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Guide To Atlanta

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Saved by CoatHanger
on January 6, 2010 at 10:17:16 am


Most con-goers are acutely aware of the fact that Dragon*Con is held every year in the city of Atlanta, which is unfortunate. Natives of the area are likely reasonably familiar with the city as it's the closest thing to 'civilization' that exists south of Washington DC, but for outsiders who make the pilgrimage every year for the convention, it can be a mysterious labyrinth of poorly maintained roads, aggressive transients, violent public officials, and concentrated despair. With that in mind, this article is intended to serve as a tool to help non-natives prepare themselves for their dark journey into the urine-scented jewel of the South.



Atlanta was founded thousands of years ago when an ancient warlord known as Ted Turner rose up and united his tribe with rival tribes, the Coca-Colians and the Deltans. Their powers combined to form Voltron, a giant robot who built the city. Unfortunately, Voltron had no sense of civil engineering at all (as Sim City hadn't been invented yet), and the poorly planned road network was so choked with traffic that the city stagnated. Locals referred to the city as "UHLANNUH" which loosely translates into "I am stuck in traffic and am tired of this stench."


Atlanta became better known during the American Civil War when it was set on fire. Locals commonly blame the bitter, more civilized northerners for doing so, but this is largely only evidence of the poor education that Atlantans receive, as history shows that it was the retreating Confederate General John Bell Hood who ordered all public buildings and possible Union assets destroyed. SO HOW DO YOU LIKE THAT YOU UNEDUCATED SONS OF B



Visitors to the city will often note that during the summertime (when Dragon*Con occurs), it is effectively impossible to respirate. Many blame a combination of the heat and the evaporated waste products of approximately three billion transients. Others will recognize that the city is in fact underwater, which is what 100% humidity probably actually means. Regardless of which explanation you suspect to be the case, you'll want to be prepared for this. Breathing exercises ahead of time can help prevent dizziness, and you can build lung strength by breathing underwater. It's cool, there's oxygen in water, you'll be fine. No, really. People drown because they're afraid to do it when they're in the water. Trust me.


Temperature-wise, you can generally count on the heat to be in the mid to upper 80's. Normally that would sound perfectly reasonable, but you'll want to take into consideration the fact that you'll be downtown in a thoroughly paved city, where every surface will reflect every bit of heat directly at you. The heat index will generally put the temperatures in downtown Atlanta at around 130. On rare occasions during the convention we will be blessed with rain, which brings the temperature down dramatically but will ruin those fairy wings you're wearing and may set off the 70% of attendees who are ablutophobic.



A more comprehensive guide to Travel has already been assembled, but it's worth taking a moment to give a higher-level overview of the travel into and out of the city for attendees. Moving around Atlanta can be a confusing experience: the city has gone to great lengths to make it easy to enter the city, but works hard to prevent travelers from having the opportunity to leave.


Air Travel

Visitors to the city who decide to brave the molestations of the TSA will find themselves arriving in the city at Hartsfield-Jackson United Football Club International Airport Bar and Grill which is said to be the busiest airport in the world. Credit where credit is due: the layout of the airport is one of the easiest to understand in the nation. Above-ground the airport just appears to be several rows of terminals, seemingly unconnected. Underground, however, is a passenger transit area to get passengers to their assigned terminal. The terminals are labeled A-E, with an extra T terminal for some reason (usually used for international travel).


To get to the underground system one must pass through the busiest security screening line in the world. It's worth pointing out to the shy, virginal travelers that a TSA inspection does not count as losing one's virginity. After you're out of surgery, you will descend a long escalator to the transit areas. You can travel to your terminal by two methods.


First is the underground train system. As you step into the appropriate train, a voice will tell you which terminal is the next stop. Tragically, before the Olympics came to Atlanta in 1996, the old voice was replaced with a completely understandable one. The previous voice sounded like the train was an especially angry Cylon (for the old schoolers, here's a flashback: "PLEASE MOOOOVE TO THE CENTER OF THE VEHICLE AND AWAY FROM THE DOOORS."). Nevertheless, once you're packed into a crowded train and you've been groped repeatedly, the train will accelerate from 0-300mph in about four seconds, letting you play a delightful game where you try not to hold onto the poles but still maintain your footing. Good luck!


