Peaches 'n' such!!!!
Trip Start Jun 04, 2010
4Trip End Jul 11, 2010
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Where I stayed
Matt Zuraw's House
In the midst of my whirlwind of a last week in DC, moving all of my crap out of my apartment and not having a home of my own (since our lease ends while I'm away and I opted to sublet my room for the month to save some cash), I had thrown a bunch of miscellaneous items into a small duffle bag, which I had then apparently identified as useless and had left behind. Of course, it wasn't useless, it actually had some quite useful items in it, including probably the most vital item for any roadtrip (other than maybe a driver's license): my camera. OH. And Meredith's camera is on the fritz. Good thing we have smartphones with cameras? I guess so... but that doesn't really satisfy me. So... deciding to finally foster my long-time neglected interest in photography, I made the decision to bite the bullet and buy myself a legitimate quasi-professional 35mm digital SLR camera at a Best Buy in some random town off the highway in South Carolina. It might seem impulsive to most, but I'm pretty convinced that the pictures we're able to snap with this bad boy (especially when blown up to poster-size) will prove to be worth the somewhat substantial investment.
The trip to Macon was again fairly uneventful, although we could definitely feel that we had arrived in the South. Churches on every corner, little mom-and-pop convenience stores and push-carts plopped on the sides of roads, hand-written signs pointing to nearby farmers' markets just down adjoining dirt roads. After many miles of "Where the heck are we?"s, we finally pulled into my friend Matt's development and up to his awesome, newly-built two-story house, complete with both first- and second-level porches, which seemed the norm down here. I guess all these peach-loving Southerners also love sitting out on their front porches, sipping on sweet tea and enjoying view and the sweltering heat. Matty came out to greet us and help us with our extreme overabundance of baggage. As we walked through the front door, the smell of southern cooking permeated the air. Matt had gathered a few of his closest friends, and the group was preparing some down-home southern soul food for us! So awesome. Baked salmon, homemade macaroni and cheese, collard greens (which I thought were quite fantastic, Matty, despite anyone else’s opinion!), and cornbread, topped off with a dessert of peach cobbler and ice cream. All absolutely delicious. We sipped on sweet tea vodka, caught up on life, and learned all about Matt’s friends’ jobs as local news reporters, which was really pretty fascinating. It was hard to believe these guys and girls, only a couple years out of school, were already on TV, reporting in the evening on the stories they worked their asses off during the day to put together. Very cool. They were also able to give us some tips on things to do in their respective home cities, which we’d be passing through in the coming weeks.
We got to sleep relatively early, as Matty had work the next day and we wanted to get back on the road and up to Atlanta early for some sightseeing. We enjoyed the second-story porch the next morning, sipping on French-pressed coffee and basking in the perfect early-morning temperatures and bright blue sky. Matt headed off to work, leaving us with a bag of fresh (and incredibly good) Georgia peaches for our travels, and Meredith and I hopped back in the Xterra for the short trip up to Hotlanta. Our first stop was, of course, my Mecca: the World of Coca-Cola! We were greeted by the president and CEO of the company as we walked in, who shook my hand and thanked me for single-handedly supporting their industry. Not really, but that would have been cool, right? And not really that out-of-the-question, in my opinion. (If you don’t actually know me and are reading this, long-story-short: I drink A LOT of Diet Coke. Like, an absurd amount. It’s kind of my thing, I guess.) Anyway, we walked through the many rooms of exhibits, all dedicated to the evolution of Coke, its place in history, and its many roles in bettering society and building communities. At the end of the tour was a tasting room, where we were able to sample about 80 different varieties of soda/pop/soda pop/soft drinks/fizzy drinks/whatever you may call them from all around the world. I felt like Charlie Bucket walking into The Chocolate Room. I might have even done a little song and dance, but I can’t remember; it was all too exciting. It was really neat to see what types of flavor varieties are manufactured for different regions of the world. Some were quite tasty, others downright nauseating, but all unique and interesting in their own special way. We then filtered into the gift shop, where I had to restrain myself from replacing my entire wardrobe with Coke-themed apparel. Soon starting to feel a little ill from the absurd amount of sugar we had ingested in the tasting room, we decided it was time to leave the WOCC behind and grab some fresh air.
Matt and his friends had suggested checking out the Georgia Aquarium, just across the plaza from the WOCC and apparently the world’s largest aquarium. And boy… was it. We sat mesmerized by the unbelievable variety of sea creatures in the Ocean Voyager gallery: whale sharks, manta rays, massive grouper, hammerhead sharks, the list goes on and on and on. As we viewed the scene through what is the second largest viewing window in the world, at 23 feet tall by 61 feet wide and 2 feet thick (seriously, HUUUUGE), it felt like we were right there underwater with all the ocean dwellers. Minus the being completely soaked part. And the breathing through gills part. I don’t know. It was cool.
It was time to hit the road again, this time with a shorter leg ahead of us, just under 3 hours to Birmingham, AL. We made a pit stop at a burger joint just outside the city, suggested by one of Brendan and Kevin’s friends in Charlotte and run by Season 4 Top Chef chef Richard Blais. It was a very cool place, dubbed “a modern burger boutique,” with a vast array of combinations of gourmet meat, toppings, and sauces, and some very tasty French fries. Meredith opted for the Korean BBQ burger (an American wagyu patty topped with braised short rib, kimchee ketchup, pickled vegetables, and crispy tempura onions) and I picked out the Ossobuco burger (veal patty topped with gremolata mayo, braised ketchup, and crispy fried onions). We hadn’t yet eaten all day, so the meal was especially satisfying. We got our fill and then hopped back in the car, bound for 'Bama.