Take a Walk: Atlanta

First in a series of walks in destinations around the world.

freeedom and highlandI want to share with you a walk I took in Atlanta, but first I have a few things to share.

It has been twenty years since I owned a car. I know that makes me part of a small minority. I grew up in Southern California where, I often joke, having a car and driving are required by law.  But, living in an urban area near Boston where there is lack of parking, high car theft, extremely high insurance premiums, and a plethora of public transportation — not to mention that I live within a half mile of my office –when my car died in 1983 I said goodbye to car ownership. Thus it is that I am on a first name basis with the cab drivers in my town, an expert on bus and train routes, and am avid about using public transport in any city where I travel. There are times when I rent a car, but for most part all over the world I use public transportation.

These days I have “graduated” to putting walking above public transportation.  Let me tell you — this is not how I have always been.  Sixteen months ago I was 100 pounds heavier and I had reached a point where walking two blocks was tiring. One day I made a commitment to myself to choose health. There was no secret formula, no amazing diet plan. I just started a one-day-at-a-time change. I am telling you this because inevitably my saying I’ve lost weight engenders questions on “how” and everyone seems to want a magic recipe. If you find one I’m happy for you. For me, the old fashioned counting calories and making healthy choices works. I use a free app, http://www.myfitnesspal.com/  that helped me set calorie goals and provides me with a diary to fill in each day. I was skeptical, but by the end of the first two weeks I had landed in “the zone” and I have never wanted to go back. As the weight came off I started walking more. All my life I have been chubby or heavier and my mantra was “I can’t walk fast, but I can walk far.” A hundred pounds ago that stopped being true. But, sometime in the past year I started loving to walk again. And the more I walked the more I wanted to walk.

Now, let’s get back to Atlanta.

I was in Atlanta to attend the opening  previews of Barry Manilow’s musical, Harmony, at the Alliance Theatre (see the related articles on this site).  I had hoped for an interview that morning, but it was not to be since, understandably, Manilow and his collaborator Bruce Sussman were in the final hours before curtain on a play they had hoped to stage for almost forty years. I had the day ahead of me. I looked out the 27th floor window of my hotel room at the sunny day and thought, “I am going for a walk.”

Amblers, dog walkers, stroller pushers, bicyclists and runners let me tell you: Atlanta has a treat for you. Several years ago a group of citizens gathered together to improve the lives of pedestrians in Atlanta. Among the organizations that formed is the PATH foundation. It has set a network of off-road trails in, around and through Atlanta. See their website http://pathfoundation.org/  for information on their many paths and trails.

My discovery of the network happened by serendipity. I set out for the Jimmy Carter Center using my Google Maps phone app. After navigating through downtown I was soon in a transition suburb, and then my GPS guide set me on the Freedom Trail that led to the Carter Center.  It turns out I was following the Stone Mountain Trail for part of my walk. It begins at Piedmont Ave in downtown Atlanta and ends nineteen miles later at the loop around Stone Mountain. The trail connects downtown Atlanta to the ML King Historic site, the Carter Center, Fernbank History Center, downtown Decatur, Stone Mountain Village, and Stone Mountain Memorial Park.

The first third of my walk was on city streets and on sidewalks along busy roadways. I was skeptical about being able to walk the entire way using my GPS since I find a lack of sidewalks in many cities. I started noticing signs that I was following a path and/or trail, so I kept the faith with my GPS guide.  There are plenty of restaurants and stores along the way for refreshments or to purchase supplies. Somewhere along Highland Avenue I came to a sign that indicated the Freedom Parkway. At that point I entered a traffic free zone where my only company were other walkers, bicyclers and a couple of skaters.  There were wide open grassy park areas, narrow tree-shaded lanes, and public displays.

I know some of you are runners and are not impressed by my saying that on this particular day I set out in 89F weather and walked 7 miles getting to and from the Carter Center. When I returned to the hotel for a shower I was not tired. For me, well, it is such a change from “the old me” that I still am in awe.

Along the way you will find many wonderful restaurants. I chose the Highland Bakery by chance. I highly recommend it as a place for a wholesome and delicious meal. They have a stellar bakery with so many pastries on display you will need a few minutes just to decide. The menus are wholesome and have choices for vegetarians and vegans. Their website is  http://highlandbakery.com/    If you want to be wowed click on their cake gallery and take a look at the artistry of chef Karen Portaleo.

As I experience city walks I will share them with you. I hope my joy and experiences will inspire you to lace up your sneakers and head out for a walk wherever your travels take you. Here are some of the sights along my route.


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