Our trip to Atlanta went very smoothly and Shannon and Nick were waiting for us when we arrived at the airport.“Are you hungry?” Shannon asked after he and Nick gave his dad and me a hug.
“We probably could use a little something,” Jake answered, “but we should probably freshen up first.We had a long drive in the car to get to the airport and then the flight here, so we’re probably starting to get a little ripe.”
“And after I wash up, I’ll help you fix something,” I added.
“There’s no need for that, because we’re going to take you out to eat,” Nick announced.
“Whatever you want, but it would be a lot cheaper to eat at your place.”
“Don’t worry about the cost, because we owe you big time for all you did for Shannon when he was laid up after the accident.”
“You don’t owe me a thing for that.I did it because I wanted to help and because I love both of you.”
“And I stayed for as long as I could,” Jake added, “but I couldn’t take any more time off from work.”
“We still owe you guys, because you didn’t get to see much of the area while you were here.You didn’t want to do that without us, and Shannon wasn’t able to go anywhere, so we want to make up for that now.”
“You don’t have to, but if you insist, then we’ll be happy to go with you.”
After we washed up and changed, they took us to a lovely restaurant.Once we ordered, Jake and I asked them a few questions.
“So, what’s been going on in your life lately?” Jake asked his son.“How’s your job going?”
“I told you that my company has been paying for me to attend night classes at EmoryUniversity as I work on my masters degree,” Shannon began.“I’ll complete my last class in December.”
“That’s great!What do plan on doing after that?”
“I’m hoping that I’ll get a promotion at work, but I’ve also got a backup plan.”
“What does that mean?”
“I’m taking the CPA (Certified Public Accountant) Exam in August, so if I don’t get the promotion then I may just head out on my own.”
“Can you take the exam before you finish your last class?And wouldn’t it be risky for you to leave the company if you don’t have something definite lined up?”
“Yes, I can take the exam before I complete my degree, and of course making any move like that comes with risks.It also comes with incredible potential.Being my own boss would mean my income could be limitless, depending on how satisfied my clients are with my work and how fast word spreads about my business.”
“But you won’t have any income at first, until you build your client base.”
“I know.So, if it looks as if I’ll be leaving the company then I’ll start recruiting clients and working for them on the weekends.I’ll take care of their accounts in my free time and I won’t quit the company until I have a decent client base.When I think I’m doing well enough, or if I find it impossible to continue both jobs at the same time, then I’ll quit my other job.”
“I guess that sounds all right.I just hope it works out the way you want.”
“So do I.”
“What about you, Nick?” I asked my honorary son.“How is your job going?” I said ‘honorary son’ because I never adopted Nick.He lived with us for a while and I helped to raise him, but I also helped him to reconcile with his parents.
“It’s going great!I was waiting to tell you this until you got here, because I wanted to see your reaction when I give you the good news.Two weeks ago, I was promoted from IT technician to System Administrator.”
“That’s fantastic!I take it that’s the next rung on your way up the corporate ladder.Does this mean you’ll be supervising other employees now?”
“Yes, I have eight IT technicians and six cyber-security specialists in my chain of command.”
“And I’m so proud of him,” Shannon added. “He’s worked hard to get the certifications he needed to be qualified for this position.”
“No harder than you’ve been working on your masters degree,” Nick countered.
“Jake and I are proud of both of you,” I quickly announced.
“Yes, we are,” Jake added.“We’re very proud of both of you.”
We stopped talking once our meals arrived and the food was excellent.After we finished eating, we went back to the house and watched an Atlanta Braves baseball game on TV.It was not only entertaining, but it also gave us a chance to rest up for the following day, because Nick and Shannon warned us that they had a lot planned for while we were here, and they most certainly did.
When we woke up on Sunday, Shannon and Nick asked if we’d ever watched The Walking Dead.“Why do you want to know that?” Jake asked.
“The show is filmed in the greater Atlanta area and we thought if you watched any of it then you might enjoy it if we took you to see some of the places where they filmed the show.”
“Yes, that sounds interesting,” I agreed.“We watched it with the older boys after the younger ones went upstairs to get ready for bed, and I can’t wait to see some of the places where they filmed the show.”
