When Loretta, Christopher and I left home last Friday morning well before daybreak on our way to some little suburb of Atlanta, I was still 63 years old. Chris had negotiated the purchase of a used Honda Civic, a couple thousand dollars less than anything he could find closer. Lo and I were connived into driving him down to pick up the car and we figured the road trip would do us good.
However, upon arriving back in Chattanooga on the return trip, I am reasonably sure that I was 70 years of age. I was probably 65 by the time we found our destination in a burg called Alpharetta, Ga.
Chris and Loretta had decided to take a shortcut that would both dodge Atlanta and shave 25 miles off the drive.
Armed with a talking GPS device and three pages of Map Quest instructions, we exited I-75 20 miles north of Atlanta and headed cross country into rural Georgia. Loretta was driving, Chris was navigating and I was in the back seat rapidly aging.
The GPS thing, when queried, had a logical explanation. Even after 15 miles of wrong turns, it kept telling Chris how to get back onto 75. The written instructions kept telling him to turn left or right onto roads that did not exist. In the meantime Loretta was in the process setting a new Guinness World Record for the number of churchyards in which you can stop and turn around on your way to Alpharetta. We had also become keenly aware as to why this part of the country is called the Bible Belt.
Finally, an hour after blowing the 25 miles we were supposed to be saving in the aforementioned church parking lots, Lo pulled into a country store to ask directions to Alpharetta and a nice gentleman suggested, “Well, you go up here to highway 9 and take a right and get on 75 and take exit whatever,” but this was not what Loretta and Chris wanted to hear because they had too much time already invested in pursuit of the World Record. So we returned to country roads and I resumed the process of aging.
I could go here for pages, but, suffice to say, we finally arrived at the correct address, admired the car and proceeded to give it a test drive. So enthused we were with its bells and whistles and its impressive get up and go that we became hopelessly lost within five miles of the car lot whereupon we began another record quest having to do with the number of times you can switch directions within a mile of Union Center Drive.
Finally, after I passed the age of 65 and demanded that Chris either stop and call the car guy or simply let me out so I could hitchhike back to Paint Lick, he conceded. I could hear the car guy laughing. Turned out this happened all the time.
He had already had a belly laugh at our expense when we described our adventures on the scenic route and, after Chris closed the deal, he jovially drew a map that would get us on I-75 North that only involved three turns. “Ten miles — about ten minutes,” he said.
The map was correct, as was the estimated mileage, but the time allowance was off by more than an hour. It was rush hour, better known as hell on earth, in Atlanta. The plan was that Lo and I would stay in sight of Chris and perhaps rendezvous in Chattanooga where we would have dinner. Chris planned on driving home. Lo and I planned to take the night and visit the Tennessee Aquarium on Saturday.
But we lost sight of Chris before we’d gone half a mile. We did maintain telephone contact and agreed with one another that if we got lost, we were on our own when it came to being found.
Somehow or another, Loretta managed to negotiate more than a dozen necessary lane changes with inches to spare before we got out of stop-and-go traffic. Miraculously we were still on speaking terms even though my face was wrinkled, my hair greyer and I had reached the ripe old age of 70. Chris was way ahead of us by the time we got into sensible traffic and he decided to forego a stop for dinner.
Loretta and I took the night at the Guest House Inn in Chattanooga and spent all day Saturday at the Aquarium, which doubled as a fountain of youth for me. The Tennessee Aquarium is one tourist destination that is not overrated. The architecture and the exhibits are absolutely breathtaking and our visit pretty much restored the years I lost in the process of getting there.
In fact, we are already planning to go back this summer, both and to the aquarium and to spend a few days exploring the rest of the city. We both agree that Chattanooga is one of the prettiest, friendliest, most affordable and most laid-back cities we have ever visited, and that really suits our style.