Yesterday I ended my post just as I was heading south toward Nashville with Atlanta, GA as my destination.
The sun was bright as I made my way through Nashville. This picture shows the moment just before leaving I-65 and getting on I-24. I would be heading east toward Chattanooga. Notice the sign on the left and the downtown Nashville skyline in the background.
An hour later I passed Murfreesboro and approached the series of steep hills along I-24. The weather took a turn for the worse. It began to rain.
After three hours of driving through the rain I found myself in downtown Atlanta. It was still over cast but no longer raining.
I followed my GPS directions and soon found myself driving down Piedmont Avenue next to Piedmont park. Across from the park I saw The Nook, a small restaurant where the WDW Radio group was meeting.
I had left home with what I thought was plenty of time to get there early. The event was scheduled from 1-3 PM. My plan was to get to the restaurant about 30 minutes before the "official" start of the event. Because of the weather and stops I had made along the way I ended up getting to the restaurant a few minutes after 1.
I knew it was important to be there early but that just didn't work out. It turned out to initially make a difference in my experience.
I parked along 14th Street about a block away at a public parking area next to the "W" hotel.
It wasn't raining as I was walking down to the restaurant but you could tell it had been raining most of the day.
Once I got to The Nook I was surprised at how incredibly small it was for the amount of people I thought would be at the meet up.
There was a rather large patio with about a dozen tables. But it had an open roof and it was not being used because of the rain. It has started to come down again shortly after I arrived at the restaurant.
The main room of the place was rather small. My best guess would be that it was a 50X40 ft room.
The bar was the centerpiece of the restaurant. There was about 2 dozen chairs for patrons to sit around it. The main seating area was a series of booths along the side and back walls of the room; elevated about one step up above the level of the bar.
The place was packed. The hostess at the door told me that a lot of the "Disney group" was already seated but they had to set up more tables for me and the rest of those who had also just arrived.
There really wasn't any place for me to stand while I waited. I spotted Lou Mongello in a little group of tables on surrounding the bar. The tables were full but I couldn't tell if all of the people seated there were part of the WDW Radio group.
I soon realized that the setting was not a very good situation for mixing with and getting to know all those who were there to talk Disney.
I later learned that the reason Lou picked the place was so that the group could utilize the patio. The rain changed those plans. There was nothing he could do about it.
After about 10 minutes or so the staff, ironically, brought in two tables from the patio area (they had to be dried off) so that me and a family of 4 could sit with the rest of the group. I was on the end of the table. Here's a picture I took that shows how things were set up.
Lou was sitting to my right 4 or 5 tables down. It was obvious that the way we were sitting would make socializing with him very difficult. In this picture he's the 2nd person on the right.
Now that may look close but the cacophony of conversation and activity made the room very loud. You could only talk to the people next to you but even that was a bit difficult.
I became very discouraged about the situation. Here I had just traveled 4 hours to meet Lou and all I was going to be able to do was just say briefly say "hi".
Perhaps things would change as the meet went along and I would get at least a minute or two of conversation with Lou on a one-on-one basis.
I decided to try and make the best of things. I introduced myself to the two people two my left. The young lady was named "Emily" and her father next to her was "Jim". They were from nearby Lawrenceburg, GA. Jim told me he was a city planning consultant. Emily was a recent graduate from Vanderbuilt college in Nashville. She had plans to continue her education with a goal of a career in cancer research.
The Nook's food specialty was something called "Totachos". They are tater tots topped like nachos. They were offered in about half a dozen varieties; none of which I cared for at all.
The only thing I found on the menu that I even thought I would like was a 1/3 pound cheese burger with a side of sweet potato fries.
At this point in the meet I still wasn't convinced that the experience was going to be worth the time and effort it took to get there. I wasn't blaming Lou, it was just the way things were working out.
But then things happened that turned it all around. I'll have the details on just why and how this happened in part 3 of my story tomorrow.