To start off, Nick and Shannon drove us down Freedom Parkway so we could experience the same view as the famous scene when Rick first rode a horse into Atlanta.
“I thought he entered Atlanta on I-85,” Pop stated.
“That’s what the show wanted you to believe, but they actually filmed it on Freedom Parkway,” Nick informed us.
From there, we went to see the hospital where Rick woke up at the start of the series.It wasn’t a hospital in real life, the producers merely made the Atlanta Mission appear to be a hospital.After that, they drove us by Rick’s house, which supposedly was in the suburbs, and where Rick goes after leaving the hospital.We couldn’t actually go inside because it’s privately owned, and then they drove past Morgan’s house after that.
Once we left there, they drove us by the Sheriff’s station where Rick worked and went to collect all the weapons and ammunition he could find.It wasn’t actually a Sheriff’s station in real life either, just a clinic they made to look like one. Once Rick had the weapons and ammunition, he parted ways with Morgan and Morgan’s son and headed to Atlanta.
After that, Nick and Shannon took us to the area where Rick ran into the hordes of walkers.It was also where he had to hide inside a tank and where he eventually met Glen.Once we looked around that area, they drove us by the survivors’ camp where Rick found his wife, Lori, son, Carl, and friend and fellow deputy, Shane.They then drove us over to the former nursing home where Rick and the others faced off with the street gang that had kidnapped Glen and had taken the weapons Rick left in the street when he hid in the tank.After that, they drove us by the CDC headquarters so we could see that it hadn’t actually been blown up, like in the first season finale.
“All of those places were all from season one,” Nick informed us, “and now we’re going to take you to see a couple of places from the later seasons.”
Nick then drove to the next location and we were soon looking at Terminus (seasons 4 & 5), the train yard that promised ‘Sanctuary for all’.
“Did you know that Terminus was actually an early name for Atlanta?” Shannon asked.It was a fact that neither Jake nor I were aware of.“It was given that name because it was located at the end of the Western & Atlantic railroad line.”
Once we left there, they drove us over to see the place that was used for The Kingdom, which was ruled by King Ezekiel and his tiger, Shiva. (season 7)
“Those are the most important sites to see here in Atlanta, and now we’re going to leave the city and head south to see some of the other locations where they filmed the show,” Nick announced.
He then drove through some rural areas until we reached the next location, Hershel’s farm from season 2.It lies just outside of the town of Senoia, but all we could see was the long driveway that led up to the house.It’s private property and the owners don’t want fans of the show constantly showing up and roaming around the property, so we moved on.
After we left there, Nick and Shannon took us to see the prison where Rick and the others lived in season 3.It’s actually a sound stage located on a back lot, so we were only able to observe it from a distance.The prison was where Lori died in childbirth, and as Rick was hallucinating while dealing with his wife’s death, Carl was forced to put a bullet in his mother’s brain to prevent her from turning into a zombie.
Even though we were slightly disappointed about not being able to explore Hershel’s farm and the prison, things improved at the next location.Nick took us to a quaint little town, parked the car, and then we got out so we could walk around.
“Does any of this look familiar to you?” he asked.
“Is this Woodbury from season 3?”
“Yes, but only the fictional Woodbury.There’s an actual town named Woodbury in another part of Georgia and this is the town of Senoia.If you recall, this is the barricaded town where the Governor ruled his followers with an iron fist.”
We then walked up and down the Main Street of Senoia and were able to recognize many of the buildings that we had seen on The Walking Dead.In addition to the buildings, we also recognized the grassy divide between the two lanes of Main Street, which had served as the location for many of the dramatic scenes that took place here.As we walked to the end of the street, Shannon pointed at a location about 100 yards (91.5 m) in front of us and spoke.
“Does that look familiar?”
“Is that the fence around Alexandria?” asked Jake.
“Yes, it’s Alexandria from season 5.We can walk down there and check out the outside of the fence, but we can’t go inside.The houses are owned by individual families and they don’t want people constantly walking up and down their streets.”
“I can understand that.”
