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isner net return

So, you have your tickets to the BB&T Atlanta Open, the first stop in the Emirates Airline US Open Series, and are counting down the days until you can go watch the best of the best in tennis face-off in your backyard…perfect! Now, read up on some important tips that will make this a memorable experience—for all the right reasons! These are tips from people who have been there and learned a thing or two. For example, it will be HOT!! You want to prepare for that…but you’re not allowed to pack a cooler, so what can you bring? Well, we’ll get to that, so keep reading.

WHO IS PLAYING WHEN?

The players for the tournament include local favorite and previous champion John Isner, along with Nick Kyrgios, Kevin Anderson, Fernando Verdasco, Alexander Dolgolopov and Jeremy Chardy. You can also see Taylor Fritz, Borna Coric, Marcel Granollers, Benoit Paire, and Donald Young. As for when you can see them, that’s tough to say. With a single elimination tournament, the lineup will change each day. The only matches we know about the dates on for sure are the Exhibition matches, including the John McEnroe event (he stepped in for Andre Agassi after he injured his back). Agassi was set to play Sergi Bruguera in a rematch of their 1996 Olympics match, but McEnroe will now be playing against Bruguera.

You can take a look at the overall schedule by clicking here. Then, once the tournament is underway, you’ll be able to check that link again to see the daily list of matches.

atlanticstationbbt

WHERE DO YOU GO?

The Atlantic Station is the venue for this annual tournament (for five years running now) and you can park in the parking garages on property. The first two hours are free, but after that you’ll be charged a fee. You have to pay the fee at the machines before you return to your car to exit. Lexus is a sponsor of the tournament and offers special parking zones for Lexus owners. It’s complimentary and is located at the 20th Street parking lot near the northern part of Atlantic Station. There’s also valet parking near the Target parking deck. You can also take public transportation. You can take MARTA from the Arts Center station (running from 5am to 1am daily). By bus, the number 37 DeFoors Ferry Line will get you there. And Monday thru Friday, from Woodstock you can take the Route 491 Express to Atlantic Station.

Atlantic Station is a favorite Atlanta destination for shopping and dining, so stick around a little beyond the tennis action to try some of the restaurants and stores.

WHAT TO BRING?

Everyone can bring ONE water bottle—20 ounces or smaller—provided it’s in a clear, plastic container. You cannot bring a cooler of any kind. No food or beverage (beyond that one water bottle per person) is permitted—no glass bottles, no cans, no coolers, no ice chests, no thermoses and no picnic baskets. Got it? Good. They do sell concessions on the grounds, so you’ll have options, as long as you bring money to buy them. There’s water, soda, alcohol, ice cream, and typically burgers and other food options (in the past, that included barbecue).

WHAT TO LEAVE AT HOME OR IN THE CAR:

You cannot bring any of the following items:

Umbrellas

Sealed packages of any kind

Briefcases

Backpacks

Aerosol Cans (including suntan lotion)

Commercial photographic or video cameras or recording devices

Tripods or Monopods for cameras

Hard coolers or like containers

Glass bottles or cans

Noisemaking devices

Computers/Laptops/iPads/Kindles

Food (except for medical dietary or infant purposes)

Beverages (excluding 20 oz. or smaller sealed plastic water bottles, one per person),

Weapons (regardless of permit)

Pets (unless a service animal)

Flags, banners, or signs, laser pointing devices, tennis racquets, bicycles, scooters of any type, in-line skates, roller skates, skateboards, and any other items deemed unlawful or dangerous by the management of the BB&T Atlanta Open, in its sole discretion.

(I don’t really understand the tennis racquet rule, but they must have their reasons.)

isner cheer

WANNA BET?

Well, not here, at least not while you’re at the tournament site. It’s strictly prohibited– directly or indirectly—to wager on tennis matches while at the tournament site. In their words, “Allowing betting companies, directly or through a third party, to accept any tennis wagers (electronically or otherwise) at the tournament site or any tournament related event is prohibited.”

WHAT ELSE DO YOU NEED TO KNOW?

You are allowed to leave and re-enter, as long as you hold on to your ticket stub.

You can watch matches on either competition court, but you can only watch afternoon sessions if you paid for an afternoon seat, and evening sessions if you bought an evening seat. You can’t see both unless you have a ticket for both. This really only applies to Fridays and Saturdays, since the rest of the days only have one session. Also, you can enter the stadium up to an hour before the start of the first match of the session.

