"The capacity for hope is the most significant fact of life. It provides human beings with a sense of destination and the energy to get started."
– Norman Cousins
This week's quote goes out to several people that Steve and I know who are struggling through some personal issues. To those individuals: Please know that we are praying for you to find some comfort during your difficult time. We love you!!!!
Ok, this week was interesting. We spent the week in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which I told you we would be doing last week. Initially, it was on the short list of cities that we thought about settling down in post-world tour life. I have been to Chattanooga before with my friend Cece to attend a women's conference and I had such a great impression of the city that I insisted that we come back. Well, strangely enough, neither Steve nor I feel like it is a place we could live. What's strange about that is the reason: the city is too big. I mean, we're not talking about Chicago or New York City here. But even Chattanooga felt too big. Go figure! It's really too bad because the city is situated in the middle of mountains and has a number of bodies of water around it so outdoor activity is hugely plentiful. There is also a significant amount of cultural activities to take advantage of as well. A great place to visit but as Steve and I drove around the city this week, the hustle/bustle and traffic was just not appealing. So, we continue our search.
While we were here, however, we did have some fun. We first visited a place called Rock City, which is located at the top of Lookout Mountain. Rock City was established by the family of Garnet Carter and in the late 1920's, Frieda (Garnet's wife) began marking a path and building gardens around these awesome rock formations. This place is called Rock City because the original discoverer's of these rock formations said that they were situated in such a way that they reminded him of a city with tall buildings, streets and avenues. It's really quite cool and very scenic.
There are three trails that you can walk through these gardens (which, by the way, are absolutely gorgeous) which lead to a viewing platform from which you can see 7 states: Georgia, Tennessee, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and Kentucky. Ok, granted you have to use binoculars to do it, but they are out there. It was really quite breathtaking with the fall colors running down the mountain. Steve and I have been so blessed this fall because the color change has followed us south. We saw the beginning of it when we were in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and have seen it every day since then. Sweet!!!
In addition to these rock formation and garden tours, Frieda created a very interesting museum dedicated to fairy tales. Inside the mountain itself is a cavern that she used to create a very unique experience. Along a pathway inside this cavern were little crevices that had fairy tale scenes built inside of them. She used black-light paint to create each of them so they were extremely bright and colorful. Also, the attention to detail was remarkable. This tour was an absolute delight and I highly recommend a visit to Rock City should you be in Chatanooga.
Another cool stop we made here was Ruby Falls. Eighty years ago, Leo Lambert was busy trying to find a way to connect an elevator shaft to the Lookout Mountain cave because he felt that he could make this cave a tourist attraction. In the process of digging 1000 feet down to reach the cave, he discovered an air pocket. He followed this air pocket 17 hours in a space that was only 2' x 4' until he came to an underground waterfall, which he named after his wife, Ruby. Steve and I took the tour to see the falls and boy, was that worth the trip. We passed a number of stalagtites and stalagmites which of course had goofy names (like Elephant's foot, bacon and eggs, etc.) but when we arrived at the falls, we were absolutely awe-struck. The water falls, which is located 1100 feet underground, plunges some 145 feet into a large pool of water. The company that owns this attraction does a nice job with lighting and music to really make the Falls a spectacle to see. Another highly recommended tourist attraction.
I believe that I told you last week that one of the things we would do while we were here was to pay a visit to the Tennessee Aquarium because it is absolutely world class. There are two separate buildings for this attraction, one dedicated to to the river and one dedicated to the sea. The trip through the aquarium is set up nicely because you start at the top (via a three story escalator that fascinated Steve to no end). Once at the top, you take a series of ramps down passed a number of tanks holding different species of fish. The displays were awesome, especially the one that housed the sea dragons, which happens to be my favorite. We were really missing our grandsons on this visit because they would have absolutely loved both sides of the aquarium for sure.
Also, while we were close to Huntsville, Alabama, we paid a visit to the U.S. Space and Rocket Center where Space Camp is located. I have been fascinated by the space program since I was a little girl so I was just giddy about going there. Unfortunately, it was a bit of a let down. UGH! I don't know what I was expecting - - maybe something more akin to the Kennedy Space Center (which I have visited about 10 times and love it every time), but this was no KSC. They had some cool displays but it was primarily devoted to the Space Camp experience, which Steve and I were not allowed to visit. Again, thoughts of our grandsons came to mind because we could see them doing Space Camp. There were several groups of kids walking around doing the various skill tests they had to go through. Rock walls and flight simulators were the things we could see. What we couldn't get close to was the replica of a space shuttle (to scale, not a reduced in size version) that they used in their training. Man, I would have loved to see that. One touching thing we saw was at the grave marker for Ms. Baker. She was one of the monkeys that went into space before we sent up manned flights. Anyway, the kids from the Space Camp program had signed a banana and placed it atop the grave marker.
As I mentioned last week, Steve and learned to play disc golf. We attempted to play again this week but had a mishap. Steve is actually pretty good in terms of his distance throws but his accuracy needs work. On one occasion, he threw the disc right into some very tall weeds. He and I spent about a half hour looking for this disc and then only after does he tell me he was worried there could be snakes. SAY WHAT?????????? That would have been good information BEFORE I stuck my hands in the grasses looking for his $15 disc. Oh well. We laughed about that but for sure I am going to keep my eye on him going forward!
The rest of the time here was spent hunkered down in our trailer. I am a bit overwhelmed with school this semester as I have the equivalent of 4 classes worth of work. I definitely bit off more than I should chew right now so I feel a little badly about how much time Steve has been ignored. He's been a trooper though. He even went with me to a Jewish temple this week so that I could witness a Shabbat ceremony. One of the requirements for my World Religions class is that I have to experience the worship service of three different religions. Steve attended a Mormon and Jewish ceremony with me. My sister Lois and I went to a Jehovah Witness service. Those experiences were very interesting, to say the least.
Ok, that's it for week 10 of our journey. As of this week, we have officially traveled 2,000 miles on our journey. Those are just "pulling the trailer" miles and do not include the mileage we've expended for tourist activities. If we include those, we've done close to 8,000 miles. Yes, our gas budget is taking a beating, but we are having a good time. Tomorrow we leave for Clanton, Alabama which is located between Birmingham and Montgomery. We plan to spend some time learning about our civil rights history and have some local Thanksgiving celebrations that we plan to attend. Should be interesting having Turducken for Thanksgiving. (We hear that's a southern thing).
Take care everyone! Jeremiah, Darius and the Peanut - - WE MISS YOU TONS!!!!!!
Love you all,
Lauren and Steve