by Kathy England
On April 27, 2001, Kathy Stearns and I flew to Atlanta, Georgia to attend the Atlanta Area Aquarium Association’s spring workshop and auction. I left work at 11:00 Friday morning and drove to Keller. When Kathy got home, we threw our luggage in her car and headed for the airport.

This was a first for me–I had never flown before in my life, so I had no idea what to expect. I was carrying a suitcase full of clothes and TCA t-shirts, as well as a dufflebag full of fish (naturally), but I refused to check either bag, just in case. I didn’t want to end up in the same clothes all weekend and have dead fish, too, so both went on the plane with me. Kathy was carrying a suitcase with her clothes and more TCA shirts, and a small overnight bag. Experienced traveler that she was, she checked the larger bag and carried only the smaller one onto the plane.

We boarded, stashed my bag overhead, put the dufflebag on the floor between my feet, and buckled up. We didn’t have a long delay; in no time at all it was up, up and away. The takeoff was uneventful, similar to someone shooting a rock out of a slingshot. As I have an overwhelming fear of heights, I should not have taken a window seat. It was terrifying to see me and the ground get further and further apart. I tried not to look until we were at cruising altitude. By then it was not so scary to glance out at the various lakes and rivers below us. Yes, the land does look like a patchwork quilt.

After a two-hour flight with very little turbulence, we arrived in Atlanta. I was able to see the lights and buildings scattered here and there. The landing was nothing compared to the takeoff, thank goodness. It was no small relief to be on solid ground; I tried not to think that I had to do it all again Sunday.

AAAA member David Casey, whom Marvin and I had met at the ACA convention in St. Louis several years ago, picked us up at the airport. David proved to be a wonder chauffeur throughout the weekend. He got us from the airport to our hotel without incident, which to my way of thinking was nothing short of miraculous, given those crazy Atlanta drivers.

We got safely ensconced in the hotel and contacted Julia Mann to determine her room number and make breakfast plans for the following morning. Alas, both Kathy and Julia slept in, so there was no breakfast meeting. I got up early, as usual, and wandered down to the registration desk. Since I had pre-registered, all I had to do was pick up my name tag. The Lazy Bones Twins finally made an appearance around 11:00. By that time two of the speakers had already given their presentations.

We broke for a burger and then returned to the hotel to hear the remaining speakers and find a ride to AAAA President Ken Davis’ house that evening for dinner. Kathy and I rode up with Joe Campbell, an orthopedic surgeon from Virginia who was spawning synodontis petricola like rabbits at his house.

Ken, his wife, Ruth, and their three children, live out in the country and have a fat red dog, several cats, numerous chickens, and a huge enclosed pole barn that serves as a fish house/hatchery. I don’t know how many tanks Ken has in there, but it was definitely more than either of us wanted to deal with. After a wonderful dinner of three types of homemade lasagna (cooked by Ken himself), salad and dessert, a surprise birthday cake was snuck out in honor of Ken’s birthday. The ride home was interesting. Gary Lang, the rainbowfish speaker, went back with us and kept up a very informative chatter the entire way.

My first thought Sunday morning was that it sure felt good not to have to bag any auction fish. I had traded some of the auction fish I brought to Ken for some petricola babies, and he tanked the remainder for me during my stay in Atlanta. He graciously bagged and delivered them to the hotel. What a guy!

I walked into the show room where approximately 80 tanks and assorted other containers with fish in them were being maintained. It is interesting to note that this show was more like a bowl show than what most of us consider a “real” show. It was definitely unlike the show TCA had set up the previous weekend. Entrants could furnish their own “tank” for their entry or have the club furnish one. The only tanks with air at AAAA’s show were the discus tanks. We did well in the show–out of 2 entries, Marvin won (in absentia) a class and a Best of Division trophy for a beautiful emperor pleco.

As soon as the auction began, Kathy and I hooked up with Julia and her friend Judy. The four of us enjoyed razzing the auctioneer at strategic moments, causing a great deal of snickering and outright laughter. There were several hundred items in their auction, including livebearers, guppies, killifish, plants, hardware, miscellaneous “stuff”, and of course cichlids. I couldn’t resist purchasing an angelicus pleco, and made out like a bandit by snagging the only bag of Montezuma swordtails in the whole auction. I had previously purchased a trio of half-black red guppies and a trio of half-black pastel guppies from Alan Opdyke, whose stock regularly places in national guppy shows.

After I autioneered for an hour or so, to give Ken a break, it was time to head home. We loaded up everything and headed back to the airport. This time I got brave–I figured I had a change of clothes in Keller, so I checked that bag. The fish, however, didn’t leave my sight.

An uneventful two hours or so later, we landed at DFW and made it to Don Pablo’s for dinner at around 9 p.m. Then on to Kathy’s house to–I hate to say this–crash until Monday morning. When I arrived home after a four-hour drive, Marvin was there waiting – – whether for me or the fish I was afraid to ask.

All my livestock made it home safely. A few days later I even had baby guppies. Marvin was pleased with the trophy as well as the great fish I brought home. Both Kathy and I enjoyed visiting with the Atlanta club members and seeing how they do thing so we would know what to expect at the 2002 ACA convention. All in all, we both had a wonderful time, met some great people and had a safe although memorable airplane ride. I would definitely call this a “most excellent adventure”!

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