Tuesday, August 4, 2009

2009 Chattanooga (August 2-4, 2009)

Sunday, August 2, 2009
Headed from Jacksonville towards Chattanooga today, with a detour to Atlanta.
An off-the-beaten-path experience. Carefully followed directions, exiting at Exit 149 off Route 75 in Peach County, GA. We could see the “Big Peach” in the distance over the strip malls. A 28-foot diameter peach made from an aluminum frame, laid over with vinyl-covered canvas, sitting on a 75-foot pole.
"Big Peach"
Constructed in 1985 to bring attention to the “Big Peach Antique Mall”. Returned to Route 75, and passed right next to the Big Peach! No need to get of the beaten path!
The Atlanta detour was to Zoo Atlanta.
Zoo Atlanta entrance
The Meerkats were not very alert as they would be in the wild.
Not very alert Suricata suricatta/Meerkats
The African Plains had a Black Rhino; we usually see white ones.
Diceros bicornis/Black Rhinoceros
ZooAtlanta is one of four zoos in the U.S. to have pandas, and they have had babies. These pandas were up close!
Ailuropoda melanoleuca/Giant Panda
One more off-the-beaten-path: The “Big Chicken” in Marietta, GA. A 56-foot high sheet metal rooster built in 1963 by Tubby Davis for the Chick, Chuck & Steak place he had opened. KFC bought the place in 1980 and kept the big chicken. It was damaged by a tornado in 1993, and KFC polled the locals to see if they should tear it down. “No!” So KFC spent $700,000 to repair the “Big Chicken.” Its beak opens and shuts all day long.

Moving along to Chattanooga. After we checked into the conveniently located Marriott Residence Inn hotel downtown, we went to explore by foot. Headed for a high point to find High Street and the Bluff View Art District, right on the edge of the Tennessee River. Found one of several recommended restaurants and had tasty pasta dishes at Tony’s Trattoria. Tony’s is located in the carriage house of a Victorian mansion, and uses herbs and tomatoes from their own gardens.
Tony's Trattoria
Walked back along the river.
Vine-covered hedge
Sculpture garden
Viewpoint over the Tennessee River
The Hunter Museum of American Art is located partially in the 1904 Edwardian-style Faxon-Hunter Mansion.
Faxon-Hunter Mansion
A walkway bridge connects the art museums to the Tennessee Aquarium which had been separated by a 4-lane road.
Pedestrian bridge
The clear floor panels of the bridge allowed you to look down through half the width of the bridge.
Looking down through the bridge
The Walnut Street Bridge (1891) is now a pedestrian bridge over the Tennessee River, and is the longest pedestrian bridge over water.
Walnut Street Bridge
The Tennessee Aquarium has two buildings, the newer one on Market Street houses the Ocean Journey, and the original building has the River Journey. We walked down the stairs between the buildings towards Ross’s Landing with a 160-foot pier and docks for river boat excursions.
Back to the IMAX Theatre (part of the Aquarium), which was next door to our hotel!
IMAX Theater
Chattanooga is a Cherokee or Creek name meaning "rock coming to a point". That rock is Lookout Mountain, 2,126’ in elevation. Chattanooga lies on the Tennessee River at a sharp bend, where the river flows out of the mountains onto the Cumberland Plateau. In 1815, a trading post was established by Daniel and John Ross at Ross’s Landing. Chattanooga was the staging area for the Cherokee relocation, which came to be known as the "Trail of Tears." (The Cherokee were sent to Oklahoma.)

During the Civil War, the city was occupied by Union forces in 1863. From here General William Tecumseh Sherman began his march to the sea. There were Civil War battles at Lookout Mountain, Chickamauga, and Missionary Ridge. The Chattanooga National Cemetery was established in 1863 for the more than 12,000 Union dead. There is the Andrews’ Raiders Monument, commemorating the participants of the 1862 Andrews’ Raid, immortalized in “The Great Locomotive Chase”. James Andrews was a civilian, so did not earn the Medal of Honor like his men did; the first recipients of this honor.

