Atlanta Holiday (1996)
Travelogue by Roy Manterfield, 1996
Wednesday 10 April to Thursday 2 May 1996 – Roy, Sue and Alice Manterfield
Saturday 6 April 1996
We’re all ready… we’ve finished work, the flights are booked, we’ve got the tickets, the dollars, the travellers cheques, the passports and the hotel is booked near the airport… and Alice Manterfield has come down with Chicken Pox!
Alice had a couple of spots late on Thursday, then after Thomas Lewin’s birthday party yesterday we found a lot more.
This morning a few more appeared and I rang Dr Collins to ask his advice. When I said we are flying to America on Wednesday, he just said “No you’re not”.
We took Alice to see him, just to confirm it, and we’ve spent all day now calling the travel agents, the hotel in Lymm and Billie and Allan. Eventually we managed to cancel the flight and re-book it for Monday 22 April.
The hotel and car parking are also re-booked for Sunday 21 April. That just leaves our holiday leave to be re-arranged, but that should be okay.
I called back and spoke to Uncle Allan again, just to confirm the new dates.
It looks as though we will only loose about £120, which is roughly the cost of the insurance that we will have to pay again.
Thursday 9 April 1996
Sue’s sister Dianne with her children Emma, James and Adam, plus Emma’s friend Donna, were going to stay in our house for a couple of nights after we had gone. They have still come anyway, as they have all had Chicken Pox and we can just about fit everyone in. Providing that Alice sleeps with us and Dianne and James sleep downstairs.
Sue and I have just realised that with all that’s happened in the last couple of days, we have forgotten to buy cards or arrange anything to celebrate the 18th anniversary, today, of our first date. Seeing as how we thought we would be in Manchester by now!
Wednesday 10 April 1996
We kept looking at the clock today, thinking “We would be leaving the hotel for the airport now” or “We would be boarding the plane now” or “We would be over the Atlantic now” etc. Oh well, Monday week doesn’t sound quite so far away.
We are just about sorted out. I’ve collected the medical certificate from Dr Collins, in order to claim on the insurance for the cancelled flight and my leave is re-booked after I called into the office. Sue is going to work a day shift on Friday and then Saturday/Sunday, and I am going back to work for next week.
Alice is much better now, she’s had no more spots since the weekend and those she had are starting to heal. With any luck she may be able to go into the Nursery for Monday to Wednesday next week.
Dianne and the boys are visiting Nigel and Carol for tea, so Emma and Donna are going to baby sit for Sue and I tonight, so that we can celebrate our ’18th’ with a meal at La Cappanna in Sherwood.
Thursday 11 April 1996
The meal last night was very good, as usual. Sue had monkfish and I had tuna steaks… oh no I didn’t, I had pork in a cream and mustard sauce! Oh dear, the wine is still having an effect. I was going to go on and say that the Chianti was delicious, but the contents of my skull tell a very different story today. Especially when one of Alice’s toys repeats ad infinitum “Hello, time to go to school, choose a button”…”Hello, time to go to school, choose a button”.
Anyway, I’m rambling again. The replacement flight tickets have arrived, and seem okay, and Alice is much better today.
Friday 12 April 1996
It’s snowing….why aren’t we in Georgia!
Monday 15 April 1996
Billie and Allan called, just to check that we are all okay. (Only a week to go – déjà vu!)
Billie and Nita will pick us up at the Airport. Allan is still recovering, but is not yet able to get into a car.
Terry and Harold arrived halfway through the call and ordered two jars of Lemon Curd – difficult to find in Atlanta apparently.
Right, revised title time:
Sunday 21 April to Monday 13 May 1996
Friday 19 April 1996
Last day at work. Again!
The insurance company have sent a letter requesting more documentary evidence for the claim for the cancelled tickets. I called them today and they now seem to be satisfied with the details I have already sent, they said to ignore their letter. So why did they send it in the first place?
Sunday 21 April 1996 (This section is in red ink in the original)
It’s evening and Sue and I are hiding in the bathroom of the hotel in Lymm, near to Manchester Airport.
That’s the reason for the red ink; Alice is in the bedroom going (supposedly) to sleep and I forgot to bring the biro onto the bathroom when we ensconced ourselves.
We have had quite a good weekend; yesterday we went down to Leicester to visit Mum and Dad before we went away. We also saw Joyce and Janis and the children.
The packing was fairly straight forward and today the journey went well. We came via the M1, A616 and then over the Pennines and around Manchester on the motorways to Lymme. (No ‘e’, I don’t know why I’ve started spelling it with an ‘e’?)
The hotel is pleasant, but busy with a ‘Wedding Fayre’ and the room is a little small and hot.
We had a very good trip to the local National Trust place, Dunham Massey, where I took the first holiday photos.
That’s better. Alice is asleep at last and I’ve retrieved the biro.
I nearly forgot, we had a very pleasant surprise on Friday. We had a cheque in the post from Joan Birkett for £500! Quite out of the blue. Apparently she was going to leave us a legacy in her will, but decided that we would get better value from it if we had it now.
