Halloween, GaTech Homecoming and Chomp & Stomp!

Halloween weekend was the kind of weekend that highlights how wonderful life is in in-town Atlanta. The more I hear people comment on how "safe" they feel in the suburbs the more I realize they have no idea what they're missing out on. Friday night, after handing out candy to over 100 trick-or-treaters in Grant Park, we headed to a friend's costume party in Reynoldstown (costumes, with hints, below). Bluegrass band and BBQ from DBA? Perhaps I can overlook the sudden freezing temperature!

At noon the next day we hopped on our bikes and braved the frigid headwinds to join friends tailgating the Georgia Tech Homecoming game. After a couple of hours we jumped on the Beltline and cruised over to Cabbagetown for Chomp and Stomp. There we hung out with my brother and a few former co-workers. The transition from engineer friends to artist friends was barely noticeable as both events were so full of lively, happy people (and beer). Next weekend is MothBall - after that I'm hanging up all my costumes until 2015!!

Get the scoop from the coop!

If you're not following And Topher Too on Pinterest and Twitter then you're missing most of the new content! Twitter has up to the minute updates from the Coop Cam* (with photos) and Pinterest has links to both helpful relative articles and images from our daily life on this teeny tiny urban hobby farm. 

*After clicking the link to the cam, then click "flash" or "browser". 

The unbelievable (but true) life of the general who tried to defend Atlanta

My interest in General John Hood can be pinpointed to one historic marker in Oakland Cemetery (high five to Roman Mars/99% invisible - "always read the plaque"). It said something along the lines of "it was here that General John Hood watched the burning of Atlanta from the second story window of a [future Atlanta mayor's] home". At the time of reading I knew enough to think: why is the man in charge of defending Atlanta during Sherman's raid watching from a second story window a couple of miles from the action!? The answer is so much better (and more complicated) then I could have imagined. Read on.

• 1831 - John Hood born in Owingsville, Kentucky
• 1849 - Obtains an appointment to West Point from his uncle, Representative Richard French; his father would prefer a career in medicine. An average student, he is nearly expelled by Superintendent Colonel Robert E. Lee for an unauthorized visit to a local tavern. (1)
• 1853 - Hood graduates 44th out of 52 and is assigned to infantry in California. James McPherson, Hood's classmate, friend and future Union General opponent, graduates first in this class. (4)
• 1855 - Reassigned to the 2nd US Cavalry in Texas.
• 1857 - Wounded in the hand by an arrow during a routine patrol.
• 1861 - Battle of Fort Sumter. The Civil War begins; Hood immediately resigns from the US Army and enlists in the Confederate Army.
• 1863 (July) - Battle of Gettysburg. Hood is badly wounded in his left arm by shrapnel. The arm is saved but remains useless for the rest of his life.
• 1863 (September) - Battle of Chickamauga. Hood leads a key attack which drives much of the Union army from the field. In the fighting, his right leg is severely wounded and must be amputated four inches below the hip. Hood's condition is so grave that the surgeon sends the severed leg along with him in the ambulance (assuming that they will be buried together). For his bravery, he is promoted to lieutenant general. (2)
• 1864 (spring) - Members of Hood's 1855 Texas Brigade collect $3,100 in a single day to buy him a prosthetic cork leg imported (through the Union blockade) from Europe . Despite his two damaged limbs, Hood rides well (strapped to his horse with his artificial leg hanging stiffly, and an orderly following closely behind with crutches).
• 1864 (July) - Hood is promoted to the temporary rank of full general and given command of the confederate army just outside the gates of Atlanta. At 33 years old Hood is the youngest man on either side to be given command of an army.
** This is where the aforementioned historic marker comes into play. At this point, Hood has one leg and one arm yet still finds himself in the 2nd story of someone's home. My question this time was how did he get up those stairs!? Crutches?!**
• 1864 (September) - Battle of Atlanta. Hood fails to defend the city and is forced to surrender. His West Point classmate, friend and Union rival, James McPherson is killed during battle. Hood writes "the announcement of which cause[s] me sincere sorrow".
• 1865 (January) - Hood is replaced. 
• 1865 (spring) - the Civil War ends. Hood moves to New Orleans to start anew. 
• 1866 - Hood establishes a career in the cotton insurance business. (3)
• 1868 - Hood marries Anna Marie Hennen, the highly educated daughter of a New Orleans attorney. During the next ten years they have eleven children - including three sets of twins. They live an elegant home at the corner Camp and Third Street in NOLA's Garden District.
• 1878 (summer) - Yellow Fever ravages New Orleans. The family retreats to Hammond, LA for safety but Hood's insurance business is decimated and the family is forced to mortgage their home.
• 1879 (summer) - Yellow Fever continues to threaten the people of New Orleans but the Hood family no longer has the financial means to leave. A neighbor across the street develops Yellow Fever. 
• 1879 (August 24) - Hood's beloved wife dies of Yellow Fever.
• 1879 (August 29) - Hood's oldest daughter dies of Yellow Fever.
• 1879 (August 31) - Hood dies of Yellow Fever. He is 48 years old and leaves behind 10 orphans. The children are adopted by seven different families in Louisiana, New York, Mississippi, Georgia and Kentucky.

