Okay, here’s the scene. I’m at the wheel, driving The Coach up I-75 in northern Georgia. My Lovely Bride is in the passenger seat, “dozing”… okay, she’s actually zonked out, as the saying goes. Some yahoo in a nearby pick-me-up truck is laying on his horn because a Dodge minivan isn’t moving quickly enough… welcome to the big city. Ahead of us is this huge skyline with big buildings, some even bigger than in Sumter Landing in The Villages. Suzanne awakes and says, “Wow, is that Atlanta?” I reply, “It had better be. I don’t think it’s Coon Rapids.” The gold dome in the photo probably belongs to the Georgia State Capital, but we were not planning on a downtown tour, so I couldn’t confirm my suspicion.
After getting settled in our campground at Dobbins Air Reserve Base in Marietta, GA, we went for a brisk walk to shake out the cobwebs after a long day’s drive – only 250 miles – an easy trip, you say? Well, we set the cruise control at 62 mph for fuel economy (such as it is), and every 75 minutes, we stop to stretch our legs. Thus, our average speed is only about 50 mph over the course of a day. And when you add in a 30 minute lunch break (we always eat lunch in the coach to save time and money) and the occasional traffic jam and refueling stop, it’s obvious that a Lamborghini or Ferrari will almost always beat our speed records.
This next entry is a bit bizarre. I was looking on the map on my iPad for a park with mountain biking trails, and there was one just a mile or so off base. I Googled it, and found that there were indeed MTB trails, and a prominent police tower to provide surveillance and deterrence against “perverts who accosted males walking through the woods.” (Ah, life in the big city …) At first I thought that this might be referring to problems from decades in the past, but when we drove to the park, this white police surveillance tower in the parking lot was unmistakable. I felt relatively safe with Suzanne to guard me, but it was also comforting to know that the Marietta PD might be on duty as well. Our ride was uneventful, and moderately challenging, since Atlanta is in Georgia hill country. The rolling trails were lots of fun, and hopefully will prepare us for our next stop, a famous mountain biking destination in South Carolina.
Suzanne had been invited to Unity of North Atlanta to show the Messages of Hope documentary on Friday evening and to give two presentations on Saturday, Making the Connection and Heart Gifts. Thanks to Dan Glynn, Facilities Manager at UNA, and to Dave and Ann Patterson, members of the UNA congregation who welcomed us with warm hospitality. There were even four attendees from The Villages/Wildwood, as well Barry Mack’s sister Sandy and her husband Mike. Barry is the Portland spiritual artist who has been showcased previously in this blog. The documentary was well-received, but the most amazing synchronicity was revealed by two women from Wildwood at the end of the movie. Please see Suzanne’s blog for details…
On the drive back to the campground, we had time for our favorite “going out” dessert, a cookies and cream milkshake at Chick-fil-A. “Yummy!” is a totally inadequate description for this gourmet treat, but I must keep this paragraph short… We also passed a famous landmark that has been previously featured in this blog, “The Big Chicken” on Highway 41. You know you have arrived when a local tells you to “take a right at the big chicken” and you know what he’s talking about.
On Saturday morning, we decided to grab breakfast at the base cafe before Suzanne’s first presentation. While there, we met two Marines from New River, SC, a captain and a first lieutenant, who were part of an MV-22 Osprey squadron that was visiting Dobbins. We asked if it would be possible to get a tour of their aircraft, and they suggested we try on Sunday before their flight schedule got too busy. We said that we would drop by the flight line the next day.
A few words about the MV-22 Osprey are in order… this is one of the world’s most technologically advanced aircraft. A V/STOL aircraft, meaning it is capable of both vertical and short takeoffs and landings, the Osprey is unique in that it uses two engines positioned in nacelles on fixed wing tips; the nacelles rotate to allow the Osprey to land and take off vertically, but achieve twice the speed of a helicopter by tilting the nacelles forward while in flight to a configuration similar to a fixed-wing aircraft. It uses counter-rotating, variable pitch rotors, like a helicopter. The Osprey carries a platoon of 24 combat-equipped Marines, and has an operational envelope similar to a C-130 Hercules, capable of speeds over 300 mph and altitudes over 25,000 feet. It is also capable of being refueled in flight using a retractable refueling probe. Suzanne asked about the transition from forward to vertical flight in mid-air… it was described as “like slamming on the brakes at 250 mph; it takes getting used to.”
Our daughter Susan had been a Marine Corps sergeant, airframes mechanic and flight crew at Cherry Point, another air station near New River. I think Susan was giving us (Suzanne in particular) guidance in seeing these amazing airplanes up close and personal. We had a tough time finding the right gate on Sunday morning, but Suzanne said, Susan is saying to keep trying! We finally linked up with the Marines of VMM-264, the Black Knights, and got a great tour of the MV-22 Osprey with Lt. John Michael Pollock, USMC, the squadron maintenance officer, and Cpl Dees, aircrewman on the particular aircraft we toured.
The aircraft was spotless and obviously lovingly maintained by its air crew. This was a highlight of our visit to Atlanta, and we appreciated the kindness, enthusiasm and patriotism of these Marines. The squadron had recently returned from a deployment to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan, which was described as “uneventful”. We interpreted that as a Marine Corps understatement for “a typically dangerous and arduous deployment, but fortunately with every Marine and all our aircraft returning home in one piece.” We left with a renewed appreciation for the Marines, and especially the Black Knights of VMM-264. Ooh-Rah!!!
Finally, on our way out of Atlanta we stopped for lunch with our good friends Renee and Greg Scalzini, recently our shipmates aboard a charter sailboat in St. Petersburg. They hosted a very pleasant lunch on their porch in suburban Atlanta. We also got to see Renee’s neighbor Mara again; Mara actually introduced Renee to Suzanne’s work by giving her a copy of Messages of Hope. The two then drove to The Villages last year to attend Suzanne’s S.O.A.R! Workshop… and the rest is history. Thank you for a very special lunch. Also thanks to Greg for introducing me to hard foam roller massage pads for helping my hamstrings and lower back. (I’m not sure whether those roller pads were originally developed by (a) physical therapists for treating sore muscles, or (b) by members of the Holy Inquisition for torturing non-believers.)