Sunday, June 18, 2017

Summer 2017 Road Trip ~ Day 3: Chattanooga, TN to Cherokee, NC (Sunday June 4, 2017)

We shared a King Size bed. The mattress was soft again and my lower back was hurting so I moved a lot during the night and so did my daughter. It wasn't a necessarily restful night!

My alarm rang at 7:15 a.m. I brewed myself a cup of coffee, and went to sit in the "living room" part of the room with my laptop to catch up on the news, email, etc. while my daughter slept until 8:30 a.m.  Oh boy, I guess I forgot to check the news last night because I hadn't heard of the latest UK terrorist attacks in London.  This is terrible.

Our plans today include going downtown Chattanooga after breakfast to use the bike share program and take a bike ride on the Tennessee Riverwalk. However we made those plans without thinking to check the weather and it's supposed to start raining at about 11 a.m., which is about the time when we should be around there. So we'll need to eat breakfast fast and try to get there ASAP.

Then we'll drive to Cherokee. We probably won't stop anywhere along the way. My daughter had mentioned going into the Smoky Mountains National Park but after discussing the route and my giving her a couple of options, she decided not to. We'll visit the Cherokee Indian Museum in Cherokee instead.

Breakfast was disappointing.  They were using a large conference room and they had set up tables along the walls with the various foods (not as much variety as at the other Country Inns & Suites hotel where we had stayed and the options weren't as healthy either).  They had set up the tables for the guests into two long rows each about 4 feet away from the tables with the food, and then there was a huge empty space in the middle of the room.  People (darn stupid people) had sat on both sides of the tables! So to get to the food, you had to squeeze between their chairs and the tables (about a foot and a half of space, I kid you not!) and there were people going both ways so it was a mess. I was feeling my blood pressure rise. Had I gotten there earlier, I would have moved all the tables to the center of the room!  We ate breakfast kind of fast. I had the equivalent of 2 scrambled eggs, half a bagel, a bottle of 2% milk and an orange. Consequently, my breakfast was 200 calories more than the previous morning!  I brought the 2nd half of my bagel along for a snack later on, along with an apple. My daughter took some packets of peanut butter to use with her apple that we had bought at Ingles yesterday, as a snack later on.

I wish I had taken a picture of the room to show you how ridiculous the set-up was, but I was too irked!
We drove to downtown Chattanooga and looked for the Visitors Center but couldn't find it. Right as we got to downtown, it started to rain!  It was just a drizzle so we decided to go biking anyway. Since it was Sunday, I was able to find a street parking spot just a few hundred feet from the Tennessee Aquarium and we didn't have to pay for parking. Sweet!

This was the building across the street from our parking space. The outside walls featured rock climbing! How cool is that!  Come to find out later on, the Visitors Center was located under a passage through that building.

This is the Tennessee Aquarium. The squiggly thing on front is a funky bridge, just because. We walked on it later on so I'll show you a better picture in a little bit.
The bike station was across the street.  My daughter had found out about the bike sharing program and sent me the website. I had read it the previous night and seen that you could either pay at the kiosk, or download a free app called Transit and rent the bikes through the app.  The app confused me at first, but then I realized that you needed to be near the bike station, ready to rent the bike, in order to create an account and then charge it to your credit card. So I did that and rented 2 bikes. The 24 hour pass was only $8 per bike but we could only use the bikes for up to 60 minutes before returning them to any station. Then we could get new bikes. I guess it's that way so people don't hog the bikes.  We got the code to unlock the bikes, but we couldn't get the first bike out of the bike holder and the code expired after 5 minutes!  No help from the app as their "how does this work?" option... wasn't working!  I called the number on the kiosk and a nice gentleman was able to help me. Phew! But you'd think there would be instructions on the bike stations.

So we got our bikes and headed to the Tennessee Riverwalk, behind the Aquarium.  The Riverwalk is an 8-mile walking and biking trail, that goes 4 miles each way (I guess counting from around the Aquarium area? I'm not sure) alongside the Tennessee River.

