Chattanooga trip! (part 1)

Hang on tight — this is another really long one. With photos! But DANG. LONG.

Our trip to Chattanooga was fantastic! It had it’s little hiccups, but it was all awesome in the end.

For example, we planned to set out after our chiropractor appointment on Friday morning. We got out about 8 miles before turning back around because the SD card in Justin’s tablet died, taking all our music along with it. We turned around and got another music source so we wouldn’t have to do that whole drive with only the music on my phone. 12 hours of driving would have been MISERABLE with not enough music.

Our six-hour drive that should have started around 10:00 then started closer to 12:00, which was fine; we should still have arrived around 6:00. Except we failed to consider that the route took us straight up through the middle of Atlanta during rush hour. Atlanta traffic alone backed up our arrival time from 6:00 to 8:30.

But hey, it was still fine. It actually meant that we got to experience entering the Chattanooga valley differently than we would have if it had still been dark. This way, we hit the outskirts of town, crested the hill overlooking the valley and both went “Whoa!” as we saw the city spread out along the valley below. But around the edge of the valley, we could see this arching rise of lights as the houses that overlook the city rim the tops of the nearby hills. It was really a lot more impressive to see at night than when we saw it later during the daylight hours. During the day, it just looks like a city. At night, it’s like a pond full of stars edged with fairy lights.

Okay, so I’m waxing a little poetical. Deal with it. ­čÖé

It was a big room!

Justin is looking at the maps here to figure out where we’re going to go next.

Our little kitchenette

We got into our hotel, which was lovely. I took some pictures the next day when it was light. We had a fridge and a little kitchenette that we never had a use for, but at least we had a place to store milk for Justin’s breakfast.

It’s tricky to take good pictures of rooms without a wide-angle lens. But you can get a pretty good idea about how the room looked from these, I hope.

We went out for a late dinner after getting into town. One of the things we love about downtown Chattanooga is that there are a wide variety of restaurants within walking distance. We had a choice of Thai, Italian, barbeque, Mongolian, Greek, and so many others. It was a delight to stand at a corner and go: “So, barbeque or Mediterranean?” without having to change our plans or parking at all.

The first night of our stay was unfortunately interrupted by a rude awakening at about 2:30 in the morning.

Please welcome some of Chattanooga’s finest.

That’s right, at 2:30 AM everybody in the hotel got booted from their beds and out onto the street because a girl around 13 years old on the same floor as us burned popcorn in the microwave in her room. She was part of a group of about 2 dozen girls who thought it was the funniest thing ever as we were all evacuating the building, and hopefully thought it was less amusing later on after noticing that every person in the hotel was cranky.

I did learn that I have learned my fire safety training. I got to the door of our room, smelled for smoke, and when I smelled it, touched the door to see if it was warm, all without realizing I’d done that until after the fact, and all while completely bleary-eyed because I’d been sound asleep until 2 minutes before that.

We got a later start to our morning because of being up in the middle of the night, but Saturday morning we set out to see the city. We walked a little ways from our hotel to get to the city library. We had to walk past the Tennessee Valley Authority, who has an impressively sized building.

I have no idea what the TVA actually does.

The thing we noticed about the buildings in Chattanooga is that they are pretty blocky, with a fondness for concrete, and look like they were built in the ’70s. It’s all just a little dated. It’s in good repair and everything, just not the most attractive lookings ever.

4 floors of booky goodness!

The public library is quite impressive. The first floor is the adult stacks, the second floor is the children’s section, complete with a handful of hands-on activities for kids, the third floor is histories and genealogies, and the fourth floor is a “maker space” that includes a 3D printer, among other things. That floor was closed when we visited, but we spoke with a very enthusiastic children’s librarian who was very excited to talk about the library and her city.

We eventually caught the electric bus that circuits through downtown and that brought us, among other places, to the Chattanooga Choo Choo, which, as it turns out, is sort of a hotel now. But there’s still an engine with the name on it.

This isn’t carrying anybody home anymore.

After that, we stopped so I could get some coffee at a sweet little coffee shop and stuck our head into the most odd bookstore where the eclectic older woman running the shop sells more yarn than she does books and where she teaches spinning classes and the books are shelved along with huge skeins of yarn and her dogs check you at the door to see if you’re a threat.

Yarn, books, and spinning wheels!

You have no idea how much I wanted to stay there, help her get the books back in order and let her take care of her yarn while I took care of the books. The place was inappropriately called ALLBOOKS.

After this, we made our way to the Tennessee Aquarium, which is split into two buildings, one for the rivers and one for the oceans, and I took more pictures of fish than I really intended to take.

This is the river building

The aquarium is really quite impressive, though. They’ve got a sea horses galore, star fish, trout, eels, turtles of all shapes and sizes, sting rays, sturgeon, sharks, penguins, and so much more.

They have two touching tanks where you can stick your hand in the tanks with the animals and pet them. One of them is for enormous sturgeons and the other is for little sting rays and sharks. This was AMAZING and sting rays feel like wet silk, they’re smooth and soft and just the teensist bit slimy.

The top of the oceans building has glass like the river one I’ve got a picture of here and inside of that dome they have a butterfly garden where you can walk in around the butterflies.

I don’t know her, but she was being very gentle

They’re getting otters sometime this year and yes, I will pay the $20 per person just to go in and see the otters. Plus I’d get to see the turtles again and touch the sting rays again and hang out with the butterflies and once again get completely creeped out by the room filled with jellyfish. Seriously, it’s a room that’s dark except for lights under the fish tanks so the jellyfish are just floating in the dark along all the walls in the room, floor to ceiling. It’s wall-to-wall jellyfish. Creepy.

But the inside of the ocean building is mostly just a huge tank that you can walk around and under parts of and see that it’s teeming with fish of all kinds, with sea turtles and sharks and sting rays and more. It was beautiful and amazing and I wish we hadn’t been quite so tired from walking around so much because by the end we were pretty much dead on our feet and wishing to sit down for a while.

Which was what we did, actually. After leaving the aquarium, we went back to the hotel, Justin took a look at the maps of the area a little, and then we just drove around for a while, trying to get a feel for the area. We drove out to see how big the Volkswagen plant is (it’s HUGE) and the nearby towns that are to the east of town. We don’t want to live in town when we do move to where ever we move, so it’s important to understand what the country is like.

I don’t have any good pictures from our drive, but that’s mostly because I was so distracted by the landscape. It’s hilly without being mountainous, just a bit more hilly than you’d normally expect for farmland, I guess. It was a cloudy day, as you can tell from the photos already, and it’s still winter, so it’s all dead-looking and brown, but the area is quite lovely. It didn’t take long to get from downtown into the country, which means the roads are easy to get around and the suburbs don’t sprawl much. There’s a bunch of farms in the area — we saw several herds of cows.

All in all, it seemed like a place where we could buy property and feel at home pretty easily.

Heading back into town, we’d been in touch with Nathan earlier in the day to see if we could meet up for dinner and, after figuring things out with Amy, who wasn’t home when we called, they let us know they’d meet us downtown later in the evening. We had hopes to visit a local restaurant, but it turns out downtown is a popular place on Saturday nights, so we ended up at Five Guys. But we got good burgers and chatted away for a couple hours and had a really wonderful time! I was really glad that we had the opportunity to spend time with all of them. If we do move to Chattanooga (and we really do like the city), it would be a lot of fun to meet up with them more often!

This is getting really long, so I’m going to wrap up for now and continue with Sunday stuff next post.