Day 2: November 19, 2004
Rocks & Rails



Like that guy coming off of the desert and eating a cracker to make sure he REALLY enjoyed that first drink, I started the day on that divided TEN lane that circles Atlanta. I wasn't quite as bad as I feared but that's still a lot of traffic. Outbound traffic lightened slightly as I moved on to US-41 but I wasn't on good old two lane until near Cassville. With the exception of the roads inside Stone Mountain Park, I believe this is the first two lane road I've been on since US-29 near Royston.

Vergil's Antique Reproductions, just south of Adairsville, looks interesting and could even be educational but I didn't stop today. I did stop at the South 41 Diner for breakfast. Good food and hospitality. The two old but nondescript motels are also in Adairsville.

In Calhoun, I grabbed a picture of the Gordon county courthouse and of a used car lot. The small high-peaked building must have been a gas station in an earlier life.

More old motels. The first two are part of the cluster around the I-75 crossing near Damascus. The Peach State is just south of Dalton. There is evidence that neon tubes once lit the sign but they're gone now. The motel itself still looks pretty solid. I believe that US-41 is now signed to bypass Dalton but I made an effort to go though the town on a recent alignment. As you can guess from the number of Dalton photos I've posted, it seems I could have saved that effort with little regret.

The Catoosa  county courthouse in Ringgold and, at the north edge of town, the Dixie Motel. I'm guessing that there are guest units in the main building and there are several stone cabins that are almost cute. There are five single units like the one pictured. Three stand by themselves and the other two are connected by a wooden structure that may have been an addition. Another building is the size of two of the single cabins and looks as if a pair of them were glued together. My guess is that it was built to provide a larger option to travelers and used the same plans as the singles executed twice. It even has the two front doors where you would expect. When I sorted pictures at the end of the day, this was the place where I most regretted not doing some more investigation. Much (maybe all) of the neon appears to be intact and the "VACANCY" sign was actually lit. Maybe this place is still operating.

Two familiar phrases associated with Chattanooga are "See Rock City" and "Ride the Incline". I had not done either and wanted to correct that today. Following signs, I found the incline first. The incline first opened in 1895 and uses cables to pull cars up an down the side of Lookout Mountain. I was lucky? to get a space on the next car up with fifty some sixth graders and their chaperones. Being the last to board, I sat (no standing allowed) on the floor where a seat had gone missing. That meant visibility on the way up was severely limited but it was offset by a literal train load of school aged enthusiasm. Those chaperones weren't dumb (They're teachers!) so the students were not allowed off the car at the top. The dozen or so people ready to head down were surprised but not upset when they were told they would have to wait for another car.

Above the car level, there are two observation decks that provide great views of Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the middle of those colorful trees, the two cars can be seen passing at the midpoint which is the only place which accommodates both cars. For the rest of the route, the cars share a middle rail. Below the cars, some of the workings can be viewed behind glass. The electric motor is rather new but the wheels behind it have been there for 100+ years. The cables are replaced every three years. That last picture was taken as I waited in an un-crowded car for the descent.

From the incline station, it was a fairly short drive to the Georgia side of the mountain and Rock City. Real two-lane with real views. Despite seeing it advertised on many many barns and even reading through a brochure or two, I was not entirely sure what I would find. I handed over the $12.95 admission thinking there was no way I would get my money's worth by walking around some rocks. Wrong! This place is cool. Of course, it's in a great spot and has what, in 1823, missionary David Butrick called "a citadel of rocks". But, Garnet and Frieda Carter added to that to create a unique wonderland with rock lined paths leading through it. Freida gathered over 400 plant varieties here so it's also an impressive garden. Then there's the view. I couldn't "See 7 States from Rock City" today but I don't doubt that it is possible. The attraction opened in 1932 and it still has what I perceive as the flavor of that time. The wonders are natural. The Carters just provided paths through them.

In addition to the natural wonders, the section called Fairyland Caverns contains a number of Jessie Schmidt dioramas. These first appeared in 1947 and in 1964, Schmidt added Mother Goose Village. This is a collection of some three dozen (my guess) black-lighted fairy tale scenes. It was damp and misty when I arrived and conditions had worsened by the time I left. I knew this, of course, since most of Rock City can seem like a roofless cave. The mist had become real rain by the time I headed down the mountain, ignoring the now foggy views, eyes on the winding road.

At the top of the incline, I learned of a brewery in town and that's where I headed for dinner. The Big River Grille & Brewing Works operates in Nashville and Orlando in addition to Chattanooga. Both the grilling and brewing were excellent.

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