Monday 22 April 1996
Good flight over. It took about 8 hours and Alice was very good all the way.
Atlanta Airport is very big and confusing. Billie, John, Nita and Leslie met us and took us back to Oakwood via Atlanta.
Billie and Allan had a big meal ready for us with a ‘Welcome to the USA’ cake. All the family were there as well; Oscar, John, Nita, Leslie, Terry and Harold.
A marvellous welcome, although we were a bit tired.
Billie and Allan’s house is amazing; there is so much space and so many rooms. And it’s set in nearly an acre of land.
We had a slight disaster with the luggage, most of the gifts are okay, but the glass in Billie and Allan’s framed Nottingham lace coat of arms has shattered. Terry helped me vacuum the bits up. Billie said she can soon get a new piece cut.
Tuesday 23 April 1996
When we arrived yesterday it was hot and sunny, in the 80s, today is still very warm but rainy.
John, Nita and Leslie visited. Alice and Leslie played together nicely; mostly on the piano in the front room. Alice bangs on the keys and sings ‘Happy Birthday to you’.
John took me out on a practice drive in Billie’s car and then John and Nita took us out in Allan’s van for a visit to K-Mart and a trip around Gainesville. We called in at the visitor’s centre for leaflets.
Allan is doing well; he was able to get himself into the van for the first time since his recent health problems.
We had another evening meal with all the family again.
Wednesday 24 April 1996
Wow, a bad night. I think the jet lag finally caught up with us. Either that or a bug. We both woke in the night with very bad headaches and sickness.
We felt somewhat better by midday and, as it was a lovely day, Allan and Billie took us out. We met John and Nita with Leslie at a lake side park in Gainesville and Alice and Leslie played for ages on some children’s play equipment.
I took a fairly decent photograph of Nita, Leslie and John at the park and we later had it enlarged at Wall-Mart and gave copies to them and to Billie and Allan.
I had also taken a set of photographs of the house, before we went out to the park, from all angles.
After the park, Allan drove us up into the foothills, through Cleveland, to Helen, an ‘Alpine’ style town. Quite strange, the whole town has been remodelled over about 20 years and anything built new is in this Germanic/Alpine style, interesting though.
Allan was very tired after the drive, it was his first drive for a long time and was quite a struggle for him getting back into the van in Helen. Both Terry and Nita told him it would be doing too much, but he went anyway – typical stubborn Manterfield!
I finished the first holiday film off tonight on Alice in the bathroom.
Thursday 25 April 1996
Another sunny day; in the 80s, but WHAT a disaster!
It started very well; we went out in Billie’s car to Wall-Mart, then to the Lakeshore Mall, where Alice went on the carousel. Then we visited the Olympic water sports site, by Lake Lanier, for the rowing events. After that we had a very good tea at Shoney’s, which was only slightly marred by Alice having a big meal and then vomiting it up into her plastic bib. She was okay though.
But then came THE DISASTER.
I crashed Auntie Billie’s car, and it was my fault too.
We were on our way back to Billie and Allan’s and just turning into Hilldale Road, off the McEver Road, which is in the process of being rebuilt from a two lane to a four lane.
I slowed and indicated left and then pulled onto the median strip, to wait for a gap in the oncoming traffic. The only problem was there is no median strip on McEver; I had pulled up to turn left on the opposite carriageway! (This is slightly easier to do than it sounds because of the roadworks, bollards and low evening sun; but that’s still not much of an excuse.)
Anyway, I realised what I had done when a car came over the brow of the hill heading straight for us. I tried to pull off the road, but so did he and we collided just off the roadway. Very fortunately no one was hurt, it was a fairly low speed bump and damaged the front of both cars, mostly Auntie Billie’s.
It shook us up a bit, quite a shock. Apart from Alice that is, who didn’t bat an eyelid and just insisted on pointing out that one of the men in the other car had a moustache!
To cut a long story short, the three men in the other car and the two police officers that attended (County and State) were all very friendly. Billie came out and sorted the insurance details with the other driver and the two officers decided not to give me a ticket because it was a simple accident.
But we both feel so bad about it, all the trouble and expense that Billie will have. Both Billie and Allan are being very good about it, they won’t even let me pay the $100 excess (We’ll see about that later!). I suppose we are all so relieved that no one was hurt.
I took a photograph of the damage to the two cars.
Thursday – I don’t even know what day it is! Friday 26 April 1996
A suitably grey and very wet start to the day and I feel awful. Twenty seven years driving and I haven’t even scratched a car. We visit Billie and Allan for the first time since they emigrated here forty three years ago and I wreck Billie’s car.
It was thirteen years old as well and in beautiful condition, or at least it used to be. Oh well, pointless dwelling on it I suppose.
Billie has had her car evaluated by her insurance agent, I went with her. Then she took me to a couple of the car hire firms I had called earlier. So we now have a rust red coloured Chevrolet Cavalier for two weeks, which will probably cost about $550 with collision damage waiver. Gulp.
We went shopping to Billie’s local store on Mundy Mill Road, then back to the lakeside park with the children’s play equipment.