Monday, August 3, 2009
Met Susan in the large plaza in front of the Tennessee Aquarium near the ticketing area. The plaza contained two “bridges."
Tennessee Aquarium
for people and are planted with trees and other greenery. Also a waterway meandered through the plaza with stepping stones, flat bridges, etc.

Susan was wonderful in getting us admission tickets to the Aquarium and IMAX. She is a member and volunteer at the Aquarium, and was greeted several times during the morning by colleagues. She gave us our own private tour, pointing out the highlights, and giving us fun facts.
First the River Journey building, starting with the Seahorses in the basement. Unusual Weedy and Leafy Seadragons. The theme of the aquarium is to follow a raindrop from where it falls and its journey to the sea. Our raindrop started in a stream in Cove Forest in the Appalachian/Great Smokey Mountains, where you see more than just fish.
Brynne, Tamiko & Kent (Thanks, Susan!)
Playful otters in a pool under a waterfall. Venomous snakes. Onwards to the Delta Swamp with alligators and a pair of alligator snapping turtles.
Macrochelys temminckii/Alligator Snapping Turtle
An up-close look at a diamondback rattlesnake on the move. Down to a Secret Reef in the Gulf of Mexico. Between exhibits we headed down ramps, past a large tank of fish. The Tennessee Aquarium until recently was the largest aquarium in the world. Exhibits on the Tennessee fish, including sturgeons with a few in a touch tank. Hard and bumpy! Rivers of the World allowed us to see fish from other parts of the world.
We took a lunch break, at 212 Market Street. A certified Green Restaurant with a large open space, artwork and a great carpet. Healthy, fresh ingredients; many locally grown, and very nicely presented.
Returned to the Ocean Journey building of the Aquarium, and escalated to the top. Touch pool with rays. A huge Butterfly Garden with not only butterflies, but rows and rows of chrysalises.
Malachite (Siproeta stelenes) and
Mexican Bluewing (Myscelia ethusa) with wings closed
(Photo by Susan)
Chinese Lantern Hibiscus (Hibiscus schizopetalus)
Crimson-patched Longwing (Heliconius erato)
A hitchhiker!
Doris Longwing (Heliconius doris)
Next were the jellies including upside-down jellies. A special exhibit in partnership with the Hunter Museum showed art objects that echoed the jellies, including a large number of Chihuly blown glass. An octopus playing with a glass jar full of fish – it took us a while to figure out what we were seeing! Two species of cute penguins, the gentoo and macaroni, included some sitting on nests. A diver was in the largest tank giving a talk, and he had a guard to make sure the sharks didn’t bother him!
We said goodbye, and thank you! to Susan. Made our way to the IMAX. Explored the lobby with its large panels of photos of different aspects of our planet Earth. Then saw the movie, "African Adventure 3D" about the Okavango Delta.

Caught the electric bus shuttle to go to the Chattanooga Choo Choo. What is the Chattanooga Choo Choo? A train? It’s a whole complex based on the 1908 restored Beaux Arts Terminal Station which in its heyday had 14 tracks and 68 trains leave each day.
Terminal Station
Chattanooga was a vital rail hub since 1850. But now, the station is a hotel, has shops and restaurants, and a Model Railroad Museum.
You can ride on a New Orleans trolley and/or the train
Or stay overnight in a railroad sleeping car
Station hedges
The complex took its name from the 1941 song made famous by the Glenn Miller Band.

