I got into Atlanta earlier than anticipated – the rolling hills of Georgia were in my favor that day, and most of the rolling was downhill. With a few hours until I was supposed to give a talk at Emory, I hung out on the back porch with Dar, the friend who was generously hosting me, and her mother, who was in town for a few days. When I emerged from the shower, they had made me an enormous bowl of noodles, sausage and homemade red sauce, which I took my time getting through. “The sleepy South!” I thought to myself, looking forward to a few days of relaxing in between events.

imag1247 Yeah, RIGHT. From the moment my mudspattered sneakers headed out Dar’s door until I pedaled away days later, the Make US Strong campaign was in high gear – some of it planned, some of it luck, and some insane coincidence. In 72 hours, I was able to talk with Emory undergrads over pizza about the politics of development, appear on CBS’s Better Mornings Atlanta to promote the campaign and the ride, speak at an incredible event hosted by local Truman Partners and friends (where the office of Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed presented me with a Phoenix Award – an honor that I was shocked and humbled to receive), and stop by an Emory Law Civ-Mil Society event to meet a few current and future Marine Corps Officers. This, and somehow run into multiple high school friends, take a bike tour of the city, stock up on provisions at Trader Joe’s, and stay up way too late dancing with some of Atlanta’s craziest kids. imag1291

I am so grateful to Brandon Rudat, anchor from CBS Atlanta’s Better Mornings for getting me on the air, to Elyse Albert for organizing the event at Emory, to Melanie Nelkin, Jane Bradshaw, Howard Franklin, Justin G. Tanner, Evan Goldberg and Ted Terry for hosting the event in Inman Park, to Alex Zerden for introducing me to the Emory Law Civ-Mil Society (and to interesting new snacks!), to Councilman Aaron Watson for his commitment to international development and to making ATL a more bike-friendly city, to Mayor Reed and the rest of his office, especially Reese McCranie, for recognizing the Make US Strong campaign, and finally to Dar Vanderbeck, who not only hosted an event, but also hosted me on her couch and in her social life. imag1263

I didn’t end up getting to “chill” the way I had planned in advance of my 3-day, 230 mile marathon to Columbia, South Carolina, but hey. There’s a reason they call it Hotlanta.