You may have noticed there was no mention of dinner in yesterday's write up. There's a reason for that.
Since the show was on the early side, and our lunch was large and late-ish, we figured we would eat after, either off our hotel's lobby café's fresh sounding menu or an appealing Italian restaurant up the block. This proved a serious strategy error. Both were totally packed with people leaving the show or finishing up before the late show.
No worries, we figured; there is always room service. After all, it is the last night of our vacation. But room service never answered the phone for Mary, and for Rick, they only picked up after he let it ring for about five minutes straight, and then barked "We've canceled room service for tonight because of the show." This was news to the front desk, which had advised Mary to just keep trying.
We mention this because this is a hotel across the street from a busy theater. Shows and a rush for food shouldn't be news to them, and rates do not seem to be adjusted according to whether or not room service has been "canceled." So, dinner was just a unfulfilled dream. We would say that we could use the break from all the noshing, but again-vacation. Last night of same.
One other gripe about our hotel that would normally be just a whine but it involved an injury so we're bringing it up.
The bathrooms at the hotel are microscopic, with the toilet facing the sink and exactly one foot of distance between the two. You may think that's an exaggeration, but no, we measured. Last night, Rick was using the facilities and went to stand up when he smacked his nose so hard on the sink that he heard a crunch and blood started to flow. He was convinced he had broken said nose but this morning it is merely sore and a bit scraped so no permanent damage, but still. We understand there are limitations when turning old buildings into hotels, but come on.
Coming full circle with some of our previous Atlanta sightseeing, where we started the trip more or less at Margaret Mitchell's grave, we started our last day at Margaret Mitchell's house. Actually, that's a bit of aspirations to grandeur; it's a building that housed a number of small flats, including one where Mitchell and her husband lived for a short period, a house that was nearly totally destroyed (not the Mitchell basement apartment, though) by arson twice. True, she did work on Gone With the Wind there, and perhaps that's enough, but personal possessions are limited to two pieces of furniture and some of the many letters from her voluminous correspondence. A tour of it and an exhibit about the movie assume a certain pre-familiarity with Mitchell's own story, which is too bad, because the woman was clearly an amazing figure, an early feminist, a self taught journalist and someone who said "In a weak moment, I have written a book." One heck of a book, Ms. Mitchell, and it was nice to spend a little time with you.
Next was the Cyclorama, 358 foot long and 42 foot high painting in the round depicting the battle for Atlanta. Commissioned in the 1880's, with a diorama that highlights the painting's trompe l'oil features added in the 1930's thanks to a WPA project, viewers see it courtesy of a revolving theater and a dramatic voice over narration that points out highlights. The painting itself is an amazing piece of art and not just because of its scale.
Outside the cyclorama is a display of Civil War artifacts including the "Texas" steam train that was involved in a dramatic chase after another train was stolen.
The whole facility is very nicely done and battlefield buffs will lose their mind, but it's a little dry for the casually interested and most kids will probably be bored out of their minds.
A short drive took us to a recommended restaurant Six Feet Under, aptly named since it overlooks the Oakland Cemetery (in another nice piece of symmetry). We were joined there by Mary's Plucky Friends Susan and John, who live nearby and recommended the fish tacos. Susan was nice enough to order the fish tacos, so Mary could have the grilled shrimp one along with her chilled cucumber soup topped with little crab cake. This was excellent because both were so good she would have been sorry to have missed out on either. Rick had some fried chicken nuggets which reminded us we didn't have fried chicken on this trip, and that we only had biscuits twice (at the Whistle Stop café and Paula Dean's place in Savannah) which only just further reminds us that there is never enough time and space to eat everything you want to eat, even on vacation.
From there it was to a highlight of Atlanta, the Georgia Aquarium, the largest in the world. We timed this a little poorly-who would have thought that a major attraction would be really busy on a Saturday afternoon?-and fighting the crowds took away some of the fun for us. Plus, the manta rays in the petting pool were on an official break, and the otters were on an unofficial one (though they are mighty cute all napping in a heap). But it was whale shark feeding time, and it was quite cool to see their huge mouths vaccum up their lunch, and the beluga whale was very large and sweet, and there were plenty of fish to see through the crowds.
Right next door is the World of Coca Cola. Hey, did you know that Atlanta is the headquarters for Coca-Cola? When you are in Atlanta, it's not something you are allowed to forget. Of course this attraction is just a big advertisement for Coke in all its many forms, but it has been such a part of the culture and American history for so long, it wasn't without interest. And it's not as if we drank the Kool-Aid, so to speak; Rick is already a dedicated Sprite drinker, while Mary only drinks water and milk, so they didn't gain new converts. We did have fun in the tasting room where one can try 60 different Coke products, including international options such as peach flavored tea from Belgium, Inka Kola from Peru and more.
We still had a little time before we needed to get to the airport, so we went back to the Aquarium, which was much less crowded. The manta rays were ready for petting, and Mary got a stroke a couple, while the otters were up and tussling most amusing way. The sharks remained large.
Then it was back to the airport where we engaged in one last bit of sublime silliness. In all our pre-trip discussions about the journey, we casually tossed around the idea that we'd be traveling around 2,400 miles. As we neared the rental car return, Rick noticed that Plucky Mobile's trip odometer read 2398.2 miles. So we did what any sane, rational people would do at the end of a long road trip: we drove around for a 1.7 miles.
As we pulled up to the return, the trip read 2399.9 miles. So we held up a finger to the check-in agent as if to say "Just a minute" and then we backed up to the end of the lane and tried again. No love - still 2399.9. So we did it again as the confused and bemused Avis employee sat there and looked at us like we were insane.
But it was TOTALLY worth it for the final shot below; that's what the trip read when we turned in the keys. Sometimes it's all about the little things.
And in the end, we realized, that's what this year's trip was all about. Past Plucky themes have been big - legacies and the journeys we take along the way - but now it's more about the smaller, every day notions of simply living, continuing. Over the last 11 days the thing that kept coming up again and again was the notion of preservation. From the grand and glorious halls of Biltmore to the shade covered squares of Savannah to the way of life in Appalachia or a Shaker village, we saw the past preserved for us to enjoy today. We saw Rock City and its enduring landscape; we took a carriage ride through Charleston, which has survived wars and earthquakes and hurricanes and fires; we visited the homes of Martin Luther King Jr. and Margaret Mitchell, each restored so they could continue to live on; and we stayed in some grand hotels that tell the stories of their history and the lives of the people who stayed there with every creaking floorboard. The past endures. It goes on and becomes the present and then the future.
Because that's what we all do: we go on. Some of us have to deal with health issues and others have financial problems and others have what keep them up at night. But whatever it is, we get through it. We get up, we go to work, we enjoy our friends, we go on road trips. We eat, we laugh, we drive. We go on. We continue.