After waking up on Thursday morning, Nick and Shannon explained how we’d be starting off our day.
“We’re going to take you to the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum this morning.We thought you’d like to see that.”
“Sure, it sounds good,” Jake agreed.“He was a peanut farmer who was elected Governor of Georgia and then President, so we should check it out while we’re here.”
“His name was James Earl Carter Jr., but he preferred to be called Jimmy,” I added as Nick drove us there.“He was elected President in 1976 when he defeated the incumbent President, Gerald Ford.Carter was only a one-term President, however, and lost the 1980 election to Ronald Reagan.Most people attribute his loss to the fact that his Presidency was beset by numerous problems, including high inflation and slow economic growth, as well as a severe energy crisis and a hostage situation.”
“I remember that time,” Jake said.“Who could forget the long lines at the gas stations just to fill up your car and sometimes discovering the station was sold out of gasoline before you reached the front of the line.”
“It wasn’t all bad and there were also some highlights during his Presidency as well, such as when he arranged for the Camp David Accords.This was a meeting between the leaders of Egypt and Israel that led to their signing a peace treaty.Such a thing was unheard of between an Arab nation and the Jewish State at the time because the Arabs hated the Jews and the only treaties they signed were usually after a war.”
“Didn’t he win a Nobel Peace Prize for that peace treaty?” asked Shannon.
“He won the Nobel Peace Price in 2002, but it was for a culmination of efforts.They included finding peaceful solutions to international conflicts and the advancement of human rights, as well as some of his other efforts.”
“But not everything worked out that well for him,” mentioned Jake.
“No, he suffered through some international conflicts as well, such as the Soviet Union’s attack on Afghanistan and the Iranian Revolution.In fact, the Iranian Hostage Crisis was probably one of the primary situations that caused his defeat in 1980.”
“Why?What was that about?” asked Nick.
“Didn’t you take history classes in school?” I joked.
“I did, but I don’t really get stuff like that from just reading about it in a textbook.It makes more sense when I go to places like this with you and hear you guys talking about it.”
“Ok, then let me explain.Due to the terrible economic situation in Iran at the time, as well as an Islamic revival, a group of Iranians revolted against the Shah and forced him to leave the country in 1978.When the US admitted the Shah to receive medical treatments, the Iranians turned their anger toward the US.In November of 1979, a group of Iranian students stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and took more than 60 Americans hostage, and this standoff lasted for 444 days.”
“Couldn’t the US have just sent troops in to rescue them?” Shannon asked.
“President Carter sent in a rescue mission, but it failed, which made him even less popular with the American people.”
“No wonder he was only President for one term,” Nick stated.
“Yes, and the Ayatollah, who was now running the country, didn’t release the hostages until the day after Reagan’s inauguration.”
When we arrived at the location, we saw several lighted displays containing videos, photos, documents, and the wonderful gifts President Carter received from foreign leaders.Eventually, we made our way to a life-size replica of the Oval Office.
“Why do they have a copy of the Oval Office here?” Nick wondered.
“It’s because each President gets to furnish and decorate the Oval Office the way he chooses.I imagine the other Presidential libraries and Museums have something similar.”
“So, they don’t all use the same rug, chairs, and other stuff?” Shannon followed.
“No, it’s up to their individual tastes.”
The replica Oval Office was decorated as it was when Carter was President.There was his large Presidential desk, a beige oval rug with blue designs scattered about, two beige sofas with brown and blue stripes, and two gold high-back chairs, along with an assortment of tables.We also observed the paintings on the walls, including the one of General George Washington over the fireplace, as well as the knick-knacks in the nooks and the orange drapery.
“I don’t like the way he furnished the Oval Office,” Nick commented.“Those sofas are hideous.”
“It was back in the 1970s and people’s tastes were different then.”
“Nick and I hadn’t come here before,” Shannon added, “and I’m glad we waited until you were with us so you could tell us about all these things.”
“Yeah, you made it make a lot more sense,” Nick agreed.
Now that we’d finished our tour, we went out to grab a quick lunch before we headed to our next location – the AtlantaHistoryMuseum.
“Did you plan this entire trip around my love of history?” I asked.
