Monday, July 31, 2006

Weekend trip to Chattanooga

This past weekend Donna and I travelled to the Nashville area for the annual "Masters of the Summer Music Games" drum corps event; we've attended this event the past several years, and it's always very enjoyable. Unfortunately this year it began raining during the fourth corps' performance, and after an hour of monitoring the radar and seeing no end in site, the officials called off the rest of the event. At least we got to visit with Duke and Tom, two of my Ninja 250 buds in the Nashville area, and Duke's wife Heather. Afterward we headed down to McMinnville where we stayed the night, and then Saturday morning we headed to Cumberland Caverns, a spectacular cave in McMinnville. It was incredible! I enjoyed Ruby Falls that I recently saw, but Cumberland was more a true cave with huge rooms, whereas Ruby started out as a tiny shaft leading to the falls, and blasting was done to give access to the falls.

Following the cavern we headed to Chattanooga and had an early dinner at Big River Grille and Brewing Works, where we had a pair absolutely spectacular steaks, and I had a couple of pints of their very nice very dark stout. Though we were stuffed and lying down for a nap was quite tempting, he walked across the street and spent the next three hours at the Tennessee Aquarium, which just blew me away. It featured many wonderfully-designed exhibits, and the flow design is incredible. There was a temporary seahorse exhibit, which was quite neat, as I find these little creatures quite intriguing. Fortunately they're open until 10:00pm on the weekends, so we stayed right up until closing time, after which we grabbed some ice cream at Ben & Jerry's and then headed down to Ft. Oglethorpe, GA, where we stayed Saturday night.

Sunday morning after a superb breakfast buffet at Golden Corral we headed over to Chickamauga National Battlefield and spent a couple of hours checking it out, followed by a drive up Lookout Mountain to the Cravens House and Point Park, where we toured the Cravens House and walked around Point Park, which offers some spectacular views over Chattanooga.

Overlooking Chattanooga from Point Park

Snodgrass House: Wounded soldiers from both sides were treated here

Outcropping at Point Park

Sufficiently worn out, we headed homeward, and we managed to squeeze in our one necessary Cracker Barrel meal of the trip around Knoxville. We got home around 1:00am exhausted, but with many good memories. What a great weekend!

Friday, July 21, 2006

Stone Mountain and Cloudland Canyon State Park

This past Monday through Thursday my best friend from high school, Jason, and I camped at Stone Mountain Park in the Atlanta area and Cloudland Canyon State Park in northwest Georgia. Jason drove up from southern Mississippi, and we met Monday evening at Stone Mountain. I got there a couple of hours before him, so I went and hiked the bird trail, where the cycling and archery events were held at the 1996 Olympics. I also found a nook of the lake where a goose and duck were poking around for food, as well as a covered bridge.
The Mountain:

The carving of Lee, Davis, and Jackson on it (from the tip of Lee's head down to his boot is 90 feet):

Duck and goose and covered bridge:

Monday night we saw the nightly laser show, which is projected onto the mountain over the carving, accompanied by lights, fire, and music. It's a pretty festive feature.

Tuesday we hit the road and headed toward the Chattanooga area and set up camp at Cloudland Canyon State Park in the northwest corner of Georgia. I must say this is the best state park I've ever visited. The geography is extraordinary with a fine network of trails available for exploring it, and the campground itself is very clean, neat, and organized, as is the office and store. It's truly top-notch; I highly recommend it.

We camped there Tuesday and Wednesday nights. Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning we explored the trails and hiked all the way to the bottom of the gorge, a descent of about 500 feet. We saw some truly amazing sites, including a pair of 70 foot waterfalls. I didn't carry my camera for most of that (thank goodness; it would really have been in the way), but I caught a few good representative shots from the overlook, which is easy to get to.

Tuesday night we cooked hamburgers and had slaw and beans on the side; Jason brought along some pecan wood salvaged from a tree brought down by Katrina; hate to see the tree lost, but it makes for some great smoking wood. We used some more Wednesday night to cook some steaks, and we had grilled asparagus on the side. Yum!

Wednesday we headed to Ruby Falls in Chattanooga; it's a cavern with an underground waterfall. The tunnel leading to the fall features some pretty spectacular formations, and the waterfall itself was pretty incredible. 145 feet tall, and the really cool thing is the source of the water is unknown!

Upon leaving Ruby Falls we headed off to "See Rock City" as the barns advertise. It was OK, but it's pretty commercialized; I liked Ruby Falls much better.

On my way home on Thursday I took Hwy 136 all the way from Cloudland Canyon until just above Athens. It's not a road to take if you're in a hurry, but otherwise it's great - curvy with lots of elevation changes and fantastic scenery. I stopped a couple of times and took a couple of scenic photos.

One final stop I made was at the J. Strom Thurmond Lake north of Augusta, GA; it's the largest manmade lake east of the Mississippi, constructed by the Army Corps of Engineers. It looks like a great place for a lazy afternoon with a picnic and a good book.

All my photos can be found here.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Nice ride up around Newberry and Winnsboro

There truly are some good roads just north of Columbia if you'll get off the main roads and explore a bit. I had a great 200 mile ride today, meandering through Prosperity and Newberry, over toward Winnsboro, and back down. I didn't know where I was for awhile, nor did I care; I was just following my front wheel. :-) Along my way I found this old store and ancient gas pump; I didn't try pumping from it, because I'm sure the last owner didn't use Stabil, and my carbs would surely gum up. ;-)

Under Armor clothing is the stuff to wear when it's hot! I wore my t-shirt and shorts today, and at the end of my ride I was cool and dry; I went for a similar ride the other day wearing cotton underwear and t-shirt, and I was absolutely soaked when I got home. Doesn't have to be the real Under Armor; I use the knock-off that Wal-Mart sells, and I'm thrilled with it.