They were setting up for their big Riverwalk Festival next weekend, right there by the Aquarium. We decided to head East.  Hum, we had forgotten that Tennessee isn't Florida... it's NOT flat!

It sure looks flat in the picture... but you see that steel girder bridge up ahead? By the time we reached the top of that hill, we were pretty much at the level of the bridge.  Good thing the bikes had different speeds!

We're still not at the top.  The bikes might have speeds, but my daughter apparently only had two: pedaling, or walking!

Still walking,,, did I mention it was raining? Well, drizzling.
 The Riverwalk started flat but very fast we started to climb. Not a lot, but enough to make my daughter dismount and walk her bike. Well, her 49-year-old mom did ride the bike all the way to the top! Sure, I was on the 1st speed, but I felt great to have done that!
At the top of the hill, the Hunter Museum of Art.  We kind of wanted to visit it but we ended up not.
After that, it was up and down some hills, across bridges, alongside museums and statue gardens.
Despite the rain, it was really pretty and we enjoyed our ride. I think we took more than 1 hour but I only got charged $16 as far as I know.

Statue garden alongside the trail.  I took most of these pictures while biking so they're not great, sorry!

Loved that house!

Going downhill for a change!

Lots of bridges!

Biking along the Tennessee River

Another statue!

Passing the Hunter Museum again

This is actually part of it, I think. Certainly, next door.

There was a wedding going on there and if you squint you can see the bride's white dress in the opening of the building straight ahead.

It had started raining a little harder and my daughter decided to go explore that bridge, made of glass with a stripe of metal in the middle. It was slightly downhill and I was worried that she would brake and slip on those surfaces!  So I stayed behind in the courtyard of the museum, waiting for her to wipe out, when the wedding party came out behind me. So I yelled "Congratulations!" to the bride and groom. The bride looked pleased as Punch but the groom looked quite grumpy. Oh dear, I hope that wasn't because of me!  So after that, I hurried behind my daughter. Luckily, neither of us wiped out :)

We ended up on that pedestrian bridge crossing the Tennessee River. I wanted to cross the whole thing but my daughter had had quite enough by then (we'd had to bike up quite a few hills by that time!) so we only went halfway and turned around There were people walking alone or with their dogs, other bikers too.
 Returning the bikes was much easier than borrowing them, thanks to the explanations that the nice customer service rep had been sure to give me before I had hung up :)

This wasn't our whole ride, I had forgotten to start the app at the beginning!  I think
I started it at the mid-point, maybe.
We were having such a good time that we decided to stay longer than planned and go visit the Tennessee Aquarium.  It's actually divided into 2 buildings: the River and the Ocean.  We started by visiting the River and saw a presentation about otters. It was a cute aquarium.

First, we were directed to the basement where we saw an exhibit of various seahorses.

Here my daughter checks out Weedy Seadragons

They also had "regular" seahorses. The ones we saw were very active, which was a nice change because usually when we see them, they look just like in the picture: just hanging on to some grass. But a lot of the ones we saw were swimming around and we got a kick out of seeing their small flippers move as fast as hummingbird wings, it seemed. Such an odd animal!

Then we went upstairs to wait for the otter presentation to begin.  Here is a view of the Tennessee River and the bridge over it. Behind that bridge is the pedestrian bridge on which we biked.

It looks like we're back at Rock City, isn't it?!  I got confused myself when I looked at that picture

Did there have to be snakes?  

Wait, he looks familiar!  Yep, same snake as the one we saw leaving Ruby Falls the previous day, I think.

And now we now what it was...

That otter was cute and reminded me very much of Princess. In fact, all the otters reminded me of the kittens.

Have you ever seen an otter poop?  Well, now you have!  I swear I didn't know that's what it was doing when I took the picture!  I had to zoom as I was far in the back of the room! It was very crowded.

No, not an albino alligator...

A leucistic one. It has blue eyes (albino have red eyes).

And here is my daughter touching one.

I keed, I keed!  She's not touching an alligator!

