Two Big Things in Atlanta

We last visited Atlanta in the fall of 2013 when Elaine and I were on a tour of Civil Rights sites. At that time, due to a government shut-down (grrr), most of the Martin Luther King National Historic Site was closed. Today we chose to return. We especially wanted to see MLK’s birth home and the old Ebenezer Baptist Church where both he and his father had served as pastor.

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We spent the morning touring these sites, and all the memories from that fall 2013 sabbatical trip and blogging project came flooding back. Back then I deduced that MLK had come from a fairly well-to-do family, and those initial impressions were confirmed by our tour guide for the family home. I was particularly impressed to see that the neighborhood of the home included affluent as well as working-class homes. Unlike today’s neighborhoods, MLK’s childhood neighborhood gave him an economically diverse experience. Sometimes I think the divisions within our society today are much more economic than racial.

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We have 2 members of our party who are in the medical profession, so for the afternoon we headed off to explore the museum at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Wow, what a fascinating stop that was! We learned a ton about the Ebola outbreak of 2014 and the CDC’s response to it. Then we could have learned a ton about just about every infectious disease known to man … if we had had unlimited time to explore. We wore ourselves out and still didn’t uncover all that they had to offer.

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The CDC Museum

One of the coolest things there were two different artistic renderings of microbes. One was just 3-D large models of dozens of different germs. It was in a stairwell.

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The other was a rendering of a couple of different types of microbes being dispersed. This was on a wall.

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After this we learned about typical rush-hour Atlanta traffic as we made our way to our hosts’ home in Rome, GA.



To Atlanta We Go!

Having family in Rome, GA, we started a weeklong visit to the Peach State this afternoon. Our family members, M and A, picked us up at the airport, and we headed for the Holiday Inn Express on Cone Street in downtown Atlanta. Our hotel was a short walk from The World of Coca Cola, a museum presented by the Coke company to tell the story of all things Coke.

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World of Coca Cola Museum

To say that I was surprised that there was so much to show and tell about Coke would be an understatement. We experienced everything from a “live” Coke polar bear to the vault holding the secret Coke formula.

This Polar Bear had a person inside!

I have to say that the drama surrounding the so-called secret formula was a bit over the top, for me, but everything else was pretty enjoyable. The highlight was the tasting room where you could sample from about 100 different soft drink flavors from around the world. My personal favorite was from Peru, and it was something that Coke called the Inca Kola.

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Tasting Room – over 100 flavors to try!

After we left the Coke museum we enjoyed some bison burgers at Ted’s Montana Grill on Luckie Street. I don’t recall that I’ve had bison burgers before, but after this experience I will definitely have them again.

Bison at Ted’s

Back at the hotel we were hoping to be able to hang out and relax together for a bit before heading off to bed. Unfortunately, the rooms were very small, and there were not even any chairs in them. There were a couple of large upholstered chairs in the lobby, but there were four of us, and the lobby was very noisy. We ended up sitting around one of the tables in the breakfast area. The good thing is that when you’re with family, it really doesn’t matter if you’re in luxurious surroundings. We had a lot of talking to do, and it was pleasant just having an opportunity to be together. We’re looking forward to a fun and event-filled week!

The Last “Fling” of Fall?

Totally unwilling to let fall slip away without one more “camping” trip, we decided to do a quick, one-night stay at a Finger-Lakes-area Harvest Host location. We had made arrangements to spend the night at the Pleasant Valley/Great Western winery outside Hammondsport, NY. Now, normally, it’s only about an hour’s drive from our home to where this winery is located. But we didn’t want to just drive directly there. We really just wanted an excuse to get out and drive around in the hills and look for foliage and fall things. So we headed west, even though our final destination was south of us.



The foliage this year is not as brightly colored as it normally is. Even at their most colorful, the hillsides are less than spectacular. Nice; but not spectacular.


We started by visiting the Hemlock Lake Park at the north end of Hemlock Lake. The sun was shining, and the temperature was climbing out of the 40’s, so we had hopes of sitting by the lake, maybe taking a walk or a bike ride, and/or maybe dropping a fishing line. As soon as we got out of the truck we discovered that the strong south wind would put an end to all those hopes. Even the south-bound Canada geese were having a tough time of it in their migratory efforts.

Since the wind made it unpleasant to stay, we headed over to the south end of Canadice Lake to see if a hike in the woods there would be more agreeable. We found a place to pull the trailer off by the side of the road and headed out on the trail that skirts the south and west sides of the lake. This was much better. We were shielded from the wind, and the colors of the leaves were better at ground level than when looking at the hills from a distance. We found some really bright orange berries to cheer the day.



