Road Trip: Chattanooga, TN

This past weekend, I accompanied my friend Diana to Chattanooga, TN.  Her photography group had planned an overnight trip with stops in Lula Lake Land Trust and other tourist destinations.  It was a great way to see the city and capture some fantastic pictures.

Driving North on 75 for roughly 2 hours, we arrived at Lula Lake Land Trust in Lookout Mountain, GA.  I had never met any of the members of the photo group, but all were very welcoming.  While they had all their fancy cameras and gear, I had my iPhone camera.

There were lots of hikers and dogs that were enjoying the trails.  The shortest trail was 3/4 of a mile to the first waterfall and bridge.  The sounds of rushing water and voices of families congregated in the bridge attempting to snap the perfect family photo filled the air. 

As we continued to walk, we came upon a rocky path that lead to the bottom of the lake where the small waterfall spilled out.  It was picturesque.  The white gushing water emptying into greenish-blue water.  The cliffs in the sides eroded away from years of currents.  Once again, this was a popular spot for many photos.

The photo group continued to walk and came upon the bigger waterfall.  It was loud and raging.  There was a rainbow in the mist of the waterfall at the base.  I kept snapping pictures because it was so beautiful.

There were wooden and dirt steps that lead down to the base of that waterfall.  People that are coming from the base were saying it’s worth the trek down.  Why the hell not? Go big or go home, right?  

I began to descend the steps and I was able to catch up with an older gentleman in our group. Joey had his camera bag slung around his shoulder and camera hanging from his neck. Joey and I were the only ones who decided to descend the steps.  I told Joey that I’m right behind him just to let him know if he needed help with the trek.  He grabbed my hand and said we’ll go down together.  I think he thought he was doing me a favor as if I needed assistance, but it was a good thing I was there because Joey slipped and fell on his ass.  I pulled him up and then continued down the steps this time a few paces in front of him and not holding hands.  I was more comfortable since I didn’t want to be dragged down if he was going down.  

As I turned around to see how he was doing, he slipped again this time off of the steps into the dirt on the side and began to fall forward grasping at anything that could break his fall. He grabbed a branch that just bent 90 degrees and didn’t stop him.  He was able to plant his foot into the ground and hit a vine in order to stop.  I reached out to grab his camera bag to help pull him back and then he was able to reach for my hand.  For an old dude, he was able to get right back up, dust off the excess mud that was now on his knees and continue down the steps.  

Once we reached the bottom of the steps, you had to maneuver over some boulders and rocks to get closer to the big rock that was near the waterfall.  The sound of the water was intense and the mist was soaking everyone.  I wasn’t very close to the large rock but I was getting rained on.

I began to stream the waterfall on Facebook Live because I wanted people to see how cool it was.  The bottom was very muddy and I crept closer.  I didn’t feel comfortable climbing on the rock because my luck would be to slip and fall into the water and drown so I kept my distance.  

When I turned around, I saw Joey with an iPhone in his hands.  He said the girl on the rock wanted him to take a picture of her doing a handstand.  I’m sure the look on my face clearly read “whaaaattttt?”  I turned around and began snapping.  It took her 2 tries to get fully vertical and on her way back to standing, I photographed what would be one of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken.  Her handstand helped define the massive scale of the waterfall.

After snapping those pics, hunger began to set in so Diana and I decided to go grab a late lunch at Adelle’s Creperie on the Southside of Chattanooga.

We arrived with 30 minutes to spare since the restaurant closes at 2:30pm.  We met the owner who said he would be more than willing to accommodate any others from our group no matter what time they arrived.  He was very welcoming and told us about his little restaurant.  It was in a warehouse that is used for many events.  We were introduced to his daughter Adelle who “wanted a restaurant so we opened a restaurant.”  Empty picture frames and mirrors lined the walls, Edison bulbs hung from the ceiling and a piano sat in a corner.  

Diana and I wanted to try a savory and sweet crepe.  We were able to pick a half and half deal which would have them split 1 gigantic crepe into 2 and have the best of both worlds. My savory crepe was a bacon, egg and Havarti cheese crepe while my sweet one was filled with chocolate.  I washed it down with an organic chocolate ice cream milk shake. Everything was so good.  I housed those crepes.  Simple presentation but the food was divine.  When in Chattanooga, eat at Adelle’s!

