This past weekend, my niece participated in the Big South club volleyball tournament in Atlanta, Georgia. Last month, my wife, the consummate women’s volleyball fan (especially if my niece is involved), had suggested we travel along and provide some away-team support. We decided in the end to turn it into a weekend getaway for Dee and myself to go check out a little bit of Atlanta and cheer on my niece and her teammates in their bid for Nationals.
Although we didn’t get on the road until Friday afternoon, we somehow managed to avoid the worst of the traffic and checked into the hotel only about 15 minutes later than expected. Since my niece was playing Friday night, we grabbed our gear and headed out to catch the MARTA train from a park-and-ride station to avoid driving into the city. I had a little fun along the way:
We were ravenously hungry by the time we made it inside the convention center where the games were taking place, but we were pressed for time and the only concession stand still open was a gourmet hot-dog stand. If you haven’t had a $9 hot dog before – let me tell you – if you’re hungry enough, they’re delicious, but I’d probably recommend you try to find somewhere else to eat, for the value.
It was close to 8:00 by this time, and most of the teams had already left for the night, but my niece had one match left to play, so we hunkered up on the court-side folding chairs and cheered our hearts out for the girls.
It was pretty exciting stuff, but after the 5 hour drive and an hour of edge-of-your-seat excitement, I was wiped. We hurried back to the MARTA station before the Celtics/Hawks game finished up, shared the car back with some Wrestlemania Axxess fans who were in town for their own convention, and crashed for the night.
It turned out that we had a little free time the next morning, as the play from the previous day put my niece’s team in the afternoon action. We took a couple of hours to check out the nice neighborhoods in North Atlanta and went out to lunch at the Gordon Biersch Brewery & Restaurant, where I treated myself to a mouth-watering pulled-pork sandwich and a very-tasty beer sampler:
We settled in at one of the 150+ volleyball courts at the convention center and cheered on my niece as they tore apart the competition in a fierce match that had us yelling until we were hoarse. My niece played extra-well, which was perfect timing since the volleyball coach from the college she’ll be attending next year was present and looking on. She definitely caught my niece during the right game!
There was a break in the action until dinner time, so Dee and I strolled across the street to check out the CNN Center and get some celebrity photo-ops:
Dee was eager to go take in a few more matches before it was my niece’s turn again, so she headed back down to the madness. I took a little break from the roar of the crowds, ref’s whistles, and shouts of adrenaline-fuelled athletes and found a nice quiet wall in the convention center to hunker down against and read a couple chapters of my book. (Plus, my phone needed charging).
It was a nice oasis of calm in the midst of an otherwise bustling day. Recharged (both the phone and my brain), I rejoined my wife on the floor where we screamed our hearts out cheering for my niece’s team in their last match of the day.
Saturday night, we had a low-key dinner and crashed, worn out from the sightseeing and cheering. We had an early start on Sunday, checking out of the hotel and getting back to the convention center in time for the girls’ final game of the tournament. It was a nail-biter, with both teams playing some of their best volleyball of the tournament. My niece’s team, up 1 game, barely lost the second 27-25. The 3rd game tiebreaker, (played only to 15) had everyone on the edge of their seats as the two teams battled back and forth, stealing point after point away from each other until the score was tied at 14-14. Heart in my throat, I watched the other team play an incredible last two points to take the game, the match, and the chance to play again later that afternoon in bracket play.
My niece was finished, and it was time for us to head home. We took our time getting back, but I was happy to be home and give our kids a giant hug and a kiss when we finally walked in the door. Too exhausted to do much of anything, we ordered pizza and hung out with the girls until bedtime, when we all promptly crashed and slept the sleep of the dead.
So where did my weekend go? Looking back, we did a lot more than it feels like. The whole thing was one big whirlwind of activity, and although I feel like it only took about 12 hours of my life to do/see everything we did in Atlanta, looking back on the photos now, I’m thinking it was time well spent.