Atlanta 2018: World of Coca-Cola

Day 2, Monday, January 22, 2018 (morning)

In the morning, I went over to the World of Coca-Cola Museum.  I had heard good things about this place online, and hoped it was worth the kind of steep price tag of $17 for admission.  It is possible to drink your weight (or at least $17 worth) in Coca-Cola there though, so there’s that.  On the walk from my hotel, I walked through Centennial Olympic Park, which was one of the sites from the 1996 Olympic Games.  There is a fountain/spray park with a timed musical show, and some statues to see there, along with a little garden.

The docent leads you in and goes through the canned spiel, showing some Coca-Cola artifacts.  Note: there are a lot of Coca-Cola artifacts out there in the world!  Once she gives the spiel, you get spit out into a theater, to watch the Coca-Cola movie.  It’s actually a pretty well done movie, that gives you all the Coca-Cola feels.  Who knew a soft drink could make you fall in love?  Apparently I have not been drinking enough of this stuff lately, if this is the secret to a lasting and satisfying relationship!

After the movie, you are free to wander around at your leisure; exhibits include an area on the “secret formula,” how it is guarded, who gets to know, what rumors have circulated about the formula, etc.  I found it to be directed more towards children.  One exhibit shows a ton of memorabilia and historic Coca-Cola stuff, including a replica of an old fashioned soda fountain.

The museum also has a replica bottling line, that shows you just how bottles of Coke are filled.  It has factoids printed on the windows, so you can see how much water the process uses, how many bottles can be filled each minute, and information of the like.  That was really interesting and I enjoyed watching the bottling line.  I found no one in this area, so I guess I am the only one who found this fascinating.  It was one of my favorite parts of the museum.

Water Treatment on the Bottling Line

There are exhibits on Olympic torches too, which have really become high tech over the years!  Upstairs, there is an area with Coca-Cola artwork.  Artists have tried their hand at decorating giant Coca-Cola bottles; some are very well done.

Olympic Torches

In the tasting room area, there are spigots dispensing over 160 Coca-Cola products from all over the world.  You can try as many as you like.  Not all are sodas; many are juices, and it is interesting to see what becomes a juice in other countries.  Some of them were really good, but I probably don’t need that much sugar!

So, my verdict. Interesting, but not really worth the price, and don’t expect it to keep you entertained for long.  I think I only spent an hour there, and I was kind of trying to go slow…

I had lunch at Baja Fresh and had the Blackened Shrimp Salad – for fast food it was super delicious!  They did run out of avocado though, so I didn’t get to have that on my salad; to make up for it he gave me extra shrimp!  And they had guacamole in the condiment bar, so I had that on top and it was pretty close to being like avocado.  YUM!!

Cost: $17.00 for general admission, free with the Atlanta City Pass


The Circus Trip: Revealed

I have said before that this blog has been my happy place for the last several years.  I love travel, history, and wine, and I love sharing my adventures with all of you.  Yet they say change is the one constant, and that holds true in my own life too.

As a result of recent life changes, I have been doing a lot of self-reflection, and a lot of way-finding.  As this directional adjustment is going to include travel, and likely quite a bit of wine, it only makes sense to me that I include you on my journey here.  It is guaranteed to be a lot bumpier and more raw than some of my other journeys, but the rest is basically unknown territory.

As is to be expected, I have felt a bit lost after my divorce.  I know a lot of people do.  My divorce wasn’t easy or amicable and I found that the man I thought I had married wasn’t at all the man I had thought he was.  I don’t want to dwell on this or relive it, but it certainly contributed to my feelings of loss recently, as have some other events.  They have damaged my ability to trust, and I am still healing.  It’s pretty amazing how a few people and their actions can make you question your self-worth so thoroughly, even when you are a confident, intelligent, capable person.

As one of my employees is fond of saying, “What fresh fuckery is this?”  I feel like I have experienced more than my fair share of fuckery lately, and I need to let it go.  There are a whole lot of circus animals out there that just aren’t mine to care about anymore…  And therein lies the title of this post…

Often though, in the face of adversity, there is opportunity.  I have decided to do something huge, just for me; I am quitting my job to travel the U.S. for a few months.  Just me and my car, whom I have named Viaje.   I need to find myself again.