Our next stop was the Air BnB which was 12 miles away.  We had an entire apartment and relaxed for a few hours before going to meet the group for dinner.  In those few hours, the rain came through and chilled the already cold air even more.

Around 6pm, we arrived at The Terminal Brew House on Market Street.  Roger had reserved the 3rd floor for the group.  We had a wonderful salad and thin-styled pizza with a pillowy crust. It was very good.  I enjoyed listening to the group discuss picture distortion and photoshop. I particularly enjoyed the discussion on fashion photography.

Once dinner was over, most of the group were returning to GA that night.  We said our goodbyes and continued to wander the streets around The Terminal.

I was unaware that the old Chattanooga Choo Choo train cars were remodeled to accommodate people.  That’s right!  The old trains on the tracks were hotel rooms!  This blew my mind!  If you looked closely you could see people lounging on beds and children playing.  It was really cool.  The tracks were surrounded by torches and manicured gardens.

We walked a little farther along Market Street, but most businesses were closed. 9 o’clock on a Saturday night and the Southside of Chattanooga was quiet.  Diana and I decided to head back to the Air BnB and prep for the following morning’s adventure.  The plan was to get up early to go to the Riverfront and watch the sunrise, but that didn’t happen.

The following morning, we drove to Milk & Honey, a small restaurant that has many delicious options for breakfast.  Tons of organic lattes and juices along with yummy food and pastries.  I ordered the special which was a blueberry waffle with cinnamon whipped cream. To my delight, bacon came with it and we all know that everything is better with bacon!

Roger and Gail met us at Milk & Honey and we decided to venture to the Chattanooga Zoo. We were the first people in the zoo and it was nice having the zoo to ourselves without children running around and disturbing our shots.  

Diana and I stopped at the ape and gorilla enclosure first.  It seemed they were ready for us.  They would walk up to the windows and get into a pose that could best be described as “the pissed off school teacher”. Leaning on their knuckles while staring at the class with no facial expression.  

The vet tech told us the youngest male was the dominant male which was surprising.  I must also say that I have never witnessed ape ass like these.  I didn’t realize they were so saggy and wrinkly.  It almost looks painful especially when they sit on them.  It’s as if they are squishing this extra mound of flesh; like massive hemmorhoids.  Get these apes some Preparation H stat!

As we ventured around the zoo, we walked into many exhibits.  The Fennec Fox was adorable with its tiny body and huge ears.  The meerkats scurrying around and the sloth sleeping and then waking up for breakfast.  There was no roof to his exhibit. I guess the zookeepers feel there is no way in hell it will move fast enough to get out.

There were 2 Chinese Alligators that were floating.  It was mating season and they warned not to tap in the glass.

The outside exhibits featured cougars, screeching peacocks who were attempting to find their mates.  The males had their feathers in full bloom and were running after the females.  Too bad that way of dating doesn’t happen anymore.  Thank you Millenials for ruining dating.

I saw the cutest red panda and many species of monkeys.

The highlight of the zoo was the camel ride. Since I don’t know when I will be traveling to the Middle East, why not ride a camel in Tennessee?  We chatted up the zoologist and she informed us about the camels health and coats.  Bradley was the youngest camel and he would be giving us our rides.  He had a slight skin condition near his ass.  The zoologist and the vet tech kept picking things off of him.  I’m not sure if Bradley enjoyed that, but I snapped several pictures because I thought they would be great for a meme.

 See what I meme?  See what I did there?

One of the workers gave me some camel hair which is super soft and strong.  The difference between the winter coat and summer coat is night and day.  The winter coat feels like shag carpeting while the summer coat is a little longer and thicker than peach fuzz.  They can drink 30 gallons of water in 13 minutes and like their lips rubbed.  While riding on top of one for a few minutes, it hits me that people ride these animals in the desert at this slow pace. Sweltering sun and moving super slow does not sound pleasant, but I’m sure I would be excited if given the opportunity.  Yes, I snapped a picture.

After the camel ride, we found Roger and Gail taking pictures of Cotton-Top Tamarins.  They are cute little monkey-like creatures.  Their heads in constant motion as they look at us taking pictures.  

Their ugly relative the Pied Tamarins look like gargoyles.  They have less hair on their heads and look like Zoul’s creatures from Ghostbusters. Both species are endangered due to development in South America.

Cotton top= cute.  Pied=Zoul

There were jaguars basking in the sun staring at me as I clicked away.  I always wonder if they’re like “Here come these assholes again.”

