Georgia Road Trip: Part 1

I’ve been back in the USA over 7 months and COVID has hit the world. I’ve spent many months quarantined in my room or doing an occasional outdoor activity. I haven’t actually caught covid so far but I am still scared to travel (I had one pretty nasty illness in May that my doctor insisted was not COVID). I really need to get out of the house for a week or so. I finally get the courage to book a solo road trip to the nearby state of Georgia. I’ve noticed a couple of friends taking trips up there to do day hikes and it looks like a safe and interesting thing to do.

My first stop is southwestern Georgia at Providence Canyon State Park, a place many refer to as a mini grand canyon. It is a canyon caused by erosion from poor farming practices. Fortunately/unfortunately the end result is a neat little place to visit for the day to view and take a hike.

I am driving in from central Florida and arrive in the evening. I book a hotel in a nearby town that is actually in Alabama. Eufaula, Alabama is a small town that is very low-key and seems safe enough to stay for an evening or two (it is a good thing I booked two evenings, more on that later).

Driving into Alabama from western Georgia

The drive north, mostly highway miles, is where I think I notice a strange noise from my car (my car is quite old but a very reliable model and current on maintenance). I essentially do the equivalent of putting my fingers in my ears and try to ignore it. If I pretend the noise doesn’t exist will it go away on its own? I eventually arrive at my hotel and my car still sounds strange as I pull in the parking lot. “Maybe it is just tired and if I let it rest for the night it will be fine”. I check into my hotel room and rest for the evening. The next morning I am heading to the Providence Canyon. I wake up and start the 30 minute drive to the canyon, still ignoring the noise (I know, totally irresponsible). I arrive as the canyon is opening (since I read warnings that there can be crowds and they limit visitors for the day). It is impossible to ignore the noise anymore. As I park I get weird looks from others in the parking lot. I do an inspection to see what the problem might be. Luckily another visitor in the parking lot is knowledgeable of my issue and points it out right away. I have eroded a break pad and that is what is causing the noise. I am confused because I didn’t think my break pads were that old. This seems like a problem I need to resolve right away. I find a repair place who will take me immediately and drive back 30 minutes to the town I am staying. I need new break pads and rotor. The cost is ridiculously expensive to fix but it isn’t like I can comparison shop at this point. I get the service done and pay the price. I could head back to the canyon but it is already late in the day. I decide to wander around Eufaula instead. Luckily I have one more night scheduled in my hotel here.

I end up on a little paved trail that is mostly empty. This town is on the water so I can see boats on the water from the trail.

After my walk I order a pizza to take back to the hotel and go to bed early to return to the canyon in the morning.

The next morning my brakes are working great again and come in handy when I need to stop to make sure I don’t runover a parade of hogs on the road.

I am back at the canyon, this time for good. I start along the loop trail which slowly descends into the canyon.

I have the choice to explore the inside of the canyons from below or head up the incline to do the 2.5 mile loop trail. Today I decide to do only the 2.5 mile trail because I am out of hiking shape and I have longer hikes ahead of me on this trip.

The area used to be a settlement that had to be abandoned due to the earth collapsing. Left behind are some old cars.

Most of the loop is shaded and like a forest hike but the last part is mostly open but offers great vistas of the canyon.

There is an old church and cemetery on the walk back to the parking lot. I can never resist a peek at an old cemetery.

Overall it is a great visit. My only wish is that I would have spent the time to hike some of the canyons. Perhaps if I didn’t have the car issues I could have split the hikes over two days to make it more manageable.

I drove up to north Georgia afterwards to be closer to Amicalola Falls, the place I will start my adventure for the next couple days.

The Limelight Inn in Dahlonega, Georgia is a beautiful place to spend the night.

I enjoy my lovely porch view of the fall for a little bit then head into the town of Dahlonega for dinner. I find a nice little outdoor restaurant to enjoy dinner in this cute college town.

Gyro at Capers on the Square

After dinner I head back to my Inn and enjoy the sunset from my porch since it is COVID times and most places appear to close early. It seems like a cute town to do some shopping in, maybe during another visit.

Tomorrow I head out on a 5 mile hike to a lodge I will be staying for two nights. More on that later.

