Sunday, May 1, 2016

Georgia on my mind

This past week, I spent a few days wandering the highways and byways of Georgia (see below for the reason), and I found Martin Luther King's quote on repeat in my head. “I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.” The reds of Georgia are everywhere so I took some photos ...


I stopped in the wonderful college town of Athens, home of the University of Georgia. It feels like every other college town I know … Berkeley, Ithaca, Austin, Cambridge. Actually, it’s better than Cambridge. Athens at least hasn’t lost its funk.

But it has this amazing sign among the buildings of its lovely North Quad ...

The old South is never far away even when you’re in the new South.

As I waited for my waffles and bacon in the Waffle House near campus early the next morning, I

overheard two older white men at the counter talking sports. I thought, “These are not bad men by any means. Southern men. Sons of Georgia. Locals. Born in the 1940s or ‘50s. Children in the 1960s. Not filled with the vile racism of their parents. But I am certain in their heart of hearts, they think the South lost the Civil War because it wasn’t good enough, it just didn’t have sufficient stuff to bring to the fight.” The thought brought back historian Shelby Foote’s anecdote that in 1864, at the height of the war, there were still enough young men walking around Cambridge and New Haven to stage a crew race between Harvard and Yale, when in that same year the doors of the University of Georgia had to be shuttered entirely because every one of its young men was either off fighting or soon to be. "The South didn’t lose for lack of resources," I decided. "It lost because it was wrong, which is a different proposition altogether."

Still, the campus North Quad was … majestic ... stately ... beautiful? No, the word I'm looking for is sumptuous.

Now, as to the reason for my visit, it was my car obsession that brought me there. Some seat time in a Porsche and a Ford Mustang GT at Road Atlanta was all the convincing I needed to hop on plane and fly down. The track and the cars were thrilling.

Since this post started as a car review, let me give a quick review of the track experience. At the end of the day, the tight German engineering of the 911 outshone the straight-forward urge of the Ford, though both cars deliver plenty of power and performance with ease. Its just that the Porsche doles it out in more manageable bites, with more consistent feedback to the driver. The Ford heaps everything onto the plate at once. To compensate for this, the Mustang softens the shocks, smooths out the gear shifts, and mixes pure power with a touch of luxury cruise-ability. It's really in the handling of the two cars where differences become obvious. The Porsche grips the road better courtesy of the Michelin Pilot Sport Cup 2 tires, offering a more predictable package overall, and connects the car to the road is ways unheard of in the Ford.

The Mustang is all get-up-and-go.  The push of the five-liter engine and the smaller tires lowers the confidence that it actually will make it around a corner, but man, shifting into fifth gear on the straight reminded me why we love the rumble of an American motor! In the end, I preferred the Porsche for its overall driving characteristics and driving pleasure.

The Road Atlanta instructors joked that the South wouldn't be the South without a refrigerator on the porch. To wrap it all up, I'll add to that ... "or some rusty cars on the front lawn" ...