Once we walked the entire zoo, Diana and I decided to grab some lunch, but first we hit up The Hot Chocolatier.  

As you can guess, hot chocolate is their specialty, but they do sell homemade chocolates, truffles and pastries.  I opted for the S’mores frozen hot chocolate with a homemade marshmallow on top.  It was divine.  Diana had a spicy hot chocolate which she enjoyed.

We decided to grab lunch at The Terminal Brew House again before we hit the road.  I had a yummy club sandwich with a BBQ mayo.  The mayo was very good.  It added a whole different flavor to a regular club. 

As we drove off, I wondered when I would visit again.  It’s only 2 hours from my house and is a wonderful place to visit for the day. Chattanooga is a young people’s city.  If you enjoy outdoor activities, it’s a great trip.  From hiking to the Tennessee Aquarium to underground waterfalls at Ruby Falls, there are tons of options to keep everyone satisfied.  

Hotjam Atlanta

Monday night, I experienced what seemed like a dream.  Carpooling with a new friend from dance class, Linda drove  to a quiet residential street in Buckhead and parked her SUV under a streetlight.  “We have to walk down there”, exclaimed Linda.  “Are you serious?” was my reaction.  She guided me down a dirt path towards a log cabin in the woods.  This has all the trappings of a horror movie, but I digress. Knowing where my ultimate destination was, part of me felt like I should be carrying a watermelon (hopefully, you get the Dirty Dancing reference).  We walked up the steps and knocked on the door.  A stocky guy with a mohawk named Chris answered and welcomed us inside.  This is where my anxiety transformed into pure excitement.

Upon entering, I took notice of the beautiful wood floor and nice size stage.  Chairs lined the walls inviting guests to relax.  Several others spanning different generations were already waiting for the 8pm lesson to begin. Some of the men wore suits, bow ties and suspenders while the ladies donned light-as-a-feather skirts that twirled easily with keds. Others, including myself, had jeans and comfortable kicks on so we could move around the floor without slipping.  I know if I were to wear my typical dance shoes, I would not have been able to move confidently out of fear of slipping.  Maybe once I get a little more accustomed to the floor and the dance steps, I’ll accept the dance shoe challenge, but until then I’ll stick with my Adidas Superstars.

Mohawk man Chris was our instructor and invited all of us to join him on the floor where he told us he will be teaching 6 count swing for the next 30 minutes.  I am familiar with 6 count swing because it is very similar to Jive.  The only difference is Jive has the dancer pulling their knees upward to resemble a bounce in the step.

Our first step was the basic 6 count rocker step with a closed hand hold (count 1-2), 3 quick steps forward as if you are going to Cha-Cha (3-and-4) and 3 quick steps backward (5-and-6).  The quick steps resemble a shuffle.  Then, you repeat the steps.  Once the basic steps were taught, Chris proceeded to teach the underarm turn which leads to an open hold. From the underarm turn, we then learned the ladies’ turn and the gentlemens’ turn.  Each time the move was practiced, the men would rotate.  Polite introductions would be made and the lesson would proceed.

There were so many guys there.  It makes me happy to see men participating in dance.  The funny thing is that all the men had a smile on their face and all wanted to be there.  Not one appeared to have been ripped away from the TV or nagged by their significant other to join them.

Once the lesson was finished, the line to get in began to form.  This was the beginning of Hotjam Atlanta.  The DJ that positioned herself on the stage got an aerial view of the joy and kickass dancing that was occurring. Immediately after the lesson, I was asked to dance by a nice gentleman who attends every Monday night.  Plus, if you think chivalry is dead, you should rest assured that gentlemen still ask ladies to dance and extend their hand to you to lead you to the dance floor.  Polite and courteous men that will take the time to teach you steps do exist.  It was nice to meet men that look into your eyes to have conversations and not at your body parts. It really was a breath of fresh air.  

So of course, I danced the night away to 6 count swing, Balboa (which I’ve never done until that night) and Lindyhop.  I even danced an entire song to Jive while my partner danced to 6 count.  It worked and it was amazing!  After my 3rd song, I was already dripping sweat, chugging my 32oz of water and in desperate need of a towel to dry off.  Men bring changes of clothes with them because ladies don’t like to dance with sweaty beasts.  

