Highlights. ATL-BHAM

6 am. 7 am. 8am….GO.

It was a restless night. Thursday morning came early; anxious to beat the forecasted heavy rains, tornadoes, and hail. All of which are classic Southern afternoon delights, in May, especially.

I shuffled over to Java Lords for guess what and chugged a strong red eye while packing the scooter and talking to my host Kyle. The weather was warm but grey as I pulled out of Five Points and headed to Birmingham, about 6 hours away.

IMG_0127I appreciated the beauty of the early morning ride through Georgia countryside and the sun burning off the puffy cloud cover. Throughout the day I saw many signs worth turning around to photograph. Over breakfast, about an hour outside of ATL, I chatted with some locals-about scooters mostly. The open road provokes contemplation, even more so for me since theiPod broke, the day before the trip nonetheless.

The last minute decision to visit ATL had turned out really well. I was able to meet Alice Walker, couch surf for the first time and hang out with the local scooterists-as well as meet many enjoyable local randoms.

I can’t vouch for my hosts enough. Obviously, I’m the adventurous type, I enjoy meeting new people and trying new things. Many times, a blind faith has urged me to believe that the world is not teeming with people out to hurt you. Instead I have found a world with people willing to help with food, rides, lodging and advice. Couchsurfing.com is a great community, connecting travelers world wide. If you expect 4star lodging, don’t join. If you expect to be pampered, don’t join. If you want to meet the locals, stay somewhere for free, and are respectful, then join- it’s a blessing.

IMG_0108Each person who agrees to be a host has a profile. Kyle and Martha’s profile suggested a Thursday-Sunday visit, but still they opened the doors of their fabulous house. I am not picky about lodging-happy to have what you can offer. I had not expected such a fantastic house with so many toys. Their taste was immaculate, all except the freaky horse that kept me awake. I finally put a pillow over it because I couldn’t handle it staring down at me. Sadly, they had bustling schedules that kept us from hanging out. They are really intriguing, I hope we stay in touch.

IMG_0078Wednesday I walked around their neighborhood, ATL’s Little Five Points, an area bustling with diversity at all times of the day. I listened to local hip-hop artists freestyling, checked out graffiti, chatted about non-violence at the Blue Crystal, was given a peace hat, toured the local co-op, ran into someone I filmed last year and handed out some postcards. Inside the Junkman’s Daughter, I came close to buying a Mr. T bobblehead and foolishly held out. Outside there I met Barb, who rides a stylish pink scooter.

IMG_0091She told me about the scooter meet-up at the Thinking Man’s At the Junkman’s Daughter Tavern and invited me to meet her back at the shop at 7:15, to escort me over. I was 5 minutes late and she had already left, but I found my way over to the tavern. It’s located in Decatur, more of an ATL burb. I was a little nervous walking in not knowing anyone- but introductions and chatter came easily with this crew. People kindly bought me drinks and began asking questions, telling their own stories too.

IMG_0104I finally met my match-Bridget is the only person I know with the same Corazzo jacket. She was really kind, offering me contacts along the way and said to call if I need anything. That’s reassuring. The night flew past as I joked around with the interesting group of people. A lot of people asked questions about the trip and were very encouraging. Thanks to everyone for the drinks. It was also nice to check out all the rides.

The only low point was when one guy made a crack that by next week I will be a corporation-referring to the amount of outreach I have done-emails, tshirts, raffles, fundraising. I was actually pretty disappointed, more than I should be I guess. He didn’t seem to understand the hours that have gone into contacting people, utilizing resources, or that I only get joy from this-there is no money in it for me-and none to start with. In fact, I took out a loan last year to purchase the protective gear and camera I would need and for emergency funds. If anything I OWE money. The fundraising, raffles and tshirt sales are in place to raise money for donations to charitable organizations.

Other than that one comment-I really enjoyed the night and was glad for the chance meeting that had led me there.

My two nights in ATL were action packed.

IMG_0135The smell of magnolias and honey suckle were still powerfully fragrant as I crossed the state line into Alabama. I’ve been very lucky so far that the storms hit when I stop riding-as opposed to last year, when they followed me around. I stopped to call and let my Aunt know I was in town-just as the tornado sirens went off. I made it safely to her house with nary a raindrop falling on me. We watched the news and saw a funnel cloud just 20 miles away. Pretty crazy. After a powernap I walked around and took photos of the rain soaked property. Then she treated me to dinner, and bombarded me with questions.

Fortunately, no criticisms. Visiting family can be hard. Often we hope our family will be the ones to support whatever we do. After all, they have seen us grow from crawling around in diapers to thinking adults. It was rather intense, though. “Why are you doing this?” “Why would anyone care?” “What would make me donate to this?” And so I asked, “Have you been to the website?” Sadly, that was a no. After a couple of days though, she seemed much more supportive. She became interested in the travels and finally tonight said that I have a good looking scooter. I showed her the website and explained everything. Watching me work on the website and even pack up the scoot seemed to help her understand that I’m not just on a ‘joyride.’ It was strange to feel all the support from people I do not know while having to prove something to my family. The family visits will continue though, I will visit my Dad in Jackson, MS.

To be continued…the discovery of Magic City Scooters…..volunteering for Birmingham Community Kitchens.

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