WHERE DO YOU SIT?

Your ticket will designate the area where your seat is located. Everyone over the age of 12 months must have a ticket to enter.

The players and umpire sit on the West side of Stadium Court. There are eight different levels of seats:  North View VIP Suites, City View VIP Suites, Presidential VIP Suites, Champagne Tables, Lexus Inner Circle Seats, Platinum Seats, Gold Seats and Silver Seats.

City View VIP Suites are located above court level with easy access to the VIP Lounge. Lexus Inner Circle seats consist of the first row of the stadium. Platinum, Gold and Silver seats are all individual stadium seats, with backs.

North View VIP Suites, City View VIP Suites, Presidential VIP Suites, Champagne Tables and Lexus Inner Circle tickets all grant spectators access to the indoor, air-conditioned NEW Lounge overlooking the Grandstand Court with food and beverage included for each session!

WHAT SHOULD YOU WEAR?

Something lightweight that it’s ok to sweat in…a lot. I’ve been to the last six tournaments in a row and they all had one thing in common: blazing heat. I remember the first one I attended (pre-Atlantic Station days) the heat was so intense they had to call for an ambulance dozens of time for cases of heat exhaustion. I learned then to hydrate BEFORE the match, but also to try to match every alcoholic drink with a water. I also learned cups of water are magical in keeping you cool. Wear sunscreen, and pack your sunglasses and visor/hat, if you’re going to be there during the day. It’s better at night, but there are times I felt the sweat pouring down my back at evening sessions, too.

IS THERE SOMETHING BESIDES TENNIS TO SEE?

Sure! Other than the food and restaurants, CocaCola will have a special Olympics attraction set up to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Atlanta hosting this worldwide event. There will be Olympians signing autographs and meeting with fans, along with some of the memorabilia on display. It’s free and open to the public—with or without a ticket to the tennis tournament.

ALSO…

Lexus will also have its #FuzzyNX –a Lexus SUV wrapped as a tennis ball–on display, along with some other models. You can’t help but appreciate an entire car wrapped in tennis ball felt. And yes, it’s the same stuff they use on the balls. They promise.

This year’s special events will also include Ladies Day activities (this is August 4th and includes a VIP Brunch before match play begins, VIP Site Seating for the match play—its tented with fans, and you get 4 vouchers to the bar and massage services are offered, plus, there’s a Q & A with Fernando Verdasco)…

This year there will also be a Fireworks Show sponsored by Coca Cola one evening, a Family Zone by Prince, and Tennis Night on the Town.

You can get tickets online or by calling the Ticket Hotlines: 855 307-1981 or 404-941-9202.

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stuffthebuscartoon

As July comes to a close, parents around the Atlanta area are already thinking about their children going back to school. Many counties start back to class on August 8th, while some head back as early as July 28th. My own children return August 1st.

That means the parents are making the rounds looking for school supplies, and one local station is making sure ALL students will have the supplies to succeed.

WSB’s Back to School kickoff event, Stuff the Bus, takes place Saturday, July 23 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the locations below. It’s an incredible community event, which collects school supplies for children living in foster homes.

There are 6000 children in the metro Atlanta area who are homeless or in group homes. WSB is trying to collect book bags for those children, along with supplies. The Children’s Restoration Network helps distribute them, working with people in 134 area shelters now, but it’s WSB-TV that makes the collections happen, essentially gathering the goods.

27 anchors, reporters and meteorologists will be at the locations on Saturday, July 23rd, so it’s a good time to meet them, too.

These are the locations: 

WSB-TV

o   1601 W Peachtree St NE, Atlanta, GA 30309

Kroger

o   4550 Jonesboro Rd, Union City, GA 30291

o   2875 N Decatur Rd, Decatur, GA 30033

o   6555 Sugarloaf Pkwy, Duluth, GA 30097

Northside Hospital

o   1200 Northside Forsyth Dr, Cumming, GA 30041

American Signature Furniture

o   840 Ernest W Barrett Pkwy NW, Kennesaw, GA 30144

If you’re out shopping for your own children, why not pick up a little extra something for other children in need?

stuffthebus

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portland maine

Lobsters and Lighthouses.