We peeked through the opening and saw some of the houses from a distance, and it appeared to be a very nice-looking community.Since there was nothing left to see, Shannon asked a question.
“I hope you’re hungry because there’s a restaurant here in Senoia that we think you’ll want to see.It’s called Nic & Norman’s and it’s owned by Greg Nicotero, who produces The Walking Dead and has directed some of the episodes, and Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon.”
We’d been so fascinated with all of the various locations that we’d seen that we hadn’t realized how late it was.We quickly agreed we were all hungry and would like to grab a bite at Nic & Norman’s, but I wasn’t sure if we’d be having an extremely late lunch or an early dinner.
When we walked inside the building, it was a simple set up, but it was very clean and welcoming.There were booths on the right and center, tables in the front, and a bar on the left.Neither Nic nor Norman wasn’t there at the time, but the staff was friendly and I was surprised at the number of other people there, considering the time of day.The menu consisted mostly of burgers, sandwiches, soups, and salads, but they offered a half-dozen entrees as well.The food was quite tasty, and we all enjoyed our meals.It was a nice break after walking around in the hot sun for the past couple of hours.
“I’m glad you brought us here,” I told Nick and Shannon as we were leaving.
“Yes, the whole day has been extremely interesting, and it was nice of you two to do this for us,” Jake confirmed.
Once we got in the car, we headed back to their house and we talked about our outing during the ride there.Once we got to the house, we relaxed in their living room and Jake and I spent some time filling them in about Xander and TJ.Once we answered their questions, we watched a movie before showering and turning in.
We started Monday off with a very filling breakfast, and then Nick and Shannon took us to tour the Fox Theater.
“This was originally intended to be part of a large MasonicShrineTemple, but it was eventually developed into part of the Fox Theater chain.”
It was a fabulous structure and beautifully decorated with a Moorish theme, although it also has an Egyptian ballroom.The theater is now used to showcase Broadway musicals, the Atlanta Ballet, the summer film series, occasional concerts, and performances by popular artists, including comedians. During the tour, we also got to see MightyMo, which is a custom built, four keyboard pipe organ.
“It’s the second-largest theater organ in the country,” Shannon told us, “right behind the Wurlitzer at RadioCityMusic Hall in New York City.It’s situated on a lift so it can be raised and lowered as required, and it’s located at the corner of the stage, house left, next to the orchestra pit.”
The organ was spectacular, and the entire building was quite a site to behold.
“Did you enjoy this?” Shannon asked as we were leaving.
“Yes, very much,” Jake answered.
“They certainly don’t build theaters as elaborate as this any longer,” I added, “and it’s nice to see the wonderful craftsmanship that was put into theaters like this in the past.”
In the afternoon, they took us to see the College Football Hall of Fame.The first thing we did was to go down a tunnel to enter the quad.It was kind of like being on a team and going down a tunnel to enter the field on game day.Once there, we stood facing a three-story high wall capable of lighting up to display the helmets of 760 different schools, one at a time.There was also a line of people waiting their turn to put up the helmet of their favorite team.
From there we went to see the indoor playing field and watched as some of the youngsters and slightly older people tested their ability.We observed them as they ran a gauntlet of tackling dummies, attempted to kick a field goal, or threw a football like their favorite QB.
“Do you want to try any of these things?” Nick asked.
“I’m no longer young and spry enough to do any of those things,” I replied.
“Same here,” Jake agreed.
“Then we won’t do it either,” Nick announced, “since we don’t want to show you up.” We knew he was teasing us, because he was never into athletics.
Once we left there, we went to explore the area that was home to the various inductees and different awards, such as the Heisman Trophy and the National Championship Trophy.As we were finishing up there, Nick asked what we thought of our visit.
“I’ve been to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York and the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio,” responded Jake, “but I like this one the best.The others are nice and you get to see various artifacts from players of the past, plus you get to see the busts of what they looked like.Here they use technology and give you an in-depth story about every player and coach who has been inducted so far.”
We stopped to eat on the way back to their house, and then we spent a nice quiet evening chatting about our day before showering and getting ready for bed.
