated (it slowly spins!) and laughed and ate pretzels and spicy peanuts.
We drove to Decatur that night where we shared kohlrabi soup, arancini and radicchio salad at Cakes & Ale. I had a delicious gin cocktail called the brass button; my mom had the Vouvray. I confess: we talked about wedding stuff. I've barely been able to utter the words "engaged" "marriage" "wedding" "plans" to any other human on the planet. I thought it'd feel weird. But wedding planning with your mom is almost animal instinct. It's evolutionary. It feels okay.
The next day we hiked. Fort Yargo has a beautiful 7-mile trail that circles the lake. Costello led the way, pulling us across bridges and birding trails. That afternoon we talked about the business I'm starting in the nearby Tarbucks (that's Target Starbucks). I downloaded a movie from iTunes. We ate frozen yogurt at Menchie's. We cooked a delicious supper of quinoa, pork chops and peas that night, binged on a few episodes of The Leftovers and called it a night.
Saturday was our day in the city. We drove to the Chamblee MARTA station, bought our Breeze cards and hopped on the train toward Five Points. I'm so glad my mom likes taking public transportation. I always think it's a great way to see the city. We got off at the King Memorial around 10:30 a.m., hoping we weren't too late to sign up for a tour of ML's childhood home. But it was Saturday and the Memorial was swarming with bus loads and carfuls of families and school groups. We watched a video in the visitor's center, walked past his home and visited the gift shop -- the closest we'd get to a tour. We sat in the pews at the Ebenezer Baptist Church where the King family preached and paid a visit to the reflecting pool. We reflected on our own memories of Dr. King and the civil rights movement.
We were starved, so we rode to Midtown. We had shakshuka and a fried green tomato sandwich at Hi-Five Diner before strolling over to Piedmont Park. It was a sunny day and the park was swarming with dogs and runners and park goers. I, on the other hand, was in a deep food coma. We sat on a monument's ledge overlooking the grassy field below. We people-watched and followed drones flying high in the sky. After an hour just talking and watching we walked back to MARTA and stumbled upon the Margaret Mitchell home -- another check ff the list of things to see. Then we boarded MARTA for Buckhead and Lenox Square. We didn't really feel like shopping, but thought it'd be fun to walk around.
Okay, we went to Madewell and I bought a top and mom my purchased some earrings. We're human.
Madewell bags in hand, we boarded MARTA at the Lenox stop, got back into our car at Chamblee and drove toward Elsie. We walked Costello and had another supper in: homemade turkey burgers with spring mix salad. We watched the movie Laggies that night. I don't recommend it, but God I do love Sam Rockwell.
On Sunday we visited Stone Mountain park. I had been looking forward to this for a long time, wanting to see that monolith stone rising out of nowhere and to hike around the park. Getting parked and finding the trails was surprisingly frustrating. And we were hangry. We got off to a rough start. But we grabbed Costello and started on the trail. The first part was slippery, wet and rocky but then turned to a dirt path. The pace was set entirely by Costello, who pulled my mom along the entire 5-mile trail. We paused to see the confederate memorial carved into the stone facade and watch park officials make fake snow at the "Snow Mountain" attraction next to it. Ironic given that my mom was flying back into a snowstorm in Nebraska the next day.
Dogs aren't allowed on the trail up, so we did the obligatory tourist-y option and took the sky tram to the top. If you're able, hike it. You're not missing much on the short tram ride there and back.
Overall, our trip together was rejuvenating and fun and light and easy and familiar and all the things I needed after two long months adjusting to the road. Plus we finished The Leftovers, and finishing a television series always makes you feel complete.
The next morning we got stuck in traffic on the way to pick up Carson, but thankfully only ended up being 30 minutes late (thank you, HOV lane). Carson was exhausted after taking the red eye, but we had about 2 hours before my mom needed to be back at the airport for her flight home. We drove to the only place that felt fitting: Waffle House. They were all over the Atlanta metro area. Neither my mom or I had been to one, so the time was right.
But then again maybe the time wasn't right. I gotta tell you: not my fave. The waffle was like an eggo. The scrambled egg a little too...yellow? I don't know. It wasn't a charming end to the trip (sorry, mom).
As we dropped her back at the United terminal, I shed a few "I miss you so visit again, okay?" tears. Carson chuckled at the dramatics. I punched his arm and hopped once again behind the drivers seat.
"Do you need to plug in the address?"
"Nope. I know the way home," I said.