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.  

Stay True to Yourself and Live Your Best Life 🍾

Please excuse my jumbled thoughts.  This is not a Pulitzer piece, by no means.  When I have a lot to say, it’s very difficult for me to focus and project my thoughts clearly.  My mind races and words seem to spew from my mouth while I’m trying to make sense of my thoughts.  

Did you ever meet someone who believes that they are living their best life?  They have an apartment in a nice location, an interesting job, a new car, successful friends, but behind closed doors, they are entirely someone else.  You would never know it by looking at them.  You would never know that they are afraid. Afraid of taking steps towards what could be their truly BEST life ever.   Afraid of taking a leap of faith into the unknown.  Afraid of the uncertainty.  Afraid of what others might think.

The problem is these individuals already believe that life can’t get any better.  They put on a show for their friends; hash tagging everything.  Spending money they didn’t have just to be able to continue to hold up this image that they have tried so hard to convey.  Life is good, right?  But behind closed doors, these individuals show their true colors.  A nervous wreck when the bills come in.  Deadlines to be made.  They don’t want to adult.  Panic sets in. I’m sure we all have gone through similar experiences and have witnessed this first hand. For some, they may be considered mid-life crises.

Why do we feel the need to hide our true selves from those we claim to be our friends?  Are we so caught up in what others think of us that we lose sight of who we are?  Shouldn’t our friends and loved ones know exactly who we are and what they’re dealing with without the mask. 

You/Me/We need to just lay it out on the line. Scream at the top of your lungs, “This is who I am and if you don’t like it, then you can go (fill in the blank) yourselves!”  The moment we stop giving a shit about what others think is the moment you can finally be free.  Free of judgment, free of negativity, free of anything that will stop you from succeeding.  There is no reason to hold back who you really are. There is no reason to fit the cookie cutter mold.  Be true to you.

You were not put on this earth to go through life being fake.  The miracle of life is just that!  It’s a miracle!  We are not meant to be dull and average or what we think others want us to be. We are meant to be everything and anything we want to be.  We just need to wake up and realize this.  If you’re an anxiety-ridden individual who takes a pill to calm yourself, there’s no harm in that.  If you like a glass of wine every night, that’s  okay. If you’re a tomboy who loves Halloween, cosplay, believes in her Scorpio sign and loves The Walking Dead, that’s totally okay (yup, that’s me!).  Be okay with it.  Be okay with you.  We are not perfect and we’re not meant to be.  We are meant to be exceptional.  We are meant to be original.  We are meant to live.

If you want to be an artist, then be an artist.  If you want to walk dogs for the rest of your life, then do it.  Stop wasting your time trying to be something you’re not.  There is no reason why you should be working for someone else when your dream is lying there waiting for you to pick it up, dust it off and put it in motion.  If you were given a gift, use it.  It is a gift which means it was meant to be shared with the world.

Stop fearing what people are going to think of you.  Just do it already!  The only person who matters is you.  Are you happy with the way things are going?  If not, make an effort to change them.  If they were your true friends, they would support you.  The moment they start questioning your choices and telling you they care, is the moment their fear rubs off on you. Friends caring=more fear for you to deal with. Step up to the plate and just go for it.  Have some faith in the unknown. 

I was not happy in New Jersey.  I knew there was more to life than that.  I was used to traveling the world and meeting up with friends. Jersey kept me in place.   I made the conscious choice to pack my bags and just move to Georgia.  I had no job lined up, but I just had this overwhelming feeling that things were going to work out.  It really was an unremarkable calm that came over me and I carried it with me to Georgia.  After two weeks of interviews, I landed a job.  Of course, I was relieved, but I just knew it would work in my favor.  I’m not the only person to have felt that calm either.  My friend just packed up from Florida and  moved to LA and said she wanted to make costumes for movies.  She, too, felt a calm before her move.  Once you get past the initial fear which is just manifested in our minds to try to stop us from living our best lives, you begin to get excited and see the new possibilities.

Long, jumbled, free-streaming story short, be true to who you are.  You don’t have to pretend. Kick fear in the face.  Know that faith goes a long way.  Believe that you CAN have it all in front and behind closed doors.