We departed Reed Bingham State Park and merged back onto I-75 North. Two-hundred and fifty-one miles lie ahead. I took some care planning our departure time—not too early to avoid Atlanta’s morning traffic and not too late to avoid the forecasted afternoon rain. There is one stop planned. That stop, will be at Buc-ee’s, located south of Macon, Georgia.
I recently wrote about our first visit to a Buc-ee’s. In that post I tried to relate my feelings of awe, mesmerized by its sheer enormity. I stated we would stop again when given the chance. Now…that chance has come.
This time, having once been to a Buc-ee’s, I had a different experience. Saying the place was busy would be an understatement. Navigating the parking lot and fueling stations was daunting with the camper in tow. The noise inside the store was deafening. Enduring the nudging and bumping while trying to shop was exhausting. I must of heard “excuse me” one-hundred times. I could not get out of there fast enough. If not for the beaver nuggets, I don’t know if I would ever go back. It was stressful.
With Buc-ee’s behind us, a new tension began to grow. The city of Atlanta lie ahead. Atlanta is one of the worst congested cities in the country. It is notorious for long traffic jams. Fortunately, we deftly zigzagged our 45-feet of truck and trailer through the traffic happily emerging on the other side. We were still on schedule. Hooray!
We set our sights toward Sawnee Campground, one of seven Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds on Lake Sidney Lanier. Created in the mid-1950s by damming the Chattahoochee River, Lake Sidney Lanier is a large reservoir providing water and power to Atlanta and the surrounding area. Its 692-miles of shoreline include seventy-six recreational areas providing a variety of activities.
We arrived and settled into our site just in the nick of time. The rain came and flash flood warnings scrolled across my phone. We were high upon a bluff above Lake Sidney Lanier, so I did not believe we were in danger from flood. However, I held my breath as the wind and lightning raged outside.
The storm was intense, but it was short lived. Soon afterward, an eerie calm fell over the campground. We were able to get out and go for a walk just before sunset. The roads were steep. They either went up or they went down, depending on whether we went toward the lake or away. A set of stairs led down to the beach. Even the so-called waterfront sites were high above the shore. We decided then this was not a good place to ride our bikes this week.
We have been to this area near Cumming, Georgia before. We have friends and family that live here. Our most recent visit was a couple of years ago. We stayed at Bald Ridge Creek Campground across the inlet from where we are now. I think I liked it more than where we are now. It was bigger and more wide open with flatter ground. If you are interested in reading about that visit, you can do so by clicking the link here.
We stayed for a week at Sawnee Campground. I won’t bore you with all the details of our visit with family and friends. However, I can’t help but mention we met my cousin’s granddaughter, baby Clara, for the first time. Named after our grandmother, Clara was celebrating her first birthday. My cousin’s family had gathered to celebrate, so we had a lovely visit with everyone. It was so good to see my father’s sister, aunt Marlyne, doing well.
During our visit, they took us for a ride on their pontoon boat. We set out across Lake Sidney Lanier passing the campground where we were staying. We cruised the shoreline admiring all the fine homes. We saw Buford Dam and the park with the same name where we had hiked with our friend, Bonnie, the day before. It was a fun experience. Grammi and I enjoy getting on the water whenever we can.
Of all the things we did this week, I think the highlight was a trip into Atlanta to visit the Georgia Aquarium. I know I have said in the past that we avoid going into big cities in our travels, but because our friend Bonnie was doing the driving and she was familiar with where we were going, we made an exception. Besides, our daughter Amber said the Georgia Aquarium is one of the best aquariums she has ever visited. She said we should definitely go.
We purchased our tickets and prepaid parking pass online. We waited until after nine o’clock in the morning before heading into Atlanta. I was surprised, the traffic was really not that bad. Parking was easy in the nearby garage designated for aquarium guest.
Our first exhibit was Ocean Voyager gallery where we sat in front a giant glass window and gazed into the ocean depths. We saw manta rays with their huge wings come right up to the glass. We saw a sea turtle playing peek-a-boo with the children. But the main attraction was the spotted whale sharks. These things were colossal. In fact, whale sharks are the biggest fish in the world. They look like they could swallow a man whole with one bite. To top it off, divers were working in the tank that day. We were told they were building a new underwater display. Ironically, the biggest fish in the sea eats the smallest organisms found in the water—plankton. So I don’t think the divers were in grave danger…but still.
Next we went to see the dolphin show where a quartet of dolphins jumped through hoops and splashed the audience on command. They did flips and played fetch. The trainers dove in the water and held the dolphins dorsal fin while being pulled along the length of the tank. All pretty standard stuff for a dolphin show. I grew up in Florida where it seems every attraction has a dolphin show. I have seen plenty of shows in my lifetime. I have to say, this one did not impress.
What did impress was the beluga whale exhibit. OMG! These creatures have a face only a mother could love. They were so ugly they were cute. We sat in front of the glass and watched them swim around for the longest time. Their eyes would gaze into ours as they swam pass causing me to wonder what they were thinking. One of the beluga whales looked odd and seemed to be deformed. When we asked why, we were told the beluga was once overweight and has since lost that weight and now carries a bunch of loose skin.
We spent about five hours meandering through all the galleries and exhibits at the aquarium—more time than we thought we would spend. It was fascinating and we did not want to miss a thing. We saw the shark encounter, the penguins, sea lions, otters, jellyfish, octopus, and so much more. It was educational and time well spent. I agree with my daughter, this is the one of the best aquariums I have ever been to. I recommend it.
I am not sure I would give the same glowing recommendation for The World of Coca Cola Museum located across the courtyard from the aquarium. We thought that since it was right there, we would check it out. It was disappointing.
I thought the whole thing was kind of corny. I mean…at one point we were standing in a line in a dead end corridor and everybody was like “why are we standing in this line?” When a door finally opened, we were lead into a room with a huge vault cast with a red light. It was like something you might see in a Federal Reserve bank. Then a recording announced, “behind the vault door is the secret recipe for Coca Cola…” How corny is that?
Maybe you are in love with all things Coca Cola and fascinated with coke memorabilia. Maybe you are interested in the history of how a pharmacist invented Coca Cola as a medicinal drink and through cleaver marketing created one of the world’s biggest companies. Maybe you are eager to sample the dozens of drinks that Coca Cola markets around the world. Maybe…just maybe…you want your picture taken with a person dressed in a polar bear costume.
For me…I wasn’t keen for any of it, but I played along. We walked through the museum and saw the exhibits. I even waved at the person dressed as a polar bear. There was one thing. One thing I was impressed to see. That was the Olympic torch held by Muhammad Ali during the 1996 opening ceremony.
I gave up soda over twenty years ago. When I drank soda, it was always a Coke and I drank a lot of it—every day. Maybe I am still sore about the New Coke. Remember that? Anyway, the admission was less than twenty dollars, so I didn’t feel I was ripped off too bad. We were not there more than an hour before we decided we better head back to Cumming and beat the traffic.
We had an enjoyable week. The time went by quickly. Of course, next week we will have to take some extra hikes and longer bike rides to help burn the calories from all the food we ate. One cannot visit with friends and family without lots of food being involved.
Until next time…Happy Days and Safe Travels