Our 2019 Road Trip, Part 23: One Last Constitutional Before the Convention

Olympic Anne!

One more go-’round at Centennial Olympic Park, for one last quest. No, this photo was not the quest.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 my wife Anne and I have taken a trip to a different part of the United States and visited attractions, wonders, and events we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. My son tagged along from 2003 until 2013 when he ventured off to college. We’ve taken two trips by airplane, but are much happier when we’re the ones behind the wheel — charting our own course, making unplanned stops anytime we want, availing ourselves of slightly better meal options, and keeping or ruining our own schedule as dictated by circumstances or whims. We’re the Goldens. It’s who we are and what we do.

For years we’ve been telling friends in other states that we’d one day do Atlanta’s Dragon Con, one of the largest conventions in America that isn’t in California or New York. We’d been in Atlanta, but we hadn’t really done Atlanta. Hence this year’s vacation, in which we aimed for a double proficiency in Atlanta tourism and over-the-top Dragon Con goodness. Before we went to D*C, there was the road trip to get there, and the good times to be had before the great times at the big show.

DAY FIVE: Thursday, August 29th.

We’d figured in advance that Thursday would serve as a transitional day, when our roles would change from giddy sightseers to geek convention-goers. We’d had three full days to tour Atlanta. We’d hit all the highest-ranking attractions on our brainstorming list. A few of the honorable mentions had varying levels of appeal, but we had only a few hours in the morning before our scheduled walking tour for Dragon Con newbies. As it happened, Anne had one item left on her personal to-do list that we had yet to accommodate.

But first: breakfast. One block southeast of our hotel was a Rising Roll Bakery, one of 19 locations in a southwestern-US casual chain celebrating its twentieth anniversary this year. Service wasn’t great. The display shelves were worryingly sparse by the time we arrived. My bacon-egg-cheese croissant sandwich was smashed flat. I also found it unnervingly odd that their chocolate muffins were identical to the muffins served at my day job’s cafeteria back home — same shape, size, clingy brown wrapper, brown-sugar dusting, and rectangular chocolate chunks on top. Considering said cafeteria is proudly run by an Indianapolis restaurateur with a business portfolio of considerable breadth, I’d charitably assumed their muffins were locally made. It was disillusioning to learn they and a faraway breakfast chain use the same muffin supplier.

Sahm's Muffin!

They’re good muffins, but it’s jarring to travel 550 miles from home only to sit down with a workplace reminder staring you in the face.

For old time’s sake we decided to give the Atlanta Streetcar one last try. We hadn’t enjoyed the long wait the first time around, but we thought it might be prudent to save a little energy for the afternoon’s con events. We walked a block down to the Streeetcar stop across from Woodruff Park and waited again.

And waited. And waited. And waited, 35 minutes or so, more than twice as long as our intended route would’ve taken to walk in the first place. Once again our decision to spend a buck apiece on frivolity cost us more time than money. It wouldn’t be the last time in 2019 that public transit would disappoint us.

Woodruff Park!

Watching woodsy Woodruff Park while we waited, in the heart of the Georgia State University campus.

Streetcar Inside!

Streetcar: the inside story. Whatever the cause for the long wait, it wasn’t due to heavy crowds.

Once again we made our way over to pretty Centennial Olympic Park, soon to star in a major motion picture from director Clint Eastwood. Our primary objective for this one last tourism-based goal lay on the park’s northwest corner, on the opposite end from its Streetcar stop.

College Football Hall of Fame!

Special features in the vicinity that have nothing to do with us include the College Football Hall of Fame, which was constructed from a giant football someone hollowed out with a backhoe.

aquarium crane!

Also not appearing in this miniseries: the Georgia Aquarium, which was among the priciest spots in town and under construction for new additions we can perhaps see on some future visit. And, to be honest, we’ve done aquariums before.

Centennial Olympic Park!

The far side of Centennial Olympic Park, that’s less about remembering the Olympics and more about being a basic happy city park.

Across the street from the aquarium expansion in progress, we found our goal: a fully loaded Atlanta souvenir shop. While I’d had the opportunity to sate my personal shopping wants, Anne had a few wants of her own. She bought a little for herself as well as for a few key relatives back home in Indy. When you’re on vacation, it’s what you do.

ATL souvenirs!

Or we could’ve just bought a bag of peaches to remember Atlanta by, but those have a slightly shorter shelf life.

Once Anne was satisfied, it was time to journey back to the hotel. Now that the Streetcar had lost its allure, walking back seemed the only other option even though this was in direct opposition to our previously stated goal of saving energy for Dragon Con. I, however, had just had a replacement idea that might aid our D*C experience: light reconnaissance.

We headed due east through the heart of all their tall buildings and found ourselves amid the complex called AmericasMart, a trio of tall showplaces that can hold conventions, bazaars, flea markets, or whatever other gatherings care to rent out their voluminous spaces. Two of those three AmericasMart buildings were used for D*C, one of which we were guaranteed to visit when the time came. Pinpointing their exact locations helped tremendously in our navigation later.

AmericasMart 3!

To our left was AmericasMart Building 3, unused by the con. Cool staircase, though.

AmericasMart 2!

To our right, AmericasMart 2, on the side facing away from the D*C hotels.

Ty column!

On the side nearest the con, ads were plastered all over for the wonderful world of Ty and whatever mutant animals they’re now selling instead of Beanie Babies.

Ty window!

On Thursday it was more ad space for cutesy collectibles. On Friday this was our gateway to Artists Alley and the con’s official exhibit hall.

Several blocks later we were back at the hotel and despairing over the rising temperatures that had left us drowning in our own sweat. Earlier in the week, the weather had been a bit cooler. Now our summer was reheating to average Atlanta temps, just in time to make the con all the less comfortable. We returned to our room, collapsed for a bit, tried to re-energize ourselves for the super fun times ahead. Our Atlanta vacation had technically ended, but our first time at a big Atlanta convention was about to begin.

bell-dolphin statue!

This book-laden bell-dolphin near our hotel was the last statue we saw before we flipped our mental switches from “road trip” to “comic con”. I understand there are other dolphins around the city, but their undisclosed locations were no longer our concern.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email sign-up for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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