Saturday, April 27, 2013

Stone Mountain Park Georgia

Even though we had been camped at Stone Mountain RV Park since Monday we had to wait to tour the park until Thursday as this time of year most of the park is closed Monday-Wednesday. 

Stone Mountain as seen from the RV Park

It was worth the wait.

We took the Summit Skyride to - the summit (too out of shape and lazy to walk up). It is a rise of 825 feet from bottom to top and if you happen to be in the right spot during the ride you can get a good view of the carving - it is easier to get a good view from the ground. What carving you ask? The carving on the side of the mountain of course. The mountain is a huge hunk of granite and what huge hunk of granite does not want to be carved?

Once at the summit we had 360 degree views of the surrounding area including a hazy view of Atlanta. 

Monte on the summit with Atlanta in the background

Hazy Atlanta - and this is probably as clear as it gets
It amazes us how a tree can grow in such a harsh environment.
When asked, the tree replied "Dirt?  I don't need no stinkin' dirt"
There is quite a bit to do here and like most amusement parks - those things are geared toward kids. We toured a museum that told the history of the mountain from pre-historic times until the present, rode the train around the base of the mountain - 5 mile circumference - and watched a 4-D movie and toured an antebellum plantation and farmyard. But the real attraction for us was the carving and its history.

The carving is on the north face of the world's largest exposed granite monolith.  It is 400' above the ground, 190' wide, 90' tall and recessed 42' in to the mountain covers 3 acres and is the largest bas-relief sculpture in the world. 

The carving depicts 3 leaders of the Confederate States of America. From left to right, Jefferson Davis, only president of the Confederacy on his horse Blackjack, General Robert E. Lee on Traveller, and General Stonewall Jackson on Little Sorrel. (as an aside - we have seen Little Sorrel in person - he was sent to a taxidermist and is on display at VMI).
Just thought this was pretty cool with the 2 contrails

It is hard to visualize how huge this really is. It is
larger than Mt. Rushmore.  Each head on Rushmore is 60' in height
and this is 90' (the sculpture not the entire carved out area). 
This will give some perspective as to just how large the sculpture is.  This
is a cast of just a little bit of one of the horses heads.
A carving was originally designed by Gutzon Borglum of Mount Rushmore fame. He made a design in 1915 but work did not start until 1923. In 1924 Lee's head was unveiled and in 1925 the project was abandoned. Later in 1925 another sculptor was hired to complete the project and he made a new design and promptly blasted Lee's face off of the mountain. In 1928 the project was once again abandoned. In 1958 the State of Georgia purchased the mountain and in 1963 Walter Hancock was selected as the sculptor. The carving was dedicated in 1970 and finally considered complete in 1972.

Granite that was quarried from Stone Mountain has been used in the steps of the US Capitol, the locks of the Panama Canal, the Depository at Fort Knox, the Capitol Building in Havana Cuba, and a bunch of other places. Granite is no longer quarried here.

There is a ton more history involved with the mountain - some of it not so good and involving the KKK. But I won't go in to all that. If you are interested - Google it!

We enjoyed our stay in Atlanta. I must say - the city has come a long way since that little incident when Sherman marched to the sea.

Time to move on west.


Wednesday, April 24, 2013

World of Coca-Cola

The World of Coca-Cola is just a short stroll from CNN Center. The stroll is through Centennial Olympic Park which is absolutely gorgeous. Unfortunately it is also the site of a bombing that took the life of one person and injured 111 during the 1996 Olympic games.

In Centennial Olympic Park
Here we are on our next stop that makes us feel like traitors. Two diehard Pepsi aficionados in the World of Coca-Cola. Once again I asked for that military discount – showed our retired ID cards and got in FREE. Saved $32!  Dinner!
World of Not-Pepsi
The World of Coke displays classic ads and products, gives a rundown of the soda’s history and has rooms full of vintage Coca-Cola memorabilia.