I feel okay driving, although Sue is still a bit tense. I am having difficulties finding places though. Off the main roads, all the back and side roads in Oakwood look very similar and I keep taking wrong turns or missing turns. It’s very attractive; winding roads, gentle hills, lots of trees and lots of individual large houses, but no prominent landmarks.
The weather turned out nice by the afternoon, it’s now hot and sunny again.
We have decided to go to Atlanta and stay in a hotel for a couple of nights. So I rang the Lennox Inn and made a reservation.
Saturday 27 April 1996
It’s Uncle Allan’s birthday today. Alice drew on a card for him and gave him some diabetic chocolate bars.
After breakfast we drove into Atlanta on Interstate 85 to the Lennox Inn, a nice easy route. It costs about $69 for a fairly large room for all three of us, it’s quite cool and comfortable.
We visited the Lennox Mall and tried to have a walk around Buckhead, but didn’t get very far as, like most places in the States, Atlanta is not very pedestrian friendly. We tried for quite a while to find a sidewalk that went in the direction of Buckhead, but just couldn’t.
Lennox Mall is very big and on four levels, at one end there is a handy Marta station (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority – or something like that).
After lunch and afternoon coffee in the Mall, we took the Marta downtown to Five Points, that’s the traditional centre of the city. We walked through Woodruff Park, which is very small and the only park in central Atlanta, then up West Peachtree to the Peachtree Centre Mall, which had just closed. So we caught the Marta back to Lennox Mall.
Atlanta is an interesting place racially. There are some Chinese/Vietnamese Americans, some Spanish Americans, but mostly European and African Americans. The largest proportion of the City’s population is made up of black people. Although there is now no blatant racism or segregation, which continued into the 1960s, the white Americans still have a financial advantage and, like many cities in the States, a large proportion have moved out into the suburbs. The central area of Atlanta is mostly a black American city. The officials, police, store workers, entertainers, hawkers and vendors are all African Americans.
So a certain amount of segregation still exists, but instead of being caused directly by racist attitudes, it is now usually due to equality of opportunity and financial advantage – or the lack of it.
We were very annoyed when we got back to the hotel; they still haven’t supplied a cot for Alice. So she will have to sleep in one of the double beds.
We went out for our evening meal and took Alice for her first night out! We ate just down the street at Houstons. A very good meal, although we had to wait 45 minutes for a table. Alice declared that it was a bit noisy and ate lots of French fries and ketchup. She selects a French fry/chip, dips it in the sauce and then sucks it off before dipping it again; it’s amazing how much ketchup she can get through using one chip.
Sunday 28 April 1996
It took Alice a while to settle in the double bed last night and she was a bit ratty at the end of breakfast. Still, she has been very good really, considering what a change all this is to her normal routine.
Today we took the Marta back downtown and visited Underground Atlanta, Heritage Row and the World of Coca-Cola.
Underground Atlanta is an area of about six blocks that was created in 1929, when viaducts were built over the railway tracks to make more room for cars. This left the original shop fronts underneath the road, so that the shopkeepers had to open new shop fronts in what would originally have been the next floor up. After being disused for much of the time since, the underground area has now been developed into an entertainment and shopping complex.
There is a very large food court and various cafés, and boy do they make good hot chocolate fudge and brownie sundaes!
The Heritage Row contains an information centre and a small ‘History of Atlanta’ display – very interesting, but Sue might disagree. Alice slept right through it.
Before we went back to the hotel, (“Hoe-tayal” as Alice would say, in her ‘Southern’ accent) we also visited the World of Coca-Cola experience. Fairly standard of its type, but entertaining anyway and lots of free samples. Alice likes coke.
On the way back to our hotel we went through the Underground again and bought Alice a Coca-Cola Polar Bear; its name is ‘Atlanta’.
We now have a cot in our room, but Alice took an hour and a half to settle (while we sat in the dark).
It was another hot, muggy and sunny Georgia day today; thank goodness for air conditioning.
Monday 29 April 1996
We booked out of the hotel, but left the car there, while we went into Atlanta before going back to Oakwood.
It’s another hot sunny day.
After a walk around the Old City Hall and the Capitol, we visited the Olympic Experience. I bought a black T-shirt and Alice had an ‘Issy’, or is it ‘Izzy’? Anyway, it’s the Olympic mascot and it’s a disgusting monstrosity.
Then we walked up Peachtree Street to the Peachtree Center Mall for lunch. Or at least we tried to walk up Peachtree Street. The sidewalks are not very stroller friendly, with few ramps and very high curbs. It’s especially bad at the moment because all the downtown sidewalks are being repaved ready for all the Olympic visitors.
Uncle Allan on his ‘Rascal’, or Carol Edwards in her wheelchair, would have a terrible time here.
We also had great difficulty getting into the Peachtree Center Mall. There are hardly any elevators. Nearly every entrance has escalators and steps. Some places, like the Post Office in the Peachtree Marta station, can only be reached by escalator because it’s on an intermediate floor and the Marta elevator only goes from sidewalk to station.