Second is the moving walkways. You have the option of walking from one terminal to the next through the underground hallways. These are interesting areas where the airport will display works of local art that frequently enjoys depicting malnourished African children for some reason. you'll find that you can either walk unassisted, or walk quickly along the moving walkways to the sides. The latter is more fun and makes you feel like the Flash.


Travel to and from the airport is generally accomplished via Marta, Atlanta's rapid transit system and the frequent butt of assorted jokes that often include racist overtones. Riding on Marta is a rich, cultural experience, and not just because of the many airborne pathogens you're likely to inhale.



Due to the expense of air travel, many convention attendees will prefer to drive to the host hotels. Many of these brave souls are lost every year in the attempt. It cannot be stressed enough how dangerous it is to do this, but given that many will be foolhardy enough to try regardless, we have a duty to try to prepare everyone as much as possible.


Driving in Atlanta takes an intricate blend of Patience, Intuition, and Aggression. You must have the patience to wait for the right opportunity to make a move, the intuition to recognize when it's the right opportunity (as in, not going to get you killed in a minute), and the aggression to seize the opportunity before some other jackass does. Many locals have honed this sense over years of commuting on these, the roads of the Damned, but outsiders would not have had this experience, even though they might have a great deal of experience in other cities. Please trust me. It's different here.


The first and most important thing you need to know to prepare yourself is that you will be in very heavy traffic. This doesn't necessarily mean you'll be at a standstill: you may be moving along at a reasonable 35mph on the interstate, but there will be other cars surrounding you completely, and every one of them will have an angry, dangerous driver with no regard for your life. Some will honk at you for whatever arbitrary or imagined slight you've offered, some will look for every opportunity to cut you off, and some will offer small arms fire. You must steel yourself for these trials.


The second thing to know is that using blinkers will likely be your downfall. In other famously congested cities, even Los Angeles, using a turn signal will cause people to give pause and let you into traffic. This is not the case in Atlanta: a car signaling is seen as a sign of aggression, and will be met with cars in the lane you want to get into aggressively preventing you from making the move. The correct order of events is:

  1. Watch for an opening.
  2. Accelerate as much as possible in the space you have.
  3. Flick on your blinker.
  4. Make the move into the lane in under a second after step 3.
  5. Slam on the brakes to not hit the car ahead, and to show dominance over the car behind you.
  6. Duck the resultant gunfire.


Those two items are the most important to comprehend, but below is a list of other items to be aware of to help smooth out any other rough edges.

  • Maps will be useless. Something is guaranteed to be under construction and will prevent you from taking any route you could plan.
  • Checking the Atlanta traffic website, Georgia Navigator, is also useless. Any items shown on that page will have been cleared by the time you can get to it, and if it looks clear, traffic will have become a problem by the time you get there.
  • Be aware of the weather. Even a light rain will turn a 45 minute journey into the city into a four hour ordeal. If you use this information for trips to Atlanta during the winter, do not make any journey into or near the city when any forecast for the next two weeks calls for snow.
  • The major interstates in the Atlanta area are I-75, I-85 (and those two combine briefly through downtown to form a particularly traffic-plagued stretch referred to locally as "The Connector"), I-285 (or "the Perimeter), and the east/west road known as I-20. If you take I-20, please note that I hate you and all that you stand for, because it's you jackasses on that crapass road with its poorly designed exits that cause all traffic on the Connector every day and every night and you should die because more important people that you need to go north and south, dammit.
  • It's recommended that you have the following in the car at all times.
    • Cash, for emergencies, to pay for parking, or bribes to the local police.
    • First aid kits for gunshot wounds.
    • Non-perishable foods and plenty of water.
    • Spare clothing (which I'd hope you have anyway for the convention).
    • A firearm with adequate ammunition.
    • A spare wagon tongue, wheel, and axel.
    • Cellular phone with a car charger or several backup batteries.
    • A female that can be prostituted for money in emergencies.


Train Travel

Hahahahahahaha. Yeah, sure. Amtrak does have a station in Atlanta, but currently there are only two routes in or out: one goes to New Orleans, the other goes to Charlotte, North Carolina. Really useful, isn't it? Yeah, skip it.


Work in progress!









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