On Tuesday, they took us to the World of Coca-Cola.It’s a museum that tells the history of The Coca-Cola Company and it’s located in Atlanta because the soft drink was first developed there in 1886 by a pharmacist named Dr. John S. Pemberton. There’s actually a statue of Pemberton just outside of the building, along with other statues of him on the inside, which we saw as we made our rounds through the various displays.
There were gigantic decorative Coca-Cola bottles in the lobby as we entered, along with a Polar Bear from one of the more recent Coca-Cola commercials.It’s merely a person in a polar bear costume, but you could have a photo taken with it and the children seemed to enjoy doing this.
“Do you want a photo to take back and show your grandsons?” Shannon teased.
“No, we don’t want to hold up the kids who are waiting in line,” Jake responded.
As we moved on, we saw various advertisements decorating the walls that had been used to inform the public about this product throughout the years.We saw posters and signs from the turn of the 20th century and on up to the present, and you could definitely tell which ones were from which time period.There was even a display case that held Mean Joe Green’s football jersey that he tossed to the young boy who gave him a bottle of coke after a game in a 1979 commercial.
“So how many of those things did you recognize?” Nick asked.
“I only recognized the things from the 1970s on up,” Jake replied, “especially Mean Joe Green’s football jersey.”
“I didn’t recognize any of the earlier ones, but I remembered many of those from the late 1950’s until now,” I admitted.
“Gee, we thought you’d remember all of them,” Nick teased.
After that we saw examples of the various cans and bottle designs that had been used throughout the years, and there was also an assortment of antique vending machines and delivery vehicles.
“My uncle drove a delivery truck for Coca-Cola, but his truck was slightly more modern than the yellow one in front of us,” I pointed out.
We also came across an area where we watched a robotic assembly line move, fill, and cap bottles before they were packaged and sent off to be sold.Once we left there, we came across a large vault that supposedly contained the Coca-Cola Company’s secret formula, which has changed throughout the years.That’s because the original formula contained coca leaves and kola nuts – hence its name.The kola nuts are a source of caffeine, and the coca leaves helped Dr. Pemberton deal with the pain from an injury he received during the war.There was also a Coca-Cola Theater that showed a six minute-film entitled, Moments of Happiness, as well as numerous displays that replayed some of the most memorable commercials from the past 70 years.
The last area we came to was a tasting room where you could try many products made by the Coca-Cola Company, including the Fanta and Mr. Pibb brands.They also offered some of the flavors that were only sold in other nations and were very different from what we were used to.It was a unique experience to be able to taste some of the international flavors, and we found some we liked and others we wished we hadn’t tried.As we were leaving, I made a comment.
“Seeing we’re basically from three different generations, I’m sure there were different items that appealed to each of us.As I said earlier, my uncle was a delivery man for Coca-Cola, so I remember some of the older advertisements because he would bring a copy of them home to hang in his barn.I also remember the chest vending machine where you would slide the bottle along the metal track until you got it to the point where it would be released when you put in your money.It cost a nickel to buy a Coke back then.”
“Damn, we weren’t that lucky, but a Coke was cheaper when we were kids than it is now,” Shannon confirmed.
“I got a kick out of seeing the Max Headroom commercials,” Jake added.“He was a pretty famous character back in the 80s and I bet these two have never even heard of him.”
“I remember you pointing him out,” Shannon stated.“He was the computer-generated guy with the flat head.”
“His head wasn’t flat, that was just his hair.”
“What I liked the most,” Nick announced, “was when the guy unlocked the case with the Olympic torches inside from the games held in different cities around the world.”
“Yes, those were interesting,” Jake agreed.“Since Coke is a sponsor of the Olympics, they get to have them, and each torch was quite unique in the way it was designed.”
“I got chills when I saw the torch that Mohammed Ali used when he lit the Olympic Flame in 1996,” I admitted.
“Yes, that was pretty neat,” Nick agreed.