We found out later, after struggling down the escalator with the stroller, that it is okay to use hotel elevators, which usually serve the hotel, car parking and mall. This seems to apply elsewhere too. Just another of those little differences between countries and cultures that makes travelling interesting, if not a little annoying, until you figure it out.
Then it was the Marta Subway back to Lennox and the drive back up the interstate to Oakwood.
When we arrived back Billie had already taken her car for repair, so it should be ready for next week.
Tonight we watched videos with Billie and Allan, first of a train journey across America and then one of the Grand Canyon.
Tuesday 30 April 1996
We had some thunder, lightening and rain over night, but although it’s cooler today, it’s still turned out very sunny.
Alice wasn’t too keen on the flashes and bangs last night; it started around her bedtime and she scuttled into bed and hid under the bedclothes.
It was a relaxing day today; we went shopping at K-Mart, and then had a picnic lunch at the same lakeside park where we met John and Nita the other day. A cool breeze but pleasant; the first time we have worn our jackets this holiday.
When we got back to Billie and Allan’s I took more photographs around the house and finished the next film off.
I called some hotels in Savannah this afternoon and booked three nights at the Howard Johnson adjacent to the Historic District.
We decided to go down to Savannah for three nights and come back on Saturday, because Leslie is having a birthday party on Sunday.
Took a couple of photographs tonight of Billie and Allan with Alice.
Wednesday 1 May 1996
I finished photographing the inside of the house today, with a shot of the basement bedroom that Sue and I are using.
Terry and Harold called in at breakfast time today. They had just finished their night shift and Harold has come to try and fix Allan’s Rascal, which is playing up. He did.
We have provisionally arranged to do something with Terry next Monday and Sue is trying to fix a date next week for everyone to come to Billie and Allan’s so she can cook a meal.
Most of today, which has turned out very hot and cloudless again, was spent driving to Savannah. It’s about 280 miles from Oakwood and took about five hours driving, plus a few stops for my relief, drinks and to keep Alice (slightly) happier.
It was a good route, we took interstates all the way; 85, 75 and 16. Interstate 16 ends very close to the hotel, which is again very comfortable with a large twin double bedded room, and this time we have a crib!
Once we had unloaded the car and rested, we took off on foot for the Riverfront area. And yes, you guessed it, there are no damned sidewalks around the hotel. So we had the usual trouble getting along and across roads until the sidewalks start a block or so nearer the Historic District.
Anyway, after a rather long, hot walk we made it to River Street, which is very attractive, full of shops, restaurants and entertainment. It is also cobbled and very difficult get to with a stroller, down very steep cobbled slopes. We went back afterwards via the Hyatt Hotel elevators, which go from the Riverside up to the lobby and Bay Street. I should have figured that route out earlier, after our experience in Atlanta with elevators.
Had a good meal on River Street at a Greek restaurant, but it made it very late for Alice to go to bed. That’s two nights she has had out on the town now.
Thursday 2 May 1996
Had a good nights sleep and Alice slept well. We had an excellent breakfast at the hotel and went over the road to the Gray Line bus depot and caught the next Trolley Tour. That lasted about 1½ hours and was a really good introduction to Savannah. Mind you, Alice was a bit fidgety after about 15 minutes; she doesn’t appear to have a strong interest in colonial architecture. Yet.
It’s a very attractive city; the Historic District is still laid out to basically the same grid system as designed by the city’s founder, James Oglethorpe, in 1733.
Since the 1950s an Historic Society has been formed and they have kept much of the old and interesting architecture. For instance, there are still something like 23 of the 28 or so original public squares. So most of the city is very pleasant and there is greenery, and a local variety of Oak trees draped in ‘Spanish Moss’, everywhere.
We had a look and a drink at the Visitors Centre after the tour; it’s housed in one of Savannah’s main, and now disused, railway stations.
To save the problems with (the lack of) sidewalks, we caught the electric CAT shuttle bus back into town, for lunch and window shopping. Then walked through the Old City Market down to River Street again, for ice cream.
We had our evening meal in the hotel restaurant, which was again very good. Alice wowed everyone as usual, especially our waitress.
People seem very interested in her blue plastic bib with the ‘catch the bits’ tray. It appears to be very uncommon in the States.
Oh dear, over halfway through the holiday and I haven’t written a single postcard yet. Sue has finished all of hers and has remarked as such once or twice.
Today was hot and humid, in the mid 80s. The sun felt very hot.
Friday 3 May 1996
Even hotter today, mid to late 80s and not a cloud in the sky.
“I like the sun” as Alice would say. Until she gets outside; “Want my hat, want my glasses. Don’t like the sun!”.
After breakfast we went for a ‘camera’ tour on foot around part of the Historic District and then down to River Street again, for a drink.
Sweltered back to the hotel on the CAT shuttle and then sweltered over to Tybee Island in the car to the Savannah Beach Area, 18 sweltering miles away.
It’s a bit of a sweltering dump. Or at least the part we saw was, I hope some of it is better than where we parked. It was a bit like Ingoldmells on the Lincolnshire coast, only tacky.