Monte being carbonated
The tour starts with a cute 4D movie then moves on to the self-guided portion that includes a fake bottling line and an interactive walk-through that “makes you believe” that they are going to share the Coke recipe with you.  
The Vault - where the secret recipe is kept.  But then we were told that only
two people know the recipe so why the vault?
Eventually you finish in the tasting room. In this room you can sample Coke products from all over the world. The have all the drinks arranged by continent and you may sample to your heart's content – something like 60 flavors. I had read on the web, and my dear brother Tom recommended, that we try Beverly, an Italian soft drink. I tried it first – and it ruined the rest of the tasting for me. I'm serious. It’s really nasty. Actually, we found all of the Coke products from around the world to be nasty. I don't know if that is because we are Pepsi Fanatics or because people from other parts of the world have weird sense of taste or what.

Try it - You'll Like It!!
I was pretty happy when I found a place to get some water.

We did enjoy the tour through the World of Coca-Cola but would it have been worth the $32 if we had had to pay? No way for us. Maybe half that.

Time to go grab a Diet Pepsi – Now that is refreshing!


Sub-titled - Chillanta (warm jackets required)We are camped at Stone Mountain RV Park just on the east side of Atlanta. The attractions at Stone Mountain Park are only open Thursday - Sunday this time of year. So Tuesday we headed in to downtown Atlanta.

Although the day started out chilly with temps in the mid-40's - the sun was shining brightly and promised warmer weather to come.

We headed out, guided by Siri, and of course ran in to a major traffic gridlock. I guess it really only lasted about 15 minutes. But when you are not used to "big city" traffic a 15 minute backup is pretty huge. Yesterday when trying to get to the campground we ran in to a police roadblock that made us U-turn (try that in a 35' motorhome towing a car) and then got to creep along as it took us 30 minutes to go 1 mile. The joys of traveling!

Downtown Atlanta – we were pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to find parking close to our destination. Of course you pay dearly for that parking but it was nice to be so close.

I had we two FOXNEWS addicts signed up for the VIP tour at CNN Center (I felt like a traitor). For all of you active and retired military - always always ask if there is a military discount. In this case - the ticket clerk initially said there was not but then he checked and it saved us $30! Woohoo - that savings will cover lunch and parking! On to the tour. The reason I had booked the VIP tour was only 12 people on the tour vice 45 on the regular and we got to go lots of places the regular tour could not.

CNN Center as seen from Olympic Centennial Park

As the tour starts you glide up the longest freestanding escalator in the world. It is 8 stories high and supported only at its base and at the top. Long ride but very cool. Many many years ago I was at this same spot when the building was the Omni International and my brother Tom was managing a restaurant here. Back then, at the top of the escalator, you entered the World of Sid and Marty Croft - it was a fantastic indoor amusement park - but that is another story. Now you arrive in a huge world globe that is kind of boring.

Worlds Longest Freestanding Escalator
 The tour was great. It included the CNN control center and studio, the HLN control center and studio and the Newsroom. The Newsroom is huge with everyone on computers, on the phones, writing stories for the anchors to read by looking at the teleprompters (anchors don't really know all that stuff they are telling you – just like Obama), checking facts and sources and just a very cool place. 80 - 100 people work here 24/7/365 unless there is a big story. On 9-11 there were over 350 working here and there were cots everywhere so people could catch a nap.
This woman does all the graphics that you see on HLN
The Newsroom at CNN
More of The Newsroom at CNN
Control Room HLN

We learned all about teleprompters and how anchors are just good readers and green screens and touch screens which are massive iPads and robotic cameras. It was all quite interesting. Putting the news together is much more than Anderson Cooper standing in front of a camera talking.
Good tour and I would recommend the VIP tour over the regular tour - but be prepared to pay the price and ask for those discounts.

On to the next stop...

Sunday, April 21, 2013


The day and time have arrived. We get to see Legalize. The last time we saw him was December 22 here at Kirkwood Stables.
West Point Thoroughbred Partners at Kirkwood Stables

Today was all about horses – a bunch of horses that West Point Thoroughbreds has in training. But the only one we care about is Legalize. For those of you that need a refresher – here is a little background.

