November 9, 2004

just a trifle to spare

See? Rock City!
(pictures open in a new window)

We've just come off of an eventful, exciting extended weekend celebrating our anniversary. Each year, we try to take some kind of trip to celebrate... even if it's just down the road a bit. 2001 was Atlanta, 2002 was Bell Buckle, 2003 was Gatlinburg, and this year was Chattanooga. Lydia's parents are kind enough to loan us their Camry whenever we take a road trip, and the extra space and smooth ride are much appreciated.

Of course, the trip didn't begin in Chattanooga, it began in Knoxville, where we tried to score tickets to the Tennessee / Notre Dame game. While it would have been cool to see the Fighting Irish live and in person, we didn't feel like ponying up the $75 to $150 per ticket that was the going rate outside of the stadium. We got to shop in the bookstore, see the band do the "Salute to the Hill" and all of the pageantry around campus, so it was worth the side trip.

A bonus of not going to the game was revealed when we got back to the car early in the first quarter and found that the battery had given up the ghost. There were, of course, thousands of cars around us, but no people, because they were all in the third largest city in Tennessee. Patrick was on the phone with information when suddenly, Officer Poncharello rode up looking for an alarm call. He was at the wrong building, but he got his dispatcher to call out a tow truck for us. When the tow truck arrived, it started going the wrong way, so Lydia tore down the hill after him and got him redirected. $50 later, we were on our way to WalMart.

At the Mart, Patrick went in and purchased a new battery for $10 less than the jumpstart cost! When he checked out, he asked, "do you have wrenches in this department, or do I need to go over to hardware to get one?" The clerk replied, "oh, just go out and ask one of the guys in the bay - they'll loan you one!" When he went to the garage, the repairmen produced a giant toolbox on wheels and said, "just bring it back when you're done." He rolled it out to the car and, after some trial and error, found that, in a pinch, when you don't have a 10 mm wrench, an 11/32 will do pretty well. He replaced the battery, and we were on our way to Chattanooga.

We spent the night at the palatial Econolodge Lookout Mountain. You can read Patrick's review of it here on (Side note: if you stay in a hotel somewhere, write a review of it on Trip Advisor... it's free, and it's a great source of information!)

Our first stop the next morning was the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway, which we did not ride! We got there at opening time: 9:00 a.m.... and waited... and waited... for about fifteen minutes. I guess they weren't inclined to give us a ride that day.

Our next stop was Rock City. All Patrick knew about Rock City was that he needed to "see it." It turns out that it's a very nice nature walkthrough that hearkens back to its roots in the 1930s. For one thing, lots of the signage and attractions are original. For another thing, lots of the walkways are made of stone and have "railings" that are only about two feet tall. While going through, Patrick wondered aloud if the slogan shouldn't be "sue Rock City" because there seemed to be a lot of broken bones waiting to happen! It's really very safe if you're not a moron. The Seven States plaze is pretty impressive. We went at the best time: right at opening, so we could pace ourselves through the attractions and didn't get stuck behind any families or slow-moving people. If you're bringing kids, the ideal would be around the ages of six or seven so that they can appreciate all of the nursery rhyme displays and walk through on their own. It's not handicapped or stroller accessible at all. At the hotel, Lydia had scored a TravelHost brochure that had lots of little coupons, so at Rock City, we got a dollar off admission, a free Coke, and a free bubble pen.

Then we went downtown to see the Choo Choo. This hotel complex is really nicer than I expected, and we found probably the best deal/value attraction in the whole city: the trolley ride. For $1 each, we got a 25 minute tour of the hotel campus - all 80 acres - which used to be the Chattanooga rail yard. Our conductor Edward (not pictured in the link above) was born and raised in Chattanooga, and was a wealth of information about the city, the song, the rail yard and the hotel. If you go to or through Chattanooga, the trolley ride is an absolute must.

We spent the rest of the day riding the Free Electric Shuttle around downtown, dining near the Tennessee Aquarium plaza... which is fun to explore even if you don't go to the aquarium... and going to the stores in the Warehouse Row, a barely-surviving, but not too bad outlet mall.

We really had a blast on this trip, even though several things broke:
  • the car (battery)
  • our digital camera (the pictures at the top of this post were shot on a disposable camera)
  • the zipper on Patrick's jacket.
But, we got back with all of our limbs and hearts intact. :-)

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