Sunday, September 28, 2008

Stating the obvious in Ashland City

I'll keep this short but sweet as I am still recuperating from my bachelorette party last night. Last week I had a meeting in Ashland City along the Cumberland river at a restaurant called Riverview. As we drove up to the restaurant we found this sign:

I think it speaks for itself, but am amazed that they found this sign to be necessary. Could someone really be so stupid as to not notice that they are driving into the Cumberland River? In addition, Ashland City's McDonald's has an alley leading to its entrance called, get this: Burger Alley. You just can't make this stuff up.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Polly Crockett Festival

On Saturday, two of my best friends, Rachel and Tiffany, and I drove to Cowan, TN to attend the Polly Crockett festival. I'd been to Cowan before and fell in love with the quaint little railroad town so I was excited to learn I'd be returning. Rachel is from nearby Decherd, TN and Saturday happened to be her 31st birthday. What better way to celebrate than to attend a street festival celebrating Davy Crockett's first wife.... complete with a parade, bull riding, cornhole tossing, and skillet tossing.

We headed to the festival at 10:00 that morning and walked around all the artisan booths (I wasn't too impressed- most of the crafts offered were ugly purses) We quickly noticed how the festival brought out some good people-watching material. We saw all kinds of strange folk, including a redneck in racing gear holding two kids attached to leashes, and an obese lady wearing an apron for no apparent reason while smoking a cigarette. But imagine our glee when we see a man dressed up as Davy Crockett! Rachel immediately went up to him and told him it was her birthday and asked if she could have her picture taken with him. He was more than happy to do so.

Next we decided to eat lunch at Sidetrax. Our meal was really good, but I wish we had eaten at the Whistle Stop Cafe this time. It looked like an old diner inside and was packed with people. Must be good food! As we left the restaurant, we saw this strange stuffed bobcat sitting under a tent with no explanation as to why it was there. In fact, this festival was full of strange things that seemed to have no place at a street festival.

Anyways, we walk over to the "Adventure" area and see a sign for skillet tossing and this gets me all worked up because I fantasize about being the champion skillet tosser of Franklin County. Alas, it was not to be since I later found out that the skillet tossing competition wouldn't start until 3 p.m. I didn't intend to wait around a few hours, so Rachel and I settled for mechanical bull riding instead. As I hopped up on the bull, I noticed a sadistic look in the operator's eyes since he had been giving rides to small children all day. It was obvious he was going to make sure Rachel and I got our money's worth. I fell off the bull after just a few seconds, but hopped back on for a second time and held on for what seemed like quite a while, but then was violently bucked off and fell head first against the inflated cushion below. See picture for proof. Rachel didn't fare any better than me. She fell twice and in the process exposed her butt crack to all the festival goers. By the way- mechanical bullriding is a great workout for your abs. Who knew!

After our foray into bull riding, we decide to grab a slush from one of the street vendors. To my surprise (or horror) I noticed they also served fried oreos, fried moon pies, and fried twinkies. I saw this picture of the fried oreos and they look absolutely disgusting. Still- I'm intrigued.....

Finally, hot and tired of walking, we decided to leave, but left with great memories and a dayful of laughs. Click here to see more photos from the Polly Crockett festival.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Rock Island State Park- A Hidden Gem

After returning from Atlanta over Labor Day weekend, Brian and I had planned to raft the Nantahala, but the weather took a turn for the worst courtesy of Hurricane Gustav and we opted to drive up to Rock Island State Park on the way home. Located just north of McMinnville off Highway 70S, Rock Island is not only the namesake to a State Park, but a small community as well.

Rock Island State Park sits in the Caney Fork River Gorge. It's a very unique place in that its natural wonders are attributable to man. In 1917, the Tennessee Electric Power Company built a hydroelectric plant and dam downstream from the Caney Fork and Collins River. The dam created Great Falls Lake and since the Collins River sits at a higher elevation than the Caney, water drained towards the Caney Fork and created the stunning Twin Falls that are there today. TVA took over the power plant and dam in the 1940s and still continues to operate at Rock Island.

Also located at Rock Island State Park are a historic textile mill from the 1890s and a community spring house that looks like a castle.