Some of these dancers were highly skilled in certain styles of dance.  Not to mention some were very young Georgia Tech students, but they knew their shit.  I enjoyed watching this one cute Tech couple who dressed the part and were dancing the Charleston (which I’m currently learning).  They were fabulous!

At one point, lines were formed and everyone was stomping and stepping to a choreographed routine.  It was super cool to watch.

At one point, the DJ got on the microphone and asked if anyone was celebrating a birthday or from out of town.  If they were, they were to step inside a circle that was formed.  These curious and unaware participants then became objects of thievery.  When they began dancing with one partner, another partner would swoop in and steal them and continue dancing.  It was such a smooth transition bouncing from one partner to another.  The rest of the circle clapped and encouraged everyone.

After the partner swapping, the dancing continued.  Kicks, jumps and spins were everywhere and smiles seemed to be a permanent fixture on the faces of the attendees.  I was asked to dance Lindyhop which I am currently learning as well.  It was great!   Having a partner that knows how to lead is crucial when learning to dance with a partner.  His or her (because dance is gender neutral) lead dictates what the next move is.  If you can’t be directed properly, the whole dance falls apart.  I am still learning to be a follower because I tend to lead when I shouldn’t.  I need to trust my partners in directing me.

Overall, I had a blast at Hotjam Atlanta.  There was an infectious energy that filled the room and made everyone from beginner to advanced want to kick up their heels and dance.  I felt like I was transported back in time where the dancing was clean and refined.  The swing dance community was very welcoming and encouraging.  I’m looking forward to next Monday when the band is there.  It’s going to get crazy!  I might even bring a watermelon.

Every Little Thing

Have you ever thought about how every little thing could alter our course in life?  Every minute we’re late or earlier than usual, every smile at a stranger or new activity that we decide to pursue can change the outcome of our life.  It really hit me while watching the Green Bay/Dallas football game last night.  Go figure!  A football game could get me to think philosophically, but it did.

Just think.  A dropped pass is a miss at moving in the direction of success.  If the wide receiver for Green Bay didn’t catch the pass along the sideline while dragging his cleats within mere inches from being out of bounds with seconds remaining, that game may have gone the other way.  The game may have ventured into overtime and Dallas may have walked away with win.  Inches and seconds determined the outcome.  It’s amazing!

It’s the same thing with those of us whose occupations don’t require short routes and field goals.  My usual routine has me waking up at 5 AM to be out the door by 5:15 AM to be on the treadmill by 5:45 AM and in the shower by 6:45 AM.  If I were to stray by just one minute, it would alter my routine entirely.  Not leaving at 5:15 AM will have me hit the red lights which will make me arrive later than usual and possibly make me have to wait to get into the showers due to others using them.  Some people may say this is just ridiculous and I shouldn’t care so much about a routine, but I do.  To me, everything has a time.  I’m used to planning so far in advance so I know what to expect.  Others like to sail by the seat of their pants and not put very much thought into things.  I’m not that person.

There’s an older movie called Sliding Doors with Gwenyth Paltrow.  It’s a story of one woman who happens to miss the train home and then the movie  shows you what her life would have been like if she would have caught the train home as compared to if she didn’t.  One second changed the character’s outcome completely.  If you haven’t seen it, you should.  Plus, Gwenyth has a wonderful British accent.  But that is what I’m referring to.  Little changes in behavior or routine could completely change your life.

I like to dance.  We all know that already. I take lessons to continue to learn new dances.  One lesson of dance will introduce me to people who enjoy doing exactly what I enjoy doing.

Focus on that which makes you feel good and you shall find that which makes you feel good

The dancing that I’m learning now requires a partner.  All it takes is one smile to have the male make his way over to ask you to dance. My smile is his invitation.  If we dance and hit it off then it could alter my life tremendously.  We could become dance partners and compete or become life partners when we realize we both enjoy each other’s company.  Everything has an impact as well as every decision, action or spoken word.

Cutting the grass so it doesn’t get long could stop someone from getting a tick bite.  Calling someone to say you’re thinking about them could stop them from believing no one cares about them.  Answering the phone politely could alter someone’s angry tone of voice entirely.  Every little thing can produce huge outcomes.

It really is quite interesting when you think about how everything relies on something else. Some may think that there is some type of divine intervention when it comes to the stories of people escaping death due to a late departure.  Others may just chalk it up to coincidence.  However you view it, just take note that every action has an outcome.  No matter how big or small the action may be, the outcome could be life altering.