Take A Walk on the Mild Side of Athens

Athens, Georgia – Where, if you dare to go anywhere near Sanford Stadium, on any given Saturday between the months of September and December during a home game, you will find it to be extremely crowded and loud with Georgia Bulldog fans. It can be exciting, if you like that sort of thing. Never thought that I would, but I certainly got caught up in it after attending my first game back in September 2010, and am now forever a DAWG fan. GO DAWGS!

   Me and my daughter, Kara, at our first Georgia Bulldog game September 2010. My daughter, Amber, was in the student section.

After that day, you could find me standing in front of my tv shouting “Go! Go! Go!” as Brandon Boykin ran a 100 yard kick return against Kentucky, and never, if at all possible, to miss another game again. 

My daughter, Amber, first began her education experience at the University of Georgia in the Fall of 2009 and will be graduating this coming Friday, May 11, 2012. I can’t believe it has gone by so fast.

Athens, Georgia – a place where just a quick run for a few groceries might bring you an encounter with one of these.

But Athens certainly has much more to offer if you take the time to look around; as I hope to show you from my recent visit there.

My youngest daughter, Kara, was on spring break the first week in April.  She and I decided to take that week to visit Amber. With only a few classes to attend and a minimal work schedule for the week; Amber was available to spend some quality time with Kara and I, and take us to see a few places that she has discovered while living in Athens these past three years.

I am not much for driving on the interstate, but to make it to Athens, well; that’s just part of it. So began our adventure to Athens with our GPS and our lovely lady with the British/English accent. Kara loves changing the language on that thing.  Now, if you are the person that drives 85 on the interstate; I am probably the one you fuss about. Oh; I drive the speed limit; because I don’t want to get run over; but goodness; I think 70 mph is fast enough.

I was so glad when we got off of I-75 at Macon! Give me two lane back roads where I can let my windows down and smell the sweet aroma of honeysuckle any day, versus the interstate where everybody thinks that when the speed limit changes to 60 it really means 75, and when it says 70 it means 80.

We had great traveling weather. It was absolutely beautiful from Macon to Athens on those two lane roads with our windows down, taking in the fresh air, where at one point Kara said, “Do you smell that? Is that honeysuckle?” “Yes, I believe it is”, I said.

Couldn’t be more perfect, until . . .  we got maybe 15 miles from Amber’s place and it started raining; and it was beginning to get dark. I don’t see well in the dark. Raining and dark, not a great combination for me. Being as Kara and I have not had the chance to visit Amber at her new place, we were just relying on our GPS to get us to the road Amber lived on; then we had instructions to call her.  Seeing as I am driving, Kara calls Amber and gets further instructions; not a good idea. After missing the turn several times, I pull in somewhere, don’t know where exactly, put Amber on speaker phone, and get step by step directions, which eventually leads to her saying, “Just keep driving straight. I see you, Mom. Don’t you see me? I’m waving at you.” “No, Amber, I don’t see you.” Kara says, “I see her, Mom. She is standing there on the right waving her arm in the air.” Finally she comes into my very strained eyesight. What should have taken only a 5 minute drive, took about 20 minutes for us to locate Amber, but at least we arrived safely.

Now, first night of visit + young girls = up all night talking.  Who am I kidding? Girls together in the same room = late night talking. Good thing Amber didn’t have an early morning class the following day. Good thing I didn’t have to get up early : ) The very first thing Kara wanted to do after Amber got out of class, was to visit a place that Amber frequents often, Menchie’s frozen Yogurt ,where you can mix whatever flavors you want and add your favorite toppings. This is self-serve. I got chocolate and Irish Mint with dark chocolate chips. Oh my, it was scrumptious!

We followed that up by visiting a locally owned video store and renting “The Muppet Movie”, for watching MUCH later that night. Oh, but we had to get ready for an evening at Wesley first. How amazing that was! Amber is on leadership there. All the leaders meet, worship and pray before the service begins. I was so amazed at the dedication of these young people. That was only the beginning, though. As I entered the sanctuary; I was blown away by the mass of college kids present in this place. It was packed on a Wednesday night. Every single seat was filled. They, then began sitting on the floor in the center aisle, in the back, and on the sides against the walls. “So this is what my daughter is a part of” I thought to myself.  My heart was filled with such joy as I joined in with hundreds of UGA college students who, so unashamedly worshiped God.  I was astounded that as Amber, Kara and I were leaving at 10 pm; so many were still standing with their arms outstretched to honor, glorify and worship our Lord Jesus Christ. For any of you parents that may have kids that are considering continuing their education at The University of Georgia and they would like a place to get connected with other believers; Wesley is a great place. Amber and her best friend, Anna, got plugged in immediately their freshman year at UGA.

After leaving Wesley; we headed to back Amber’s to watch “The Muppet Movie”. Yet another late night; but it was a great night. The girls couldn’t believe that I actually stayed awake through the whole movie. Neither could I.

The next day we met Amber’s discipler, Nico, pictured below with Amber & Kara at Marti’s at Midday, a local family owned restaurant, where I had a half “Matthew’s Favorite”, which is a smoked turkey sandwich on homemade honey wheat bread, with homemade pita chips and fruit. YUM! I was stuffed! Amber & Kara shared “The Mary Frances”, which is their homemade chicken salad sandwich, with pita chips and fruit. Amber said that she can never eat a whole one by herself. We sat out on their deck at an umbrella table, enjoying the lovely weather, wonderful fellowship and great food. It was truly an amazing day.

We made an afternoon trip to America’s Thrift Store where I picked up a new outfit for a total of $2.41.  Can’t be that. I found out that they are a Christian organization and have several different locations in Georgia and Alabama.

While in Athens, Kara, who had just finished reading the first two books of  “The Hunger Games”, wanted to see the movie. I was told that I had to read the book before we could go. My spare time was spent reading, so as not to disappoint her. Amber had previously seen it, but was more than willing to see it a second time. I finished the book. We went to see the movie. That will definitely be a talk for another time.

We were told by Amber that a “must see” place was The Botanical Gardens. The featured picture at the top of the blog of the girls, was taken there. We took a blanket, our books, and of course, the camera.

 Now, this is my kind of place – peaceful and quiet, and so beautiful.                 As we walked through the herb garden, pictured below, the girls would say “Hey, Mom, smell this.”  Me, oh brilliant one, would stick my face right down in it and take a big whiff! I woke Sunday morning with a sore throat. By Monday I could hardly breathe; but it was fun at the time.

The gardens even come with artwork. To the left of this sculpture are some steps that the girls and I followed that led down to an open area where we were able to spread out our blanket and relax and read for a while. I had the opportunity to follow-up with Catching Fire, the second in the series of “The Hunger Games”, while Kara was already well on her way into Mockingjay, the third of the series; and Amber was reading Searching for God Knows What, by Donald Miller. For more pictures of our trip to the Botanical Gardens click here. On Easter Sunday, the girls and I went to church, had lunch at Cracker Barrel, and took a peaceful walk along the Oconee River which runs right behind Amber’s place.  Kara and I followed Amber down the steps away from houses and concrete and people, to a path that runs alongside the river; until we reached a place of utmost tranquility. A perfect way to end our stay in Athens. To see more pictures from our walk along the Oconee River click here.        

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