We had lunch in what, from the exterior, appeared to be the best of a poor choice. But it wasn’t much to write home about, or even jot down on the back of a fag packet and throw into the waste paper bin.
The food wasn’t too bad, but the service was awful, very slow (definitely sans “Have a nice day”) and most of the customers and all the staff were smoking. Even the ones preparing the food.
It wasn’t helped by Alice playing up, complaining “I want my dinner” and destroying the condiments.
Oh well, it was a nice beach.
It was so hot in the sun; we only spent about half an hour on the beach, just enough time for Alice to destroy two small sand castles and to go for a paddle.
Then we drove back to the hotel, de-sanded and went out again to the Oglethorpe Mall for tea.
Alice likes fountains and had to throw one cent coins in every time we walked past one of them. Oglethorpe Mall seems to have an awful lot of fountains; next time we will have to bring a supply of stones or washers, or something equally cheep that produces a satisfactory splash.
Saturday 4 May 1996
Checked out of the Howard Johnson. They gave us a good rate; it was only supposed to be $39.95 for the first night, then $58 or so, but we had all three nights at the special rate.
Drove back up Interstate 16, pulling off at Macon (pronounced as in ‘bacon’) but not stopping. It didn’t look an especially interesting city and it’s a bit too hot (85/90° and muggy) for walking around.
We stopped just off Interstate 75 at the Tanger Outlet Center, just south of Atlanta. Some good shops (sorry, ‘stores’) and good prices. It’s a shame we can’t carry much back with the luggage.
Brought (miss out the ‘r’ – doesn’t improve does it) some Osh Kosh clothes for Alice and a pair of socks and a duck for Jenny Lee’s baby.
It’s a very tiring drive back. Especially on Interstate 16 between Savannah and Macon; that’s about 170 miles and it’s just concrete road and trees. Very tedious, you long to see something else; a hill, a town, people, a variation in the colour of the concrete, anything would do.
We got back at Billie and Allan’s after seven, so we picked up a meal from the local Taco Bell. “Gee, I love your accent, say something else. Are you from England?” That happens quite often, surprisingly. And annoyingly; people in fast food outlets, when they notice our accents, tend to be sidetracked and either forget what we ordered, give us the wrong item or miss something off.
Sunday 5 May 1996
Bill (Oscar) Smart took Sue, Alice and me out for breakfast at the Shoney’s in Oakwood. Very pleasant, he is a very entertaining person to listen to, lots of anecdotes and opinions on anything and everything you care to mention and he has had quite a varied life. He is called Oscar by most of the family, apparently to save confusion with ‘Billie’, but he prefers to be called Bill.
We went out to the Lakeshore Mall for lunch and then Billie and Allan took us all in the van to Leslie’s 3rd birthday party, which was held at one of the lake side parks a few miles away.
It was a lovely spot by the water and very well laid out with picnic tables, barbecues and concrete paths (good for Allan’s Rascal). The weather was good to us again, very hot and sunny, but just enough shade under the trees. We are constantly plastering ourselves with sun block, so we are not suffering burns.
There were quite a few people there, all of the Manterfields and Riders and most, if not all, of Nita’s family. We met her parents, brothers and sister. Nita’s sister needs quite a lot of help; she was injured at birth, has very poor eyesight and is a little uncoordinated and slow to learn. Nita regularly helps her parents to care for her.
John and Terry had cooked patties (burgers) and sausages on the barbeques at the park. Then we had a huge birthday cake with Cinderella on it – specially requested by Leslie.
While we were all taking photographs of Leslie and the other children around her cake, Alice managed to put both hands into the cake icing and was covered in it. Fortunately, she put them in the side of the cake so that it didn’t show much from the top. The little terror.
I think she likes icing; when she had a piece of cake she ate all the icing off it and left the sponge. It’s a good job she’s also a little sweetie.
Monday 6 May 1996
Sue wasn’t very well in the night again. She had a really bad headache, but was okay later in the morning.
I went to the bank in Oakwood with Billie, to cash some more traveller’s cheques, and then took her to the local Pizza Hut to get lunch ‘to go’.
Then after lunch Terry and Harold came down and took us in Allan’s van to visit Stone Mountain.
We were a little late leaving for the mountain, because we intended staying until after dark to watch the laser show (Billie was a bit mad at Terry for arriving late).
Stone Mountain is very large, it’s a granite mass sticking up out of fairly level countryside and it’s surrounded by lakes and country parkland. There are also lots of attractions such as a steam railway, a cable car ride to the summit, steamboats etc.
We all took the cable car to the top of the rock for a look; a bit hazy but still a good view.
While we were trying to decide what to go and see next, we found out that the laser show is only at the weekends until the 18 May and not only that, the whole park closes at 5pm! (It was 4pm by then.)
So we went straight back down the mountain and headed for the steamboat ride. We had a bit of a wait for the next (last) departure, but it was a pleasant ride round one of the lakes. Alice had a great time running around the boat with Terry.
