Wednesday, December 12

Atlanta, GA and welcomed whiplash!

Recently I returned from a work-related trip to Atlanta, GA. I have issues with the South--let me get that out there up-front. Before anyone tells me that's an irrational, prejudicial position to hold, let me say that my issues are highly rational--in my view--and deeply rooted in historical fact and unfortunately reinforced by some past ventures to the South. I admit to falling short here. So, as part of learning to "let go" and not sweating small stuff, I openly looked forward to the trip.

The change from the Midwestern snow and cold was much welcomed! I expected a sweltering Atlanta; instead, it was just pleasantly mild. Walking around the city was light jacket weather the entire time. Four days is not a lot of time but on the day I left, temps were inching up to the 70s.

Work, however, prevented me from any deep city explorations. I was so near the Margaret Mitchell house but because I've never seen the movie Gone with the Wind nor have I read the book (a boycott and ban on both that I launched in high school remains in effect) it didn't make sense to go there. I had hoped for the Martin Luther King National Historical Site, a CNN tour, the Zoo, and the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. If I could, I thought I'd try to get to the Carter Center, and Stone Mountain, GA, which made me curious given its historical symbolism and reference in one of King's most famous speeches. Unfortunately, I managed only the Martin Luther King site and the neighborhood surrounding King's childhood home. Additionally, I did a lot of walking and admired the Downtown and Midtown architecture.

The Interstate system in the Chicago area trains us well. I-75/I-85, were easy to navigate and I imagined riding along these fast roads to quickly ride beyond Atlanta's business district and the shopping malls. I spotted many snaky arteries and backroads that both excited and frightened me. Backroads in the Midwest also pose a challenge but it's more familiar territory even if the same dangers lurk. Backroads in the South, however, are unfamiliar and tainted with a nightmarish history I can't shake easily. While driving, images of Bull Connor, "strange fruit" dangling from trees, and Emmett Till crossed my mind. Yes, I have issues with the South, and I guess a degree in American History fuels my regional psychosis.

Yet, every time I heard a motorcycle, my head would whip around and watch the rider zoom by and I'd think of living in a place like Atlanta where the riding season doesn't end. While out walking, I met up at the same corner at the same time with a guy riding a Kawasaki Ninja. He waited for me to cross the street and I waited for him to make his right hand turn. I wanted to watch him ride off. I wanted ogle until he was a dot in the distance. We both waited for the other. I stood there looking at his bike, which was navy-blue with silver "Ninja" written on the side. He finally tired of me hugging the curb and cautiously maneuvered his turn. He wore head to toe gear. He, his bike, and the modular helmet were color coordinated. I wanted to tell him that I rode too and talk motorcycles with him. I was close enough to reach out and touch him. Feeling I'd appear nutty, I kept quite and stood there staring at his bike, balancing on the curb, ignoring the "Walk" signal.

Riders in the South get to ride their steers throughout most of the year so not needing to store one's bike engenders considerable envy. What a bunch of lucky folks! City life at one's finger tips, boonies not far away, and the really great roads tucked within easy reach to provide unlimited opportunities for amazing day and weekend trips--what more can one ask? On many levels, the South has come a long way. Perhaps, I have too.

Atlanta is a place I'd
revisit and face my southern backroad fears to freely enjoy the roads. I'd try not to drag the entire suitcase of history along with me.

Light, after all, is the best way to travel.

More Atlanta pics here!