After a super-enjoyable hike, we had to find a way to get turned around and continue on our way. (We had parked heading north, on this really narrow country road, and we had to go south to get to Hammondsport. I had learned my lesson on another trip about not trying to do a 3-point turn-around, with a trailer, on a narrow road.) We headed north, went all the way to the north end of Canadice Lake, drove across the north end of the lake, and then turned to go south. It was a bit of a long way around, but we didn’t seem to have much choice. As we drove, the sky got sunnier, and the sun brought out more luminescence in the leaves. Some of the yellows seemed to be electrified. (Sorry – no pics – was driving.)

By about 2:45 we arrived at Pleasant Valley/Great Western. Tammy welcomed us and told us about the place. We were to “set up” at the edge of the parking lot. I had asked yesterday about their tour of the facility and was told that the last one would be at 3:00. We had worked out our travels to coincide with this so that we could be here for that tour. Tammy told us that they were a bit short-handed, and that the tour would be a bit delayed. It might be 3:20 or 3:30 before they were able to do it. We were OK with this, as we had no more plans for the day. But then, when 3:30 rolled around, Cory, the tour guide came by and told us that it was too late to take a tour today. Hmm. Not OK. After a bit of back-and-forth with him about who had told us what and when, he went and spoke with Tammy about it. Then he returned and apologized and offered us a complementary tour. (Normally a tour is $5 per person.) I’m really glad this worked out, because the tour was excellent. It was a history lesson and an opportunity to see and touch the tools and implements of the wine industry the way it was practiced years and years ago. Fascinating to say the least.



After the tour we settled in to a quiet evening in our home away from home.


Fall Color on a Cloudy Day

Today was to be the final day of our ADK adventure. We wanted a taste of the “wild” part of this “forever wild” park, so we looked for an unpaved logging road to head out on. Almost as soon as we turned onto this one-lane road we encountered a fully-loaded logging truck heading in the opposite direction. We had to back up and eventually get completely off the road in order to give him enough room to get by. That was exciting! I’m glad this happened at the beginning so that I knew to approach blind curves very slowly. About 5 miles out into the wilderness we came to a quarter-mile hike to Barker Pond. This was a beautiful, well-hidden pond, and the trail lead to a small clearing with a campsite.

Our next and final destination was Great Camp Sagamore, where they offer daily tours at 1:30 each afternoon this time of year. I had heard of Adirondack “Great Camps” before, but this 2-hour tour gave me a much deeper understanding of what these facilities were all about. This one was originally the retreat of William Durant, the wealthy son of one of the “robber barons” of the Gilded Age (mid to late 1800’s). For most of the 20th century this camp was owned by the Vanderbilt family and used as a place to entertain the rich and powerful. Since the late 1970’s it has been in the hands of a preservationist, nonprofit organization who uses it to provide educational programming.

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We were able to enjoy seeing the buildings (inside and out) on this cloudy fall afternoon. One of the more interesting buildings houses a 2-lane bowling alley. I was privileged to be selected as one of two who were allowed to actually take one swipe at the pins. I scored an 8!

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After this it was just driving home. The foliage in the Adirondacks was stunning, but almost as soon as we were out of the park area we were back in mostly green leaves.


No Clock

While it was necessary to check out of our cabin by 11:00 AM, The Hedges was kind enough to invite us to spend the rest of the day on the property, enjoying the facilities. Have you ever had a hotel or other form of lodging do that?? We stayed for a while, enjoying the sun, but braced against the wind. In the afternoon we headed to Tupper Lake in order to visit The Wild Center.


The fall leaves were not very impressive when we arrived in this area on Tuesday, but today they were beginning to “pop.” It is amazing the difference that two days can make this time of year. The reds were particularly awesome. Elaine kept saying that she has never seen such brilliant reds. Since red is her favorite fall leaf color, she was in pure joy.


One of The Wild Center’s key attractions is a live river otter. We arrived just in time for her afternoon “show.” For about a half hour we enjoyed watching her swimming and playing and eating a special fish-kabob. These are absolutely wonderful animals! Another feature of the The Wild Center is their outdoor, treetop walking trail. It was a lot of fun to be walking up high on a walkway and enjoying the fall colors and the views of the surrounding mountains. After the treetop walk I took a short hike to a riverside. It was a terrific afternoon, and I can recommend this facility.

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Along with the gift certificate for The Hedges was a $100 gift certificate for the Adirondack Hotel. We used this for one overnight stay. Now some have described this place as more of a “hostel” than a “hotel,” and I can see why. It is well over 100 years old, and it is showing its age. There is no apparent deferred maintenance, but a building this old can’t help but show its age. The rooms are very small, and only a few of them have their own private bath. There are no TV’s in the rooms, no microwaves, no small refrigerators. The whole experience was quite a bit like time travel. I felt as if I had stepped back in time about 50 years. A lot of things in the Adriondacks are that way. Time seems to stand still up here.

