The heat has fried my brain. Seriously. I have all these things I want to share with you (whoever may be reading), but by the time we set up the tent, I can barely move. even walking to the bathroom feels like a chore and sleeping takes effort. Kudos to those living in the south (or anywhere hot) – you have my deepest respect for getting out of bed in the morning. And for everything else you do. You are basically superhumans.
After a “crisp” 27 C overnight in North Carolina, we left for our time on Georgia. The hot sleep was nothing close to restful, so it made it easy for us to get up at 5 AM to head to the beach for some sunset shots. I didn’t get the shots I dreamed off, but did get the serenity that comes with watching the sunrise. I love sunrise and that calm in the day before the chaos and busyness begin. After packing up (and a stop at Jockey Ridge, which I mentioned here) we started heading WEST!!! First time in 13 days that we were heading closer to home. However, we were also heading SOUTH. I had heard via travel station (rest stops with gas and food – not sure why we don’t have these in Canada) about a heat wave, but couldn’t really imagine it worse than what we experienced in DC or North Carolina. I was wrong. We stopped in South Carolina for authentic SC ribs, it was 42. Celsius. Not factoring in the humidity. As we ran from the car to the restaurant, we could feel ourselves pushing through the thick air. You could see light distortion, and waves of heat moving in front of you. It was disgusting to move through, and I can only imagine devastating to live in. I’m not sure if this is the South Carolina normal, or if our visit was just an exception, but either way, I’m not sure I could tolerate that level of heat again. Side note, the ribs were good, but not as good as the ones we had in DC.
We finally arrived in Georgia – grateful to bring an end to our long commuting day (10+ hours) but thankful for air conditioning in car. We stopped in Covington to take pictures or some of the sights from the Vampire Diaries (don’t judge). FYI – the Mystic Grill is actually a lawyers office. We eventually arrived at our camping destination – Stone Mountain. This is about 30 minutes east of Atlanta. This campground is more of a self sufficient camping theme park. Skyrides, duck rides on the lake, rope courses, ranger programs, hiking, zip lines etc. However, we weren’t after any of that. We did, however, go to see the 40 minute laser show projected onto the side of a mountain that had 3 civil war heroes carved into it. It was impossible to take pictures without a tripod, so I just sat back and enjoyed the 3 part show on the music of Georgia, civil war history, and the star spangled banner (we saw the original banner in DC – it was HUGE!!!). After the show we headed back to our tent on the lake. It was stilll 31 degrees (plus that unbearable humidity) at 11pm. We curled into the tent, but it was almost impossible to move. No sleeping bags or sheets. Just lying on the airbed praying to God to fall asleep quickly and survive the night.
We managed to sleep in until almost 6am – a prayer answered for me! When we got up the thermometer read 27 degrees, and the day had barely begun. Our neighboring tent to the left had already packed up and was sitting in their car with the AC running. Our neighboring tent to the right had collapsed his tent in the middle of the night and was sleeping on top of it. I was a little relieved to know I wasn’t the only one struggling.
We headed into Atlanta. First stop – Martin Luther King Jr memorial. His home, his church, his legacy. It was a beautiful and remarkable place honoring an amazing human being. We visited the museum to learn about his life and then his grave and eternal flame to pay honor. We both left with more respect for him then we knew, and will be spending more time reading about his life in the near future.
Then, for a change of pace, we headed to the Georgia Aquarium, biggest aquarium in the world. Because it was built by Home Depot, and the whole thing is inside, it didn’t feel like the biggest. And while enjoyable, it did pale in comparison to Monterey. But it did have one HUGE plus. And I mean HUGE. Whale sharks. 4 of them. In a ginormous tank (probably the reason the are the biggest in the world, measured by number of gallons). Now this was the sole reason we came to Atlanta. Ray wanted to see whale sharks. So we went to the aquarium, but because of the heat advisory, every parent and child in all of Atlanta was there too (including that lady with 20 kids and a show on TLC – we shared an elevator with her and part of her camera crew). We pushed through the crowds to see some of the exhibits. By lunch time the cafeteria is so full, they open up the grand ballroom for us to eat in. The grand ballroom foyer has its own giant window into the whale shark tank. We finished eating and headed over to examine the view. This is when we meet ROY. Roy is an employee of the aquarium. A sweet older gentleman with a love of all things aquatic. He was talking to a young kid, Cameron, maybe 10 or 11, who is from Atlanta and frequents the aquarium often. They are having a discussion and Cameron talks about wanting to see the whale sharks behind the scenes. Roy grins at him and nods. Then Roy sees that I have overheard this, and whispers to me “is it just you and him?” (while pointing to Ray). He continues “you want to go upstairs?” and of course my eyes light up as I am nodding vigorously. Ray has no idea what’s going on as I drag him by the arm towards the elevator. And so Roy takes us upstairs into the top room where the whale sharks are kept. There are 88 filters, cleaning all million + cubic feet of water…every single hour. And Ray just stared. For 15 straight minutes he couldn’t get enough of the giant whale sharks and manta rays. Worlds cannot express the joy he experienced in this moment. Along with Cameron, they were the happiest kids in Atlanta today. All thanks to Roy.
After the aquarium we went across to the world of Coca-Cola for the self guided tour. We saw the history of coke, its role pop culture, the pin collection (from Olympic pin trading), all Olympic torches, coke art and murals, the polar bear and tons of international memorabilia from the last 125 years. Best/worst was the twisting room. 64 coca-cola pops/sodas from around the world. Ray tasted them ALL. I had 3.
We then left Hotlanta (37 degrees) for Cloudland Canyon. When I was trying to find a campground my goal was somewhere between Lynchburg (Tennessee) and Atlanta. I wasn’t super picky, and Cloudland Canyon met our geographical requirement. When we get there, we find out…there’s a CANYON! I know – shocking. I didn’t even clue in before. And it had the most amazing views! We walked the mile long trail to see them, and breathtaking doesn’t sum it up. How did we randomly end up in such a beautiful place? I wanted to take the trails down to the waterfalls, but it was past 7 PM, brutally hot, and I couldn’t handle the heat. So Ray hiked down by himself; 800 steps down, 800 steps back, up. 40 minutes. Crazy. Meanwhile, I found a great way to cool down – feet in a bucket of cold water with a cold compress on my neck. Finally some relief.
Ray returned from his hike in time to make dinner, and just then the sun tarted to set behind the tree and mountain, making the sky glow the most glorious shades of red, pink and purple. I RAN down the trail to the look out point to get the pictures, and it was worth it – most beautiful sunset I’ve ever seen. When I got back, twilight had surrounded us with fireflies! I had never seen them before, and they are truly spectacular (running out of great descriptive words – seen too many amazing things!). We were surrounded by flashing green and yellow light. This is not an experience that can be caught on film. It can only be enjoyed in person. Needless to say Cloudland Canyon ended up being a blessing of epic proportions.