“No, we planned some things for my dad too,” Shannon answered.“We knew he’d like the College Football Hall of Fame, the World of Coca-Cola, and CentennialPark, and we have other things planned that he’ll like as well.”
“Ok, I was just wondering after yesterday and today.”
“We tried to plan things each of you would like,” Nick offered.
“And we greatly appreciate that.”
The AtlantaHistoryMuseum was divided into several areas, and we started out at the Cyclorama: The Big Picture. This is a 12-minute film projected onto the hand-painted and fully restored painting, The Battle of Atlanta.When the painting was first viewed in 1880, it was similar to a virtual reality experience from today.The painting is 49 feet (15m) tall, longer than a football field, and weighs 10,000 pounds (4,536 kg).
“Was there really a Battle of Atlanta?” Nick asked.
“Yes.Union General William Tecumseh Sherman led the attack and basically left Atlanta in ashes before he burned his way across Georgia during a 37-week campaign in 1864,” I explained.
“Then why would they want to show this in Atlanta right after the Civil War?” Shannon followed.
“Unfortunately, the painting was altered from time to time to reflect the different points of view.When it was first painted, it was to honor the Union victory, but when it was moved to Atlanta changes were made to make it appear to be a Confederate victory.Today it’s been restored to its original perspective showing a Union victory again.The museum now uses it to show how perception and memory can be altered to match the desires of groups or individuals and uses the painting to show how this can be done.”
After we left there, we went to view the other areas next, some of which repeated various details we had learned at some of our other stops.The other areas were: Locomotion: Railroads and the Making of Atlanta, Turning Point: The American Civil War, and Gatheround: Stories of Atlanta. In addition to those areas were Atlanta ’96: Shaping an Olympic and Paralympic City, Shaping Traditions: Folk Arts in a Changing South, and Native Lands: Indians and Georgia. There were also areas on Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow, and Any Great Change: The Centennial of the 19th Amendment (A woman’s right to vote). The final areas dealt with Fair Play: The Bobby Jones Story (he was a golf legend), Mandarin Shutze: A Chinese Export Life, and Seeking Eden (the 19th and early 20th century focus on landscaping and gardening).
“Man, there was certainly a lot to see in an afternoon,” Jake stated.
“Yes, that was a lot, but I found it very interesting,” I added.
“I wish you were going to be here longer so we could have taken our time, but we’ve got other things planned for the rest of the week,” Nick said apologetically.
“No, it’s fine,” I replied, “and we got a good impression of everything they had there.”
“We’re glad you’re not disappointed or upset,” Shannon offered.
“No, we’re not upset in the least,” Jake responded.“And we appreciate everything you’ve done for us since we’ve been here.”
On the way home, Nick pulled over in front of the Margaret Mitchell House and Shannon told us a little about it.“She lived in apartment 1 with her husband, a small apartment on the first floor that she often referred to as the dump.”
“But it looks like a lovely building,” Jake countered.
“Maybe it does now, but she lived there from 1925 to 1932 and some of the owners didn’t keep it well maintained.”
“Do you know if she wrote her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Gone With the Wind there?” I asked.
“From what I understand, she wrote most of it there,” Shannon replied.
“She must have earned a ton on money from the book and the rights for the movie,” Jake added.
“She did, but did you know that the black actors weren’t allowed to attend when it premiered in Atlanta in 1939?”
“Yes, because the south was still staunchly segregated,” I concurred.“And there weren’t any blacks at all in the audience.It was a terrible injustice.”
After we left there, we made a quick stop to eat before we headed back to their house.Once there, Nick made an announcement.
“We won’t be starting out as early tomorrow because we have things planned for later in the day.We’ll stay here until after lunch, so you can sleep in if you want, and we probably won’t be getting home until around midnight.”
“Damn, what have you got planned?” Jake asked.
“We’ll start out by taking you by where we work first, and then we’re going to take a tour of CNN (Cable News Network) next.Later, after we eat dinner, we’re taking you to ChastainPark to see a Lionel Richie concert.”
“Really?He was one of my favorite vocalists,” Jake gasped.“I had some groups I liked too, but I really liked his songs.”
“I had a feeling that was the case, since Mom liked him too.I had to listen to her playing the CDs all the time after you moved out,” Shannon responded.