She was touching a sand shark (I think it was a sand shark...).  They also had rays in that tank and she touched one of those too. 

This little turtle made me laugh because it looked like it was climbing a tree trunk when the other turtles
were just swimming around.
When we were done with the River, we were hungry. We decided to have a more indulgent lunch than usual and then go to Subway for dinner.  We ended up eating at a delicious and very lovely restaurant right where we had parked the SUV, called "Bluewater Grille". Oh my, I wanted to eat everything on the menu. Our server was delightful, and a young couple was entertaining us with an acoustic guitar and lovely, relaxing versions of "Summertime" and other classics plus more modern songs, sang by the young lady.  Our food took a long time to get to us but it was sooooo good. I had grilled ahi tuna with some carrots and cucumber salad and a quinoa/kale side that was very yummy. So I think it was pretty healthy, actually.  Then we splurged by sharing a Berry Crème Brûlée, oh yum.

We liked the chandeliers above our table.

The musicians were excellent. It was a treat to be able to listen to them as our food took a long time to get to our table.

The young woman would sing but also play this little keyboard in which she blew.  Her kids
were playing very nicely in a nearby booth.  I wonder how long their set lasted altogether as they were
already playing when we got there and stayed after we left.  Those kids were extremely well behaved!

Everything looked so darn delicious!  I settled on the Seared Tuna, which I saw later on Instagram, they tout as their healthiest entrée, 

It was delicious!

And this?  Out of this world.  Oh I want some more!
While we were eating, it started pouring!  Since my SUV was parking right in front of the restaurant, I was able to grab my large umbrella pretty easily, and then we walked back to the Aquarium to visit the Ocean side.  For some reason it had an indoor butterfly garden so we visited the butterflies and enjoyed them.

This was actually one of several beautiful butterflies whose wings are turquoise blue on the side that's not showing right now. Try as I may, I was completely unable to take a good picture of one while flying...

This was the closest I got!

The next ones were more cooperative, but I forgot to take a picture of the cheat sheet that identified them :(

This is a Pink Cattleheart, from Central and South America.

I loved that blueish purplish lilypad flower.

Butterflies would land on you if you were patient.  We tried but none would land on us. They must have known we were faking our patience!
By about 3 p.m. it was time for us to get on the road to Cherokee, NC. It was still raining and indeed it rained most of our trip, off and on but mostly on.  We ran into big traffic back-ups trying to get onto I-75N from I-24, but luckily for us I picked the correct lane that was much faster than the other two and that took us to the turn off for I-75N, where we realized that the huge back-ups were happening because of something that had taken place on I-75 S!  We were so relieved that we weren't going that way!

Bumper sticker on a large truck that I spotted while we were stuck in traffic. It made me laugh a lot and I asked my daughter to take a picture so I could share it with Greg, who is definitely a carnivore. He laughed too.

It wasn't so bad when we finally got rid of the traffic...

But it soon got worse and we hadn't gotten to the mountains yet! "Ru-ro!", as Scooby-Doo used to say!

It looks kind of ominous!

This was funny to us as there is a town named Ocoee just 20 minutes away from our house. They actually had a lot of places with Native American names (I assume that's what they were) that we also have in the Orlando area.

There were A LOT of white water rafting businesses along that road, and we passed several repurposes school buses that the businesses use to carry the rafts and the guests back from the landing points.  I wondered how they got all those heavy inflatable rafts up on top of the bus!

Not much traffic for the most part but when there was, they sure drove way faster than I did!  I left several cars go by. No sense in getting stressed. Or killed.

Lots of rock façades on the left that my daughter loved, and cars stopped on the right because people were white water rafting there.
The road we took through the Cherokee National Forest and then the Nantahala Forest was odd. It kept on going from a 4-lane divided highway to a 2-lane mountain road, back to a 4-lane divided highway, and so on and so forth. Traffic was pretty good, but people driving behind me were impatient, including a lot of Florida tourists who seemed to fly on those rain-slicked mountain roads. I pulled over several times to let people pass because I don't like it when someone sticks to my ass.  They were crazy!  I was driving the speed limit and both my daughter and I felt that I was driving too fast!