I found a large black/grey wasp-like thing on the boat. Harold said to give it a very wide berth as it’s “a mean critter”.
It was a bit frustrating when we got off the steamboat, we were all very thirsty and none of the vending machines worked. The water fountain had been replaced by a telephone (?), the café was closed and while we waited in the air-conditioned boat reception area, for Terry to collect the van, we were thrown out because it was closing time. Ha!
Anyway, it was still a good visit and on the way home we stopped and had supper at a ‘Cracker Barrel’ – country cooking and country craft shop. Wonderful ‘Southern’ food and huge chocolate cobblers with ice cream for dessert.
It’s been another hot sticky day, temperatures in the high 80s. While we were having supper, a thunderstorm went over, very dark, lots of rain and violent thunder and lightening – so we had a ‘laser’ show after all, only free.
Tuesday 7 May 1996
Billie and Allan were out for most of the day. They had various things to do, such as medical checks for Uncle Allan and they all went well, which is good news.
We went shopping at Billie and Allan’s local store in Oakwood for Mexican food and trifle ingredients. We have at last managed to get everyone, including Oscar/Bill, to come around at 6pm today for a meal prepared by us – well, Sue anyway.
It all went very well, although we made far too much and everyone was very full. Including Billie’s refrigerator.
They all wanted Sue’s trifle recipe, because it’s not something they usually have here.
Wednesday 8 May 1996
Oh my goodness, another bad night. Me this time, I woke around 2pm with a terrible headache and a large lump and swollen area on the back of my neck.
They may have been totally unconnected, but it looks as though something bit me! I didn’t get much sleep after that
and felt awful in the morning. Which was difficult, because John, Nita and Leslie were coming over at 10am to take us on a tour of the mountains. Boy did I feel rough for a while.
We set off in Billie and Allan’s van on a very windy route up into the Chattahoochee National Forest, via Dahlonega, where I photographed some very old cars parked around the centre of town. Then up another steep and winding road to Blairsville, where I nearly lost my breakfast. I exited the van looking very pale.
After a rest and lunch at a Kentucky Fried Chicken, I felt (surprisingly) much better.
Alice and Leslie get on very well, they play together (and giggle a lot) all of the time. I wonder if they will be pen pals when they are older?
We carried on further into the mountains and over the State line into North Carolina and the Great Smokey Mountains. John and Nita showed us where they had been rafting and we stopped for a walk by the river.
Then we went on to the city of Cherokee, which is the main town on the Cherokee Native American reservation, for an ice cream and some window shopping. We did buy some ice creams, but we couldn’t find any suitable windows.
Cherokee isn’t a particularly interesting place, unless you like endless stores full of ‘Native Crafts’ and gifts, many made of
(presumably) ‘traditional’ plastic and cheep pottery. If you had the time, there are probably things worth looking at in Cherokee, but we hadn’t, so we didn’t.
Nita then drove us up and down the Maggie Valley, which was very attractive.
Before we drove back to Georgia, we stopped off in Cherokee at a steakhouse and had a good meal.
We were quite late returning, we had done over 300 miles by the time we got back to Oakwood. Alice only fell asleep for the last 20 minutes; someone is going to be very tired tomorrow.
It’s been another hot sunny day – repetitive isn’t it.
Thursday 9 May 1996
Billie cooked us bacon and mushroom omelets before we set off for Tennessee and the city of Chattanooga.
We have extended the car hire until Saturday, so we can stay in Chattanooga for two nights.
Travelled up via Highways 369 and 20 and then Interstate 75 to the Visitor Centre, where we looked at accommodation. We found a good deal at the Holiday Inn Express and booked two nights.
Once we had booked in, we drove over to the Hamilton Place Mall, only about ¼ of a mile away.
Quite a good Mall, but they are all pretty much of a muchness. Apart from size and location they are all very similar to the ones at home; lots of chain stores, all the usual department stores etc. Still, they are comfortably air-conditioned and Alice loves the fountains. It’s still costing a fortune in cent throwing.
There is a Cracker Barrel over the road from the hotel, so we had supper there; it’s remarkably similar to the one we ate in the other day. Very good.
Friday 10 May 1996
A noisy night. Everything was fine until we had been in bed about 10 minutes. Then we found out we are sharing the hotel and most adjacent rooms with a large bus load of school children; because they arrived back.
Crashing doors, shouting, running feet. It went on for at least an hour and a half. Sue went into the corridor at one point and asked them to be quiet. We found out this morning that someone else had also reported them to the Duty Manager. Oh well, they left first thing today.
Otherwise the hotel is fine. Unfortunately it has a really nice indoor pool. I say unfortunately because we forgot to pack our swimwear, we had carried them with us everywhere else.
After breakfast in the hotel lobby we drove into Chattanooga and caught the electric shuttle bus to the Tennessee Aquarium.
Very impressive. It’s a huge building and the exhibits are on and through many floors. I’ve never seen anything like it before.
Alice loved it; “I like fish”, “I like otters”, “I want an otter”, “Hello fish”, “Hello turtle”, “There’s a duck!”, “Goodbye fish”, etc.
