“Families are like branches on a tree - we grow in different directions, yet our roots remain as one” - Unknown
After some stormy North Carolina weather, we were eager to set off early inland through South Carolina and on to Atlanta Georgia, to see the historic and recently controversial Stone Mountain; and spend some time with the Manusama family. We had a daunting 7-hour drive in front of us, with the finish line being one of the worst traffic areas in the country.
Knowing that starting our day right would be the best idea, we attempted to utilize our US Market App to find local fresh farmers markets on our route to Georgia. After 2 failed attempts at open markets, we had to stop to fuel our car and rethink our plan for breakfast. We were hopeful we might find something worthwhile by taking a peek inside the mini mart, but our hopes were promptly dashed by the sheer volume of pork rinds and fried chicken.
As if by a miracle, we stepped out of the mini-mart, and there! Across the street! A farm stand (not registered on our app) had just started setting up for the morning. We ran across and introduced ourselves, and asked if they were open. They said that all the produce hadn’t been brought down yet, but we were welcome to whatever was available. This lovely couple had grown some of the juiciest plums, peaches and apples I have ever had - In. My. Life. We are talking full on chin dribbles. At least 3 napkins each. We made sure to register the market’s location on the US Market App so that other people in the area would be able to enjoy their bounty as a well.
Satisfied with our chance encounter, we set off on the road again in uplifted spirits. … And then… it rained….again. But true to form, as we approached the last hour of our journey, the only hazard we had to battle was Atlanta drivers. The highways were a gauntlet of people veering off the exit ramps with no blinker from the left lane. After driving in traffic that felt a bit more like home, we were happy to be greeted by our family. Maggie and Michael gave birth 4 months ago to our littlest nephew Maddox Pfeifer. I say littlest, but what I really mean is youngest, because Maddox “The Madman” Manu rings in at a whopping 14 pounds and 24 inches long.
He’s a monster! He legitimately is the length of Joe’s entire torso.
Anyway, we were fortunate enough to be able to spend the entire week with the Manu’s which meant many fun moments talking to and hanging out with Maddox. They helped us remember our way around the kitchen where many delicious dinners were prepared, like an avocado pesto over black bean pasta. It was a week spent wandering around Sprouts grocery store a place that I highly recommend for anyone who has never been to one.
On Wednesday we were a little selfish and dropped The Mighty Mad-Ox off at day care so we could go walking around Stone Mountain Park. For those of you who don’t know, Stone Mountain is essentially the Southern Mount Rushmore. It was originally started in 1916 by the man who went on to carve Mount Rushmore; Gutzon Borglum. Borglum abandoned the project in 1925, and an American Sculptor, Augustus Lukeman, picked up the project and worked on it through 1928. For 30 years afterwards there was no work done on the relief. It wasn’t until 1964 when Walter Hancock was selected to complete the carving that work began again. The carving was considered complete in 1972 but not by Hancock. It was completed by a man named Roy Faulkner and then later a theme park developed around it so that there would be more of an attraction for people to come and learn about the Civil War.
Of course, true to the theme of our road trip we bore witness to yet another school field trip. Except this time there were significantly more children… like in total 150 kids. After they had their lunch on the great lawn under the stony faces of President Jefferson Davis, General Robert E. Lee and General Thomas J “Stonewall” Jackson, they wanted to spend more of their time in the theme park as opposed to the historical portion (because after eating, who doesn’t want to go on a rope course? This gave us some interesting data for our research on adrenaline activities and their effects on digestion.) Thankful for the theme park portion at this point, we were now able to stop at each one of the patios they had carved out of the hillside leading up to the mountain. Each terrace was adorned with a state and noted what year they succeeded, what year they joined the Confederacy, and what year they rejoined the Union. Every area had plaques about that particular states’ famous contributors to the war, historic battles, antebellum technologies and noteworthy bits of information about the Civil War. It provided extremely interesting facts about the losses on each side, the cost in the number of their lost soldiers, and the war plans that had brought the war to its culmination. The pathway led up to a museum which displayed the photographic records of the scaffolding and the unbelievable amount of planning that Stone Mountain required in order to be the goliath work of art that it is today. Standing at the foot of the naturally vast surface of the mountain, looking up at the deliberately carved memorial of the Confederate Forefathers was undeniably humbling. The relief itself is a massive 1.57 acres (6,400 square meters or for those of you who don’t math well, roughly 2 football fields), although when you’re looking up at the three figures on horseback, (400 feet in the air) you can’t help but notice how small a space that they take up of the surface of the mountain.
Recently, Stone Mountain has been in the news because there is a call to remove the Confederate flag from the park (the last national monument to do so). Obviously, due to the tensions that run deep within Southern history, as well as Stone Mountain’s history, one can understand this causing a stir (to put it mildly). Stone Mountain has been a hotbed for racist demonstrations and counter demonstrations for years, even decades. There are those that call for the monuments immediate destruction and re-imagination into a giant Liberty Bell. While I can understand this I feel as if defacing the past is criminal, and does more harm than good. Perhaps there is a compromise to be had? Why not leave Stone Mountain’s relief exactly the way it is and simply add more art? We have the chance to depict our collective history and embrace, as a nation, one of the darkest moments in our past. Allowing us to come together as not just the Northern Yankees and the Southern Confederates, but as Americans. The smoothed surface of the mountain does provide a vast canvas for an imaginative individual, maybe there is room for some additions? Ok, I’ll get off my soap box now.
We spent our last night with the Manusama’s enjoying some delicious food at PURE Taqueria, hands down some of the best tacos, and definitely the best queso fundido chorizo dip ever. Dessert came in the form of some healthy competition at Andretti Indoor Karting and games. (This really contributed to our supremely scientific research in adrenaline activities and their effect on digestion.) Maddox, while a giant, is still not tall enough to be behind the wheel, so we took turns holding on to him for the races. It seems that the hundreds of miles we have already driven has not discouraged Joe in any way. Actually, he seemed happier to be able to go faster than the speed limit for once. But, on to the real question. Who was the faster Celeste?! Joe. Joe was the faster Celeste - but I gave him hell. I was ahead for 6 laps. SIX LAPS. And then, in the final lap, some random person (who I suspect Joe bribed) bumped me out of the way long enough for him and Joe to skirt by. (I will mention again that bumping is illegal, but Joe says “Rubbin’ is Racin’.“) one lap was not enough time for me to catch him, and alas, Joe took first place. I have already demanded a rematch to be announced at a later date - not that we are competitive or anything.
After a few hours of karts and games, we headed back for our final sleep at the Manu’s, the last night of roof before spending 2 days Getting Clucky in Kentucky at Mammoth Cave National Park. We are so lucky to have been able to spend all this time getting to know our newest family member and to spend real quality time with our family. Can’t wait to come back and see you again!!