I never thought that I would be a person who would just hit the road without much of an itinerary or a timeline; that world is for hippier, more free-spirited people than me.  But I think something more extreme is what I need to get out of the rut I find myself stuck in.  I need to figure out again that I am strong and capable, and that I am enough.  I need to relearn that there is purpose in this life.  I need to know that there are kind people in this world, even if I know I will run into some unkind ones too.  Hopefully the kind ones will outnumber the jerks.  I need to figure out how to make it alone.  I need to see and feel peace again.  I need to heal.

I am on a budget, unless one of you wants to be my anonymous benefactor, so I’ll be doing it with a combination of car camping and couch-surfing, with perhaps the occasional hotel night thrown in if I am really itching for a good, hot shower and some TV (I can’t let that happen too often though – darned budget).  If any friends and family, both well-known and little known, are interested in sharing some time, or inviting me for a brief stay to connect or reconnect and find some laughter and human connection, I would welcome that!

I won’t be going everywhere, but if you would like to get together, and/or are willing to put up with me for a night or two (or more, but that would be completely up to you and my itinerary), let me know here and we’ll see if I will be in your area.

The next few months of blog posts are likely to deal more with my emotional experience than I have revealed here in the past, but I decided that my process of healing needs to include that level of openness.  Maybe someone else can benefit from my trials.  Other antics may include freezing my butt off, sweating to death, not being able to get the camp stove working, singeing my hair in a campfire, spraying bug spray in my eye, turning into one giant, itchy mosquito welt (they love me) and being bitten by (hopefully not) ticks.  The trip is also bound to include some gorgeous sunsets, great hikes, fantastic historical sites, and wine consumed from either a mug or a melamine cup…  There might even be smores!

They say what doesn’t kill you…??? To that end, I will still be posting here, and as I still have a ton of previous trip stuff to catch up on (including a trip to London that I arrived home from early this morning!!!), this blog will be a combination of past and present posts.  I will likely be posting less frequently though, as I will have to find a place for the night each night…  Priorities…  You will be more likely to find current updates on Instagram or Twitter (my username on both platforms is @wineandhistory), so I hope you will follow along there as well.

I hope you will follow along on this crazy adventure of mine!


Mi Vida Loca Photo Series, 3

Life has a way of catching up with you sometimes, and getting crazy busy and a bit overwhelming. So while I devote some attention to it over the next few weeks, I am going to share a few photos of the adventures over the last several months that I haven’t had a chance to post about.

In no particular order…

Snowshoeing, Longmire Cabin, Girl’s Weekend, Mount Rainier, February 2018

Vet’s Day Weekend 2017: Where Lincoln Died

Day 5, Sunday, November 12, 2017

My last day in Washington D.C., I was going to be heading to someplace that has been on my bucket list for a very long time, and I was really excited.  Hopefully you don’t think this is too morbid though, because I was going to visit Ford’s Theatre and the Petersen Boarding House.  The sites in Washington, DC where Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth and where he died.  I think anybody who truly admires Lincoln probably wants to see these two sites with their own eyes, so I’m sticking with that…

Admission is free, and you don’t have to have advance tickets, but they are recommended, because the spaces fill up quickly.  The days I was there, they only did the tours (I used the word tour loosely) until about 11 am, because there were rehearsals for a play after that.  Advance tickets only cost $3, which is basically a processing fee for buying them online.  It is worth the small price to have the guaranteed slot!

It is strange to see it up close and in person.  Ford’s Theatre and the Petersen Boarding House have been preserved, but the entire rest of the area around them has been built up with modern buildings.  It is a little like seeing the tiny little house in the animated movie UP, dwarfed by the skyscrapers all around.  After waiting in line for a bit (outside, so be prepared for weather), I was in!


Ford’s Theatre Line

The tour takes you up the back stairs into the upper balcony seating area of the theatre, where you have a great view of the stage, and the Presidential Box.  Only Mary’s chair is original in the box, but the theatre has been restored to the way it looked at the time of Lincoln’s assassination with period replicas.  One day, I would love to see a play there.