Medellín: El Clásico Paisa

Today we are attending a fútbol game (or soccer for those from the Estados Unidos). The game we are attending is El Clásico Paisa, the name for the rivalry between the teams of Atlético Nacional and Independiente Medellín, both of Medellín. They both share the Atanasio Girardot stadium but once a year play each other. El Clásico Paisa – Wikipedia

While attending a couple tours in Medellín we noticed that the guides had mentioned the upcoming exhibition game on Saturday and how fun it would be. The thought of going to a soccer game in Medellín seemed scary to me due to the city’s history. Days passed and we eventually find we have a free day on Saturday, our last day. One of the ideas for the last day is to explore the neighborhood near the soccer stadium; after that idea it didn’t seem too much of a stretch to actually buy tickets to the game. To be honest my travel companion M is more on board with this idea than I am, but I am willing to go along for the ride. We mulled the idea too long I guess because the only available tickets left are on the supporter section of the underdog. Attending the game is one thing but sitting in the supporters section? I’ve been to soccer matches in the USA and I rarely sit in the supporters section because there is a high expectation of participation that I don’t always have the energy for. We decide to purchase tickets anyway.

We have our seats so now we think it is a good idea to buy jerseys plus a bum bag for me. We figure there has got to be lots of vendors selling knockoff Jerseys around town. We wake up semi-early the day of the game and wander our neighborhood after breakfast. We have yet to see any jersey vendors but we do come across a parade. We watch for a while since it is blocking the crosswalk. Growing impatient we “join” the parade for the purpose of crossing the road. No one seems to care. We aren’t quite sure what the parade is for.

We are in the parade

After the parade we are still having a hard time finding decent looking shirts for the underdog team (Independiente Medellín). It seems people only want to buy shirts for the better team so that is most of what we see. The knockoffs are pretty terrible, some not even the current year design. We eventually find some that are satisfactory. After our shirt purchases we head to a shop where I find a bum bag. It is black but it is obvious that I am buying a bag that was given away free at some tech conference and now is being sold in this shop. It is a rip off but I need something small to carry my items to the match so this will do.

While we are out M buys a couple gifts to for people back home. We take our things back to the hotel and get ready for the game. We want to head out early so we can witness the tailgate fun near the stadium. Also M wants to hang out somewhere to catch another game on TV nearby the stadium.

Eventually we take the metro down to the stadium area.

View from the metro

We start in the very crowded tailgate area of Atlético Nacional . We are wearing the jersey for the opponent but no one cares. No heckling or anything happens.

We walk down the street to where the fans of “our” team is hanging out. It is lively but much less crowded.

It is time to start looking for our seats so we head toward the stadium. We end up walking pretty far to find our entrance gate. M talks me into walking beers for the journey. Good call since no alcohol is sold in the stadium.

We are obviously early. The supporters section is only partially filled. The section that contains our seats appears to have many other tourists who joined the fun like we have.

Stadium view

Finally the stadium fills and the game starts.

As the game goes on the energy level increases. The supporters loudly sing their chants. They are loud but we can still hear the very busy supporter section from across the stadium.

Fans hold onto the banners draped over the stadium seats like their life depended on it, for some of them it is the only thing keeping them from falling below – guys stand on top the railing, grasp the banner and sort of swing slightly. They also sometimes hop up and down. We watch in anticipation and fear of a fall to below but it doesn’t happen; not to say it hasn’t happened in the past.

Somehow people have brought in cream colored burlap-like bags full of torn paper. It becomes useful for pivotal moments of the game as does the smoke bombs.

The other side is quite lively as well.

We buy some water in a bag and watch the tifo during the half.

We are having so much fun.

A vendor is selling fruit soda from a liter bottle in the stands. No alcohol sold just water, snacks and juices. Probably a good thing because I wouldn’t want to see this lively crowd drunk.

Someone hands out streamers to throw. We get to participate in the action!

Quite the mess to clean up.

The match ends in a Tie. The DIM supporters are very happy since that doesn’t usually happen. We head out of the stadium and hang out a bit where the supporters hang out. We watch the band play from a bar.

Here is a video I put together of the tailgating, game and post party in case you want to feel like you are part of it. (It is pretty long).

We fly home tomorrow which means this is the official end of my seven month sabbatical. I’ve had so many great experiences during my travels but what a fantastic way to end it all!

View of the last night of my sabbatical

Note about flight home, we both have colds we are fighting and we are trying to take a flight on the onset of the covid pandemic. We worry we’ll get booted off our flight. We don’t think we have this new and nasty virus but it is so new that we aren’t sure we’ll be flagged or not. Luckily we made it home and then the world shuts down about two weeks later. The timing of my return trip home seems to be impeccable.