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. 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.” 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. 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.