Eastern Vacation Journal, Saturday, July 14 July 16, 2007

We head to the airport. Note to self – you get what you pay for. We found cheap tickets through AirTran and, apparently, so did everyone else. Airtran Logo They had 2 gate agents, one of whom was busy with one annoying girl the entire time we were there – and a line stretching pretty much the entire length of the terminal. We made it aboard, but were not comforted when, waiting to actually get on the plane, a young lady got off, escorted by a flight attendant, as “my seat and my whole row just fell apart.” In any case, the flight was otherwise uneventful. Arriving in Atlanta we could see why it was popular – LA must be an incidental destination for them. They pretty much owned the whole concourse over there.

The rental car was an interesting situation – turns out, at some airports, National only has “compact” cars, even though they advertise “economy” and “compact.” img Since we’re driving so much, and there’s only the 2 of us, I was saying “tinier is better” and signed up for the economy. I was expecting a dinky Chevy Aveo – and got this lovely beast instead. (In other words, you get a compact for the economy price, since they don’t technically “have” any economy cars.) While yellow is not my first choice in car color, it’s fun to drive, has XM, a line-in input for the ipod, a sunroof, and gets 32MPG. I was very pleasantly surprised when my first fillup was $30.

Ah yes, as you can see, our first meal was at the Waffle House, apparently an institution around here – you see the signs at pretty much every off ramp. I’d seen them when I was in Georgia for my brother’s wedding, and we didn’t get a chance to sample. We’re all about absorbing the local culture on this trip, so we gave it a shot. It was tasty food, no doubt! They do make a very good hash brown.

First stop: Maggie Valley, NC

Our first real destination was the Great Smoky Mountains National Part , so Maggie Valley was a good nearby spot to get a hotel. It seemed to be a kind of family vacation kind of place – the smokies seem to be entirely filled with hotels, mini golf, and more hotels. Chillin on the porch with the rockers Notably, Best Westerns appear to have really top quality wireless internet for free. I found this amusing since the 2 of the last 3 hotels I’ve stayed in (a) cost 3 times as much as this and (b) charged $10 for mediocre wifi.

As it happens, Amber and I are both fans of the mini golf, so we walked down the street and took in a game. (Had we felt like it, we could have visited 3 more such facilities in less than a mile.)

The surroundings are incredible in that part of the country for a native Californian. From the minute we got in our car, even driving close to downtown Atlanta, the whole world was GREEN in a way that’s pretty foreign to us. Even in our national parks, things tend to be green in kind of a scrubby, piney kind of way. Here there are large, broad-leaved, lush looking trees growing on top of other broad-leaved, lush looking trees and the whole thing appears to be covered in some kind of ivy, just in case there weren’t enough broad green leaves to go around.

So, travel-weary, we brought our first day to a close, readying ourselves for the driving and scenery that tomorrow would bring.