Once we left there, we grabbed a quick bite to eat before stopping at CentennialPark, which wasn’t very far away from the World of Coca-Cola.The park was constructed for the 1996 Olympic Games held in Atlanta, and in the center there’s a huge torch and a seating area around it.The area was also well lit at night so you could enjoy it all day long.There were also upright Olympic rings made from cement and painted in the traditional colors that children could play in and climb on.There was another set of Olympic rings that were etched into the cement and had vents that water sprayed out of and shot into the air at various times.
“I see a huge Ferris Wheel over there, so do you guys want to go for a ride on it?” I asked.
“Yeah, we should do that because it will give you a great view of the city,” Shannon agreed.
“It’s called ‘SkyView Atlanta’ and it is 200 feet (61 m) tall.It wasn’t built for the Olympics games and didn’t open until 2013, but you should try it before you go home.”
Seeing they both agreed, we went up on it before we headed back to their house for the night.
While we were eating breakfast the next morning, Jake and I didn’t even bother to ask what Nick and Shannon had planned for us today.After we finished our meal, we merely followed them out to their car and let them take us to the next location.It turned out to be the NationalCenter for Civil and Human Rights and it proved to be another very interesting location.
We started out in the section entitled The American Civil Rights Movement: Introduction to 1950s Urban South.We used the interactive displays to learn how violently the Jim Crow segregation laws were enforced and what it was like for the blacks during that period.Even with the promise in the Declaration of Independence saying ‘that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness’, it certainly didn’t seem to pertain to everyone in the south.
Blacks were definitely treated as second class citizens and were forced to use separate water fountains and restrooms, as well as being relegated to substandard educational facilities and housing.They were also required to use designated entrances into public buildings, usually at the side or back of the facility, and they were required to stay in designated areas within the building.Their access to jobs was also limited, the pay low, and they were required to sit in the back whenever they used public transportation.
If a black dared to break any of those rules, they were often beaten, jailed, or both, and on occasion they were even murdered, with lynching being a favored method to carry out this act.Even the blacks who fought in the armed services during World War 2 were forced to live under the same conditions when they returned home from the war and weren’t cut any slack.Our visit to this section was truly eye-opening, and it was difficult to comprehend the injustice the blacks in the south endured during that period of history.
“Damn, how could anyone treat other human beings like that?” Shannon asked.
“That’s the point.Those doing these things didn’t see the blacks as being human,” I responded.
“But if we all descended from Adam and Eve, then why wouldn’t they be human?” countered Nick.
“Precisely, but there were, and still are, groups that claim the lineage from Adam and Eve only pertains to the white race.They have no way of accounting for the black, brown, red, and yellow-skinned races.”
“Aren’t the differences in skin color just an evolutionary adaptation?” Nick continued.
“Many whites in the south didn’t believe in evolution, and many still don’t.Not only that, but even though the whites in the south claimed to be religious, they had no problem with breaking the sixth and ninth commandments.Those are the two that state: Thou shalt not kill (murder) and Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”
“And some things haven’t changed much,” Jake added, referring to current events.
“It’s sad, but true,” I concurred.
The next areas we went to were about some of the things the blacks did during the 1960s in their effort to gain equal rights.The first was about the Freedom Riders, or the blacks who challenged the segregation rules and went in small groups to ride wherever they wanted on buses and trains.And the next area was about the Lunch Counter Sit-ins, a non-violent protest against segregation practices where blacks could only sit in certain areas at lunch counters.Each of these areas had devices you could use to listen to a narrative about those activities.
That area was followed by a section about The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and there was a video we were able to watch.The purpose of the march was to advocate for the civil and economic rights of all African Americans.It was during this march that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his now famous I Have a Dream speech while standing in front of the Lincoln Memorial.
The final area was titled The Three Hymns and was about the violence that followed The March on Washington.This included the murder of four girls at the church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama, the murder of three Civil Rights workers in Mississippi, and the murders of two others in Alabama that led to another march, but this time from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama.
“I can definitely see why the blacks did all those things,” Nick stated.
“Yes, and it helped to some extent, but there’s still a long way to go,” I replied.
