Day 1: July 3, 2009
Dixie Connector
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I'll start the day with some pictures from yesterday. My first stop at Litton's was back in January, on my way home from my Christmas outing, On that stop I stuffed down some delicious cake and promised myself one of their famous hamburgers next time. When I saw that I would be able to reach the area in time for dinner, I started adjusting my taste buds. I could have learned of the vacation schedule just by checking their website. Bummer.

I had semi-planned on stoping by the Powell Airplane in the morning but ended up driving by it while looking for a Litton's substitute. Not a lot of change in the appearance since my last visit but some heavy work is clearly in progress.

In Knoxville, the Sunsphere completely blotted out the real sun as I passed through and picked up the Dixie Highway Tennessee Connector. It starts as US-70 and the city stays with it a long way. Sir Goony's Miniature Golf is over a dozen miles from the center of Knoxville and about a half dozen miles before US-11 separates from US-70. Things become a bit more rural after that. The round stone gas station is just west of I-75. A fellow named Frank Kinger built it in 1931 according to a concrete sign at the site. I bet the Mid-Town Drive In is a hot spot on Saturday nights.

ADDENDUM: Jul 8, 2009 - Baby Boomer Bob dropped me a note and reminded me he had photographed the Kinger station a few years ago. Take a look at Bob's photos, from 2004 or 2005, to see what the place looked like with a roof.

A few miles after US-70 joins US-27, it's possible to pick up an older alignment of the Dixie Highway now labeled Dixie Lee Highway. A nice step back in time and a pleasant drive although you do have to watch for the occasional chicken crossing the road. Both Garmin & DeLorme show this reconnecting with US-27 but it just ain't so.

ADDENDUM: Jul 7, 2009 - In response to some questions, I've added a picture of the area beyond the guardrail on the far side of the railroad. On the ground, the road looks much more overgrown than indicated by this Google Earth image.

A couple of years ago, Rhea County put down a nice "walk of time" for its bicentennial. The walk is in front of the courthouse. Today, a farmer's market lined one of the streets beside the courthouse. That courthouse is in the town of Dayton, Tennessee; a name that may be more recognizable than Rhea County. It was here, in 1925, that John Scopes was convicted of teaching evolution. William Jennings Bryan was on the winning side while Clarence Darrow was among the losers. There's a nice statue of Bryan in the courthouse lawn. I didn't see anything with Clarence's name on it.

The Dixie Highway Tennessee Connector makes its connection with Dixie Highway West at US-41. There's a new brew pub near the intersection and the Chattanooga Choo-Choo hotel is right across the street from that. I sampled the Terminal Brewhouse's product and took the picture of the Choo-Choo sign from their parking lot. Good brew & view.

I was sure I had passed fairly close to where the Delta Queen is moored but hadn't seen her. I headed back north and this time I did spot her as I crossed the John Ross Bridge. I pulled into a parking lot to explore the area on foot. I'm not sure what the boundaries of Coolidge Park are but they apparently include this 1895 carousel and the kid friendly fountains beside it. That's the Delta Queen beyond the fountains backed by the John Ross Bridge and the Tennessee Aquarium.

I walked down to the Delta Queen and boarded her for the first time ever. As many times as I've seen her from the shore, I'd never set foot on her decks until today. It was bittersweet. It felt good to actually be on the old boat but it was very sad to know that she wouldn't be moving. I checked in and looked around just a bit but saved the real exploring for later.

I walked back to my car and headed to Ruby Falls. I found a parking spot without too much trouble but soon realized that I wouldn't be seeing the falls today. The line of people waiting patiently seemed to go on forever and I quickly decided that was not where I was spending the afternoon.

So it was back to the Delta Queen to board her for real. My economy class bunk room can be seen here. My initial stroll around the boat's public areas included the Texas Lounge and one of the more luxurious rooms that happened to be open.

At 4:30 I joined a guided tour of the boat that included the engine room and the bridge. The D-ring above where Laura is pointing blows the whistle. Laura Sable and Bill Wiemuth, the guides for this tour, are a major part of the Delta Queen. I'll see and hear them quite a bit.

Bill wrapped up the tour with a calliope concert.

I probably have more than a hundred photographs of that wheel but none from this angle. The second picture is the view from my room. That tent is where the Chattanooga Symphony will be performing tomorrow.

The day ended with a great dinner and show, featuring Laura & Bill, in the New Orleans room. You saw a close up of Bill at the calliope so here's one of Laura on the piano. During the show I learned that the pair are getting married in August.

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