Links & Sources:
(1) http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/americancivilwar/p/jbhood.htm
(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Bell_Hood
(3) http://civilwarwomenblog.com/anna-marie-hood/
(4) http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/americancivilwar/p/American-Civil-War-Major-General-James-Mcpherson.htm

EAV and Grant Park Criterion, Summer Shade Fest

This time of year always makes me thankful for Atlanta's fantastic intown neighborhoods. The East Atlanta and Grant Park Criterion were held last weekend. Friends with homes/businesses along the courses hosted leisurely front porch parties with neighbors drifting in and out. Today and tomorrow are the annual Grant Park Summer Shade Fest. In a couple of hours we'll walk to the park with a blanket, cooler and hopes of running into my brother. (If you go to the fest be sure look for his t-shirt booth, Wandering Line.) And of course next weekend, Labor Day weekend, is my favorite Atlanta 3-day weekend. Bring on Dragon*Con and SEC football!

The Burning of Atlanta

Yesterday marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War campaign/battle that resulted in Sherman's burning of antebellum Atlanta. It seems fitting that this is also the week I finally receive an answer to the question I asked in November: "Hey Atlanta, what's next? Moving the Peachtree Road Race to Gwinett County?" Sadly, the answer is another direct hit to Atlanta's wonderful Grant Park neighborhood: the Cyclorama, a historic painting that depicts the Battle of Atlanta, is being moved from it's home in the park of Grant Park to the posh northern neighborhood of Buckhead. 

The Cyclorama isn't JUST a painting. Created in 1885, it is still the world’s largest oil painting (42 feet x 358 feet). Since 1893 it has been on display less than a mile from the subject matter it depicts. In 1921 it moved to it's current location: a beautiful building on the National Register of Historic Places (right next to the Zoo Atlanta entrance). It's new home will be 15 miles north of the actual battlelines (just 5 miles from the future Cobb County Braves Stadium).

The location of my home (built 56 years after the battle) can be seen in the painting - I love that. The news of the move brought tears to my eyes in the middle of a work day. After losing the Braves Stadium and the fight against a Grant Park Walmart (on my beloved Beltline no less), this annoucement feels like the nail in "historic" Grant Park's coffin. I never let the crime get to me - but these repeated betrayals by the city - they feel so personal. They sting.

Details about the Atlanta Campaign:
• July 22, 1864: Sherman orders that any artillery positioned within range begin cannonading, not just of the Confederate lines but also of the city itself, which still held about 3,000 civilians (down from 20,000 earlier in the spring). Battle lines correspond with present day Moreland Avenue (south from the Edgewood Shopping center to I-20) and then turn 90 degrees West (towards the city) and follow along 1-20.
• August 9, 1864: The barrage of Union artillery peaks with approximately 5,000 shells fired into Atlanta.
• September 2, 1864: Union Soldiers finally penetrate the city. Atlanta falls to General Sherman.
• Sherman occupies Atlanta for 10 weeks.
• Early November 1864: Sherman orders his engineers to begin "the destruction in Atlanta of all depots, car-houses, shops, factories, foundries."
• November 12, 1864: Orders are given to begin torching designated sites, some with explosive shells placed inside. Locations include a storehouse at Whitehall and Forsyth streets, a bank at the railroad and Peachtree Street and the Washington hotel.
• November 15, 1864: Leaving along Decatur Road (which in turns is also Marietta Boulevard and DeKalb Avenue) Union troops leave a smoldering Atlanta and begin their march to the coast.
• December 2, 1864: Sherman and his troops arrive in Savannah. The city surrenders.

