Round America Trip – Day 1

Day 1 — April 1 — Tuesday

Lost in Atlanta

The time: 9:15 am. The date: April 1. The place: Atlanta, Georgia. Our trip Round America begins.

After years of thinking about this trip and several months of intense planning and research, we charged out of our home at 9:15 am filled with excitement and anticipation. 28,036 on the odometer – will be over 56,000 after we visit all 50 states. “Baby You Can Drive My Car” by The Beatles was cued up on the CD player and provided great dancin’ music as we hit the road. We were pumped!

We ran right straight into Atlanta’s biggest de-ttraction: nasty bumper-to-bumper traffic. Thirty minutes later, we managed to escape, top off the gas tank, grab a couple of Cokes, and put the car in high gear headed east to Athens, Georgia. Enthusiasm filled the air.

I almost immediately learned the hard way that our 29-cent clip-in-the-window-sill cup holders should not be asked to hold nearly full open cans of Coca-Cola. Our second stop was in a church parking lot a few blocks from our home to clean up all the Coke. But nothing could dampen our enthusiasm, so we cranked her into high gear once again, and we were off – vowing that we would let nothing bring us down – this was to be a happy, fun, experience-of-a-lifetime!

We then became hopelessly lost trying to find the little two-lane road I had chosen off a map. An hour into the trip, we came upon the golden dome of the Georgia State Capitol Building. It glistened beautifully in the late morning sun. One problem: the Georgia State Capitol Building is in downtown Atlanta – due south from our home and NOWHERE near Athens, Georgia. All we could do was laugh! A fitting start to the trip. I could have probably driven straight to the world’s largest ball of twine in Cawker City, Kansas (where I’d not yet been), but I couldn’t even find my way out of the town we live in! Sometimes we can’t see the trees for the forest. I had the big picture, but I couldn’t put together one of the most important little pieces. With the help of a cell phone and our daughter, Brittany, we managed to get headed in the right direction, and we ultimately made it to Athens – just two hours later than planned.

Behind schedule, we didn’t stop to see any sights in Athens. Not the way we had planned to begin the trip.

From Athens, we took the Antebellum Trail – a highway that goes through an area of Georgia with beautiful antebellum homes. We fell in love with Madison, Georgia. Madison is described as the “#1 Small Town in America.” Gorgeous streets with stately homes, a wonderful town square, great shops, nice people, and just a warm feeling.

We took a lot of photos, and we had an excellent lunch at The Madison Gift Mart & Cafe. Our waitress, Ginger, was delightful, and we thoroughly enjoyed hearing about life in her very small town. Ginger reported in her DEEP southern accent that everyone in Madison was really excited about the new skating rink (roller, no doubt). Unfortunately, the place will only hold 250 people, and it’s almost impossible to get in because the young kids have made it their hangout. She bemoaned the fact that Wal-Mart is about the only place in town to shop. But she loves living in Madison and commented about how special it is that since the town has only one elementary school, one middle school, and one high school, her children will attend all 12 years of school with the same friends. (That’s an interesting concept for someone like me who had lived in 15 cities and 31 homes in 54 years). Clearly Ginger and the folks in Madison do have a kinder and gentler life than we know in the big cities where we have lived.

We also met Savannah and April at the cafe, and we took their photo. The Blackberry Cobbler was recommended by the nice lady at the Madison Chamber of Commerce, and it was excellent – just like Grandma used to make! Even better was the Gentleman Jim’s Tea – 1/2 sweet tea and 1/2 lemonade. Try it; it’s really good. We planned to eat in Juliette at the Fried Green Tomatoes Cafe, but it was closed on Mondays and Tuesdays, so we will visit it at another time.

We managed to get lost two additional times today. It appears that one of the great challenges of driving around the country on two-lane roads will be FINDING the darned roads. Highway 8 to Dacula (that’s Dracula without the R) just isn’t marked clearly. We may need that GPS system that Uncle Ward told us to take.

We took a number of photos along the way. We saw some expressions of patriotism, but nowhere near what we all saw after 9/11. Dacula and Madison showed the greatest patriotism.

We had a nice dinner at The Shrimp Factory (recommended by Karen, our dental hygienist in Atlanta). Our waiter, Michael, took great care of us and even showed us how to get to Forrest Gump’s bus bench tomorrow. We topped off dinner with the pie recommended by Amanda from the hotel — White Chocolate Coconut Cream Pie. Barbara said it was the best pie she had ever eaten in her life! It was tasty.

We took a stroll down the lovely waterfront area before calling it a night. Savannah is truly a uniquely beautiful American city, and we look forward to tomorrow.

The biggest lesson we learned today, or most important observation, is that there is a kinder and gentler life in the smaller towns in America. Small towns seem somewhat insulated from the negative aspects of life in big cities.

The Daily Journal of Round America:

Each day, we collect our thoughts on a web page just like this. We drop in some of the photos from the day. Our goal with the Daily Journal is to write about the towns we visit, the sights we see, the people we meet, and the pie we eat. We write about where we are, where we’ve been, and where we are going, but we also make observations about what we’ve seen and done as well as about life in general.

You can follow our travels from the Daily Journal section of this website. Other pages of interest include the running report of “vital statistics” on the Trip Scorecard, our nominations for the Best & Worst of the trip, as well as a rating of the pie we eat. If you’d like to see information for a specific state or town, click here, and then click on the state of interest and the full itinerary is shown.

Random Comments:

Some folks think we are nuts to take off driving around the country for several months. In honor of those people, we chose April Fool’s Day to begin our adventure. Maybe we are crazy, but we are very excited to see so many wonderful sights in this great country that most of us never see. There aren’t a lot of people who could or would take off and drive around the country for four months, so we’ve created and will build this website to provide a virtual tour for those of you who wish you could do something like this…or those of you who are just curious.

More Information on the Sights Visited Today:

Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta — Apalachee School House — Madison, Georgia