Sunday, March 18, 2018

Atlanta: Family, Food, Whale Sharks, and Airplane Slides

WE'RE HOME! It was such a wonderful trip and all went so well, but as Claire said when we crossed into Texas this afternoon, "Mom, this is going to sound weird because I LOVE our vacations, but I am just SO EXCITED to sleep in my own bed tonight.". Not weird at all baby girl. Though when I said that she immediately corrected me that I still don't actually get to sleep in my OWN bed, but I assured her I liked it that way and daddy was an excellent sharer of covers. So we're home; we pulled in the driveway at 8:02 p.m. and by 8:10 I was in my car headed to the grocery store while James and the kids started the unload/put-away process. The kids were in bed by 8:30 (Cora was already asleep when I got home from the store, poor exhausted bunny), all the clothes, snacks, and miscellany was put away soon after, and this post is now coming to you from my TV room couch while Sneaky Pete Season 2 plays on our old TV. It is glorious. I'm supposed to go to an Orangetheory class in the morning (I'd paused my membership to focus on yoga and now I have to use up some classes) but that sounds terrible and I have 26 minutes left to decide if I'm going to cancel or not. (I'm probably going to cancel. And then I'm going to regret canceling while also NOT regretting canceling; these unused classes are already inserting a lot guilt into my life.) So let's go back to our vacation!

Sharer of Covers; Explorer of Caves

Atlanta was our last stop. After a way too long drive over from Great Smoky Mountain (google originally promised 4.5 hours and it turned out to be closer to 7) right into rush hour traffic in Atlanta, we made our way to my aunt and uncle's beautiful home in Peachtree City. The kids exploded out of the car, gave many pets to the dog (actually my cousin Cara's dog, but she's a flight attendant so he's long-term camping out in Georgia with her parents), exclaimed over the THREE LEVELS OF STAIRS in the house, and were immediately whisked off on a golf cart ride with my Uncle Carl.

James answered some swim school emails that had popped up along our drive and my aunt and I made margaritas (and then dinner) in the kitchen. I'd already stuffed all our dirty clothes in their washer and it was so good to be home. Even better if it's not my home and I now live on a lake and golf course and have a golf cart with driver to take my kids on adventures every day.

We had a fantastic meal, much wine, and tucked the kids up in their separate rooms on the 3rd floor. So much good sleeping was going to happen in this house and after 5 days on the road, it was perfect timing. We woke up on Day 6 with plans to drive to my cousin Alyssa's house (a 3-story town home; once again my kids were overcome with jealousy over all the stair climbing our house doesn't have), get a tour, play with her dog, and then meet her husband for lunch at the Atlanta Braves stadium. Beyond all the stairs, and the dog, the kids were MOST impressed with Alyssa's Disney movie collection and movie room in the basement with projection screen. They were not at all sure why we had to leave such a magical place.

But leave we did, now with James who had woken up early to go swim (he did this in Gatlinburg too; trying out pools all over the country is an essential part of his vacation) and met us at Alyssa's. We headed to the Brave's stadium, possibly taking a wrong exit because my uncle, the airline Captain and Air Force Academy grad, is not the best navigator, for a delicious pizza lunch at Antico. We ordered an absurd amount of pizza but very nearly finished it all.

Post-lunch we were off to the Georgia Aquarium. While we are experts at zoos, my kids had never been to an aquarium! (Well Landon went in Chicago a few times, but he obviously has no memory of that.) They were enraptured.

They made friends with a whale shark.

And were awed by giant stingrays.

They popped their heads up in a penguin habitat, watched Belugas dance, and laughed over the antics of the sea and river otters. Cora danced in front of the wall with ALL the fishes and James's dreams of one day owning a giant aquarium were reignited, killing my dream that he'd forgotten about that one.

The evening was more tasty food, even better margaritas, and more golf cart rides for the kids. James worked, my uncle fell asleep, and I stayed up too late chatting with my aunt. On Saturday morning my uncle was up at 4:30 to get the pork butt smoking on his much beloved Big Green Egg. I have no idea when the kids got up, but they were happily eating poppy seed bread ("PapaSeed bread," per Cora, since my mom always makes it before we visit), cheese, and fruit when I got downstairs. James was off swimming in another pool and we had big plans to go to the Delta headquarters and museum when he got back.

This ended up being one of our coolest days of the trip. My uncle has flown for Delta since leaving the Air Force (well, active duty; he was a reservist for a long time), but we've never been to his office or gotten to see him in action. My parents had toured the Delta Museum when they visited a few months ago so we knew we were in for a treat.

The museum is great and shows the history of Delta, the companies it bought or merged with over time, and just generally of passenger flight in the US. It is also filled with vintage artifacts that we had to drag James away from (never go with him to an antique store; you will NEVER be allowed to leave) and even I got caught up in the display of flight attendant uniforms throughout the years. Cora buckled herself into the first coach seat she saw in the 737 and was ready to take off to Disney World immediately.