She was getting a bit tired at the end of it though. Most of the rest of the day she was a bit of a tinker. “Don’t want the bus!”, “Don’t want the car!”, moan, moan.
We took the shuttle bus back up to the Chattanooga Choo Choo, which was once a railway station, but has now been made into a huge and expensive Holiday Inn hotel.
The entrance hall is the lobby, the platforms are gardens or shops and there are original carriages that can actually be slept in. They also have an engine and other carriages with a restaurant in them. And there is an old trolley (tram) that can be taken on a 2½ mile ride.
Afterwards we drove over to Lookout Mountain and caught the Incline Railway to the summit. Marvellous views, but Alice was being even more awkward now; “Don’t want an ice cream”, “Want an ice cream”, “Don’t want to sit down”, “Want to run off”, “Don’t want a train”, moan, moan, moan.
So we went back to the hotel.
Sue bathed Alice and put her to bed, while I went over to the Cracker Barrel to buy a few gifts to take home – it’s a shop as well as a restaurant.
We had room service tonight and of course because Alice needed to sleep she took about 2½ hours to go off. The horror!
A little while ago she stood up and peeked over the top of the cot. I said “Alice, lay down and go to sleep!” so she shot back into the cot and made loud snoring noises. It’s a good job she’s qute. (Oh, ‘cute’, apparently)
It hardly seems worth saying, but here goes; it’s been another very hot, dry, sunny day.
Saturday 11 May 1996
We had a good drive back to Oakwood. It’s slightly cooler today, still hot in the sun, but occasionally cloudy. I spoke too soon yesterday didn’t I.
For about half an hour of the journey back, while we were on Interstate 75, there was an amazing thunderstorm. It rained really heavily and we had to slow down a lot. Some people had actually pulled onto the hard shoulder, or whatever it’s called here.
The journey only took about three hours, with a refuelling stop. So we were back by about 11.30am.
I returned the car to the hire place and Allan gave me a lift back. Over the two weeks the car cost us about $588, not too bad. Gulp (again). Wasn’t Joan Birkett’s legacy timely.
Billie and Allan took us to Ryan’s in Gainesville for supper. Good and inexpensive food, with a ‘help yourself to whatever you want’ choice. But it was very busy. It’s the night before Mothering Sunday, so everyone is out for supper. We had to queue – sorry, stand in line – for about 50 minutes.
Afterwards, when we had eaten too much, we went back and had another evening of Country Music. Billie and Allan watch an awful lot of Country Music. It gets a bit much after a while, so we had a fairly early night.
Sunday 12 May 1996
I woke up early this morning with another headache, not as bad as the one in the week, but I was a little sick before breakfast. It just about went by lunchtime.
This is turning into a hypochondriac’s diary!
The weather today is a little cooler, it was into the 70s by midday, but it started cool and it rained! By the time we got under way it had cleared up.
Billie and Allan took us on a tour. First of all we went up into the North Georgia foothills to where Nita and John live. It’s near Dawsonville, about 40 miles from Oakwood.
The route is quite good for the start, but then it becomes a fairly windy road; a bit nerve wracking as Allan drives rather fast. Then the last mile is up a very winding dirt track through the trees.
They have a mobile home, which makes you think of cramped and badly equipped caravans on the Lincolnshire coast, but it’s very well fitted out, really nice. It would be too far from anywhere for us, but it is a lovely location. The land belongs to one of Nita’s brothers.
They have about three neighbours; you can just about see two of their homes through the trees.
I took a few photographs of the house, John’s motorbike and of Alice and Leslie playing together on Leslie’s play equipment. She has a very extensive collection in the garden, with various swings, a couple of slides, two pedal cars and an electric powered one. Leslie also has a lot of toys in the house, some large ones like a miniature kitchen area and a small plastic piano.
Nita and John gave us a good lunch. John barbecued some chicken outside and Nita had made some of her delicious potato salad and a nice desert; a sort of whipped up orange pie.
Allan then drove us over to Terry and Harold’s place, quite a long drive of about an hour, as they live out passed (past!) the other side of Gainesville.
Their house is quite small (by American standards) but pleasant and very cluttered. Terry has an amazing amount of nick-knacks; even more than Billie and Allan. Every wall and surface is covered with something.
We were surprised how much alike all their tastes were. Some of it may be because Billie and Allan buy so much for them all, so they have whatever Billie likes. But they still seem to all have a very conservative, middle American liking for ornate and very fussy furniture and fittings.
John and Nita’s house was a lot less crowded than Terry and Harold’s – apart from Leslie’s toys of course.
Terry had caged her parrots while we visited, much to Sue’s relief. We had a look at Harold’s hobby room, which is full of aeroplanes. I think Alice would have liked to have been let loose in there.
Terry gave Billie a small spray of white orchids to wear for Mothering Sunday and then presented Sue with a pink spray of roses. A nice gesture.
Harold left to collect his mother; they are meeting us at the Red Lobster in Gainesville later. Terry came with the rest of us in Allan’s van and we went to a flea market.