Two of my favorite things. And traveling with my adventure-seeking ten-year old daughter.

So, imagine the fun we set out to find when we dreamed up a plan to drive up the East Coast, eating lobster, and climbing as many lighthouses as we could along the way. We were going exploring, and the only auto that made sense for this epic road trip was the 2016 Ford Explorer.

ford explores the coast

Yes, it was more room than we really needed for just the two of us, but other family was supposed to join us mid-way through the trip and we wanted to be sure we had room for everyone. In the end, that didn’t happen, but we were thankful for the space to stretch out in the back when we wanted to nap on the longer ferry rides—or to get a little work done while the ferry captain was doing the driving (USB charging ports and a 110-volt plug made it easy to keep my laptop, her tablet and our phones fully charged).

seats folded flat

With the fold-flat seats (at the simple touch of a button), it was like we had our own living room in the back of the car, and that proved to be quite the blessing when we really wanted to relax. We had the Platinum edition of the Explorer, which meant we had all kinds of extras that made the ride downright luxurious. I’m not exaggerating.

The front seats had massage options that made the 1800+ mile journey home much more bearable (yes, I’m the fool who missed this feature on the first half of the trip as we drove north). And the safety features kept us alive in difficult driving situations, like the one we survived driving through New York City late at night—in the dark—and pouring rain. Not only did the navigation system help us avoid some of the worst traffic backups, suggesting alternate routes that carved an hour off the wait in heavy traffic, but it also suggested places to eat, and hotels where we could sleep, located right off the interstate, when we needed to stop.

nav

More than once the sleep alert made me aware that maybe I was getting too tired to drive (it turns red if you veer out of your lane too often). In my case, it wasn’t an issue of being too tired, but maybe not using my blinker often enough when changing lanes (it took me a bit to figure out that’s what my problem was). The lane-keep assist would try to put me back in my own lane when that happened, and I’d have to override the steering wheel. Again, that took some getting used to, but I could have avoided it altogether if I’d used my blinker the way I was supposed to (even if there wasn’t a car behind me).

I grew to appreciate the blind spot warning I’d see in my mirror if another car was too close when I switched lanes…and I had to argue more than once with the ferry operators that maybe I shouldn’t get any closer to the vehicles around me when I was driving and parking on the ferries. They were telling me I had all kinds of room, while the Explorer’s sensors were showing me going from yellow to red on my nav screen, telling me I was dangerously close to hitting something, despite what the ferry workers claimed.

parking assist

The Safety Car

There were so many extras like this in the Explorer that my daughter started calling it “The Safety Car”. She’s right. I don’t think I would have wanted to drive anything else through the nightmare NYC traffic became on that dark and rainy night (it just cries out for a movie, right?). When you have to drive across six lanes of traffic– from being spit off one bridge (a double decker one at that!) into the right-most lane, all the way over to an exit on the left, in about 400 feet, you better have the safest car on the road (it’s possible that’s an exaggeration, but it’s how it felt and it was all a blur at the time). I’d say Divine Intervention made it happen, but I have to give Ford the credit for coming up with this combination of safety features keeping me on my toes. And you can bet I’m thanking Ford for that massaging seat that helped me de-stress after the experience of it all.

massage

The twin-turbocharged, 365-hp EcoBoost V-6 motor gave us the get-up-and-go we needed in tight traffic situations like that, and the all-wheel drive let us know we were good to go if we wanted or needed to drive on the sand out to any of the lighthouses on our list (it would have been good in the snow, too, but that wasn’t a concern in July).

Another extra quite appropriate for our trip was the smart headlight option on the Explorer. It actually brightened and dimmed on its own, based on whether traffic was coming our direction or not. It made it like we could almost see around a corner, which was a great benefit to someone driving on all unfamiliar roads.

The quilted leather upholstery only added to the luxury feel of the Explorer (hey, better to stay at the Four Seasons than Motel Six if you’re given the option, right?). We loved the hands-free option with the liftgate in the back, especially when my hands were full of our backpacks and travel gear, and hers were carrying the food and drinks. We just had to wave our foot under the bumper and wait a second, and voila!, the back lifted open all on its own. And don’t even get me started on the sunroof and moonroof. I’m a big believer in more light–always!

sunroof

The only thing I’m not crazy about is the price tag. The 2016 Platinum model comes in at $53,915. That’s 20-thousand dollars more than the base model (at $31,995 for a front wheel drive, 3.5L V-6). But I guess what they say is true—you get what you pay for—and I guess things like seats that massage you non-stop are going to cost a bit.

