Driving the rental car back from Florida to North Carolina, I stayed overnight in Atlanta and had the opportunity to bicycle a little around.
On I-85 I stopped at the Welcome to Alabama rest area. This is an impressive piece of modernism for what is essentially a bathroom facility.
I found this plaque weird and unsettling even if this is their state motto.
I had departed Florida much later than planned and I did not get to Atlanta until about nine at night. I had booked an Airbnb, a studio apartment in a neighborhood called Inman Park. It was spooky driving into an unknown inner city neighborhood in the dark, with few street lights on heavily wooded lanes. Google Maps had guided me to this address through an impoverished neighborhood where I did not feel safe. The neighborhood looked slightly wealthier when I got close to my destination. It was a 1920’s apartment building, the second floor long hallway cluttered with bicycles.
I walked down the hall to door number twelve where I punched a code the owner had emailed me. Seventy-nine dollars including tax, cheaper than a hotel and way more interesting. It took me a long time to find where she hid the towels.
Since I had been in the car so long I was not about to drive around further. Yelp showed a restaurant three blocks away, I walked over there through a neighborhood of large older homes, on dark streets where trees had buckled the sidewalks.
The restaurant stood alone in the dark.
It was nine-fifteen on a Monday night but a few people were still eating here. Food was good but expensive. Neo-Southern, of the style essentially invented by Crook’s Corner in Chapel Hill. The big deal here was apparently fried chicken, although, of course, they were out of it.
The next morning I decided to take an hour to bicycle around the area, maybe go as far as downtown Atlanta. I pulled the bicycle out of the trunk of the car.
I could finally see “my” apartment building in the daylight.
The immediate neighborhood was mostly constructed around the turn of the twentieth century. Being Atlanta, the houses were large and gaudy. I read that by the 1960’s and 70’s most were chopped into small apartments and the buildings were falling apart. The area has now indeed gentrified but mostly it has not descended into cutesiness, it still retains some funk. This house was one of the fanciest.
I biked west towards downtown through a mix of commercial and residential buildings. I was not the only bicycle on the road, commuter bicycling in this part of Atlanta seems endemic.
Martin Luther King was born in this house in a nearby neighborhood. A large visitor center about MLK is just a few blocks away.
The church he preached in. Some event was going on.
Clearly these neighborhoods east of downtown are gentrifying.
This 1930’s looking building seemed Art Deco.
Just a little further west I found the Eastside Bicycle Trail, a former rail line. In a really nice way it is totally yuppy. It is lined with not only houses, but brewpubs and coffee houses. The houses shown here are faux old, they are actually quite new. I could actually see ourselves living here, if we accepted the uniquely American notion that one can move anywhere, settle in, and somehow be happy; damn family connections, friends, etc. (It is less than twenty minutes to the largest airport in the world! You would never have to change planes to go anywhere!)
I had to get home, however. I bicycled back to the car and drove the six hours back to Chapel Hill.