Here There and Everywhere

Expat wanderer

A Drive to Atlanta; Cars on their Last Legs

We decided to take a quick trip to to Atlanta, and unfortunately for me, we are not staying anywhere near the Queen of Sheba Ethiopian Restaurant we tried the last time we came through.

We got a later start than usual; we had lunch at one of our favorite lunch stops in Pensacola, The Bangkok Garden, then got on the road. AdventureMan had a full and physically active morning, so after the first thirty minutes, I drove and he snoozed.

I love to drive while he is snoozing. It makes me feel so competent and protective, and like a full partner. He sleeps so deeply and happily, it makes me feel trusted. He sleeps like all is well with the world. He sleeps like that for two hours; fortunately I took a good look at the map and directions and managed the right turns onto the right roads.

Driving keeps me alert, and it also gives me time to think. As I am driving this time, I am thinking that I have never before seen so many cars abandoned along the highway. I know cars get a ticket, and then if they are not towed within a certain time the state confiscates them, and probably junks them. It’s not unusual to see an abandoned car now and then, but there are so many this time, so many that it catches my attention.

I worked for a while with the homeless, the less visible homeless, the ones who are not out begging on the streets or carrying their lives with them in a backpack. The homeless I worked with were those who had lost homes, and were staying with people or living out of their cars. Their situation was desperate, and their car, usually old and faltering, was critical to them working whatever small job they could find to keep going. What they earned was not enough to pay rent on any decent place, and they never earned enough to be able to save up for that first and last month’s rent required by most renters. They didn’t have a rental history or a credit history, which made them unlikely to get into housing that screened.

The cars I saw abandoned along the road looked a lot like the cars my homeless people drove. Cars on their last legs. I wondered about the people who were forced to abandon their cars, I wish them well, I hope they are able to claim and fix their car and to go on with their lives.

Or maybe, I think, maybe it is the heat. There has been a huge heat wave, following on a deluge of rain. The temperatures are in the 100’s, hotter than in Pensacola where when it gets hot – and humid – we usually have breezes coming in off the Gulf to help us cope. I remember Kuwait, where cars littered the sides of the major highways, and how heat just wore the cars out. In a country with a desperate need for air conditioning (welll, in my perception, remember I am an Alaska girl) the wiring in the cars was a constant fire hazard.

AdventureMan woke up a little outside Montgomery and we had some of our great road-trip conversations. He took over driving as we neared Atlanta; it was time for my trip-reward, I got to have a Wild Berry Smoothie from McDonalds. Yes, we have McDonalds in Pensacola. No, I do not allow myself to have a Wild Berry Smoothie often. Yes, I know they are made with “real fruit.” No, I have not checked the sugar content, I don’t want to know, but it is why I do not allow myself to have more than one every couple months. And only a small one. It keeps it special.

So I am using the iPhone and directions to navigate us through Atlanta and on to GA 400 going north, and if you know Atlanta, you will know what I am talking about. First, coming into Atlanta, we saw huge signs telling us downtown was congested – and it is drive time home, around dinner time, but fools rush in and we decided everyone else could take the ring road and our directions showed us going through central Atlanta would be the fastest.

We saw billowing flames, and smoke made it hard to see, and there was a huge, uncontained brush fire along the side of the road – the other side, thank God. Traffic on the other side was backed up and more than congested; it was at a stand still. Another mile, and now there is billowing black smoke, and I see a sight I haven’t seen since Kuwait, a big black SUV on the side of the road, totally consumed by fire, and three police cars trying to get through the backed up, bumper-to-bumper traffic, and a fire truck and an ambulance, but they can’t get through – again, on the leaving town going south side of the road, not the going north side we were on.

Then we get to a place where one major road becomes two different roads. The iPhone isn’t helping, I can’t figure out the number of the road it is that we are supposed to take, and when I try to make it bigger, nothing happens, we are underneath an overpass and I think there is a problem with reception. As soon as I tell him we are supposed to go right, we go right and then our road goes under the other road and we are going left, and the little blue ball has left the road. Fortunately, we need gas, so we get to a station and I have reception again and show AdventureMan how we have to get back on 75, to a short distance, get in the lane for 85, make a loop and end up going North again.

Thank God he had a nap! Sometimes, if it is nearing dinnertime, and we hit rush hour traffic, and I make a navigational error, we can have hurtful words, and end up not speaking for a while. He was very forgiving. We got back on 85; it was actually very exciting trying to navigate into the right lanes in a strange city where we have little experience and it’s hot and all the cars are full of people who only want to get home. Then, I also miss the right exit to get us on to GA-400 once again, but there is an alternate route showing which may actually be faster than if I had gotten it right. It takes us to the ring road and then north where we can easily get on GA-400. From there, it is easy sailing; the exits are well market and my little iPhone is performing reliably.

We found the hotel easily. I’m not going to tell you the hotel, because when we got here, we found it under renovation and the temporary lobby was full of people in all states of dress – and undress, and while the receptionist was very professional and courteous, I was not wildly happy to be staying here.

And then again . . . there are no hippos outside my window. No immense river, no Fish Eagle. It is hot, and crowded, and I don’t have Steve-the-butler soothing my spirits with a Compari and Bitter Lemon, or Victor suggesting a nice river cruise. AdventureMan kids me a little about my high expectations. It’s true. It’s true. I am missing my African adventure; I am missing Zambia.

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June 29, 2012 - Posted by | Adventure, Customer Service, Eating Out, ExPat Life, Geography / Maps, Hotels, iPhone, Kuwait, Living Conditions, Renovations, Road Trips, Shopping, Travel | , , , ,

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