Our Summer Vacation – Day 12
After a good night’s sleep in Doc Holliday’s hometown, Valdosta, Ga., my wife and I were ready to cover some new ground on our way back to Missouri.
But first, breakfast!
The last time I stayed in Valdosta (1967), my $8 room did not include breakfast. In 2018, our $125 room did. It was a good breakfast, but not worth the extra $118. Still, in 1967 I was earning $1.35 an hour, so $8 amounted to about a day’s pay in those days and I thought it was an outrageous sum to pay for a place to sleep. On that 1967 trip I covered 3000 miles and spent a total of $32 on gasoline which I charged on my new Gulf credit card. Gas prices averaged thirty cents a gallon in those days.
My wife and I had two goals for the day:
- Survive Atlanta traffic, which was not new ground for us; and
- Find our way to Georgia’s Amicalola Falls State Park, gateway to the Appalachian Trail, which was new ground for us.
We entered Atlanta well before lunch. My heart rate increased as traffic thickened. Atlanta traffic is notoriously bad. And it has been my experience that if you do not drive AT LEAST 20 mph OVER the speed limit you risk being run over at worst or receiving multiple one-finger salutes at best. I try to stay with the flow – that’s usually 25-30 mph over the posted speed limit. Occasionally, an Atlanta police car will suddenly appear out of nowhere, lights flashing, speed past our car, and make a traffic stop. How they decide who to stop is a mystery to me.
As it turned out, Google maps directed us through the bowels of Atlanta with a minimum of hassle and spit us out heading northeast toward the Chattahoochie National Forest, home of Amicalola Falls.
As the skyline of Atlanta receded in the rearview mirror the nice lady on Google maps spoke up:
“Exit right. Then turn left.”
We obeyed to the letter. We exited Highway 19, turned left, crossed over Highway 19 and awaited further instructions.
“Make a U-turn.”
Huh? I HATE it when she says that. But I obeyed, recrossing Highway 19 heading the opposite direction.
That put us right back on the same Highway 19 she had requested we leave a few minutes earlier. Guess she thought a curly que would be a nice addition to our route. 95% of the time Google Map instructions are perfect. The other 5% of the time is why we still carry an Atlas in our car.
Not having had lunch, we stopped in Dahlonega, Ga., located on the southern edge of the Chattahoochee National Forest. After a quick stop at the Food Lion grocery store for bottled water & snacks and a stop at Bojangles Famous Chicken for a carry-out box of famous chicken & biscuits, we were ready to explore Amicalola Falls. As we pulled out of the Bojangles parking lot, I suddenly heard a siren and saw lights flashing in the rearview mirror.
I pulled over. The police car sped past me toward some emergency elsewhere.
Whew. I am never quite sure if a Missouri license plate brands us as Yankees or fellow southerners in Georgia.
The scenery was gorgeous as we neared & entered the State Park. We paid a small entry fee and received a guide to the Park and a permit to hang on our rearview mirror. Parking was scarce, but we finally found a spot near a picnic table. We exited our car to claim that picnic table which was located in a beautiful, shady area near the Visitors Center.
The Visitor’s Center in Amicalola Falls State Park near where we had our picnic lunch is where all thru-hikers on the Appalachian Trail check in & receive their permit before officially starting their 2191 mile hike to Maine. Registration for approval to hike the A.T. is typically months before you plan to begin a thru-hike.
This was the same place where, three months earlier, my brother had hoisted his 30 lb pack onto his back, crossed under an archway, and started hiking the 8 1/2 mountainous miles one must traverse to even get to the 2191 mile Appalachian Trail.
More than a few hikers have called it quits before even reaching the official A.T.
I love to hike and found that standing in front of this arch is like standing on hiker holy ground.
But this day, under a threatening sky, I hiked from our car to our picnic table. Instead of a 30 lb pack, I carried some cold drinks and a 12-piece box of Bojangles Famous chicken and biscuits. It was great. I understand how it got famous.
The trail could wait.
It was time for lunch.