“I bet one of them must have been my Can’t Slow Down album.I wondered what happened to that.”
“And I remember the song Dancing On The Ceiling,” Shannon added.
“Yes, that was another one of my CDs that disappeared.”
“Well, maybe he’ll sing some of those songs for you tomorrow night.”
“I certainly hope so.”
We spent a nice relaxing evening with the boys, and Nick brought out some beer that we drank as we discussed our day and looked forward to the next.
After a very refreshing night’s sleep, we eventually got dressed and prepared for the day ahead.After finishing lunch, Nick drove us to see where he and Shannon worked, and then he took us to the Inside CNN Studio Tour.It was a guided tour that started out in a simulated control room where our guide explained how the director informed the technicians what to show on our television screens.We also got to see a green-screen and our guide explained how the weatherman would look at a monitor to the side, rather than at the green-screen, so he’d know where to point.He also explained how the teleprompter worked, how the news was gathered, and how it all came together in a live show.
“I didn’t know some of those things,” I stated as we were leaving.
“I didn’t know most of them,” Shannon added, “but I’m sure Nick did, since he’s into all of that technical stuff.”
“Yes, I did, but it was still neat to see how they used it here,” he agreed.
Once we left there, they took us out to enjoy a nice leisurely meal before the concert began.Once we got to the park, we tried to find a good spot to watch the show from since it wasn’t assigned seating.Once we were situated, we chatted as we waited for the show to begin.
I thought Jake was going to faint when Lionel Richie walked out on the stage of the amphitheatre because this was the first time he’d seen Lionel Richie in person.He maintained his composure, though, and Lionel chatted briefly with the audience before belting out his first song.Over the course of the evening he sang some of his most memorable songs, including All Night Long, Truly, Dancing on the Ceiling, Hello, Stuck on You, and Say You, SayMe.Jake and I were getting into the music, and Jake even tried to sing along a couple of times, even though he didn’t have the best singing voice, and I think even Shannon and Nick enjoyed being here.
“That was incredible,” Jake said when we got back to the car.“I can’t believe I finally got to see him live.”
“It was a great show and he had the entire place getting into it,” I agreed.
“Yes, and even I enjoyed it,” Shannon conceded, “even though I had to listen to all of his songs at home while I was growing up.”
“Hey, I enjoyed it too!” Nick added.“I’ve seen him as a judge on American Idol, so it was kinda neat to hear what he could do.”
“Thanks for bringing me to this,” Jake enthused.“This is one part of the trip that I’ll never forget, along with getting to spend time with both of you.”
“We’re both glad you enjoyed it,” Shannon responded.
It was late by the time we arrived home, so we went through our nightly ritual quickly before turning in.
After waking up on Saturday morning and having breakfast together, Shannon told us what we were going to do.“We’re going to pack a lunch and take it with us in the cooler, because today we’re taking you to Stone MountainPark.It will probably be crowded there, but that’s ok since most of the things are geared towards the kids and we’ll be skipping those areas.”
“We’re also going to take four lawn chairs,” Nick added, “because we’re going to stick around until after dark so you can see the laser show.It’s quite spectacular.”
“Sounds good to me,” Jake responded.
“Me too,” I agreed.
It took about thirty minutes for us to get there, and then Nick tried to find a spot in the shade to park in order to protect the food and drinks we had in the cooler.After we locked the car, we went to purchase our tickets.
The main attraction is a humungous stone boulder, or dome, that juts out of the ground and rises to a height of 825 feet (251 m) above the surrounding area.The circumference of Stone Mountain is more than 5 miles (8 km) at its base, and one of its most iconic attractions is the largest bas-relief carving in the world.It depicts three Confederate figures: Jefferson Davis (President of the Confederacy) and two Confederate generals, Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson.It has also drawn widespread controversy.
We learned about the geology and history of the area first, and then we took a train ride around the entire park to give us a feel for the place.After that we took the Skyride, or a cable car, to the top of Stone Mountain so we could enjoy the amazing view, which included the Atlanta skyline in the distance.We spent quite a bit of time on top of that rock, and then Nick and Shannon decided to walk down the trail on the west side.Jake and I didn’t think we could handle that, so we took the Skyride back to the bottom and waited for the boys to join us.