The next section was about The Global Civil Rights Movement and is about the struggles of others around the world.That was followed by The Dignity Museum, that focuses on the homeless population, and the final section was entitled The Morehouse College Martin Luther King Jr. Collection.He’s one of the college’s most famous alumni and they have approximately 10,000 items, consisting of handwritten notes, famous and lesser-known speeches, manuscripts, sermons, correspondence, and other writings.It also includes books from Dr. King’s personal library and a collection of photographs.
“Wow!That was enlightening and depressing,” Jake stated as we were getting ready to leave.“There has been some progress made, but there’s still a long way to go.There are global issues as well, along with the problem of homelessness that still needs to be addressed.”
“Yes, it seems like a never-ending battle,” I agreed.
After a quick lunch, we went to the MLK Jr.NationalHistoricPark next.After parking the car, we walked to the VisitorCenter, and along the way Jake made a comment.
“Look down.There are footprints in the sidewalk and there are names next to them.”
“I read about this while we were planning where to take you,” Nick admitted.“This is the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame.Each important contributor to the civil rights movement has his own granite and bronze square to recognize his or her contributions to the cause.”
We started reading some of the names as we walked along and we recognized many of them.It was definitely an impressive collection.
Once we were inside the VisitorCenter, we signed up for a time to tour MLK Jr.’s birth house, because only a limited number of people can go through it at one time.After we’d done that, we entered the exhibit area, which not only followed the life of MLK Jr., but also told the story of the Civil Rights Movement in general.It did this by using photos and video displays, as well as artifacts from that time period.This included the interior of a ‘colored’ school room, a segregated lunch counter, and the shell of a bus that had been fire bombed.There was also the Freedom Road walkway that was lined with many statues showing what the blacks would have looked like and how they would have dressed as they fought for equal rights.
“That kind of puts everything into perspective,” Jake observed after seeing Freedom Road.“They risked their lives for a cause they believed in and one that might not help them personally, but it would help future generations.”
After leaving the VisitorCenter, we walked over to see the sarcophagus that contained the bodies of MLK Jr. and his wife, Coretta Scott King.It’s located on a small island surrounded by a small artificial pond to discourage people from trying to take mementos or attempting to vandalize the site.
Once we left there, we walked over to MLK Jr.’s birth home to take advantage of our appointed tour time.The house was probably nicer than that of most of their contemporaries, such as the shotgun row houses across the street.This was most likely due to the fact that King’s grandfather and father were also preachers, but it still didn’t come close to the homes of white families of similar status in their communities.
From there, we went to the original EbenezerBaptistChurch where both Jr. and Sr. had preached.It was a nice looking building, but it didn’t compare to some of the impressive churches where the whites worshipped.
Before we left the park, we stopped to see Fire Station No.6, which was built in 1894 and initially housed steam engines pulled by horses.Those were replaced in 1918, and the fire station continued to serve the community until 1991.
We also went to see the PrinceHallMasonicTemple, because it is where the Southern Christian Leadership Council (SCLC) established its initial headquarters in 1957.The SCLC was founded by Dr. King Jr. and he served as its first president.
“So, what did you think of our last stop?” asked Shannon.
“I found it to be very exhausting,” Jake answered, referring to all the walking we’d done.“I’m used to riding in a truck all day long.”
“I found it exhausting as well, but I also thought it was very informative, interesting, and enlightening,” I added.“It was a very chaotic time in the south and many people died in the struggle.However, it all led up to President Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that ended segregation and employment discrimination based on race, color, sex, and national origin.President Kennedy had first proposed the legislation in 1963, but it was held up by a filibuster in the Senate.President Johnson pushed it through after Kennedy’s assassination and it became law in July of 1964. That was followed by the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1968, which is commonly referred to as the Fair Housing Act.”
“I’m glad you didn’t find it to be a waste of time or too much,” Nick said as he breathed a sigh of relief.“I know you like history, but I wasn’t sure if this would be too much to do all in one day.”
“No, it was fine for me, even though Jake and I found it physically taxing.”Jake nodded in agreement as we headed out to the car.
We stopped for dinner on the way back, and when we reached their house, we talked a little more about our day as we watched another Braves game on TV.When the game ended, we showered and got ready for bed, since Jake and I realized they probably had another full day planned for us tomorrow