I did all the driving today and she took pictures while I drove.  The mountains were pretty with the clouds hanging on them.  You'll find that my daughter, who took most of the pictures between Chattanooga and Salem, Virginia, loves taking pictures of:

  • Clouds
  • Mountains
  • Clouds on mountains

This was one of the training site for the white water rafting Olympic team, apparently (or whatever sport that involves rafting!)

Crossing into North Carolina!  We have a ritual we do every time we cross a state line. It's something that Greg got us started on many years ago so now we all do it. Sometimes I even do it as a joke crossing county lines :)

Back to a 4-lane divided highway!

So a bit before this sign, we saw an even larger sign on the side of a barn that asked "Do You Know Big Frank?  Maggie Does!"... color me puzzled.  Then we kept on seeing signs like the one above, here and there. We never did find out who Frank and Maggie were and what their story was, but we sure had fun making up stories about them. My theory was that Maggie's cuckolded husband had purchased the signs and put them up to shame his wife and her lover Big Frank... well, I just googled it and it actually an ad for a realtor in the Murphy, NC area. I like my story much better...

We wanted to take better pictures of the river rapids so we stopped at this overlook.

OK, then... Is this their version of the "Napoleon slept here" signs that people joke are in a lot of small hotels throughout France?

Steps going down to the river.  They were steep coming back!

A reminder to share this info with Greg :)

It was all misty over the river so it was very pretty!

Rapids, indeed! Nothing like the ones we saw at Hillsborough River State Park, though, eh Pixel?

I don't see myself ever going down a river like this.  I'm not a thrill seeker at all!

Back on the road... a 2 lane road again (but still the same road as when it was a 4-lane divided highway!)

Finally arriving at Cherokee. I'd never been on an Indian reservation before. Until this time, I didn't know what to expect.  I had only ever heard of "reservations" in movies and in novels. Well, Cherokee is... a normal town!

We got to Cherokee at about 6:30 p.m. and went straight to our hotel, the Holiday Inn Express, which we were relieved to find out was NOT under renovations. It's very nice and the front desk lady is a doll.  Our room is well appointed. The only problem is that the coffeemaker, well, excuse me, the Keurig, wasn't functioning so I went to exchange it for another one.  We're right across from the Cherokee Tribe Casino but my daughter is only 18 and can't gamble so we're not going. She was disappointed as she would have liked to try the slot machines.  I have an addictive nature so it's just as well that I never set foot in a casino :)

We did go out to find the local Subway where we picked up our usual fare, and we came back to the hotel to eat it.

It's a good thing we left Chattanooga this afternoon as they were under a flash flood warning tonight, along with areas to the East of them through which we had just driven!

We also found out that their big bluegrass festival was going to be the following weekend. Well, poop, I love
bluegrass!  My brother from Paris would have loved that too. I remembered that Greg's parents used to come spend the weekend in Cherokee with some friends every year just for that festival...
I called Greg. Today he and our son pieced together the broken siding! He said he was able to rescue about 90% of it, saving us some money right there. He'll replace the trim pieces next weekend.  Yes, it looks crappy, but then that's on par with the rest of the house.

So the siding and planks that were the outside of the wall had completely collapsed, exposing the inside of the wall that was all rotten.  Greg then realized that the beam that supports the flat roof over our front porch was only itself supported by that tiny piece of beam cut-out that somehow had been installed there by whoever had built the extension back in the... 60s or 70s, we're guessing.

So Greg removed all the rotten wood and set about fixing everything.

He installed new beans that frame and brace the old one, since the old one couldn't be replaced without
whole corner of the house collapsing! He's so smart.

He also took care of installing waterproof felt as a water barrier before closing the wall with
new pressure treated planks.