Oh, it was sooo hot, even the locals were complaining. We took the shuttle back to the hotel, and cooled off before dinner.
Shuttle bus
Dinner was at the Big River Grille and Brewing Works, a relative of Seven Bridges in Jacksonville.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009
Another sunny day. Headed south to Lookout Mountain. The road twisted and turned as it climbed the mountain to 1,700 feet in elevation, and we ended up in Georgia! That is actually where Rock City Gardens is located, despite being a sight to see in Chattanooga.
Entrance to Rock City
A depression era tourist attraction, laid out by Frieda Carter, wife of the developer of miniature golf, Garnet Carter. Opened in 1932, this is the place that is famous for the advertising on barns: “See Rock City.” Mr. Carter would offer to paint barns in return for being allowed to also paint those three words.
Rock City barn bird house
We purchased a combination ticket, and entered Rock City. Following the Enchanted Trail, we “squeezed” through narrow passages between massive rock formations, The Grand Corridor and Needle’s Eye.
Needle's Eye
Past a Deer Park with white deer and Mushroom Rock.
Mushroom Rock
Gnome's Overpass
Brynne and Kent at Gnome's Underpass
A hole in the ceiling
You had your choice of going over a swinging Swing-Along Bridge,
Swing-Along Bridge
or a stationary Stone Bridge.
A sculpture of an eagle; does it look real?
Eagle sculpture
A view of the Sky Bridge and Lovers' Leap:
Lovers' Leap and Sky Bridge
At the Seven States Flag Court, on a clear day you can see seven states (AL, GA, SC, NC, VA, KY and TN).
Seven States Flag Court
It was hazy today.
Stone bench
Wood furniture
Wooden bench swing
Tortoise Shell Rock
Fat Man's Squeeze
Along the paths are over 400 native plants, and spring would be a great time to come, with all the rhododendrons, azaleas, and even PJMs! Then it started getting a little kitschy, but it was fun. Rainbow Hall with colored transparencies across cut out windows.
Rainbow Hall
1000 Ton Balanced Rock
Rock overhang
Finally the Fairyland Caverns with displays of fairy tales in the grottoes, and a whole Mother Goose Village in one large ‘cavern.'
Entrance to Fairyland Caverns
Another gnome
Hansel & Gretel

The second attraction on our combo ticket was the Lookout Mountain Incline Railway. We drove back down to the bottom of the mountain, and were on time to catch the next railway car.
Lookout Mountain Incline Railway
Inside the incline car
Opened in 1895, this is one of the steepest railroads in the world, with a gradient of up to 72.7 percent (near the top). “America’s Most Amazing Mile”; the ride takes 10 minutes.
Looking down the incline track
At the top we looked out over the still hazy Tennessee River Valley, and viewed the monstrous cable wheel in the machine room.
After returning to the Lower Station, we had lunch at the Mt Vernon Restaurant, a cozy place serving traditional Southern food.

After lunch we drove up Lookout Mountain once again, this time at the northern end. The third and final attraction on our combo ticket was Ruby Falls Caverns. We entered the “Cavern Castle” which looked like another WPA project,
Cavern Castle
built with large stones, with a wood-beamed interior.
Cavern Castle interior
It was opened in 1930 by Leo Lambert, who named the falls he discovered after his wife, Ruby. An elevator took us down underground, and we had a tour with a humorous young man who liked to do voices with the microphone. The Caverns were filled with stalactites and stalagmites, drapes and columns, and flowstone.
Crawlspace of the first explorers
Formations were named, such as the “Cactus and Candle”
"Cactus and Candle"
(which you were allowed to touch, so that now it is smooth and shiny and not at all like touching a stalagmite!), Crystal Chandelier,
"Crystal Chandelier" above
Totem Poles, Frozen Niagara Falls,
"Niagara Falls"
Leaning Tower, Fish, Bacon, Potato Chip, Beehives, Ruby’s Drapes, etc. We had to back against the sides of the path to let returning groups pass. Finally we were brought into a large cavern and you could hear water splashing, but it was dark. Dramatic music played and “wow,” the lights turned on to display the 145-foot waterfall falling out of the ceiling.
Kent and Brynne with Ruby Falls
And we were 1,120 feet underground.
(How do I rotate this?!)
Very impressive; the highest underground waterfall accessible by the public in America. You are cautioned not to drink the water because its high magnesium content acts as does Milk of Magnesia.
Today we took advantage of the free dinner offered by Residence Inn. Tamiko went to the Post Office using the electric shuttle bus, and ended up walking back to the hotel. Tomorrow we would head home.