Beltline Bike Tour 2014

Today was the annual Beltline Bike Tour. 30 miles roundtrip - starting at the Old Fourth Ward Skate Park and making a clockwise loop around the city of Atlanta. The bike ride took the Beltline everywhere it's paved and completed; the rest of the route was street cycling through neighborhoods where the Beltline will someday connect. Two thumbs up to the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition for organizing this impressive event! (If you're not already familiar with this organization please look them up. They are doing so many important things for street cycling in the city of Atlanta.) 

1. DAMN ATLANTA IS HILLY. Yeah, okay, I know we're technically the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains and Peachtree Street is a ridge that was once a native American footpath - but all that information became real life when I was pedaling up a couple of crazy hills. Specifically the vertical incline just after Ardmore Park. But I was high fiving a million angels after I made it up in granny gear!! No pushing the bike up the hill for me! Sweet.
2. Going into today's ride I was anticipating the route's uncomfortable contrast between blighted low income neighborhoods and posh "1%" parts of town. The southwest side was worse then I imagined: so many boarded up and burnt out homes. But it made me happy to see that despite the disadvantages, southwest Atlanta still has some of the city's best bike trails and parks. If you haven't been there before it's definitely worth a ride (during the day - with a map and plan, with friends - not alone). 
3. Don't underestimate your ability!! When I signed up for the ride I wanted to be in the "quick" group but O hesitated and thought it best if we hang with the "intermediates". To the surprise of us both - we ended up "breaking away" from the intermediate pack and pushing well into the fast group. We even had time to stop at Mellow Mushroom on Peachtree and share a Bells Two Hearted Ale! Ya know, for the carb loading... 

Meet the chicks!

Our fledgling* little flock is comprised of two breeds: Ameraucanas and Silkies. When adopted, the Ameraucanas were 5 days old and the Silkies were 2 weeks. Their adult coop is being built inside a ship shaped tree house so we decided the chickens' names should stick with the theme; silkies are sailors/pirates and Ameraucanas are from Gilligan's Island.

Their live video cam is embedded in the post below. 

*After using this word I questioned it's true meaning. And hey, I've just learned something new! Fledge - the act of a chick's parents raising it to a fully grown state. 

Riding bikes in Atlanta: just the facts!

Thanks to the Atlanta Bicycle Coalition for compiling this helpful info! 

• Bicycles are vehicles under Georgia law, with the same right to travel on the road as other vehicles (with the exception of limited-access highways). 
• Sidewalks are for walking: It is illegal for adults (over 12 years of age) to ride bicycles on the sidewalk in the state of Georgia. Your risk of being hit by a car is actually higher on the sidewalk than in the road. Bicyclists on the sidewalk are less visible to drivers, especially at intersections and driveways.
• Take the lane: If the bike lane is too narrow or next to on-street parking, take the lane (ride in the middle of the traffic lane) at your discretion.
• When riding in groups, ride no more than two abreast, and as a courtesy, ride single file when faster traffic needs the space to pass you. 
• Light up the night: Every bicycle, while being used in the dark in Georgia, must be equipped with a white front light and rear red reflector, each visible from 300 feet.
• Wear a helmet: Bicycle helmets are required for everyone under age 16 and encouraged for everyone else.

• Expect the unexpected: Never assume a motorist sees you. Anticipate parked vehicles pulling into traffic, vehicle doors opening in front of you, and debris or other hazards on the road. Respect right of way rules.
• If you encounter an irate motorist, be polite, regardless of her/his behavior. To report an aggressive or harassing driver, or if you are involved in a car-bike crash, call 911. Please report all crashes, as this data contributes to bike improvements in Atlanta. Be ready with
a vehicle and location description, a license plate number and state, and an account of what happened.
• Scout your route to find streets that work for you. Remember, your driving route might not be the best way to get there by bike.
• Download this map here.

