I just wanted to go somewhere new. It occurred to me the other day that I had not left ITP (in the perimeter) Atlanta since the day after I moved here. The city life has been fun, but it was time for a change of scenery. I did a bit of research and realized that Chattanooga, Tennessee was less than two hours away. I had never been to Tennessee before.
Before this week, the extent of my knowledge of Chattanooga was that it, and some kind of train associated with it, was the subject of a song I played in junior high jazz band. That’s all.
Well there is certainly more to Chattanooga than that, right? Time to go explore.
My main goal for the day was to go to Point Park at Lookout Mountain, so after I picked up some good, old-fashioned southern fast food (sweet tea and all), I headed up the mountain. I drove up the zig-zagging skinny road, passing some tourist traps, sneak previews of the view at the top, and a surprising number of houses. That must be some prime real estate. I reached Point Park, a national park dedicated to the Civil War history of the area. The man inside the bookstore gave me a brief overview of what there was to do at the park, and off I was.
The view, as expected, was absolutely spectacular. Making my way around Point Park, I looked over Chattanooga and the Tennessee River, as well as into the mountains along the Georgia-Tennessee border. It was one of those views that as it appears makes you just stop and stare in awe and wonderment of the wide-open spaces and natural beauty. Here is a panoramic picture I took:
And I thought this was interesting, one on Wikipedia from 1864, the year after the Civil War battles that took place here:
The Battle Above the Clouds, as it came to be known, was part of a group of battles in the Chattanooga area in late 1863 that gave the Union control of the city, severely damaging the Confederacy’s ability to transport goods and supplies. In addition to its access to the Tennessee River, Chattanooga was a major rail hub at the time. I won’t keep regurgitating all the history, but if you’re interested, here is a gallery of some pictures I took.
Point Park also had a small room inside which gave more details about the battles. One wall of this room was a gigantic, paining depicting the battle at Lookout Mountain.
The time I spent at Point Park alone made the trip worth it. It’s neat to spend time at a place that looks so much like what it did 150 years ago, when a pivotal moment in the nation’s history occurred there. Learning about the specifics of the battles reminded me of how important it is to make trips like this–and how enjoyable it can be, too. Especially in our culture in which Miley Cyrus gets significantly more public play than Syria, it can be hard to take the time to experience the reminders and lessons of our country’s past. When you manage to do it, it is quite rewarding. If you’re ever in the area of Chattanooga, I definitely reccommend checking this place out.
I had absolutely no idea what I was going to do next. I had already hit the one spot I definitely wanted to, and it was only 2:30. I drove back down the mountain with no real aim and headed toward downtown Chattanooga. I found a parking spot on what seemed to be the main drag, got out and started walking to the river. I had seen from a map that there were parks on both sides of the river, so it seemed promising. Then I saw this.
Atlanta does a lot of things well, but encouraging and enabling people to use forms of transportation other than their car is not one of them. I loved riding my bike when I was in Baldwinsville for the summer. I didn’t bring my bike down to Atlanta, and that’s probably a good thing, because it is not a bike-friendly city. When I saw Chattanooga’s bike share program, it was a no-brainer–I’m getting one.
I took a ride over the bridge to the other side of the Tennessee River, where there were actually two parks. One was a little older, and had some more Civil War historical plaques in it, and one seemed pretty new. With so many American cities attempting to revitalize their waterfront areas, Chattanooga seems to be doing pretty well in that department.
After wandering aimlessly on the bike for a little while, I made up my mind as to what I was going to do next. Now that I had the bike, I put a couple more quarters in the parking meter, determined to find an answer. I couldn’t come to Chattanooga without finding the Chattanooga Choo Choo, could I?
But what, exactly, is the Chattanooga Choo Choo? It must be a train, right? Is it even still around?
I pulled out my phone and searched directions to the Chattanooga Choo Choo, and indeed, it does exist. It turned out to be just a little ways down the street I was already on.
I arrive at my destination, and…
You’re joking, right? The Chattanooga Choo Choo is a hotel? The song Glenn Miller made famous is about a hotel? No, it had to be a train. That’s why it’s the Choo Choo. This can’t be right.
With a little more exploring, I discovered that the area behind the hotel resembled a train station. I found out that there is a pretty good reason for that–it used to be one. And all of a sudden, there it was:
The Chattanooga Choo Choo. I found it. But still, what does it mean? Why is it called that? The answer was on an old-looking plaque, right in front of me:
It was on March 5, 1880, that the first passenger train leaving Cincinnati for Chattanooga was nicknamed the “Chattanooga Choo-Choo.” This historical occasion opened the first major link in public transportation from the north to the south. The “Choo-Choo” was operated by the Cincinnati Southern Railroad, America’s first municipal railway system.
Satisfied, I got a bike and took it back to the waterfront and did some more walking around. There was a nice area by the river, a man-made waterfall-type structure that paralleled the steps down. After taking some time to relax and catch up on the day’s news, I wanted to find some dinner at a local establishment. Thanks to a recommendation by a co-worker from the area, my day in Chattanooga was capped off with a fantastic burger and beer from Big River Grille & Brewing Works.
This was the first of what I am sure will be many off-day adventure blog posts as I make my way around Atlanta and the surrounding area. It’s amazing what you find when you decide to start looking.