home again. nice trip. on the way i stopped in atlanta, a 10-hour drive from here. i'm not crazy about the place but i wanted to see beluga whales in one of this country's only exhibits.
first i stopped at my old company's regional office. at once it struck me how deserted it seemed. not only were many desks empty, but even more were missing with only dust and extension cords still in place. after a few minutes of searching, i finally found one of my old colleagues who jumped up from her desk to kiss me.
she took me to lunch and filled me in on my two-year's absence. as bad as corporate life was when i left, it got even worse post early retirement. working life apparently became progressively miserable and then, six months ago, they downsized yet again. imagining the workloads on the remains of the remaining made it difficult to digest lunch. i didn't feel any better for me but i felt badly for my old friends.
after lunch we stopped in to see my old boss's boss. my old colleague was surprised at this encounter because she had always viewed him as nothing but an s.o.b. while i always had a friendly relationship with him. in fact, when in town, i was his drinking buddy and he'd keep me out until the bars closed, as he'd be nonstop ordering another round.
he was also glad to see me, told me i looked great and said how i had the life everyone envied. but i turned his comments around a bit to discuss how retirement isn't for everyone. it wasn't for my mom and it wasn't for him. i have no doubt that this guy will run the entire division of this fortune 5 when his boss retires. and as much as he might like to fantasize a life like mine, there is no way he'd be willing to give up what he is about to realize in his own life.
off to the aquarium, i played the role of tourist. the place was mobbed. i bought my 4 o'clock ticket at 1:30 but finally thoroughly enjoyed the whales and recommend the experience to anyone who loves wildlife, even though it has been captured.
gail mentioned the penguins in chattanooga, my next stop, but i didn't do the aquarium there as i was tired of waiting in line. i did however have a very fun penguin experience in atlanta. there, the aquarium has domes which stick up in the displays where kids can crawl into and become part of the animal exhibit. three kids did this with the penguins, which came over to the dome and started fornicating right in the childrens' face. needless to say, those of us in the audiance who didn't go into shock just went into hysterical laughter. between that and the belugas: well worth the price of admission and the long wait.
parked at the chattanooga choo choo, i biked through town which i enjoyed very much. for a small town chattanooga has a lot to offer, even a thai restaurant where you can get ginger possum sushi. the riverfront is appropriately set up for public use. all very nice though i also found lots of poverty where most tourists probably never bother to explore.
then off for a week in the sticks of tennessee, speedwell, just outside of la follette, a tiny town about 45 minutes north of knoxville. thirteen of us including 5 adults and 8 children ranging from 6 to 19 in a 4-story cabin with two personal water crafts at the dock on gorgeous norris lake.
surprisingly not a sailboat in sight, just wave runners, pontoon boats and speedboats, so not as relaxing as it could have been but very fun. the kids had a blast. on one outing i rode with the 6 year old who was first afraid to board but once he got the throttle in his little hand became fearless. i'd let him control the craft at slow speeds but at high speed i kept my hands at the wheel. when i loosened my grip of steerage, i felt him aim for every wave. how quickly he learned to jump wakes. when our companion boat started to catch up with us he'd rev up to over 6000 rpm. very fun.
we only had a few days of great weather and then every day of at least 1/2 a day of rain so i didn't get to go biking through the area. we got cabin fever about 1/2 way into it so took a day to visit the twin consumer heavens of gatlinburg and pigeon forge. also we did a tour of tuckaleechee caverns.
parting company, i planned a scenic trip through the smoky mountains and then the blue ridge parkway to asheville, with later stops in charlotte (where my brother is thinking of eventual retirement) and charleston but the rain sent me directly home.
i drove for an hour or more through the smokys on newfound gap rd which bisects the park. what a pretty drive. fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, at higher elevations there wasn't much of a view as i was driving with my head in a cloud, literally. i'd never done that before. i couldn't decide if when the road comes up into the cloud if the cloud isn't just fog until i stopped where the appalachian trail intersects newfound gap rd, got out of the car and had clouds streaming into my face. this must be what it is like to ride outside on the wing of a jet.
decending top down through the clouds into south carolina, i enjoyed cherokee for a short while before beginning my ascent on the blue ridge parkway towards asheville. i didn't last 10 of the 80 miles there. the road quickly rises to 4,000 ft and from there maintains levels between 4 & almost 6,000 ft in elevation, right in the thick of a storm front which had positioned itself in our area all week.
i couldn't see 20 feet in front of my windshield and to the side all i could see was the road dropping off. fun for a short while but not a relaxing drive. so i found some local roads off the mountain which lead me to some highways home. looking up at the mountains i was glad i came back down. where i couldn't see the bottom now you couldn't see the tops. a little tired of all the rain, i skipped my next two stops and headed home.
here are some pics i took with camera phone of cabin (actually one next to ours) and our camp fire. will post more when others from our group send me their pics.