When I say I use the term tour loosely, I mean that the docent basically just answered questions – there wasn’t really any information she presented to the group.  Which is fine for me, since I have read about the assassination and know the players and how it all went down.  If you didn’t know the story, you weren’t going to get it there though.  It was interesting to see where Booth jumped from the box to the stage, and where he exited the stage after breaking his leg.  I was a little disappointed, because the “tour” was supposed to be longer, but they were kind of trying to rush us out of the theatre section because of the upcoming rehearsal. I hung back and waited for everybody to file out and was able to get some good photos after most of the people had gone.  The docents didn’t bother me, even though I was one of the last ones there.


Me with the President’s Box

Down in the basement of the theatre, there is a great museum.  It includes artifacts pertaining to Lincoln’s life and family in the aftermath of the assassination, the assassination itself, and the conspirators and the hunt to find them and convict them afterwards.  The museum has the Deringer pistol that Booth used to shoot Lincoln on display.  It was so small – it is hard to imagine such a small implement doing so much damage.  The museum has a lot of good information, so I spend a while there taking it all in.


The Deringer pistol used to kill Lincoln

My last stop was the Petersen House.  There isn’t a timed entry here or an issue with rehearsals, so you can visit any time after your theatre tour.  You might have to wait outside for a little while, if there is a line, because the house is very narrow and doesn’t fit that many people.  Like the theatre, not much inside is original, as the originals were sold off as souvenirs after Lincoln’s death.  The original bed that Lincoln died in is now housed in the Chicago History Museum (note to self: visit Chicago History Museum).


The Petersen Boarding House

The Ranger did point out where Mary Todd Lincoln sat in the sitting room when she was too upset to stay with Lincoln, and where the men discussed what to do outside of the room.  The small back bedroom is where Lincoln lay, diagonally across the bed, because he was too tall for the bed.  He died there at 7:22 am the next day.  The original bloodstained pillows are in the room.


The Petersen house also houses an extensive Lincoln archive; you can tour that too if you are so inclined (I opted not to, as I was getting pretty hungry at that point).  There is a very cool tower of books written about Lincoln in the front room of the archive building. Floor to ceiling Lincoln books, 34 feet in all– this nerd was in heaven!  I was pretty proud of myself, because I had read at least half a dozen of the books included in the tower. I stared at the tower for a bit, thinking to myself, “I’ve read that one, and that one and that one…”

The Tower O’ Lincoln Books


On my walk back to the car, I stopped in at Capitol City Brewing Company.  I had a crab cake sandwich and a beer; so good!  You even get a homemade soft pretzel as a starter…


Capitol City Brewing Company


All in all, I had a really good trip – it was a great long weekend with a good mix of relaxing and sightseeing.  Sadly, it was time to head home, so I made my way back to the Baltimore airport to check in for my flight home.  On the way, I checked out a bit more of D.C. from the car, and saw a bit of Baltimore.  I will have to get back and explore more at some point!  But for now, I boarded the plane and made my way home…  Another wonderful trip had come to an end.

Accidental Airport Selfie – I was taking a pic of the plane hanging above…

Book Review: I Was Vermeer

I recently read I Was Vermeer: The Rise and Fall of the Twentieth Century’s Greatest Forger, by Frank Wynne.  The story of Han van Meegeren is fascinating.  This Dutch artist created a worldwide stir after it came out that he had been forging paintings by Dutch Golden Age Old Masters, including Johannes Vermeer.  He confessed after one of his paintings was sold to Nazi Hermann Göring, and he was arrested as a collaborator to the Nazi war effort.

During the war, there was a lot of concern about Dutch treasures falling into the hands of the Nazis.  Selling a painting from a renowned Old Master like Vermeer to Göring and the Nazis was considered treason, punishable by death.  After being held in prison for a while, remaining silent about his involvement, he finally came forward and confessed that the painting was a forgery.  While treason was a death sentence, the lesser crime he confessed to only had the potential for a two-year prison sentence.