Links to great stuff:
AJC article about bike lanes
• ATL's 1st Cycling Festival
• Sopo Bike Co-op
Beltline Bike Shop
• An ATL bike blog

Bike Beer Repeat

Thanks to  our friend Emeline for organizing today's Ride Bikes, Drink Beer, Repeat - Westside Edition. Most of the group met at 10:45am in Inman Park and then cycled through downtown Atlanta to the westside of town. First stop: Redbrick Brewery. Second stop: lunch at the Atlanta Food Truck Park (O&I shared a fried avocado BLT and BBQ pork tacos). Third stop: Monday Night Brewing (let me just say: damn, their space is so great - major kudos for creating such a trendy yet welcoming atmosphere). On the ride we met some cool folks that I hope to see again and the slower pace allowed me to appreciate a lot of historic architecture that I had previously overlooked. Thanks again Emeline!

Total ride (from home): 19 miles • map at bottom

Rollin' with my Gnomies

Awesome, awesome, awesome Inman Park Festival this year. O&I joined several our Grant Park neighbors in the annual attempt to beat the Guinness Book of World Records record for most people dressed as garden gnomes. 202 of us marched in the parade while wearing the obligatory red pointy hat, suspenders or vest (for men), suspenders or apron (for women) and boots. The photos below show us pre-parade, during the parade and post-parade (yes, the silly selfie). FUN!!!

Happy Things

The first day of March is finally here! For Atlanta that is ALMOST officially springtime - and springtime in Atlanta makes me very happy. Here spring is synonymous  with daffodils, dogwoods, azaleas, cabbages (okay that might just be me and my garden), the Inman Park Festival and reopening of Farmer's Markets.

This morning we're heading to the grand opening of a new Atlanta farmer's market. This one is the Freedom Farmer's Market and now through the week before Christmas it will be set up every Saturday at the Carter Center. While there a few things that set this market apart from the others around town the one that excites me is accessibility by bike. This location is easy to ride to on both the Freedom Park Bike Trail and the Beltline. I love that!

While I'm on the topic of loving things and springtime and bikes - I have to share this project I found on Kickstarter: Type Rider II: The Tandem Poetry Tour by Maya Stein. Everything about it inspires me. I wish it was me and my idea! The Kickstarter campaign only lasts for 3 more days; as of now they only need another $1500 to reach their goal. If you love the project as much as I do I hope you'll donate a few dollars to help make it a reality. I sponsored JULY 17 Indianola→Altoona (which I'm pretty excited about).

Okay, time to clean up and hop on my bike! Gotta get to that Farmer's Market! Happy almost-springtime!

Atlanta's 2014 SNOW DAY!

Two weeks ago Atlanta made national news for it's "unexpected" "snowstorm". I sarcastically use both words because the snow was neither "unexpected" nor really a "snowstorm". Rather, the Weather Channel (which is based in Atlanta)  had predicted the couple of inches of snow which (as always) caused an ice problem. 

Friends who live outside of Atlanta continue to ask me if this storm was really any different from those of past years. My answer is, yes definitely. The Storm of the Century in March 1993 was a real snowstorm (by Atlanta standards); my suburb received half a foot of powdery snow! When Atlanta hosted the Super Bowl in 2000 we were hit with an ice storm that caused tree limbs to snap and create power outages all over the city. This time a dusting of powdery snow seemed to instantly freeze onto the roads (possibly because the city had been experiencing single digit temperatures in the weeks leading up to the storm). As the snow was falling the city closed schools. This prompted everyone in the city to simultaneously get into their cars and act like half a million little zambonis. Working together, Atlanta's infamous rush hour commuters transformed Atlanta's highways into a massive ice skating rink. It's not that Atlantans don't know how to drive in the snow; it's that we don't have cars equipped to drive on solid ice. And in a matter of three hours the roads went from snow to ice. 

People in my office were forced to either abandon their cars and walk or sleep in their cars on the highway. I was lucky: I left work at 4pm and had a really easy drive home through a mostly abandoned city. Just another perk of city living I suppose!

Photos from Tuesday evening/night
Driving home from work: the opening shot from the Walking Dead.

Looking East on 1-20 at midnight on Tuesday

Photos from Wednesday morning

Looking North on Hill Street.

Looking West on 1-20 at 8am on Wednesday (traffic is a stand still).

Looking East on 1-20 at 8am on Wednesday (traffic is a stand still).