The bottom line on the review is this: we covered about four thousand miles in this car. In a week! And I would have been fine driving four thousand more. It was functional. Versatile. Comfortable. And safe. The ideal vehicle for a trip-of-a-lifetime with your youngest child, who still thinks it’s cool to hang out with mom, especially while eating lobsters and exploring lighthouses.

us at top of sandy hook

You can see video of our fun–including many of the lighthouses and lots of the car features–if you click on the arrow in the box below.  Please comment below and let me know what you think is coolest about this car!

(Note to readers: Ford Motor Company provided the vehicle for this trip. I was not otherwise compensated. As always, my opinion remains my own.)

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black lives matter

To My Friends of Color,

I am sorry.

I am sorry you now live in fear.

Fear that your husbands, brothers, fathers and sons may not come home tonight because of some action that is misconstrued by another.

Fear that you might also be pulled over and harassed, jailed or hurt, based not on your behavior, but some false assumption.

Fear that your child’s hoodie might lead someone to believe he is a criminal.

Fear that your husband’s temper might set off an officer with too little patience and too much power.

I hate that the color of your skin means you have to worry that your loved ones may be hurt by the people who are supposed to protect them.

And I hate that you think I don’t care because I’m not screaming about it from the rooftops…or declaring my outrage on Facebook.

I don’t want you to think I care more about the attack on Paris, or which sex can use a bathroom, than I do about you and your loved ones who now feel like targets because of the color of their skin.

You want to know why I’m not saying SOMETHING.

And you are right. You deserve to know where I stand.

I’m sorry I’ve been too quiet while you’ve been waiting for my outrage.

Please don’t interpret this quiet as being ok in any way with what I’m seeing around me.

I’ve been trying to be respectful. I can’t claim to know how it feels. But I do know it’s wrong.

I’m taking this all in, trying to understand how we have come to be in the ugly place that feels more like America 50 years ago than the America I thought we lived in today…the America I saw, where the color of our skin was like the color of our eyes or our hair. Just something that makes us all unique.

And I’m confused.

We have a black President. Or African American President.

I don’t even know what the right term is to say here. But I do know I saw his election as a sign of progress. That this country finally understood anyone could be anything.

So how is it possible that eight years later, so many innocent black men are being murdered?

How is it my friends of color are now MORE afraid for their families? How is it I am afraid for their families, because I am?

How can this be in MY America?

I know my letter here is not going to make a difference…not the kind of difference that will spare you the sleepless night while your husband is still working, or the endless worry while your son is out with friends.

But I hope it brings you comfort to know I AM with you. I AM angry. I AM sad. And I want this to change. I don’t know how to make it happen, but I know you shouldn’t have to doubt where I stand when you see me.

I stand with you. I believe black lives matter. I can’t fathom how anyone could see it any other way.

I am outraged and I am sorry.

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practice courts

This year’s BB&T Atlanta Open lineup includes four of the top 25 tennis players in the world, and 10 in the top 50, allowing Atlanta tennis fans to see firsthand what’s sure to be some of the most impressive, exciting competition in years. Those players include fan favorite John Isner, Fernando Verdasco, and Kevin Anderson. You can expect some passionate play from currently ranked #18 player Nick Kyrgios, of Australia, who will be joined by Lucas Pouille, Jeremy Chardy, and Borna Coric, among others.

kyrgios

That action will be complimented by a special exhibit honoring Atlanta’s 20th anniversary since hosting the Olympic Games, including a rematch of the 1996 Andre Agassi competition against Sergi Brugera, which earned Agassi the gold medal (scheduled for Sunday evening, July 31st). You’ll find other Olympians at the event, too, as part of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games 20th Anniversary Exhibit presented by Coca-Cola. From GiGi Fernandez to Nancy Kerrigan, fans will be able to take part in a free event showcasing these athletes and highlighting memorabilia from the ’96 games. The exhibit will run for nine days at Atlantic Station as part of the BB&T Atlanta Open.

