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.  

Road Trip: Helen, GA

Did you ever feel like you spend most of your life waiting?  Waiting on others to be there for you; waiting for them to finalize plans; waiting for them to show up.  Well, that’s me.  I always felt like I spent so much time waiting on others and more than 50% of the time being disappointed by the outcome of my waiting.  I relied too heavily on having plans with others that I lost my own adventurous side.  Of course, I enjoy having company around.  I’m under the impression ‘the more the merrier’, but when you get so comfortable having people around that you stop doing things on your own, this leads to a problem which is what lead me to take a solo road trip to Helen, Georgia.

I’ve never been to Helen before and was intrigued by the idea of a little piece of Bavaria tucked away in the mountains of Georgia. Traveling from Atlanta, its roughly 1.5 hours north which was a gorgeous, scenic drive through the mountains. With Autumn underway, the leaves have begun to turn colors and the sweeping landscapes of farms with the mountains in the distance were jaw-dropping.  

As I got closer to my destination, I couldn’t help to get excited.  I saw a gentleman driving his big tractor in the street.  The unfortunate thing was it was only a 2 lane road and I was traveling in the opposite direction, but part of me wanted to honk my horn in support of his tractor riding.  Farms stretched wide with herds of cows and horses running freely.  It was smile-inducing and calming.

Upon entering Helen, immediately you feel transported across the Atlantic.  The architecture stands out with its tall steeples and colorful facades.  Most of the little German town centers around Main Street where you will find German-themed restaurants, candy shops and souvenir shops.  You can spend all day shuffling in and out of these shops.

My first shop that I stopped in was the Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen.  Nothing gets me moving faster than the sweet smell of chocolate.  This place was awesome.  There was fudge, bark, clusters, truffles, popcorn, chocolate-covered everything!  They even had chocolate-covered Ruffles potato chips and Fritos.  There were walls that beautifully displayed every color Jelly Belly and taffy.  It was a chocoholic’s dream and a diabetic’s nightmare.

Since this was my first stop, I didn’t want to get any chocolate yet and have it melt so I backed away from the store.  Slowly, ve-ry slow-ly.

My next stops included a few souvenir shops. Most of these shops sold t-shirts, beer steins (for obvious reasons) and little trinkets.  You can tell the political climate of the area by what the t-shirts they’re selling have on them.  Let’s just say they want to keep the Confederate flag waving and are Trump supporters.  

I made my way across the busy 2-lane street and came across more shops and eateries.  I walked into one shop called Windmill Dutch Imports.  The outside of the shop lured me in with its oceanic blue facade.  Plus, the little boy and girl surrounding the windmill didn’t hurt.

This store had Dutch foods as well as lots of ceramics.  My eye was drawn to the wall of clog slippers for sale.  Yes, I debated whether to purchase a pair, but ultimately, left the store without them.  They were freaking cool though.

I moved along Main Street popping in and out of every shop.  Some shops didn’t feel like they fit in with the environment.  I found a few shops that sold airbrushed designs while the other half of the store sold blades in every size.  Plus, there was a small bin on the counter that had old uniform badges in it.  They were from New Jersey police departments.  I commented to the female worker and she said her dad is from South Jersey.  Oh well, we all can’t be perfect.

There were glassblowing shops that could design your name in glass for $10.  No, I didn’t partake in this, but the shop was uncomfortably crowded with tourists that were.

The temperatures were absolutely fantastic for walking along Main Street.  When I arrived, it was in the lower 60s.  It was so refreshing. There were many people enjoying the river water alongside of the restaurants.  

I continued on my walk along Main Street ducking in and out of shops and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine.  The streets were coming alive with more people around 2PM.  

I found another Hansel & Gretel Candy Kitchen a little further down the road.  I thought yeah, why not.  So many choices to choose from, but the winner was a Ski Bum.  It consisted of marshmallows with caramel and slivers of almonds covered in chocolate and drizzled with white chocolate.  Because it’s not complete unless it’s drizzled, right?  Yeah, it hit the sweet spot.

As I walked back towards the more congested part of town, I stopped in a few more shops. There were shops dedicated to jerky of every kind and flavor.  There was also a shop for spices, flavoring and rubs.  My favorite set in here was a hot sauce with the greatest labels ever.  How could you not look at these and not immediately think “Yassssss”?

There was a shop called Tim’s Wooden Toys. Yes, the entire shop is just that. Wooden toys. Wooden weapons, trucks and puzzle games. They also had a cool world map that when you go to visit, you can put a push pin in the map showing where you are visiting from.  It’s amazing to see how far people have traveled and wound up in Helen, GA.

After strolling for a bit, I decided to just take a seat and people watch.  The polka music that was filling the streets was clashing with the roar of motorcycle engines on Main Street.  There were plenty of dogs being walked and owners being walked by their dogs.  Cannon fire erupting from the Civil War Reenactment had people jumping every now and then.  An older gentlemen playing a snare drum for change on the corner was greeted by another older fellow that was wearing a cowboy hat and sunglasses made to look like beer glasses.  That guy marches to the beat of his own drum…or his friend’s drum for that matter.

Soon after, I decided to take a slow stroll to get back to my car and take in the last of the sights. Soon enough, the holiday shoppers will begin to descend upon Helen and fill the streets with holiday cheer.  Now that I know what this little town is all about, maybe I’ll be one of those shoppers.

This trip to Helen was more than just a trip.  It proved to me that I don’t need to wait on anyone to enjoy myself.  I am more than capable of finding an adventure on my own.  No more waiting.