Current Location: Marietta, GA

As I’m approaching the 5,000 mile mark of “Expedition America,” I have been lucky enough to see so many amazing sites, places, and natural resources that exist within this country.  I have been through thirteen states and have stayed in eleven different cities along the way.  As I have made my journey across the U.S., I have experienced so many things that I had always wanted to visit but hadn’t gotten the chance to do so yet.  Today, I decided to switch things up.  Today, I wanted to bring a little piece of Marietta, Georgia to all of you who have been so gracious in sharing your hometowns with me.  Today, I bring to you, the self-proclaimed “world famous” KFC.  I bring to you… drum roll please… the Big Chicken.

We moved to Marietta shortly after I turned seven years old.  As fate would have it, our move coincided with a major catastrophic event taking place in our new town.  The Big Chicken had fallen into disrepair as a result of a major storm in the area, and the powers that be were threatening to tear it down.  The town was not taking this news lightly.  I vividly recall going into the restaurant in 1993 (the only other time that I can remember actually going inside the place other than today) and seeing hundreds of letters displayed on the walls.  These were “Save Our Chicken” letters.  This was the “Save Our Chicken” campaign.

The Big Chicken was originally completed in 1963 by S.R. “Tubby” Davis for his new restaurant, Johnny Reb’s Chick, Chuck, and Shake and was designed by Hubert Puckett, a student studying architecture at Georgia Tech.  The structure stands at the intersection of Roswell Road and Cobb Parkway, once the only four-lane road in Marietta.  Because of this prime real estate, Davis wanted to make the most of the location and commissioned this fifty-six foot structure as an advertising gimmick.  Much has changed about the city of Marietta, including the addition of about a million (using a rough estimate) four-lane roads, but one thing has not changed.  The Big Chicken remains the town’s shining star.

For people living near Atlanta, the most important thing to know is the location of the Big Chicken.  In fact, it’s the only thing to know.  No matter where you’re going, your directions will always start from the Big Chicken.  No matter where you’re going.  You want to go downtown?  “No problem, from the Big Chicken you just….”  You want to know how to get to Chick Fil A on Sandy Plains?  “Easy.  If you start at the Big Chicken…” Oh really?  You’re headed to the moon?  “Yep, just hang a left from the Big Chicken, you’ll see it, big thing in the sky.”  No matter where you’re going, if you ask someone in the Atlanta area how to get there, you will always be coming from the Big Chicken.  Always.  You’re looking for the Big Chicken?  You might as well drive off a bridge.  You want to know how to get to the nearest bridge?  It’s two miles west of the Big Chicken.

This phenomenon can be a little alarming if you’re unfamiliar with the concept of this landmark.  “Everyone keeps telling me to start out at the Big Chicken… what the heck does that mean?!”  Unfortunately, I’m sorry to report that this obsession doesn’t become any less alarming even after you’ve actually seen the thing.  In fact, I’ve spent most of my life being afraid of it.  Of course, I’m completely in love with it at the same time, but the steel structure towering over me, peering down at my car with it’s beak pecking in my direction isn’t the most calming visual I’ve encountered over the years.  The pool where I swam throughout high school is very close to the Big Chicken, but I always avoided looking its way.  Luckily for you, today, I faced my fear head on, drove right up to the thing, and looked that damn bird straight in the eye.  I wasn’t going to let that overgrown piece of steel hold any power over me anymore.

It was when I got to the Big Chicken that I started to experience the “I’m not a tourist” phenomenon for the first time. As I mentioned before, I’ve driven around this country for almost 5,000 miles.  I’ve waited outside of the gates at Bosse Field with a camcorder.  I’ve marched up to a statue of Jesus and posed in front of it, attempting to make it appear as though we were engaging in a high-five.  I’ve taken pictures of people’s general stores and wheelbarrows.  I’ve photographed the “would-be” museum at McDonald’s.  I’ve stalked a random person’s (make that two random people’s) houses.  And despite all of these potentially awkward scenarios, it wasn’t until I was seen taking the pictures of a structure in my hometown that I suffered my first brush with humiliation.  I wanted to stand there, camera in hand, and yell at the top of my lungs, “I am not a tourist!”  Of course, this feeling didn’t stop me from silently smirking at the other people taking pictures of the premises.  “Ha,” I thought to myself, “they must not be from around here.”

Despite the embarrassment that I felt while gawking at Sir Chicken, I was curious to see what was going on inside, so I allowed my tour to continue.  Sure enough, there is fresh merchandise, pictures of the original Big Chicken, and news clippings chronicling the threatened demolition of 1993.  My favorite story includes a photo with a caption that reads, “Marietta, are you lost yet?”  I just looked at it and smiled.  Yep, I suppose they’re onto something. It’s true.  As stupid as the thing might be, in one way or another, we would be lost without our chicken.

Tomorrow I will spend another day in Marietta before heading to North Carolina and making the final climb up the East Coast.  I can’t believe it’s already been three weeks worth of driving, but I’m looking forward to another great week ahead.  I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you all for sticking with me throughout my travels!  And I hope you enjoy the Big Chicken as much as I have over the years.

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