And then he and our son pieced the pieces of siding back together as best they could and nailed them back to the
planks. It's not perfect but better than nothing until one day we can get the whole house re-sided, I suppose.
He didn't have time to make trim pieces for the side of the wall or the corner, so he worked on those the
following weekend.  I don't ever want to buy an old house again.  It's always something.
He also gave our son his first stick-shift driving lesson, and he reports that it went as well as could be expected.

Speaking of our son, he texted me a video of the cats, oh I miss them so!  Greg said Explorer was crying for me the last two nights. Greg tried to entice him to come sleep with him in his room. But Explorer refused and went to sleep in the hall. My poor baby!

I just spent the evening making our plans for tomorrow and the next day.  It's supposed to rain tomorrow both here and in Asheville so I'm assuming it'll be raining the whole time we driving to Asheville on the Blue Ridge Parkway :(

In the morning, we'll visit the Museum of the Cherokee Indian, and then pick up a "picnic" lunch from Subway before we leave Cherokee.  Then we'll head to Asheville on the Blue Ridge. I hope people won't make this a nightmare drive :)


  1. I have so enjoyed this post! I loved seeing the pictures of all the places you visited. Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us. Looks like Greg and your son did a good job on the house repairs! Such a good thing that he knows how to do stuff like that!

    1. Thanks Bless! He had never done anything like this although he did build his shed from scratch himself. Code Enforcement had him draw architectural drawings that show it to be hurricane-proof so I'm guessing he drew on that experience.

  2. Enjoyed you travel log. You did the same kinds of things I'm interested in, so it was especially appealing.

    1. I'm happy you're enjoying it! I could see us driving around the mountains of West Virginia, looking at birds and flowers and you telling me about the history of the region while I look for the former homesteads of Greg's ancestors, LOL.

  3. You taught me something about my own state...I thought the age to gamble was 18. You see that I would not have a good time in Vegas! It makes me mad to lose on a $1 scratch off! lol

    1. You know, my daughter is the one who researched that and I just didn't double check. I just did and this is what I found "The legal gambling age in North Carolina for video game gambling is 18 years of age. However the gambling age for a casinos is North Carolina is 21." I'm content just playing the lottery once in a while and I'm always super disappointed when I don't win, which is 99.99% of the time! I did win $5.50 right before our trip, though. I've never had any desire whatsoever to go to Vegas. As a matter of fact, you'd really have to pay me to go there.

  4. This is such a physical trip. I cannot believe how much activity you go through in one day. Congrats to the 49 year old mom who has more stamina than her 18 year old daughter. Riding a bike through the city for an hour, uphill all the way LOL, is not something I could handle; but what a great way to see the city first-hand.
    Both aquariums looked so wonderful. I think I would love to see them. And if that weren't enough, you ended the day with another hike. I have never been to these states you are visiting, but you are making me want to. You are visiting some very lovely places. I know about the Black Rat snakes because they are around the Charleston Lake area where my good friends live. I have seen one stretched almost entirely across two lanes on the road into the Provincial Park. They are very slow and docile, so much so they have been known to fall out of trees while they are sleeping. I wouldn't want to have one fall on me though, as they can be very big.

    Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Greg did a wonderful job of repairing that bit of exterior wall. He has got to feel pretty good about changing out all that rotten lumber for brand new material.

    1. Falling out of trees when they're asleep?! LOL, that's funny! it would be less funny if one fell on me, though :)

  5. Wow, congratulations on riding your bike all the way to the top - I think I would have been walking alongside your daughter!

    I'm loving all your/your daughter's pictures! Her photos of clouds, mountains, and clouds on mountains are beautiful. I love watching clouds and think Florida has some of the best (there's even a group on Facebook called The Florida Cloud Appreciation Society where people just post pics of clouds).

    I'm very impressed with Greg's carpentry skills. I know I wouldn't have the skills or patience to deal with the issues that come with an old house. My hat's off to him!

    1. Thanks, Pixel! I didn't know about the Facebook group (but then again I'm not on Facebook!) so I emailed her your paragraph about it so she can check it out. You always take spectacular pictures of the clouds, especially at sunset!


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