Atlanta 2018: CNN Studio Tour

Day 4, Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Tuesday and Wednesday morning I had conference sessions but then I was back to touristing – I went on a CNN Studio Tour!  CNN Studios occupies a giant building that was previously a hotel – part of it still is a hotel – this building is huge.

Architecturally, I learned that the CNN building has the longest free standing escalator in the world.  It goes up 8 stories without stopping at a floor!  While the escalator was cool, and I got to ride on it for the first part of the tour, it isn’t really the main purpose of the tour.  You do get a great view looking down at the courtyard area of the building, with shops and a food court down below.

I had Sarah H. as my tour guide, and she showed my group around the various areas. I got to see one of the newsrooms, where hundreds of people were packed in like cattle in a stockyard (I mean, they had their own desks and all, but not even any cubicle walls!).  They were all doing research on breaking stories and there were news tickers and televisions lining the upper walls of the room, monitoring news from around the world.  It was pretty amazing and sad to me just how much news does NOT make it into our living rooms.

I also got to see an anchor doing a live broadcast.  It wasn’t someone I recognize, but I don’t get the CNN channels at home, and they apparently have several different channels.  I got to do at a mock news desks for photos, and Sarah explained how the anchors all wear earpieces and how the producers can talk into their ears during a broadcast, directing a live interview or asking them to change topics during the show.  It must be tough to concentrate on your interview if you have someone talking into your ear.

So, should I quit my day job? Errr… Wait…

Other than the mock newsroom, you aren’t allowed to take photos on the tour though…  After my tour, I had some iced tea at the Starbucks in the food court and watched the goings on of the giant building.  It was then I noticed it even had its own Atlanta Police Department precinct office!

Costs: $15.00 per person for the tour.


The Build

I have never really been a hippie, or free spirit, so the idea of road-tripping by myself around the U.S. for three months takes me far out of my comfort zone.  But here I am, giving it a try…

My original plan was to fold up the seats, put a bed in the back end, and get a Thule roof box for the top of the car.  But the departure date moved up by about 6 weeks after I first got the bee in my bonnet, so to speak, so I wasn’t sure I would be able to get a Thule roof box without buying it new.  And lo and behold, those are expensive!

Around the same time, a friend sent me a YouTube video, where a guy built a raised platform bed in the back of his CR-V, and I thought, BINGO!  My dad is a hobby woodworker, and that thing didn’t look like it would be too tough to rig up – and much cheaper than the close to $1000 price tag to buy a roof box, buy roof racks, and have them installed.

Dad and I spent parts of four weekend days putting this baby together.  It is level and sits up off the floor of the back end of the CR-V, stretching from just behind the front seats all the way to the back of the hatch space.  It gives about a foot of clearance in back and about 18 inches in front.  It sits up on the wheel wells for support, and I can partially sit up, but obviously, it is primarily for sleeping.



We built two pull-out tables into the back of it, in case I’m somewhere with no picnic table; they have support posts extending down to the bumper so that the table doesn’t collapse when you put weight on it.  The legs holding up the bed are on hinges to make it easier to get things underneath.  The whole contraption is in two pieces, so I can remove it if needed to get to the under floor storage, where the spare tire, jumper cables and other car paraphernalia are.

I went down to the Storables store one day to get totes of various sizes to fit underneath and make the best use of the nooks and crannies.  There is still plenty of other unaccounted for space.  These areas hold my camp chair, Coleman stove, tent and tools.

My mom made curtains I can string up around the space for privacy – luckily she is a genius seamstress.  I fitted out my home on the road with a 4” thick memory foam mattress topper. It was a little too long and I didn’t really want to cut it, so I folded it under and my mom made a band to secure it.  I decorated my car-home with some girl power inspiration, and a few mementoes from past travels and friends.

Although it isn’t luxury, I hope it will be comfortable, and I don’t have to worry about setting up a tent every night as I move around the country.  I can just park and crawl in back. I’m secure with locked doors and am out of the rain.  And, for better or worse, it will be home…

The total price was about $60 for fabric, S hooks, and carabiners for the curtain rigging, and about $120 for storage containers to puzzle piece under the bed.  The entire bed itself was free for me, made with scrap wood and leftover hinges that my dad already had hanging around in his shop.  All in all a very reasonable investment!

Tonight will be my first night trying it out!

Atlanta 2018: Georgia Aquarium

Day 2, Monday, January 22, 2018

Monday afternoon I went to the Georgia Aquarium, where I was going to swim with Whale Sharks!  To say I was excited was an understatement!  I have wanted to do this for several years, and I decided this would be my Christmas gift to myself.  The Georgia Aquarium has the largest aquarium tank in the world, and is home to four whale sharks and four manta rays.  They purchased their whale sharks from the Taiwanese fishing trade, where they would have ended up in the fish market – Taiwan at the time had quotas on whale shark fishing, so they wouldn’t have been able to just catch more after selling their sharks to the aquarium.  But I digress.