“There were actually people walking up that trail to the top as we were coming down!” Nick informed us when we met up again.
“It was tough enough walking down from there,” Shannon added, “so I can’t imagine trying to walk up it.”
After that, we walked out to the car and took out the cooler so we could have lunch.It was one of those coolers with wheels, so we followed Nick and carried the lawn chairs as he pulled the cooler to a large grassy area where we sat down to eat.
“This is where they’ll have the laser show later,” he explained as we were chowing down.
“I can’t wait to see it,” I replied.
After we finished eating, Nick took the cooler back to the car while we followed him with the lawn chairs, and then we went to look around Historic Square.That’s a collection of historic buildings from all over Georgia that had been moved here to showcase the vast differences in architecture and how people lived.There were three plantation manor-houses from 1794, 1845, and 1850, as well as two slave cabins, a barn, and other outbuildings.It was a real eye opener.
“Whoa, some people had it pretty nice while others were a lot worse off,” Nick stated.
“And I think you know who were the ones that struggled,” I countered.
Following our tour of those structures, we went on the Rockin’ Land and LakeTour.It was an interactive guided tour that gave us another perspective of the park, but this time from the water. Once the boat ride ended, Nick talked us into playing miniature golf on a course that was based on The Great Locomotive Chase.This was an actual event during the Civil War when volunteers from the Union Army commandeered a train, named the General, and were pursued by Confederate forces until they were eventually captured.
Playing miniature golf was fun and we all enjoyed it, and when we finished, we went to have dinner in one of the establishments in the park.It was nothing special, but it was filling, and after we finished, we walked out to the car to retrieve the lawn chairs again.We carried them back to the same grassy expanse where we’d eaten lunch earlier and located a good spot to watch the show.We had to wait quite a while before it started, so we talked about other things in the meantime.
“When we get back to the house, we’re going to have to pack up and get ready to return home,” I announced.
“Yes, we know, and we’ll be sorry to see you go,” Shannon conceded.“We’re going to take you out for breakfast first, before we drive you to the airport.”
“We really appreciate that you both took time off from work and planned all of these trips for us,” Jake stated.“We both had a truly enjoyable time with you.”
“Yes, we did,” I concurred.
“We’ll be joining you for Thanksgiving this year, but Nick’s parents will be coming here for Christmas.”
“That’s fine, and we look forward to seeing you again at that time,” Jake replied.
When the laser show started, Jake and I agreed that it was truly amazing.It used a combination of digital projections, lasers, music, other special effects, and pyrotechnics displayed on the same face of Stone Mountain as the carving.It was a delightful and entertaining show.
When the laser show ended, we headed out to the car and then Nick had to fight with the other visitors to exit the park so we could make our way home.As soon as we got back to the house, Jake and I got our things together and packed up our suitcases first, and then we said goodnight to Nick and Shannon before we showered and hopped into bed.
When we woke up in the morning, Jake and I got dressed, brushed our teeth quickly, and packed the last few items into our suitcases before taking them out and loading them into the car.Nick drove us over to a restaurant where we shared our last meal together.We hugged each other and said our goodbyes before we left the parking lot.
“We’ll do this now, because the most we’ll be able to do is pull up in front of your terminal and drop you off,” Nick stated.
“Yes, it’s such a busy place that we won’t be able to go inside with you,” Shannon added.
“That’s fine and we understand,” Jake replied.
When we got to the airport, we merely said goodbye again and grabbed our luggage before waving at them as they drove off.As soon as we were inside, we checked our luggage and made our way through the security check point, and then we waited in the boarding area.Once we were aboard the plane and it had taken off, it proved to be another smooth flight.We landed in Philadelphia close to the designated time, and then we headed out to the parking lot to retrieve our car.
I drove the entire way home so Jake could rest up and take it easy, since he had to work the following day.He offered to take over after we stopped to grab a bite to eat about halfway home, but I turned him down, and the drive didn’t turn out to be too taxing.When we arrived at the house, we received a warm welcome home as the boys came out to greet us and even took our luggage inside.We chatted with the others as we ate dinner with them, and then we showered quickly before turning in.We were both exhausted and wanted to get plenty of rest before the new day began.