Location: Bald Eagle State Park
Book: ‘To a God Unknown’ by John Steinbeck
We intentionally spent as much time as we could in South Carolina before we set out for Georgia, so we left around 1pm. Our next destination was Stone Mountain Park near Atlanta, Georgia. I didn’t know much about this park, only that it looked kind of touristy. Well about 4 hours later we arrived to crazy traffic and signs that said it was, ‘Spring Break Fun’ week! Just great. Parking was $15 so we debated for a while if we should go in (we had a long wait anyway), but decided that we drove all the way here and might as well go in.
So we paid our fee, got our map and drove around looking for a secluded spot to take a few photos with the Orange Chair. The place was packed! We stopped for a bit at a nearby playground and let Hobbes play, and then we proceeded to drive around the park. It seemed challenging to find a spot where you could see the mountain, and pull over to take a few pictures. Going the long way around we soon found a bridge and a distant view of the mountain with budding trees. So we took some photos as a few teenagers speculated and laughed at us.
Then we drove around some more. We found a cool covered bridge that we drove across and then trying not to get sucked into all the tourism looked for a place to get a postcard. I dropped Antonia off at a gift shop and looked for parking. Lo and behold right in front of my spot was a great view of the mountain with no people around! So while I waited I took a few photos there as well. I love some of the shots because the mountain looks almost like a close up of the moon which is the subject of my book ‘From the Earth to the Moon’ – obviously.
Directly after these photos we took off, once again, for Alabama. Our car had a slight scare as soon as we got on the major highway by Atlanta (some issues bucking as I accelerated), but after stopping seeing that everything was normal we pressed on and had no further issues.
It took a little while but we eventually reached Alabama just as it was getting dark and turned on some ‘Robert Johnson’ as we found ourselves submerged in Southern Culture. We pulled off at a welcome center, changed Hobbes into tractor jammies, booked a hotel in Atmore, and let Hobbes walk around barefoot in the grass before moving on. It was a nice short break, but we had a lot of driving to do before the severe weather hit Alabama.
We were told that severe thunderstorms and possible tornados were on the way, so our goal was to make it to Atmore, AL (just above the pan handle of Florida) to spend the night. Then from there we would wait for the storm to blow over and proceed to Mississippi as the storm moved way from us. We reached Atmore around 11pm and proceeded to check in to our room, and went to sleep.
Crazy winds, heavy rain, and an alarm in the hotel woke us up, but after an hour or so things calmed down and we went down for breakfast. We hung out in the hotel until check-out then drove around to find a place to eat lunch.
On our way to lunch we accidentally drove into Florida and so got a picture on the state line with the book ‘To Have and Have Not’ by Ernest Hemingway, and then turned around to head back into Alabama.
We found a small little catfish shack back in Alabama. It seemed like a nice place to eat so we got a table in front of the jukebox and ordered catfish sandwiches. After a little while of playing with Hobbes (we set up cups and pushed his toy tractor back and forth between them) I was tempted to put some quarters into the jukebox. I looked through the selections and saw a song called ‘Blue Monday’ by Fats Domino, and some songs by Chuck Berry. They seemed fitting for the occasion. I proceeded to put my money in, typed in the number and, suddenly, the music started to blare. (I think I scared the other people in the ‘shack’ – it was dead silent before that). From that point on Hobbes would only eat with the jukebox playing, and he danced around when he ate. It was one of my favorite memories from the trip.
The catfish was quite good and filled us up enough to proceed through Alabama. Right before the border of Mississippi we found a random spot off of a scenic byway and took a photo with Harper Lee’s two books ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Go Set a Watchman’. It took a while, but somehow we actually got Hobbes to hold the book in front of his face.
On March 31st we set our on our adventure at 3:30am – so that Hobbes might sleep through the night. Our car was packed with all our clothes, a pack-n-play, toys, diapers, snacks, the Orange Chair and a crate full of books – some I have read and some I haven’t. It seemed a bit odd driving through the night, but by 8am we had already made out way through to Virginia. (And we found out that if you ask sometimes you can get free postcards at Visitor Centers! Thanks Virginia!)
It was very rainy most of our trip that first day. At times there was just a light sprinkle, but often if was a heavy downpour. It wasn’t until we got past the Shenandoah Mountains that the skies began to clear. Suddenly the mountains appeared and we just had to get off at the next exit for a picture in the foothills of the George Washington National Forest.
We continued driving through the early afternoon and made our way into Tennessee around 3:30pm. We quick grabbed a map at the visitor center and pressed on toward Townsend, TN for the night. A little before 6pm we found ourselves in Sevierville, TN, about to enter the Great Smoky Mountains. We stopped at the Visitor Center and bought a handkerchief for Hobbes (with hiking trails of the Smoky Mountains on it) and a postcard for ourselves.
Before this day I had never realized how crazy tourism is on the Tennessee side of the Smokies. The view driving down 66 was amazing – and pulled us right in – but before getting anywhere near the mountains we had to pass through a giant tourist trap. It reminded me of a combination of tourism from Lancaster, PA and Ocean City, NJ. Route 441 soon greeted us with upside-down buildings, dinner feuds, the Titanic, King Kong and billboards galore. It took us an extra 45 mins just to get through.
Little did we know at the time, but spring break was beginning to happen all around us and would haunt us the rest of our trip. We got to our hotel – which I didn’t make a reservation for – and they had two rooms left. So after being over charged for a room we decided to go across the street for some BBQ, but not before getting a picture behind the hotel of a great view.
August 9th is officially ‘A Day of Chairing’! This is a time for you to get your favorite book and take a picture of yourself reading it while sitting in a chair in your favorite location!
Once you take the picture post it online with the hashtag #ADayOfChairing and share it on The Orange Chair’s official Facebook page!!
I’m excited to be chairing a moment with you on August 9th!