The book dives deeply into van Meegeren’s entire life, beginning with his childhood, intrigued by drawing.  It explores his ego, his relationship with his father, his tendencies as a spendthrift and his numerous affairs.  Speculation varies on his motives for forgery; some assume it was strictly a money making venture while others believe that his motive was the fame and ego that came from creating the “perfect” Old Dutch Master painting.  It was probably both.

The book is well written and well researched, with lots of information on van Meegeren’s personal life, his methods of painting and the trial at the end of his life.  A worthy read.

Vet’s Day Weekend 2017: Museum of Natural History

Day 4, Saturday, November 11, 2017

After seeing part of the National Mall, I was getting really hungry, and tired of walking, so I headed over to the Museum of Natural History for lunch.  My short time in D.C. meant that I only had time for one Smithsonian museum – I wanted to go to several, but that just means I will need to make another trip.  I had lunch in the museum café, which was pretty good; I had a pulled pork sandwich, tomato salad and a beer.

Museum of Natural History

Then I went upstairs to see the exhibits.  The museum has a lot of cool artifacts.  I saw a tyrannosaurus rex skull, several other dinosaur skeletons including another nearly complete tyrannosaurus rex skeleton, a whole exhibit on different kinds of rocks, minerals and precious and semi-precious gems.  The museum is home to the Hope Diamond.  Let me just tell you, the Hope Diamond has a pretty fascinating history, even if you don’t believe in the curse that it supposedly has.  You can read all about it!

I also saw a great wildlife photography exhibit, a seemingly random collection of jewelry, taxidermied animals and African tribal artifacts.  Did you know the Egyptians used to mummify cats?  And lots of other animals too, including ibis, bulls, and snakes.  However, they also wrapped linens to look like mummies, even though the inside was empty.  Egyptian trickery!  The museum has a large collection of mummies and other Egyptian artifacts.


They also have early hominoid fossils. Taung Child is there, a fossilized skull of an Australopithecus africanus, one of the precursors to homosapiens.  The child is thought at around 3-4 years old, and may have been killed by an eagle, based on damage to the skull.  Another interesting reading foray!

Taung Child Skull (a replica)

I finished off my visit with a viewing of the marine exhibit, including a whole section on Narwhals!  I loved Narwhals as a child, even though I have still never seen one, except on TV.  The exhibit had a couple of Narwhal skulls, so you can see where the tooth erupts from their skull.  It is actually a tooth and not a horn or bone.

In Inuit legend, the tusk was created after a woman was dragged into the ocean with a harpoon rope tied around her waist after the harpoon had struck a large narwhal. When she was transformed into a narwhal; her hair, became the spiral tusk.  Fun facts: only 1 in 500 male narwhals grow two tusks, and only 15% of females even have one tusk.  One female narwhal with two tusks is known; its skull was found in the 1600s.

A rare, two tusked Narwhal skull

Last but not least is the African Elephant on display in the rotunda.  This elephant has an interesting history too!

African Elephant – first displayed in 1959

What a fantastic museum!

After having my fill, I briefed checked out the original Smithsonian building and a small exhibit on Smithson; the man who donated money for the creation of the museum.  He had never even traveled to the United States! Smithson was an born illegitimately in France, and later naturalized as a British citizen; he went to university and became a scientist.  He led a nomadic lifestyle, and never married or had children.  When he died, he left his wealth to a nephew, with the stipulation that if the nephew didn’t died without heirs, the money would go to the United States to create “an establishment for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men.”  Through some strange circumstances, Smithson’s body was moved to the Smithsonian Castle in the early 1900s; it is still there under the floor.

By this time it was about 5:30, and I was tired of standing and walking.  My subway ride home was uneventful, and after resting up a bit at the hotel, I ventured out again and had a fantastic pasta dinner at Maggiano’s Little Italy.  It had been years since I had a meal there and it was delicious.  It certainly wrapped up a wonderful day.

The End

Vet’s Day Weekend 2017: The National Mall

Day 4, Saturday, November 11, 2017

Today was the day that I was going to get to go to Washington D.C.!  I have long wanted to go, and spend about 2-3 weeks there, touring the many monuments and museums on the mall.  A couple of days in D.C. was going to have to suffice on this trip, but I certainly made good use of my time!  Not only that though; I got to go on Veteran’s Day!