The market was very interesting. It was a bit hot, as it’s partly open to the air and not air conditioned, but it contains an amazing range of items. Anything from cheap and nasty nick-nacks, toys and equipment, right up to furniture and antiques.
We bought another holdall to carry the extra luggage home – particularly the cuddly toys that Alice keeps receiving.
After that we all went to the Red Lobster and met up with Nita and Leslie, Oscar and Harold and his mother.
Things didn’t go quite as planned.
Because it’s Mothering Sunday, we couldn’t book a table, we just had to queue up with everyone else, which they said would take about an hour. Unfortunately, the staff made a mistake and we ended up standing around for nearly two hours. This was difficult with Alice and Leslie, also Billie and Allan need to eat at regular times due to their diabetes. So tempers were frayed and both Billie and Terry had a confrontation or two with the restaurant staff.
At least it gave Alice time to make friends with some more lobsters in a tank in the waiting area; “Hello lobsters!”, “What’s he doing?”, “He’s having a walk”, etc.
We were all a bit tired and hungry and the food took a while to arrive, but it was good. Terry paid for everyone on her credit card, which was very nice of her. We couldn’t say too much though, as Harold didn’t know about it!
It was quite sad leaving the Red Lobster, because we had to say goodbye to Terry and Harold. Harold wanted us to leave Alice with them, so that we would go back to visit a bit sooner. Alice really took to Harold. She took to all of them, but I think Harold and John were her favourites (apart from Leslie that is).
We also said goodbye to Oscar tonight, because he gets up and goes to work quite early.
Monday 13 May 1996
Oh dear, it’s here, time to go home.
Everything packed up fairly well, the bags were full, but with the extra one we bought yesterday we did get everything in.
Allan isn’t going to take us to the airport. He was very tired after all the activity yesterday and besides, it would be hard to get all the luggage in the van if we took Allan’s Rascal as well. So John and Nita are going to take us.
We have had a few problems booking three seats together, because we had to re-book late with Alice being ill. I’ve called Delta Airlines again and they have managed to get two seats together at one end of a centre row of five, with the other seat at the other end of the row. The airline said we should be able to swap seats and, as it turned out, we did.
So, after a last check for things we might have missed downstairs, we went off in the van at about 2.45pm. It’s a bit early, because the flight isn’t until 7.35pm and it only takes an hour to the airport, but we wanted to be sure we were early and to see if anything more could be done about the seats.
I did manage to pay Billie the $100 excess for the damage to her car before we left, I wasn’t sure she would accept it, but she did. It was a bit sad again, saying our goodbyes to Billie and Allan. Allan was fairly quiet and Billie looked a little weepy,
I took a few photographs of the view out of the van, one of Oakwood on the way to the Interstate, then one of Leslie and Alice on the back seat. I also took a few on Interstate 85 going to and through Atlanta; one section of the road in Atlanta has 16 lanes, 8 in either direction.
Nita drove the van and dropped us right outside Terminal 2. We said our goodbyes to John, Nita and Leslie where they dropped us, it saved them having to find somewhere to park when we were going to check in as soon as we could.
Very sad also, hugs all round. I hope it’s not too long before we see them all again. Alice wanted Leslie almost as soon as we had said goodbye.
The wait at the airport was okay. Alice was a bit ratty at times, but not too bad. I took a couple more photographs, one of Alice, just to help finish the last film off.
The flight took off on time and Alice slept for most of the first five hours.
Tuesday 14 May 1996
Sue and I weren’t able to sleep on the flight over, but it wasn’t too bad. It only took about 7 hours, an hour less than going.
We landed on time, had no problems at the airport and caught a taxi straight away to go back to the hotel in Lymm to collect our car. I rang Mum and Dad just to let them know we have arrived safely.
We were a bit tired by now, but after a rest and a good breakfast at the hotel, we set off for Nottingham. It only took about 3 hours with two very short stops.
Everything was okay at home when we arrived. Except some very sad news from Mum and Dad; Margaret Verco died on Monday. They are going to the funeral tomorrow.
Other than that we are just extreeemly tired. I’ve called work and booked tomorrow off also, I don’t think I shall be up to that in the morning. I also called Billie and Allan to say that we are okay.
There was a bit of good news in the post when we returned; the insurance company have sent a cheque for £270; they have subtracted £10 per person from the £300 claim, but at least we did get something back. As some of the original cost of the tickets was transferred to the new ones, overall the cancellation and re-booking probably cost us about £150, not too bad, but fairly expensive for a dose of Chicken Pox!
Apart from crashing Auntie Billie’s car it’s been a marvellous holiday. It was so good to see everyone and where they all live.
We got on very well with everyone and it was so good to spend time with Terry, Harold, Nita and John, and of course Alice loves Leslie. We are missing them all already, it’s such a shame that they are so far away that we can’t visit more often.
One of the things I keep remembering about Billie and Allan is the little sayings they have. Allan says things like; “Great minds think alike… and so do monkeys”. Billie’s most frequent sayings, usually when something good is happening, are; “Praise the Lord” and “Bless their hearts”.