Our trip to Atlanta wrapped up with a visit to the zoo, a short drive to Chattanooga, where we explored Ruby Falls, and then a long drive to nowhere Illinois, where we stayed the night. We woke up bright and early the next day–actually the earliest time the day started all week–and drove to St. Louis for a short layover before finishing the drive home. The blog fell behind because time seemed to slip by more and more each day. On our last night in Atlanta, both boys were still awake at 11:30. Granted, that’s only 10:30 on home time, but it’s still way past their bedtime and too late to start writing a blog. So, I thought I would write a few words to tie up the trip.
Day 6 – Zoo Atlanta
We actually got the day started at a decent time. But, that probably wasn’t the best thing on this day. We planned to visit the zoo and then Stone Mountain. We made it to the zoo around 10:00, and froze walking from the car to the gate. The temps the day before were in the 70’s and the weatherman predicted the same for this day. Only, he blew the morning temps. A fog that settled in overnight didn’t burn off a quickly as was predicted, and as a result, the temps hovered in the 50’s until after lunch. First stop: gift shop to purchase sweat shirts for the boys. Bundled up and toasty warm we were ready to see the animals.
The Atlanta zoo is nice. It’s compact, easy to navigate, and all of the animal areas offer great viewing. The highlights were the gorillas, the pandas, and the playground. Leave it to Zach and Caleb to prefer a run-of-the-mill playground to the excitement of a zoo. We wrapped up our visit with a ride on the train. That pretty much blew! It seems such a nice zoo would have a decent train. Instead, they have a train that tootles along slower than walking pace, and pretty much loops the playground and the petting zoo. Pretty weak.
As we walked to the car, we decided that everyone was too tired for Stone Mountain. The decision seemed to be the correct one because both boys were asleep within one mile. With them sleeping in back, Traci and I took the time as an opportunity to drive through some of the neighborhoods near the office, which is in the Sandy Springs/Dunwoody area. We were impressed with the houses but blown away by the prices. The day wrapped up with an easy dinner at Carrabba’s followed by a short trip to Target. Wee-haw!
Day 7 – Zach’s Birthday and depart for home
How do you make a seven-year-old feel special on his birthday? Room service for breakfast! We ordered Zach’s favorite breakfast foods–scrambled eggs, bacon, and orange juice–and had it delivered on a tray. He was excited to wake up and find covered plates. Ah, the simple pleasures in life. We gobbled up breakfast, packed the car, and headed for home. Before we left town, we made a quick stop by the office so Traci could meet everyone.
We decided the night before to treat Zach to Ruby Falls in Chattanooga, even though neither of us knew what it was. The, oh, 10,000 billboard advertisements surely indicate something special. We drove through the city and then turned for the trip up Lookout Mountain. I expected Ruby Falls to be on top of the mountain and to be a pretty ordinary waterfall. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Our trip stopped less than halfway up the mountain. When I got of the car and looked around, it just didn’t make sense…there were no cliffs that would create a waterfall worthy of the praise and majesty described on all the billboards. The spectacle smacked me upside the head as soon as we stepped into the gift shop. Ruby Falls is in a cave!
We purchased tickets and then boarded the elevator for the 260-foot decent into the mountain. We stepped out into a well-lit but small pathway that was groomed for tourists. Our guide gathered everyone to briefly explained the experience that was before us. We would walk for a half mile into the mountain, ending up over 1,000 feet below the mountain top. At the end of the walk, we would experience Ruby Falls, a 145-foot waterfall buried deep within the mountain. And we were off.
While the pathway was cut for tourist, not all areas were intended for a tall man carrying a squirming toddler. I had to duck to make it through several of the passages. Otherwise, it was a very easy walk, one that was dotted with geological formations. The helictite (twisted stalactite that grow with disregard for gravity. The dragon’s foot was a great example) and flowstone curtains (thin, translucent calcite that hung from the ceiling) seemed to be from another world. The guide stopped everyone within earshot of the waterfall so he could explain what was about to happen. He then led us into a darked room. In a moment the lights were brought up, illuminating the waterfall. After everyone snapped a few pictures, we were led behind the waterfall. The rush of water and wind outflow were awesome. We spent a few more minutes taking photos and absorbing the sight before the guide led us back to the elevator. Ruby Falls is definitely as impressive as the billboards describe it.
We loaded up in the car and drove to nowhere, Illinois where we spent the night in an ancient Comfort Inn. But hey, it had beds, a shower, and free breakfast! And, it was just under 2 hours from St. Louis. We departed the next morning before 10:00, which put us at my sister’s before lunch. Perfect.
Day 8 – HOME!
We spent several hours in St. Louis–actually Valley Park, but where’s that!? Just like our first stop, the boys played with their cousins, Traci visited with my sister, and I went for a bike ride. I decided to ride the same route, but added several miles by missing a turn. I wandered deep into the Ozark’s and paid for it. The hills there are nothing like those around Kansas City. KC ain’t flat, but we also don’t have 6-8 mile grinds, either! I spent just over 3 hours on the bike before loading up once again for the final 3-hour drive home. We arrived in our driveway just after 9:00 PM.
Atlanta is a great city. It’s big but still has that southern charm. Everyone was pleasant and friendly. The traffic is as bad as everyone says, though. The boys were great travelers. The DVD player helped hold their attention. In fact, I don’t remember hearing a single “Are we there yet?” WOW. On our last night there, Traci commented on her amazement that Caleb didn’t miss home. It was maybe two hours later when he cried out, “my wanna go my house”. That request evolved into a full blown fit that lasted until after 11:30. He cried himself to sleep and never complained again.