I grabbed a yogurt and granola cup at the hotel to eat on the subway into town.  I made my way the few blocks to the Metro station and found my way to the Mall.  The subway station pops up right in the middle of the Mall – so cool!  And cold – it was freaking cold that day, and sadly, I had forgotten to bring a hat or a scarf with me.  I did have some gloves though.  It had been so much warmer the previous day!

I talked to the lady at the Visitor’s booth, and she explained where I could find my National Parks Passport stamps for the various monuments, and off I went.  I stopped first at the Washington Monument – it is so tall!  It is really neat, with its simple clean lines.  Unfortunately, it is closed for renovations until 2019, so you can’t go inside.

Then I wandered down to the World War II Memorial – the memorial is beautiful and humbling.  It is divided into two sections – Atlantic and Pacific – and has pillars for each State.  The fountain is gorgeous, as well as the field of stars.  There are 4,048 stars on the wall here – each star represents 100 American service personnel who died or remain missing – 405,399 in all.  That is a sobering statistic.  I spent some time taking it all in.

I continued on my way down to the Lincoln Memorial, past the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool.  The area is very large – I don’t know if I had ever seen it not completely packed with people; usually when the Washington Mall is on the news on the West Coast, it is because there was a big event there.  It was interesting to see.

The Lincoln Memorial

I had a mission at the Lincoln Memorial, besides just seeing the memorial.  I have been a long-time admirer of Abraham Lincoln, and the opportunity to stand there before his likeness, and read the words from his Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address were all amazing, but there was something else too.

There was something I wanted to see for myself.  A trivia thing…  Did you know that in the chiseled marble of the second inaugural address there is a mistake chiseled in?  Yea.  Some poor worker accidentally chiseled an E that should have been an F.  Instead of starting that whole panel over again, they didn’t outline the bottom leg of the E in the black paint, so it is hard to notice that it isn’t the correct letter – unless of course, you are looking for it.  It was so much fun to find it!  It is completely a nerd thing; right up my alley.

It was so humbling to stand in front of Lincoln’s huge marble statue and take it all in.

Heading back outside, I stood on the steps looking towards the Washington Monument.  These are the steps where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his I Have A Dream speech.  Hearing that speech, seeing Abraham Lincoln’s marble form towering in the background, would have been an amazing experience.

As I was coming down the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, there was a Peruvian dance troupe just starting to perform a traditional dance.  I don’t know the significance of the man in the half-woman/half-military man costume, so if you do, please let me know.  It was amazing seeing these women dance on top of the boards!  The dance was very beautiful, and I watched for several minutes.

There was also a group of Vietnam Vets gathered on the steps for a ceremony – the 5th Battalion of the 7th Cavalry.  Since it was Veteran’s Day, there was a ceremony taking place at the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial, and they were there with their families for a reunion.  I talked to a gentleman about his service for a few minutes and thanked him.   At the memorial itself, vets and their families were lining up and getting seated.  I watched for a little while, humbled to be in the presence of these brave heroes.

The 5th Battalion of the 7th Cavalry – Heroes

I did get some photos at the edges, but the ceremony meant less access to the memorial than there would usually be.  And that’s ok – the 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Wall mean something special to these men and women.  The Women’s Vietnam Memorial is nearby, and it was neat to see.  I didn’t realize that there was a memorial dedicated to the women who supported the troops in the war zone.

A few of the 58,000 names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial


Walking back down to the Washington Memorial, I checked out a festival that was on the Mall called Catharsis on the Mall; its purpose was to celebrate and promote the empowerment of women.  There were lots of helmets you could wear, and a women’s march for equality, which was not going on while I was there.  When I passed by, there was music and the opportunity to dance on top of a bus that was decorated like a dragon.  It was cool to see, but I’m not really a dancing on top of a dragon bus type – maybe I should be.  The festival also included a women’s march, which was going to be later in the day.

Golden Dragon Dancing Bus

I had already seen so much, and I had barely scratched the surface of the Mall!