  christening courts

You’ll also find some new player’s practice courts at Atlantic Station, the host venue for the Open for five years now. Several college players helped christen those courts at a ribbon cutting ceremony that was followed by some tennis action between those college superstars and local media personalities. The college players included Austin Smith, an All-American at UGA, Chris Eubanks of Georgia Tech, and Zach Kenned, who plays at Georgia State and used to be doubles partners in high school with Eubanks (coincidentally, at the same high school Cam Newton graduated from).

austin smith

This year’s activities will include the Ladies Day activities (with Verdasco), a Fireworks Show sponsored by Coca Cola, a Family Zone by Prince, and Tennis Night on the Town. You’ll also be able to see the Fuzzy Car from Lexus, a vehicle completely wrapped in the same felt used to make tennis balls.

lexus fuzzy car

You can get tickets online or by calling the Ticket Hotlines: 855 307-1981 or 404-941-9202.

Schedule of Olympic Athletes (current as of 6/21/16):

Kayla Harrison (Judo ’12 Gold/Rio bound)            Sat/Sun 7/30-31

Nancy Kerrigan (Figure Skating ’92 Bronze/’94 Silver)          Mon 8/1

Gigi Fernandez (Tennis Doubles ’92 Gold/’96 Gold)              Tues 8/2

Kent Steffes (Beach Volleyball ’96 Gold)                  Wed 8/3

Brook Bennett (Swimming 800 Meter ’96 Gold)                    Thurs 8/4

Gail Devers (pending acceptance) or TBD                               Fri 8/5

 

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Cirque du Soleil Returns to Atlanta with TORUK – The First Flight

June 10, 2016

Cirque du Soleil fans can catch another show in Atlanta this month! Cirque is returning to Atlanta with their touring production, TORUK – The First Flight, which is based on the James Cameron’s record-breaking film AVATAR.  The show will be hosted at the Infinite Energy Center for seven performances. The dates are June 15-19. TORUK – The First Flight comes after their successful run of the big top production KURIOS – Cabinet of Curiosities this spring. If you’d like tickets, check here: https://www.cirquedusoleil.com/toruk. Tickets range from $34.50 – $125

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Alabama Beaches: A Whole Different State (of Mind)

May 25, 2016

With everything from the quirky Mullet Toss Festival at the world famous Flora-Bama bar, to kayaking among the dolphin and egrets in the Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge, to hanging out with ‘the cool kids’ at the chic Gulf-front restaurant “The Gulf”, where you can kick back on inflatable sofas, you can pretty much find something fun for everyone on the coast of Alabama (watch the video above for a quick look at some of the fun we found). With nearby Florida stealing all the glory for its stunning shoreline, […]

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Safety in the Air: a Discussion with a Pilot Who Faced-off with Terror

May 19, 2016

The crash of another airplane once again has travelers concerned about air safety.  It leaves us all asking, is it safe to fly? Where is it safe to fly? How are the terrorists (assuming they are involved in this latest incident, which experts aren’t yet confirming) able to continue attacking and why can’t we stop them? In a recent Blab (a livestream broadcast) with co-host Kymri Wilt, I was discussing the bombing in a Belgium airport and we were joined by a pilot (Fabrizio Poli) who has some experience dealing […]

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Sanctuary Salon and Spa in Atlanta Leaves You Feeling New Again

May 11, 2016

The Sanctuary Salon Atlanta is now the Sanctuary Salon & Spa, thanks to some incredibly talented staff additions and some newly remodeled rooms.  When I was invited to come review the new services, I jumped at the chance to see what it was all about.  I have to say, I’ll be back often. via GIPHY See this little girl, all screaming, sad and stressed out? That was me just before I walked into Sanctuary Salon & Spa in Atlanta last week. It had been a rough week. Despite my best efforts, nothing […]

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Panasonic Lumix ZS60 Camera–The Perfect Travel Camera

May 7, 2016

(Note to readers: I was given a Panasonic Lumix ZS60 to put to the test while at a retreat at Walt Disney World. I am not otherwise compensated for this post and, as always, my opinion remains my own.) It’s good to keep things simple when you travel, packing as little as possible, but sometimes, you may find a little extra weight necessary, especially when it comes to making sure you have the right tech gear with you, including a quality camera that will help you document your trip forever. […]

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