Before my swim in the late afternoon, I had a chance to see all of the exhibits.  They had a really cool tropical reef exhibit, complete with wave action. I enjoyed watching that one for awhile.  They also have a bunch of penguins and puffins, doing penguin and puffin stuff, seahorses, sea dragons, and otters.  The otters moved constantly, so it was impossible to get a non-blurry photo of them.  The dolphin exhibit was closed when I was there, but I wasn’t too disappointed since I had the opportunity to swim with wild dolphins in Hawaii last year!  As a complete aside, did you know there is a Chocolate Chip Sea Star!??

The aquarium has a couple beluga whales, and two albino alligators!  Pirahnas, longcomb sawfish, Black Reeftip sharks, sea turtles, green sea turtles, cownose rays, and all sorts of other fish. The Ocean Voyager exhibit alone has an astonishing number of fish; the tank contains 6 million gallons of seawater!  You can see all the different animals in the Ocean Voyager tank.   It is a nice aquarium.

I checked in for my swim at about 4 pm; we were going behind the scenes at 4:30.  I was so excited!  There were 8 of us total, and we were paired up into buddy pairs.  We were led back into the back area to check out the tank – it was interesting to see the tank from above!  Did you know they have machines that agitate the water and spotlights at the surface so you can’t see what’s going on up there when you are looking at the fish from below?

We were fitted with our wet suits, gloves, booties and snorkels, and then headed into the dressing room to get changed.  Those suckers are really hard to wiggle into, just so you know.  Once we were dressed, we went back out to the surface of the tank, and they explained all the details.  We were to swim very slowly, mostly just occasionally paddling with our hands, to move in a lazy figure 8 around the tank.  The whale sharks stay near the surface, and they tend to swim close to the walls of the tank, so that’s where we would be.  We were told that we shouldn’t touch them, but we didn’t have to move away if they brushed up against us!

We got into the water and headed out, being wrangled by a lead diver and another bringing up the rear, in case we went astray.  A third diver was in the water getting video of the fish, and all of us.  The water is 76 degrees, which gets cold after a bit!

This was an amazing experience.  The whale sharks are so big and so gentle!  Being in the water with them was like one big, long WOW!  I literally said “WOW!” over and over again through my mouthpiece.  The manta rays move more quickly and come right up underneath you!  During the swim, one whale shark swam right underneath me and brushed my abdomen with her back and dorsal fin (I think they are all females).  None of the manta rays touched me, but they did brush against a few of the others in the group.


The water is really clear, so you can see all the way to the bottom, and can see the other fish swimming.  The Cow Nose rays, the Longcomb Sawfish, the Blacktip Reef Sharks, and countless other types of sharks and fish were all just moving below you constantly.  It was so cool to see from this vantage point!  The aquarium has a tunnel through the tank where the other swimmers’ family and friends could watch – it was interesting to see them standing down there under the water!

It is absolutely one of my favorite experiences so far in my life – I had so much fun doing this!

An added bonus was the fact that my swim coincided with an evening where they were switching over the computer software for the cash registers.  Since the registers were shut down for this, they gave each of us a video of our swim for free!  Normally you have to pay – it was an unexpected treat!


After the swim, I walked back to the hotel (in the only pouring rain of the trip), and brushed out my wet hair.  I was hungry, so I headed right back down the block to Ted’s Montana Grill.  Ted’s is a chain, founded by Ted Turner (of CNN fame) and specializes in bison with a Western Saloon theme.  I had a delicious mushroom Swiss bison burger, with pickled cucumbers, and tomatoes drizzled with bleu cheese and balsamic.  It was sooooo gooooood…  I also had some Bison Ridge Merlot wine, which I believe is another Turner project – it was a great wine!  The meal wrapped up a fantastic day!

Cost: $45.95 for general admission during peak hours (there are significant discounts for online pre-purchase, early or late arrival, groups, etc, and it is included on the CityPass).  Swimming with the Whale Sharks (called the Journey with Gentle Giants) was $233.95 and included aquarium admission, the swim, a t-shirt, and a sticker.  There is also a dive option for certified SCUBA divers.

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

Atlanta 2018: Flying

Day 1, Sunday, January 21, 2018

It was January, and it was stormy…  As a result, I didn’t sleep well for the few hours of sleep I got before my flight.  It was very windy at my house, and I don’t sleep well in the wind.  Add to that the fact that I had to be on the 2:10 am shuttle!  Wow.  My flight out was at 6:30 in the morning, and it was a bumpy ride until I was over the Rockies.

I got to Atlanta, grabbed a late lunch/early dinner while still at the airport and then managed to navigate the subway downtown.  My hotel was right downtown, but about two blocks away from Peachtree Street so it was less expensive than some of the others.  They upgraded me to a suite, so I had a bedroom and living room, with two flat screen TVs!  I am not much of a TV watcher though, so that isn’t such a draw for me.  It was a historic hotel with a quirky inner courtyard with windows looking down on it, so it was a pretty cool place!

I got some snacks and a bottle of wine from a shop close to my hotel, and that was that.  That first evening was a very quiet and early night, since I was tired from being awake most of the night before!

Hotel: Hampton Inn and Suites, Atlanta Downtown

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, 10

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.


San Francisco Japanese Garden, March 2018