Ready to reunite with her princess besties

After exiting the museum we got to climb into a retired 747. I'd never been in a double-decker airplane and had to admit the same thrill as the kids to climb up stairs "INSIDE a plane!!" to go buckle myself into first class on the second level (I fit just fine in the lie-flat seats, but we discovered James had to keep his knees bent just a little, so really he might as well stick to coach). We toured the cockpit, the crew sleeping quarters, and pretty much every inch of the plane.

That awesome tour complete, we headed in to the corporate headquarters to see my uncle's office. We made our way through the command center and schedulers (very intense), the flight attendant training facilities (we now feel confident we can evacuate any of Delta's thirteen planes), the pool area where they test emergency water landings (we also feel qualified on those, should you need to fly over an ocean), and slid down an evacuation slide somewhere in the middle of the two. It was awesome.

Haven't you just always wanted to do that? But best of all was at the end when we got to get a look inside the training simulators! The cockpits of the new planes are really fancy and we were shocked to see how... less fancy the not-that-much-older planes were, like the one my uncle is currently flying.

Then we got to step up and captain our own simulated take offs and landings. It was amazing!! It was so shocking to do a run, feel the turbulence and movement and then step away from the cockpit and realize the rest of the simulator wasn't moving at all.

The kids took their flying very seriously.

Here Cora is captain and Landon is helping her with all the switches because her arms are too short. There's good reason to be fully grown when you start to fly.

I got to do a takeoff and landing. My landing was much better than my takeoff (which isn't saying much, since I crashed the former), but I wouldn't recommend myself as your captain anytime soon. In my defense, I haven't had much training.

Carl showed us how it's done and I must say, it turns out those extra years of training and experience REALLY do make a difference.

James loved it - I think he'd like flying a lot more if he could sit in the cockpit and drive the plane, and the kids are all going to grow up to be pilots now.

James and I are looking forward to a future of free flights.

We finally had to drag ourselves away about 2:30 when we realized we hadn't had lunch and were starving to death. A delicious lunch later and we were back at home, the kids once again in the golf cart with Carl (the Carl who'd gotten up at 4:30 a.m. to start dinner) and my aunt and I were prepping side dishes and blending more margaritas. I'm pretty sure I gained 10 lbs. in the 3 days at the house but man was every bite (and sip!) delicious. (Annnnd I just canceled my morning OTF class, which felt appropriate to mention here.) We ate on the porch, watching the sun set over the lake and waving at golfers as they passed by (and/or hit balls onto their yard). Dessert was homemade peach cobbler and seriously, I was so uncomfortable I could barely move or pack, but I had no regrets.

We left Atlanta at 8 a.m. eastern time this morning and got home at 8 p.m. central time. We gained an hour but wasted it on bathroom stops along the way. Cora is the only one excited about going back to school/reality tomorrow - when we were all complaining about our return to reality on in the car she perked up with, "Oh! I am SO 'CITED to go back to my school Mama!!" Though I guess if I could return to preschool, I'd be excited too. Mostly I think she just wants to nap again. "I'm so TIRED, Mama," she told me repeatedly today. That girl loves her sleep, though not enough to give up a viewing of Beauty and the Beast or the Aristocats on her kindle to get it.

We had a lively discussion somewhere in the middle of Mississippi over our favorite part of the vacation. The flight simulator in Atlanta! No, the aquarium! The golf cart rides! Oh wait THE CAVE! Climbing along the river rocks in Great Smoky! Touching the hot springs! Touring the old bath house! (Okay, that one was James.) Each part was so different (historic! mammoth! scenic! airline captainy!) it really is impossible to pick, but it was all so fun and worked out so perfectly.

We drove a total of 2,468 miles through 9 states over 8 days. We visited 3 National Parks, several cities, and one lovely branch of our family tree. Our new map pins are in place and we can't wait to plan to pin some more!


  1. After you finish the National Parks, you’ll have to do State Capitols, and Presidential libraries!

  2. I laughed at your statement regarding your uncle's navigation skills. My husband is an airline pilot and can find even the most random of things from miles up in the sky. On land, he can get lot on a one-way street....

  3. Yeah! Have you been to Grasslands yet? It is about 10 miles North of Decatur, TX. I did a race there this weekend and the trails are long. Also, Eagle Mountain Lake, which is closer and hillier. I'm going to the March this Saturday.

  4. Hi! Frequent reader, first time commenter! I found you through shu and love reading about your adventures. You inspire me to take more adventures with my own kiddos. Random, but as I watched John Oliver tonight, I couldn’t help but think of how much you’d appreciate this too. Be sure to google for the full story

  5. I feel like James was really wanting you to catch his Top Gun reference in that video. LOL In case you didn't, just let him know someone did. ;)

  6. So glad y'all had fun in Atlanta (my neck of the woods)! I also love Peachtree City. Isn't it fun to drive the golf carts EVERYWHERE? One of my besties lives there and we even drive the golf cart to the grocery store when I visit. So much fun. Sounds like you had an excellent visit and hit a lot of highlights. :-)