My one regret is that I didn't bring my bathing suit. Several people had made the short (but slippery) hike down to the water where they could hop across rocks to some great swimming holes. It looked like so much fun. We even saw where a couple of people had managed to climb up on a lower ledge under the waterfall. I was able to find a perfect spot at the base of a small falls (as seen in the picture below) where I could dip my feet in the cool water and feel the breeze blow across my face. I could have sat there for ages.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Georgia Aquarium- A Trip to Atlanta

So I realize I'm straying once again from all things Tennessee by posting about the Georgia Aquarium in Atlanta, but my rationalization is that it makes a good weekend trip if you're looking to escape the Volunteer State for a day or two. Brian and I traveled to the Atlanta area over Labor Day in order to visit with his family and while we were there we checked out the Georgia Aquarium and adjoining Centennial Olympic Park.

We went on a Sunday afternoon about an hour and a half before closing and this seemed to be a really good time to avoid the crowds, yet it left us with enough time to truly enjoy our visit. The aquarium is divided up into several exhibit areas depending on climate, region, etc. There was a tunnel where visitors could walk underneath a whole sea of fish above them. We saw whale sharks, sting rays with leopard spots, and all sorts of schools of fish that would swim around and over us.

In other exhibits we saw playful otters (my personal favorite), as well as starfish, alligators, beluga whales, penguins, all kinds of colorful jellyfish, an octopus, and I even got to touch a sea anemone since there are several touch pools located throughout the aquarium. It was fun to see all the different kinds of animals and feel like a kid again. After we left the aquarium we stepped outside to the Olympic Centennial Park where all sorts of people were enjoying a game or football, strolling around, or just laying down reading a good book on a balmy evening. The mood was a far cry from the bombing that took place here during the '96 Summer Olympics.

Before we left the park we sat down and watched several kids playing in the Fountain of Rings. It was fun to see the sheer delight on their faces as the water spouted out of the ground at irregular intervals. A grape sno-cone would have made the experience even more delightful. Across from the aquarium sits the World of Coca-Cola where you can sample over 60 types of products (I've heard that some of these products include Cokes from Around the World- just don't drink the Indian Coke if it was bottled in SE Asia since it was found to have unhealthy amounts of pesticides in it due to the bad water supply) I seriously doubt the World of Coca Cola advertises that tidbit. Anyhow, we didn't tour the Coke musuem since we arrived so late in the afternoon, but I hope to return one day since I'm an avid fan of Diet Coke. (I know- not good for you, but what is these days?) So, if you're in Atlanta for a couple of days and want to play the tourist, then you should check out the Georgia Aquarium.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Final Days of Tour de Tennessee

I'm finally getting around to post about the final two days of my week-long trip across Tennessee.

Day Four

Thursday found us driving to Lynchburg, Grundy County, through Chattanooga, and on to Monroe County and Loudon, TN before settling for the evening in downtown Knoxville. Lynchburg was our first stop, and most of you know it as home to the Jack Daniels Distillery. I've been here twice and will post about it separately one of these days, but for obvious reasons we didn't stop here while on our business trip. Next, was Grundy County which is home to some of my favorite hikes in the Savage Gulf State Natural Area and South Cumberland State Park.

Later in the day, we drove over to Sweetwater, TN- home to the Lost Sea. I've never been to the Lost Sea, but it calls out to me with its fascinating history. It's listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest underground lake in the United States. Over the years it has hosted cockfighting, an underground dance floor, and moonshining activities. I HAVE to return and visit one day.

Day Five

After a good night's sleep in Knoxville, we head out for Hawkins Co. and Grainger County in East Tennessee. Here, we drove through some of the most beautiful valleys and hills in the state, but I was definately itching to return home after spending a week on the road. Before we concluded our trip, however, we made one last stop to Bulls Gap so that Dr. Burton could show me an old abandoned hotel located right along a major rail line. The Gilley Hotel was built sometime in the late 1800s and used to be a place where visitors could hop off a train and get a room for the night. Many railroad workers stayed here for extended lengths of time as well. Currently, it is in major disrepair, but there are several parties interested in renovating it back into a hotel. Dr. Burton mused, "Imagine how cool it would be to sit out on the balcony with an ice cold beer in your hand while watching the trains pass by." (On the flip side, I imagine getting a good night's sleep would be next to impossible!)

After our stop at Bulls Gap, I head back to Nashville and turn in the car I had been driving all week. Guess how many miles I logged over the week?? 1800!!! I suddenly felt like a long-haul trucker. And wouldn't you know as soon as I get home, Brian and I leave for a weekend trip to Atlanta.....