Legalize is a thoroughbred race horse that I purchased a percentage of for Monte for Christmas. Last summer just as he was getting to run his first race as a 2 year old, Legalize had a nerve injury in one of his hoofs. At that time he was sent to Kirkwood Stables in Camden SC for veterinary care and then to be put back in training to get in race trim - like any athlete after a layoff, horses have to workout and get up to speed before they can go to the track to race and it takes time.
So that brings us to today.
Legalize was put back in training right at the first of this year, just as he turned 3 years old. It was hoped that he would be ready to go racing in about 90 days. However, that has not happened. Legalize has had several setbacks all related to his feet.

From what I understand he has thin hoof walls and that makes it difficult to keep shoes on him. When a horse has shoe and foot problems those problems are telegraphed through the legs and without sound hoofs and legs the horse is not going to perform.

We did get to see Legalize jog in the turf today and then got to spend a little more personal time with him. He is absolutely gorgeous – looks fit and healthy (to my untrained eyes). As he was jogging you could see that he really wanted to run.
LEGALIZE jogging by


Kip Elser, owner of and head trainer at Kirkwood Stables in Camden SC is doing everything he can to get Legalize fixed. He and his blacksmith are basically inventing and reinventing shoes for Legalize. As much as we want him to get to the track and race – they want that just as much. But what no one wants is for him to race and become totally lame.

Kip Elser explaining the new shoes that have been made just for LEGALIZE
We have no idea how much longer this whole process will take. It will just take as long as it takes. He may never get to the track. It is a totally wait and see process.

LEGALIZE and Monte just hangin' out being pals
We have our fingers crossed and maybe the next time we see him will be in the winners circle.

It Is That Time of Year Again! Come Travel With Us!

My favorite time of year. The weather is warm and dry, not hot and humid or cold and rainy, but just perfect. Perfect for loading up the husband and dogs in the RV and heading out for a few months.

So hang on to your hat or grab your reins – here we go - Road Trip 2013

Day one - we leave the house in a cold driving rain - after we stand in the cold rain to hook up the car - and load wet dogs and a cold wet husband in the RV and drive 400 miles in the cold rain (dry and warm in the RV - perfect) and stop at a hole in the wall RV park for the night.

Day Two - drive 250 miles and arrive at decent RV park, in Lugoff, South Carolina where it is in the mid 50's and will get down to 39 tonight and on the brighter side - the sun is shining.
Are we having fun yet?

Now we get to the purpose for being where we are. We are at the closest campground to Camden SC and the Springdale Racecourse where Kirkwood Stables is.  Not all places we go really have a “purpose” but this place does and that purpose is “Legalize”. No – we are not here to join some big protest or smoke out – we are here to see Monte's race horse.

Day Two evening. Dinner in Camden, SC hosted by West Point Thoroughbreds. Shannon Castagnola, an Executive VP from WPT and Kip Elser, owner and trainer at Kirkwood Stables put together a very nice evening for us. We got to meet about a dozen folks who, like us, are partners in one or more thoroughbred race horse that is managed by WPT. Some of these people have so many horses they have a hard time remembering all of their names (the horses names not their own). Us? We just have Legalize so our poor short memories have no problem in that regard - maybe because we don't live in Colorado or Washington State.

At dinner we spent most of our time talking to Peta's family. That is not PETA who probably are totally against horseracing but Peta, as in a girl who was supposed to be a boy named Peter. Anyway – Peta is part owner of several horses and she had her family entourage with her. Peta's mom Monica, and mom's sisters Ivy and Michelle and Michelle's husband Bill. What a great family. Monica, Ivy, and Michelle were raised in Brighton England (Ivy still lives in England) and I would like to have a couple of days to listen to their tales of living in England during WWII. Their stories were fascinating and they were just a lot of fun.
Leaving the restaurant it is freezing outside.  Did I mention how much I love this time of year? 

Tomorrow we get to see Legalize!