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Not-So-High Peaks

So many possibilities of how to spend the day! There are canoes and kayaks, there is fishing, there is hiking, there is chilling out to read a book in the sun or in the comfort of an Adirondack lodge. What to do? During breakfast I peppered our wait staff with questions about hiking in the local area. I was tempted to hike up Blue Mountain, but the prospect of a 2-mile straight up climb intimidated me. The compromise was a 1-mile climb up to Castle Rock, which is said to have a 360-degree view (at half the labor cost of the climb up Blue Mountain). The bonus was that one of Charles’ poems last night was about his climb up to Castle Rock. Based on the weather, which promised to be warm in the afternoon, I decided on a hike for the morning followed by an afternoon on the water.


The hike was excellent. The difficulty of the climb was just about right for my present level of physical conditioning. The last couple hundred feet were pretty much a straight-up rock climb, but it was short enough that it presented no real difficulties.

The Final Steep Ascent
Panorama Shot from Castle Rock


After the hike, the weather wasn’t as good as I had hoped for, concerning spending time on the water. The wind was blowing quite strongly, and the water was pretty choppy. Not the best conditions for kayaking or canoeing. I did try a little fishing from shore, but the main activity for the afternoon was sitting in the sun and reading. Still not a bad way to spend a fall afternoon!


We spent some time in the late afternoon on our cabin’s porch before the rain came. It rained all evening and most of the night, which made our cozy cabin even more cozy. A sunset, however, was not to be seen.

Some of the Best in New York

Last Spring, at a fundraising auction for Lima Christian School, Elaine was the winning bidder on an Adirondack “escape.” Today we headed out for two nights at Hedges at Blue Mountain Lake and a night at the Adirondack Hotel on Long Lake. We always want to wring every drop of enjoyment out of every trip we take, so we planned to stop in Manlius, NY along the way to do a factory tour of the Stickley furniture factory. Wow! What a day this turned out to be!


The Stickley factory offers free tours every Tuesday at 10:00. This was perfect timing for us, because we wanted to leave home early in the morning, and we couldn’t check in to our cabin until 3:00. We arrived at the factory with just about 10 minutes to spare.

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We both love “arts and crafts” furniture, sometimes known as “mission oak.” Stickley is known for their high-quality line of this sort of furniture, so it was fascinating to hear their story and see their production line. One of the things we learned is that Stickley stopped making the original line of arts and crafts furniture around 1915 and then re-introduced this style in 1989. So if you have any original Stickley arts and crafts furniture, that is considered to be a real heirloom item. The new stuff is based on the original designs, but it uses updated methods and some updates to the designs. Our tour guide was George Webster, and he did a great job.

George Webster

Our tour started with the computer-assisted sorting and selection of incoming lumber. I was fascinated to see how the computers scan each board and identify the flaws as well as the usable portions of that board. They then cut the good stuff from the flawed stuff and discard the unusable portions. The good parts are identified right from the start to be used for a particular item of furniture. Apparently the database has information on every single board needed for every item of furniture, and it matches up incoming boards that will be used for each item. George said they discard about 50% of the wood that they purchase. This, of course, contributes to the high pricetag Stickley furniture commands. (This was to be an ongoing theme that George developed: doing things the Stickley way is expensive, and this is why the furniture they produce is so expensive.)


Throughout the tour we were to see how the company uses computer-assisted design and processes where it makes sense to do so, and hand-work when it makes sense to do that. Some processes just cannot (yet) be effectively mechanized. This factory employs about 700 people, and we got to see many of them in action.

Another fascinating thing I learned was about the square posts used in many Stickley pieces. Quarter-sawn oak has the most interesting grain, and it also has the most structural integrity. When you cut a post out of raw oak, the quarter-sawn features are only shown on two of the four sides. One of the original Stickley brothers invented a way to miter the post and assemble a new post that puts quarter-sawn pieces on all four sides. Other manufacturers use veneer on the two non-quarter-sawn sides to make it look quarter sawn. But that method lacks the structural strength of the Stickley method. They call their posts “Quadrilinear” posts.

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After we left the factory, we took a short ride down the road to visit the Stickley Museum. The museum is in the building that used to be the Stickley factory, up until about 1989. We learned more about the history of the company and saw many examples of their work. By the time we left I can honestly say that I have a better understanding of why Stickley furniture is as expensive as it is. I still don’t know if I can justify spending the kind of money needed to purchase any, but I do understand it better now.


After a couple more hours of driving we arrived at The Hedges. We’ve stayed here once before, back in 2015, so we knew we were in for a treat. This time we were staying in one of their cabins right by the lakeshore. As a guest here you get to use their kayaks and canoes, you can hang out in their lodge or anywhere on their grounds, you can swim at their beach, and they serve a delicious dinner and breakfast to their guests each day.

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After the lovely sunset we enjoyed a poetry reading by professor Charles Bachman from Buffalo. This was a marvelous and lovely first day of a short getaway.  Partial retirement can be pretty nice!

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